Vatican City, May 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - It’s a little known Vatican fact but the Pope has his own train station. Thing is, it’s been dormant for years – until now. May 21 will see a 1930s steam train leave the Vatican City Station for a trip to the Italian countryside. And it’s all to raise money for the Holy See’s official charity, Caritas.
“It’s a rare opportunity and certainly a very joyful way to come together ahead of our General Assembly and reflect on who we are and where we are going,” Monsignor Robert J. Vitillo, head of the Caritas International delegation to Geneva, told Vatican Radio May 11.
The event coincides with Caritas’s 19th International Assembly being held in Rome as well as their 60th anniversary.
In total, five passenger carriages will be pulled by a steam engine. The train is being nicknamed the “Caritas Express” for the day, and each engine will be dedicated to a particular patron saint of the poor and vulnerable. Seats are still available to the general public.
The day will also see the huge iron gates that mark the border between Italy and the Vatican opened for the first time in years.
The train will head to the historic city of Orvieto in Umbria, about 60 miles to the north of Rome.
The Vatican City State Station was built under the Lateran Treaty of 1929 which normalized relationships between the Holy See and the Italian State. When he saw it under construction, Pope Pius XI described it as “the most beautiful station in the world.”
Pope Pius XI never traveled on the line himself and his planned papal train was never built. It was Pope John XXIII who became the first pontiff to travel on line, using the Italian presidential train, in 1962. He made the trip between the Vatican City Station and Assisi. Pope John Paul II also traveled on the line in 1979 and 2002.
In the past, emergency relief supplies have also been loaded at the “Pope’s Platform” onto special Caritas trains for delivery to flood victims in northern Italy and elsewhere.
The Caritas Express will pull out of the Vatican State Railway Station at 10 a.m. on May 21. It will return to Termini Station in Rome at 7:30 p.m.
Anyone interested in making a donation and wishing to request a seat on the train should email [email protected].
Salem, Mass., May 12, 2011 (CNA) - Rhode Island lawmakers voted last week to pardon an Irish Catholic man they say was wrongfully executed in 1845. The decision closes an ugly chapter in the long history of discrimination against Catholics in the U.S.
“Anti-Catholicism was certainly one of the first religious prejudices brought to the new world, and it became widespread” in the 19th century, according to Nancy Schultz, Ph.D of Salem State University in Massachusetts.
Schultz was commenting on the May 4 decision by the Rhode Island legislature to pardon John Gordon – a 29 year-old Irish immigrant who was hanged for a murder many say he didn't commit.
Gordon was convicted in 1843 and executed two years later for allegedly killing a wealthy Rhode Island mill owner who had political connections.
Historians now believe that the evidence against Gordon was tainted and indicative of widespread discrimination against Irish Catholics. During trial, witnesses failed to positively identify Gordon and a judge instructed jurors to take “Yankee” witnesses more seriously than Irish ones.
“Catholics had difficulty getting a fair trial in New England during the nineteenth century,” said Schultz in a May 10 interview.
Schultz is an authority in English and American Literature and is author of several books on historical religious discrimination in America.
Her new book, “Mrs. Mattingly's Miracle,” (Yale, $30) traces how the more tolerant Maryland tradition in the nation’s capital of accepting Catholicism during the 1820s began to decline into “full-fledged, New England-style anti-Catholicism.”
She told CNA that from 1830 to 1860 in particular, movements such as the “Protestant Crusade” attempted to stop the spread of Catholicism in the United States.
Schultz pointed to examples of public discrimination against Catholics such as the case involving arsonists who burned down a Massachusetts convent in 1834. The trials, she said, “were an occasion for anti-Catholic mockery.”
When the mob leaders who destroyed the Charlestown convent were acquitted, there was “great rejoicing in the streets of Boston.”
Schultz also noted that Gordon’s hanging in 1845 came just nine years before a gift of a block of marble from Pope Pius IX for the construction of the Washington Monument “was thrown into the Potomac River” by members of the anti-Catholic “Know-Nothing” party.
She explained that “large numbers of Irish fleeing economic turmoil in nineteenth-century Ireland and immigrating to America” helped give rise to the nativist, or “Know-Nothing” party, which rose to national prominence in the mid 19th century.
