Vatican City, Apr 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On the eve of John Paul II’s beatification, one his closest collaborators, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, says he’s still thankful for every moment he spent with the soon-to-be blessed Pope.
“I see all these years as a gift from God because I realized it was a rare privilege that, almost every week, I got the opportunity to listen to, speak with and work with him,” the cardinal told CNA April 28.
Cardinal Ruini’s close association with the Pope John Paul dates back to the mid-1980s. In 1986 he was appointed as secretary-general of the Italian Bishops Conference before becoming its president in 1991. More significantly, it was in that same year that Pope John Paul made him the vicar general of the Diocese of Rome. He also elevated him to the rank of cardinal. That meant that it was Cardinal Ruini who looked after affairs within the pontiff’s diocese when he was on one of his 192 foreign visits.
“It was for me was a great joy, of course,” the cardinal said. And even though he worked with Pope John Paul for 20 years, Cardinal Ruini emphasized that “it was always a great joy.”
For many Italians, Cardinal Camillo Ruini was also a very public face of Pope John Paul’s pontificate. It was the cardinal who often took to the television and radio airwaves to defend the Pope’s latest pronouncement. Now 80 years old and retired, Cardinal Ruini is one of the best known and most popular figures among Italian pilgrims at this weekend’s beatification in Rome.
Vatican City, Apr 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - For many global dignitaries the clash of dates between Pope John Paul II’s beatification in Italy and the Royal Wedding in England created a real diplomatic headache. But not so for Peter Ho, a 30-year-old doctor from London who decided he’d attend both.
“I was finishing my night-shift in the intensive care unit yesterday morning and then rode my bike as fast as I could to Buckingham Palace. I got a vantage point just as William and Kate drove by me. They both smiled in my direction as they went by. It was fantastic.”
Twenty-four hours later, Peter has another great vantage point at another global event. Why did he make the flight to Rome?
“My family background is Christian. My grandmother was a lifelong practicing Christian. She passed-on away a couple of years ago. So I just feel that I should be here to think about my family, my grand-mum particularly.”
“Also, this is a great event for everyone and not only for Catholics. Pope John Paul II traveled the world and made such a wonderful contribution to people all over the world.”
Peter now plans to hold onto his prized position in St. Peter’s Square through the night.
“I don’t want to lose this place. I have a very good position--right in front of the altar.”
“I’m very tired now, but I’ll try to stay awake as long as I can.”
Vatican City, Apr 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - “I knew he was a saint.”
Those were the words of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, close friend and confidant of Pope John Paul II, at the Circus Maximus in Rome this evening. Gathered with him were tens of thousands of pilgrims who had come together by candlelight to remember, give thanks and pray.
“If today he is proclaimed blessed it is only because he was already a saint in life,” Cardinal Dziwisz continued, drawing upon his many years at Pope John Paul’s private secretary.
“I knew he was a saint. I knew for a long time when he was alive and even before he was chosen to be Pope.”
His words were carried around the globe by a video link-up to five Marian shrines in four continents – Kawekarno in Tanzania, Guadalupe in Mexico, Fatima in Portugal, Harissa in Lebanon and Lagniewniki in the Polish city of Krakow.
It was from the last location that St. Faustina Kowalska spread her message of the Divine Mercy of Jesus. Providentially, Pope John Paul II died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, five years after canonizing Faustina and instituting the custom of giving this name to the second Sunday of Easter.
The pilgrims heard further testimonies from those who knew Pope John Paul most and loved him best.
His press secretary for many years, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, gave an insight as to the source of Pope John Paul’s sanctity and serenity:
“He looked for the mercy of God every week in confession. He believed that to be the cure for pessimism across the world. He would be most happy now if all of us got to confession on a regular basis.”
“He gave everything to God and did everything for God. Thank you to you John Paul II for the masterpiece of your life that was made possible through the help of God.”
