Rome, Italy, May 3, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Ignacio Munilla Aguirre of San Sebastian, Spain expressed hope that Blessed John Paul II will inspire young people in Spain to attend World Youth Day 2011.
Archbishop Munilla Aguirre told CNA that while large numbers of young people from abroad have registered for the event, the response from Spain has been slow.
“We have the impression that the international presence in Spain is going to be the greatest of all the World Youth Days,” he said in the May 1 interview.
The archbishop, who is also the director of the youth ministry department of the Spanish bishops’ conference, said the main challenge is motivating young people in Spain to attend.
“The number of those coming from abroad is high, but right now we don’t have any idea about the Spanish young people. In recent years they have endured a deluge of very strong and harsh secularization.
“We are praying to John Paul II for his intercession, that he touch the hearts of those who need to be touched so that they will come,” he added.
Archbishop Munilla Aguirre said it was still “too early” to make predictions about the turnout, however 300,000 have already signed up. The archbishop noted that this means “things are going well.”
The arrival of the World Youth Day cross in Spain has stirred up enthusiasm in many dioceses, he continued, “and the preparations to receive the pilgrims coming from abroad have led to an increase in the number of volunteers.”
Pope John Paul II gave the cross to young people in 1986 and exhorted them to carry it to proclaim that only in Christ can mankind find salvation and redemption.
“The Spanish Bishops’ Conference is totally committed to what John Paul II put into motion,” Archbishop Munilla Aguirre said.
Providence, R.I., May 3, 2011 (CNA) - After the defeat of a bill to recognize same-sex “marriage,” Rhode Island lawmakers should also reject civil unions for homosexual couples, the Catholic Diocese of Providence has said.
“We hope that those members of the Rhode Island General Assembly who have consistently supported traditional marriage will stay steadfast in their opposition to the legal recognition of same-sex relationships as either marriage or civil unions.
“Government sanctioned civil unions cannot be supported by those who truly understand the unique nature and status afforded a man and a woman in marriage,” the diocese wrote in an April 28 editorial in the Rhode Island Catholic.
The diocese called for a Defense of Marriage bill to clearly define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in Rhode Island.
“Only then will the attempts by radical activists to redefine marriage and undermine family life in Rhode Island finally be stopped.”
The R.I. House failed to pass a “gay marriage” bill after a hotly contested legislative battle. The Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox decided to offer civil unions as a compromise. Legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming week.
The legislation has also drawn opposition from “gay marriage” advocacy group Marriage Equality Rhode Island on the grounds these unions treat homosexual couples as “second-class citizens.”
The diocese’s editorial said that many elected officials are “tiring of shouts of homophobia and bigotry from the radical homosexual lobby” while also being unwilling to “sacrifice the sacred institution of marriage.”
But the diocese said civil unions are also misguided.
However well-intentioned, civil unions are not an acceptable alternative to marriage because they too undermine “the unique relationship of one man and one woman in holy matrimony.” The proposal would give “equal status albeit by another name,” to same-sex relationships.
Civil unions legislation would not settle the issue but would allow backers of “gay marriage” to frame their goal as a remedy for “separate but equal” treatment. The editorial cited a federal judge’s ruling that California’s civil union-like system was an unjust arrangement for which “gay marriage” was the remedy.
The diocese explained that the Catholic Church recognizes that marriage is “not merely just any relationship between human beings” but has been “established by our Creator in harmony with the nature of man and woman and with its own properties and purpose.”
“Civil unions are not the answer,” the editorial concluded.
Rhode Island’s population has the largest proportion of Catholics of all U.S. states.
Honolulu, Hawaii, May 3, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Relics of Blessed Marianne Cope, a 19th century religious sister who ministered to exiled leprosy patients, will tour Hawaii and settle permanently in a local cathedral.
“The relic helps serve as a reminder of the holiness of her life which inspires us to live virtuous lives,” Sister Davilyn Ah Chick, a tour organizer, told the Associated Press.
Bl. Marianne's bone fragments will be brought on tour from May 6-8 in the regions of Molokai, Lanai, Kahului and the Big Island before going on permanent display at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in downtown Honolulu.
The reliquary is a small mahogany box etched with plumeria flowers and will be displayed in a koa wood case.