“The name came from the response of members of this anti-Catholic secret society. When asked about their activities, they would say, 'I know nothing.'”
Schultz said that the Ku Klux Klan and the American Protective Association were 20th century remnants of the Know Nothing Party.
“Today, fear of immigrants and the attempts to legislate restriction of languages other than English have their origins in this history,” she said.
Schultz explained that the roots of anti-Catholicism in the U.S. can be traced back to the Puritans, who came to New England several centuries ago.
The Puritans would burn effigies of the Pope in the streets on Guy Fawke’s Day, the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, “when the Catholic Fawkes was arrested for placing explosives under the House of Lords in England,” she said.
In 1775, George Washington ordered the practice to be stopped.
Vatican City, May 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI today urged Catholics and Jews to “stand together” in facing some of the greatest challenges facing mankind today.
“There are many ways in which Jews and Christians can cooperate for the betterment of the world in accordance with the will of the Almighty for the good of mankind. Our thoughts turn immediately to practical works of charity and service to the poor and those in need,” the Pope told a delegation from the Jewish humanitarian society B’nai B’rith International at the Vatican May 12.
“One of the most important things that we can do together is bear common witness to our deeply-held belief that every man and woman is created in the divine image and thus possessed of inviolable dignity. This conviction remains the most secure basis for every effort to defend and promote the inalienable rights of each human being.”
B’nai B’rith is one of the oldest Jewish humanitarian, advocacy and human rights groups in the world.
It was founded by German-Jewish immigrants in New York’s Lower East Side back in 1843. Its aim then was to alleviate the poverty which afflicted many Jewish immigrants to the city. It now operates in more than 50 countries around the globe.
The Pope commended their work as helping to promote “a sound understanding of the role of religion in the life of our present-day societies.”
“The life and work of all believers should bear constant witness to the transcendent, point to the invisible realities which lie beyond us, and embody the conviction that a loving, compassionate Providence guides the final outcome of history, no matter how difficult and threatening the journey along the way may sometimes appear.”
Since becoming pontiff in 2005, Pope Benedict has largely enjoyed good relations with the worldwide Jewish community. In fact, at the time of his election he was praised by the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League for “his great sensitivity to Jewish history and the Holocaust.”
Speaking today, the Pope also applauded the work of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee now in its 40th year of existence.
“What has happened in these forty years must be seen as a great gift from the Lord and a reason for heartfelt gratitude towards the One who guides our steps with his infinite and eternal wisdom.”
Pascagoula, Miss., May 12, 2011 (CNA) - Prior to the establishment of Sacred Heart Parish in 1962, Catholics living in the area of Jackson County, Mississippi worshiped in the home of John B. and Gertrude Delmas.
Since few people during that time owned automobiles and public transportation was lacking, a number of priests, including Msgr. P.J. Carey, Father Charles Hunter and Fr. Patrick Quinn, Sacred Heart’s founding pastor, would come to the Delmas home to celebrate Mass. In fact, Gertrude Delmas would ride around town with Fr. Patrick Hanley to show him where the Catholics lived and Fr. Hanley would pick them up in his car and carry them to the Delmas home for Mass.
After Mass, the Delmas family, who operated a dairy farm, would feed the visitors before returning them to their respective homes. The Delmas family later donated land to accommodate the growth of the parish.
As a sign of gratitude to the Delmas family for opening their home and, in essence, laying the foundation for Sacred Heart Parish, a new multipurpose center dedicated May 8, was named the John B. and Gertrude Delmas Activity Center.
“My grandparents were the kind of people who wouldn’t necessarily care about the recognition for the building, but they were the kind of folks who, like (Sacred Heart pastor Fr. Mike Kelleher) would take in people who had been put out by the hurricane or some other hardship,” said John and Gertrude’s grandson, Joe Blackwell, who lives in his late grandparents’ home.
“It is certainly an honor to have this building named after our family.”
Bishop Roger P. Morin of Biloxi, Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, and Fr. Kelleher presided over the blessing, which also was attended by several priests who formerly served the parish, including former pastors Msgr. Joseph Mercier and Msgr. Michael Thornton, as well as Fr. Pete Mockler, who served as an associate pastor.