Then the French religious sister whose miraculous cure from Parkinson’s Disease paved the way for tomorrow’s beatification retold her remarkable story. Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, said:
“When I was first diagnosed (in 2001) I had great difficulty even seeing Pope John Paul II on the television. In him, though, I saw a reflection of my suffering. I always admired his strength, humility and courage. He was, for me, a shepherd according to the heart of God, close to the weakest and small, speaking up in favor of the family and peace.”
“Thank you to everybody for being here tonight,” she concluded, “John Paul II looks down on you and is happy.”
Those present were also treated to a musical homage courtesy of the Diocese of Rome choir and the orchestra of the city’s Conservatory of St. Cecilia. In turn they were accompanied by traditional offerings from Rome’s Filipino community and a choir from the Polish town of Glogow.
The event was organized by the Diocese of Rome. It’s Vicar General, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, told pilgrims towards the end of proceedings:
“He (Pope John Paul) lived for God. He offered himself entirely to God to serve the Church as a sacrificial offering. He would often repeat this prayer: “Jesus, Pontiff, who handed himself to God as offering and victim, have mercy on us.”
Fittingly, given Pope John Paul’s notable devotion to Our Lady, the event drew to a close with the recitation of the rosary. Finally the present pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, imparted his apostolic blessing by video-link from the Vatican.
Eight churches in central Rome will now remain open throughout the night for pilgrims to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. St. Peter’s Square will open to those attending tomorrow’s beatification ceremony from 5:30 a.m. onwards.
East Providence, R.I., Apr 30, 2011 (CNA) - As Catholics throughout the world celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday and the beatification of Pope John Paul II on May 1, the extraordinary day will have special significance for one Rhode Island liturgical music minister who will be blessed with the opportunity to see his dreams become a reality.
Stephen DeCesare, music minister at St. Martha Church, will conduct “The Mass of Divine Mercy,” featuring several musical scores that he wrote for the special liturgical celebration, on Sunday at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass. The shrine is operated by the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.
More than 20,000 pilgrims are expected to attend the Mass, which will be broadcast live on EWTN. DeCesare, a talented organist and singer, will also perform several musical selections at a Vigil Mass celebrated on April 30 and during a musical performance being offered the next morning before the Mass.
Noting his great devotion to the Divine Mercy and to St. Faustina, the respected liturgical composer and musician sent a tape of his compositions last spring to the shrine. In October he received a call from the shrine inviting him to conduct the music for the special weekend, which coincides with the beatification of the late pontiff who canonized St. Faustina on April 30, 2000.
Sister Mary Faustina Kowalska was a Polish nun who reported having seen and spoken to Jesus and Mary several times. She wrote that Jesus revealed to her that she was to spread the devotion of the mercy of God. During one vision in 1931, she said that Jesus appeared as the “King of Divine Mercy,” wearing a white garment. His right hand was stretched as a sign of blessing while his other hand was touching the garment at the breast.
From beneath the garment emanated two large rays, one red, the other white, Acting upon orders Faustina said she received from Jesus, she had an artist create a painting of the vision. Images of the vision were distributed and people started to pray for divine mercy.
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is Roman Catholic devotion based on the visions of St. Faustina, who is known as “the Apostle of Mercy.” According to the visions, written in her diary, the chaplet’s prayers for mercy have three intentions: to obtain mercy, to trust in God’s mercy and to show mercy to others. “I started praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in high school,” said DeCesare. “My devotion just started to grow.”
In addition to composing the music, DeCesare has also written a musical about St. Faustina in which the saint narrates a poignant story about her own life and the need for the faithful to pray for God’s mercy.
DeCesare said he has also done a great deal of reading about Pope John Paul II as he prepares for the important liturgical celebration.
“He changed the world and broke many barriers,” DeCesare reflected. “Pope John Paul II brought a lot of people together – especially the young.”
During the Divine Mercy Mass on Sunday, DeCesare will offer original compositions such as “Come to My Mercy” and “Rest in Me.” He will be accompanied by several instrumentalists from throughout New England.
“I feel honored and blessed to be part of this celebration,” he said.