“To those of us who venerate the first-class relic of Bl. Marianne, it is not the bone fragments themselves that are meaningful, but who they were part of and what they represent,” Sr. Davilyn added.
Bishop Larry Silva of the Diocese of Honolulu had requested the relics from Mother Marianne's order, the Sisters of Saint Francis in Syracuse, New York. On May 4, Sr. Patricia Burkard, general minister of the Sisters of Saint Francis, will arrive with the bone fragments, which have been confirmed as authentic by a forensic anthropologist.
Mother Marianne arrived in Hawaii in 1883, at age 45, with six other Franciscan sisters. She cared for leprosy patients at the Kalaupapa settlement on Molokai in 1888, five months after the death of St. Damien who was canonized in 2009.
Bl. Marianne is also credited with opening the Kapiolani Home for the daughters of leprosy patients and founded Maui's first general hospital.
“I am hungry for the work, I am not afraid of the disease, hence it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned lepers,” Mother Marianne said in 1883 in response to the request to serve.
She died on Kalaupapa in 1918 of natural causes and was buried there. Bl. Marianne's remains were exhumed from her grave site in 2005 for transport to the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse.
In 2004, Pope John Paul II declared her “venerable,” which moves her closer to sainthood. The Vatican recognized her intercession for the unexplained healing of a New York girl dying of multiple organ failure. A second miracle must be authenticated for Bl. Marianne to be declared a saint.
Vatican City, May 3, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Since 7 a.m. this morning, visitors to St. Peter’s Basilica have been given their first glimpse of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s new final resting place.
So what do the pilgrims think?
“I think it’s very is beautiful,” says Father John McGinley, a Scottish priest who traveled to Rome for Sunday’s beatification. “It’s very simply and tastefully done.”
Since Sunday some 250,000 pilgrims had filed past the wooden coffin as it lay in state before the basilica’s high altar. Last night, in a private ceremony, it was transferred to the altar of St. Sebastian located near the right-hand-entrance to the church.
The brief service was led by the cleric in charge of the basilica, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, along with eight other cardinals.
As the coffin was taken to its final place of rest they sang the Catholic Church’s traditional litany of saints. On this occasion, though, the name “Beate Ioanna Paule” was recited three times at its conclusion. The casket was then incensed as a white marble tombstone with the inscription “Beatus Ioannes Paulus PP. II” was placed in front of it.
Fr. McGinlay is in Rome with his brother and sister-in-law, Terry and Margaret. I accompanied them as they paused before the new tomb for their first look.
“It’s actually very plain, very simple and that is exactly what the man would have liked. It wasn’t a splendorous thing. Yes, it’s very plain. It’s also very moving, of course, just being here.” Margaret agreed, “Yes, very simple, lovely, and really nice.”
“The new tomb is really just a reflection of the life that he led,” added Fr. McGinley, “It was a life of humility, a life of prayer and of simplicity. As well as well being a great witness and a great prophet for the Church.”
All day the altar of St. Sebastian has been the focal point of attention within the basilica. It sits just to the left of Michelangelo’s famous “Pieta” sculpture and just to the right of the Blessed Sacrament chapel.
The St. Sebastian altar had previously been used as the tomb of Blessed Pope Innocent XI. The remains of the 17th-century pontiff have now been translated to the Altar of the Transfiguration. It sits to the left of the high altar overshadowed by a marble statue of St Andrew the Apostle.
Rome, Italy, May 3, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Many a revolution is said to have started from the backroom of a bar. The bloggers who gathered May 3 in Scholar’s Lounge Irish Pub in central Rome are hoping for a very similar outcome.
“The real mission of the blogs is to evangelize a world that’s sorely in need of our Blessed Lord, the Truth and the Faith,” says keynote speaker Michael Voris of RealCatholicTV.com.
Around 30 bloggers from all round the globe had gathered for today’s event. Some had been invited to attend yesterday’s Vatican-sponsored blogging conference. Others hadn’t. Despite that, those behind today’s meeting say there’s no rivalry at play.
“A rival to the Vatican? Isn’t that silly! How can I possibly be a rival to the Vatican? If we were a rival event – or a counter event – I would have had it on the same day … and nobody would have come!” says organizer Hilary White of the Orwell’s Picnic blog.
“I had it because I knew that the Vatican meeting was going to be very formalized. I’ve been to lots of conferences and the best part of any conference is the break when you get together with people you’ve always wanted to meet and talk to them.”