The new building includes office space and a much needed parish hall for Sacred Heart and will provide a state of the art media center, computer lab, music and visual arts classrooms, a full gym with locker rooms, concession space and a performance stage for Resurrection Elementary School, which is located on the campus of Sacred Heart. The church and the school will share the parish hall and an enormous commercial kitchen.
“I know that this building means so much to this community. I’ve had an opportunity to watch this project from the day of the groundbreaking up to this day of dedication,” Bishop Morin said.
“I think it is always good for us to be mindful of the many blessings that are ours and this is certainly a marvelous blessing.”
A dream realized
Archbishop Rodi, who was bishop of Biloxi from 2001 to 2008, launched a $14 million capital campaign for Catholic education prior to Hurricane Katrina.
The pilot phase of the campaign, “Catholic Faith for Tomorrow ... A Future With Promise,” ran from April through June 2005. Parish campaigns were scheduled to continue to take place from September through December of that year, but were set aside after Hurricane Katrina hit the coastal counties of south Mississippi that August and pushed diocesan efforts to focus on recovery and rebuilding.
As a result of Katrina, RCS Elementary received 48-52 inches of flood water and neighboring St. Peter the Apostle Church and School, which primarily served African-American Catholics, were both destroyed. This prompted Bishop Rodi to consolidate the two schools at the RCS Elementary site.
The campaign for Catholic education resumed a year after Katrina and raised $16.2 million in pledges and a portion of that money went towards expansion of the RCS elementary campus. FEMA funding and donations from parishioners and other benefactors made up the balance.
Archbishop Rodi attended the groundbreaking to offer congratulations on a job well done.
“You took a dream, you turned it into a plan and, then, you made it happen. And, for those of you who have prayed for the success of endeavor and for those of you who generously supported it, making it a reality, I hope that you feel a justifiable sense of pride in what you have done. We pray together that this building will be for God’s honor and glory,” he said.
“When Bishop Morin blessed the building, he used water. Water is a sign of life. The waters from the sky give life to the earth. The waters of baptism give us eternal life. You all have given life to this building and we pray that the life of God will be here for all the parish functions and all the school functions and that this will truly be a place where faith is taught and celebrated and lived. This is truly a blessing to this parish and the entire Pascagoula community.”
We are connected
Speaking on behalf of the St. Peter the Apostle Parish community, which worshiped at Sacred Heart for two-and-a-half years following Katrina, Billy Knight, who serves as president of St. Peter’s parish council, thanked Father Kelleher and (RCS Elementary principal) Elizabeth Benefield, for opening their church, school and hearts to the people of St. Peter the Apostle Parish.
Knight said the two faith communities are inextricably connected and, as a show of gratitude, presented a monetary donation of an unspecified amount to Father Kelleher.
“You’ll never know how much (your generosity) means to us. You’ll never know how much we appreciate getting to know you, building friendships and relationships that will carry on forever,” said Knight, who was joined by St. Peter the Apostle pastor Father Charles McMahon, SSJ for the check presentation.
“It was only because of Hurricane Katrina and (Father Kelleher) who made the choice and had the courage to ask us to come (to Sacred Heart),” said Knight.
As with any special occasion, there were many people to thank, including members of the RCS School Advisory Council and the parish building committee, but the dynamic duo regarded as the driving forces behind the project was Benefield and Father Kelleher.
Benefield thanked Father Kelleher for his visionary leadership and his support of the school.
“He’s always with the children,” she said.
“He shares himself so freely.”
Sacred Heart parishioner Jerry St. Pe, who emceed the dedication program, called Benefield “the mother of our children and our grandchildren for most of their young lives and, for Benefield, the new building was quite a Mother’s Day gift.
“It means that our children have a place to be when the weather is not good. They have a way to go to church without having to deal with the elements. They have a place to grow as God intends them to,” she said.
“It’s just such a blessing to have this festivity and share it with Sacred Heart. It’s a very nice Mother’s Day present, very sweet. I feel honored.”
Father Kelleher said that, for the past few years, the Sacred Heart community, which includes a large and vibrant Hispanic population, “has stood poised at a decisive crossroads for our parish between a proud past and a challenging new future.”
“Today, I think, is an exciting day because there is new life in the air,” he said.