Also performing DeCesare’s music at the shrine’s Divine Mercy Mass and other services will be a choir from Mater Eclesiae College, Greenville; Scott Morency, coordinator of the music ministry at St. Francis Xavier Church, East Providence; and Stacey Geer, coordinator o the music ministry at St. Mary Church, Providence.
“It’s a great honor to be included,” said Morency, noting that he accompanied the choir from St. Brendan Church, Riverside in 1991, and had the privilege of meeting the late pontiff.
“This event is exciting in many ways,” added Geer, adding that it was an honor to work with DeCesare and to perform before a global audience.
“I realize that I’m doing something very important and very special,” she said. “I’m conveying God’s message through song. I try to convey that message as best as I can.”
Naoise Johnston, academic secretary and librarian at Mater Ecclesiae College, said 35 consecrated women will sing at the shrine this weekend.
“The shrine is a favorite pilgrimage spot for us,” she said. “It’s just a blessing for us to go and to celebrate with so many other believers the feast of God’s divine mercy on the day of Pope John Paul’s beatification.”
Printed with permission from Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Providence, R.I.
Washington D.C., Apr 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - A U.S. court of appeals panel has said the U.S. government can use federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The decision reverses a judge’s injunction last year, but does not end the original legal challenge.
In a 2-1 decision, the court said that opponents of taxpayer funding for the research are not likely to succeed in a lawsuit to stop it and so funding may continue. However, the original lawsuit can still proceed before U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth.
The ruling reverses Judge Lamberth’s August 2010 decision which said the research likely violates the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment that bans funding the destruction of human embryos.
Private money has been used to destroy the embryos, whose cells can reproduce in lab dishes indefinitely, Fox News reports. The Obama administration has issued rules permitting taxpayer dollars to work on these cell lines.
Two doctors who conduct research in adult stem cells, James Sherley of the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Theresa Deisher of AVM Biotechnology, had challenged the legality of the funding. They also argued that the administration’s rules will result in increased competition for limited federal funding and will injure their ability to compete successfully for research money from the National Institutes of Health.
The Obama administration had immediately appealed Judge Lamberth’s injunction against the funding. The court panel agreed that the injunction would impose a substantial hardship on stem cell researchers at the National Institutes of Health, particularly because it would halt multi-year projects already in progress.
The majority opinion also noted that Congress has re-enacted the 1996 law year after year with the knowledge that the government has been funding embryonic stem cell research since 2001. They said this was evidence that Congress considers such funding permissible, the Associated Press reports.
The opinion was written by Reagan nominee Judge Douglas Ginsburg and supported by George W. Bush nominee Judge Thomas Griffith. Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, a nominee of George H.W. Bush, dissented.
Judge Henderson thought that the lawsuit was likely to succeed. She argued her colleagues performed “linguistic jujitsu” by turning a straightforward case into a complicated 21-page ruling “that would make Rube Goldberg tip his hat.”
Backers of embryonic stem cell research say the research has the potential to address some of the most difficult areas in medicine, including treatments for spinal cord injury, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.
CNA contacted the U.S. bishops’ pro-life secretariat for comment but spokespersons were not available.
Catholic bioethicist Fr. Thomas Berg, director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics & the Human Person, had praised Judge Lamberth’s decision to block the research funding.
He thought the judge correctly interpreted the intention of Congress in the original wording of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, he told CNA in August 2010.
Fr. Berg said funding embryonic stem cell research is “complicity in the destruction of individual, embryonic human persons.”
“You were once an embryo. That’s a simple matter of scientific and biological facts,” he continued. “The human embryo is already a human being. It is already a human person at an early stage of development. The arbitrary isolation of that embryonic stage has no logical footing to stand on.”
Lincoln, Neb., Apr 30, 2011 (CNA) - Cathedral of the Risen Christ grade school in Lincoln, Neb. started a new program for students in grades 6-8 last fall: the abbey program.