Hence White's idea of having dialogue and debate over lunch and beer. The result seemed to be an atmosphere that was positive and a debate that was constructive.
“I think this was wonderful. I think this is what needs to happen,” says Voris.
“So many people on the blog who are good faithful Catholics and faithful to the Magisterium can sometimes feel individually isolated and marginalized due the different comments that come in. We all know we’re out there and just by talking to each other you realize this is, in fact, a community.”
Hopes were also expressed that local dioceses will now follow the lead of the Vatican in being relaxed about the existence of Catholic bloggers. The issue was discussed by a three-person panel which included Dorothy Cummings McLean of the Seraphic Singles blog.
“I think this was a very positive, intensely cheerful experience, the gathering of a group of Catholics who feel that they’re sometime misunderstood by the very people they like the most.”
Denver, Colo., May 3, 2011 (CNA) - Confusion about Catholic moral teaching on “brain death” may be leading some doctors and ethicists to forbid organ donations in cases where the Church would allow it.
Dr. John Haas, head of the National Catholic Bioethics Center says the confusion stems from new doubts about the medical criteria for determining “brain death.”
The issue is critical in cases where a patient’s organs are to be donated for transplant. In order to be effective, organs must be “harvested” as close to the time of death as possible.
Currently, the Church permits doctors to use “brain death” or “neurological criteria for determining death” in making end-of-life and organ donation decisions.
But recently some have suggested that these criteria are no longer acceptable. A recent book by a Catholic doctor even claims that doctors who use “brain death” criteria are committing murder.
Haas is worried that this thinking — which runs counter to Church teaching — is gaining influence and causing confusion.
In a new essay published exclusively on the website of the Catholic News Agency, Haas argues that patients and doctors can follow the Church’s teaching with a “clear conscience.”
“It is understandable that pro-life Catholics are going to be very sensitive to any possible violation of the human person’s fundamental right to life. However, on occasion some misunderstand Catholic teaching in their pro-life zeal and deny that certain actions are morally permissible,” he writes.
The issue of “brain death” remains hotly debated in some Catholic medical circles.
“The idea that neurological criteria are not a licit means of determining death prior to organ harvesting seems to be gaining ground in certain Catholic circles,” Haas told CNA.
Some Catholic theologians and medical ethicists now believe that new brain research has raised questions about previous Catholic moral conclusions. They say this new research suggests that brain death criteria don’t provide doctors with the certainty that a person is truly dead.
Haas pointed to a recent article by E. Christian Brugger, a moral theologian at Denver’s St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and a senior ethicist at the Washington-based Culture of Life Foundation.
Brugger said that research has shown that some patients who have been “rightly diagnosed” as brain dead sill show “integrative bodily unity to a fairly high degree.” He said the research “raises a reasonable doubt that excludes ‘moral certitude’ that ventilator-sustained brain dead bodies are corpses.”
Brugger’s views have been widely circulated on the internet since being published earlier this year by the Catholic news agency, Zenit.
Haas says that despite the good intentions of Bruggers and others, their arguments run “contrary to the moral guidance the Church has provided the faithful on a critical life and death issue.”
Haas expressed concern that given Brugger’s status as an archdiocesean seminary professor, his arguments “could well unsettle consciences.”
“I fear that some Catholics, after reading Brugger’s piece, would think they would be morally compelled to refuse an organ transplant if the donor were judged to be dead using neurological criteria,” Haas said.
He acknowledged that questions remain about the moment of death and the proper safeguards needed before organs can be removed for transplant.
But he said: “The Church has provided guidance to the faithful that they can confidently follow with clear consciences.”
In his essay, Haas critiques the arguments by Brugger and others. He also explains the authoritative teaching of Blessed Pope John Paul II, as well as the Pontifical Academy for Life, and other Catholic institutions.
He concludes: “Moral certitude of death can be achieved using either cardio-pulmonary or neurological criteria, according to the magisterium of the Church. Catholics may in good conscience offer the gift of life through the donation of their organs after death based on neurological or cardio-pulmonary criteria according to current Church teaching. This does not mean that the teaching is irreformable. It may be modified on the basis of future scientific discoveries. However, it does mean that, at this point in time, the teaching can be followed with a clear conscience.”
Haas’ essay can be found here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=1575