“With the completion of this new, fine building, all kinds of hopeful signs of renewed life and vigor are beginning to emerge here at Sacred Heart.”
Longtime parishioner Cecile Toups said the new building was definitely worth the wait.
“Oh gosh, we needed it so bad,” she said. “Before, we had to do everything in the cafeteria. Now we have a basketball court, We have offices. Just name it. I think we have everything here that we need. I think it’s awesome. It’s beautiful.
Barbara Colville has taught at RCS Elementary School for almost 19 years and said the school is already reaping the benefits of the new facility.
“The children are very excited. They are proud to go in there,” she said.
“They just needed a place like this with big spaces for classes and a beautiful gym.”
Colville said the students used the gym for the first time during the week leading up to the dedication for field day activities.
“We had a basketball game in there with the teachers versus the students,” she said.
“That was fun. Just sitting in that gym and knowing that it was ours and that we didn’t have to go someplace else to do something like that was just a wonderful feeling.”
Printed with permission from Gulf Pine Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Biloxi, Miss.
Manila, Philippines, May 12, 2011 (CNA) - Bishops in the Philippines are halting dialogue with the local government as the country's president voices increasing support for a highly controversial Reproductive Health Bill.
“This bill fundamentally disrespects God's teachings on human dignity and the respect and protection of human life,” said Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carambula, interim president of Human Life International.
The proposed legislation would attempt to control population growth through widespread distribution of contraceptives and compulsory sex education in schools. Human Life International reported that the bill has provisions to jail critics who provide undefined “inaccurate” opposition to it.
A spokesman for the country's President Aquino, who backs the bill, said on May 9 that the president still hopes there will be “common ground” reached in talks with the Filipino Catholic Church.
However, the Philippines Catholic bishops' conference responded on May 10 saying that negotiations are futile, as the president is likely to push the measure ahead despite the bishops' concerns.
The House of Representatives' Committee on Population and Family Relations already approved a consolidated version of several measures on the country's Reproductive Health Bill on Jan. 30, according to the Philippine Star.
The bishops called the legislation “a major attack on authentic human values and on Filipino cultural values regarding human life that all of us have cherished since time immemorial” in a pastoral letter in January.
Human Life International head Msgr. Barreiro observed May 12 that while “President Aquino has stated that he wants to find common ground with Catholics on the anti-life Reproductive Health Bill, Catholics cannot compromise on God's teachings on the protection of human life.”
“We are defending non-negotiable values.”
Msgr. Barreiro added that the organization applauds the Filipino bishops “for their courageous statement of truth. Any independent observer can see the huge gap between the truth and the untenable position of the bill's supporters.”
"That is the 'common ground' upon which President Aquino should meet opponents of this bill,” he added. “Without that, there can be no agreement. Let us hope that the Filipino government does not try to ram this bill through congress in a dictatorial fashion.”
Mexico City, Mexico, May 12, 2011 (CNA) - Several organizations are calling on the Mexican government to protect the bond between a mother and her child.
Ivette Laviada, president of Red Pro Yucatan, said women are given all the means necessary in places like Mexico City to get rid of their children, “but those who want to be mothers go from hospital to hospital” in search of adequate care.
Groups such as Red Pro-Yucatan, Abrazamos la Vida in Quintana Roo, Se Mujer in Veracuz and Sentido Comun in Puebla took the opportunity of Mother’s Day to call on the government to discourage women from practices that are harmful to their health and life expectancy.
Mother's Day in Mexico is celebrated on May 10.
The organizations said the promotion of pro-abortion policies, such as those in Mexico City, represent a failure by the country’s leaders to work for the healthy development of society by providing real opportunities for women – instead of false solutions.
Those who “do want to be mothers should be able to find jobs, receive grants if they want to continue going to school, day care centers, professional health care, competent doctors and maternity clinics,” the organizations stated.
Laviada of Red Pro Yucatan lamented the shortage of doctors specializing in high risk pregnancies, the low number of maternity clinics and the “lack of medicine as basic as antibiotics.”
“The government needs to provide Mexican mothers the basic tools they need to improve their quality of life and that of their children,” she said.