Students were divided into seven different groups, or abbeys, with a like number from each grade in each abbey. Each abbey was named after a saint or very important person to the Catholic Faith: St. John Bosco, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Padre Pio, St. Therese of Lisieux, Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. Each abbey has a teacher as sponsor.
With the students divided into the abbeys, throughout the year the school has had various games and contests between them, awarding points for each activity. Points are awarded to abbeys whose members were on the honor roll, who were deemed excellent in their behavior, or who scored very well on specific tests. A scoreboard is posted in the school’s west hallway to let the students know how their abbey is doing.
Principal Tony Primavera said the purpose of the concept was two-fold.
"First of all, we wanted the students to have fun," he said. "And secondly, we wanted to develop some camaraderie between the students in the different grades. The contests and games we’ve had have been great to observe while watching the students get excited and pull for each other, regardless of the age or grade of their ‘teammates.’"
The abbeys have also inspired the students into service. The abbeys met for lunch throughout the year and over the past several weeks, each chose a specific Lenten project.
The John Paul II abbey is conducting a "40 Days for Life" project. Each day members of the abbey spend 30 minutes in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel praying for the unborn. The eighth-grade leader of the group prepared a schedule for the event and designed prayer cards with the John Paul II Abbey logo on the front of them. The goal is to have 40 hours total in prayer for life.
The St. Catherine of Siena students are working to pick up the school grounds and keep them clean. A schedule was made for the students to take turns during their noon recess to pick up trash.
Students in the St. John Bosco abbey are writing letters to parishioners or parishioners’ family members who are serving overseas in the U.S. Military. They will also donate items in a care package to be sent to one of the soldiers in Iraq to share with other service members.
During the week of April 4-8, the St. Therese Lisieux abbey worked with Catholic Social Services to coordinate a food drive for the CSS food pantry. The Mother Teresa Abbey conducted a drive to collect children’s clothing for CSS the week of April 11-15.
The St. Francis of Assisi abbey is planning a collection of children’s books to be donated to the Cathedral daycare, and the St. Padre Pio abbey sold Tootsie Pops after school before Easter Break. The proceeds will be given to the Pink Sisters.
Printed with permission from the Southern Nebraska Register, newspaper for the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb.
Vatican City, Apr 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope John Paul II should be declared a “patron saint of youth.” That’s the opinion of none other than the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins.
“I personally think that John Paul II should be made patron saint of youth,” Cardinal Martins told a gathering a Rome’s Santa Croce University on April 30. He even mapped out how that could be achieved.
“Some saints are patrons. If somebody wants to make a proposal to nominate somebody as a patron saint, though, then they must submit comprehensive documentation on their reasons and motivations.”
It’s easy to understand Cardinal Martins thinking. Over the 27 years of his papacy, Pope John Paul II had a particular rapport with young people. So much so that he was known to many as “the Pope of Youth.”
In 1984 he initiated a now-famous event, World Youth Day, to enable him to meet young people from around the globe every three years. The initiative proved to be such a success that the 1995 event in the capital city of the Philippines, Manila, brought over five million young pilgrims together with the Pope. It’s still estimated as the largest communal gathering in history.
His challenge to the young people on that occasion was typical of his pontificate. “Are you capable of giving yourselves, your time, your energy and your talent to the well-being of others? Are you capable of love? If you are, the Church and society can expect great things of each one of you.”
There is already a patron saint of youth, the 16th century Portuguese Jesuit St. Aloysius Gonzaga. It is not unheard of, though, for there to be more than one patron saint of a particular cause. Any proposal to make Pope John Paul II a fellow patron saint of youth would have to go before the Vatican body responsible, the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Rome, Italy, Apr 30, 2011 (CNA) - A proposal to allow premature or sick newborn babies to die even when their life would be deemed worth living by medical staff has been condemned by a leading member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Doctor Carlo Bellieni says the suggestion being made by the Oxford-based physician James Wilkinson is both “flawed” and “an erroneous way of considering life.”
Dr. Wilkinson outlines his controversial argument in the American Journal of Bioethics. “The prevailing official view is that treatment may be withdrawn only if the burdens in an infant’s future life outweigh the benefits. ... I conclude that it is justifiable in some circumstances for parents and doctors to decide to allow an infant to die even though the infant’s life would be worth living,” Dr. Wilkinson wrote.
But as Dr. Bellieni explained to CNA, such a suggestion makes for bad ethics and poor patient care. “Firstly, babies are not the property of their parents. Secondly, at birth parents are often stressed and full of pain and suffering. The mother has the pain of childbirth. The father has the shock and stress of being faced with a very premature baby. When you’re in such pain and stress, you’re not really free to make clear-minded decisions that are so important for your offspring.”
Most importantly, Dr. Bellieni said, “the decision about life should only be taken on an objective basis and in the interest of the patient, not in the interests of a third party.”
Dr. Bellieni, who is a Director of the Neonatal Intensive Therapy Unit at Siena University Hospital, is internationally recognized as an expert in the field of neonatal care. In addition to being a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, he is also the Secretary of the Bioethics Committee of the Italian Pediatrics Society.
Although the Italian neonatalogist said he doesn’t know whether hospitals in the Western world are actually practicing Dr. Wilkinson’s radical approach, he pointed towards recent research in Canada suggesting that newborn babies are now receiving less guarantees of treatment than adults. “It’s a very sad scenario. I believe that babies should receive more care than other patients but many philosophers now believe that newborns are not persons and so they actually are receiving fewer guarantees than older people.”
“Even when burdens do seem to be high, for example in the case of severe disability, this is not a sufficient reason to withhold life-saving treatments. After all, a disabled baby has a full right to life too,” Dr. Bellieni stressed.
“Dr. Wilkinson claims that the prevailing clinical view is contrary to this. If that is the case then it’s very worrying indeed and we cannot possibly accept such a viewpoint as ethical.”
Vatican City, Apr 30, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - He’s now the head of the most powerful department at the Vatican but the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Levada, was just a young priest when John Paul II was elected Pope.
“I have to confess that I had really never heard of him before. I wasn't following the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the world. And, I remember standing in the piazza in the evening that the white smoke went up, and that we waited for the curtains to open and for the announcement to be made.”
As he stood waiting along with the rest of the world, Father Levada spoke with Monsignor Albert Bovone – who later became Cardinal Bovone, Prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
“So, I went over and we had a chat while we were waiting for the announcement. And when the announcement was made, well, I didn't recognize the name. So, I asked him who it was, what was the name? And he said, ‘Wojtyla.’ And I said, ‘who's that?’ He said, ‘a Polish fellow’.”
The nationality was important to many Italians. At the time, Italy was a nation suffering from several body-blows to its national confidence. Within the span of a year, two Italian Popes had died and the country’s prime minister had been kidnapped and killed by the Marxist terror group, the Red Brigades.
“It was a very active political moment and he (Msgr. Bovone) expressed a sense of, well, a sigh of ‘how could this happen for Italy?’” At such a difficult time, “now the Pope has been taken away from Italy!”
Cardinal Levada says that over the past 32 years the Italian people have become hugely accepting of non-Italian Popes, beginning that night in 1978.
“It was an electrifying moment for us all in the Church, I think everywhere in the Church because it was so unexpected.”
And so Pope John Paul II set about learning how the Vatican works.
“Shortly after his election, he came around, he had never been in the Roman Curia and he wanted to see his departments and so he came to visit every person who worked. He came into our offices and asked me what I was working on. I thought, ‘this is remarkable.’ I would have never have expected to have this opportunity. But, he was a very engaging person.”
Even now Cardinal Levada says he’s still in daily contact with Pope John Paul through the power of prayer.
“I pray to him to sustain me in this work that I'm called to do here as prefect of our congregation and to pray for the Church, for my brother bishops throughout the entire world that he knows so well. To show them how to be a bishop and as the bishop of Rome, the Pope, we can really be confident of his intercession.”