Washington D.C., May 12, 2011 (CNA) - The Presbyterian Church USA has voted to remove clergy requirements of marital fidelity or single chastity, thus allowing the ordination of ministers and lay leaders who are openly homosexual or living in unmarried relationships.
“This is a lonely day for Presbyterians who believe what the Bible and the Church have consistently taught: that God’s will is that we be faithful in marriage or chaste in singleness. Now we belong to a denomination that is no longer sure it believes that teaching,” said Allan Wisdom, a director of Presbyterian Action at the ecumenical D.C.-based Institution on Religion & Democracy.
Wisdom thought that the change was a separation from the “historic Christian tradition and the vast majority of the global Church.” It means the denomination will not necessarily support its members who struggle to obey Scripture.
“It will not call them to repentance when they fall short of those standards, and it will not offer God’s forgiveness for what it no longer recognizes as sexual sins. In a society where the abuse of sexuality is devastating millions of lives, this abdication by the PCUSA is tragic.”
An amendment to the Presbyterian constitution was ratified on May 10 by a majority of the church’s 173 regional organizations known as presbyteries, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Since 1997 the church’s constitution required those seeking ordination to be living “in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.” Now the constitution only requires church officials to examine “each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation and suitability for the responsibilities of office.”
Regional church bodies will still be able to decide whether or not to ordain open homosexuals. However, some presbyteries have already ordained homosexual clergy and lay leaders without approval.
The change could lead some churches to leave the denomination or seek to join presbyteries more aligned with their views.
Rev. Dan Chun, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu, told the Los Angeles Times his church has formally petitioned to move from the Pacific Presbytery, which favors homosexual ordination, to the San Diego Presbytery, which does not. The ordination of homosexuals was a major motive for the request.
He said he feared the vote would be “divisive for our denomination, which has, for the past 50-plus years, been losing membership.”
Michael Adee, a presbyter and executive director of the pro-homosexual group More Light Presbyterians, said the change was an “important moment in the Christian communion.”
“I rejoice that Presbyterians are focusing on what matters most: faith and character, not a person's marital status or sexual orientation,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
Knox Presbyterian Church in Ladera Heights, California hosted the Pacific Presbytery meeting.
Linda Fleming, 63, an elder and deacon at the church, said she had changed her mind on the issue because she thought it was “inevitable.”
“I think it's like letting black people come to white churches, or letting women become ministers. It's inevitable.”
Rev. Mark Brewer, pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian and an opponent of homosexual ordination, said he did not think the vote would cause any immediate crisis.
“I think this is a tectonic plate slowly separating, more than a big earthquake,” he said. He thought Presbyterians would “Stay on the same ship” but “live on different decks.”
The Presbyterian Church USA becomes the fourth mainline Protestant church in the U.S. to approve of openly homosexual clergy, after the Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran churches and the United Church of Christ.
Rome, Italy, May 12, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Father Tim Finigan has three reasons to be happy. He’s in Rome. It’s sunny. And tomorrow will see the publication of a new papal document that will clarify the Pope’s 2007 permission to expand the use of the pre-Vatican II form of the Mass.
He anticipates that the new document will reinforce Pope Benedict’s earlier statement. It will make clear, “that the older form of the Mass or ‘extraordinary form,’ is now allowed if a priest chooses to say it privately or if a parish priest chooses to allow it in his parish,” he told CNA.
Fr. Finigan may be best known to many Catholics worldwide as the author of his blog, The Hermeneutic of Continuity. He’s also the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary in Blackfen near London, England. There over the past few years he’s re-introduced the older form of the Mass as part of the parish’s Sunday schedule.
He did this in response to the Pope’s 2007 apostolic letter, “Summorum Pontificum” (Of the Supreme Pontiffs), which called for a more generous provision of that older form. Across the globe, though, those priests who’ve acted in similar fashion have often faced great hostility.
“Well there have been some bishops who’ve been upset by it all due to their strong commitment to the reforms of the early 1970s in the liturgy. I experienced it some of it myself. ‘The Tablet’, which is a liberal Catholic newspaper in England, attacked me for having the older form of the Mass,” recounts Fr Finigan.
Hence the reason the Vatican has decided to issue its clarifying document tomorrow. It will be entitled “Universae Ecclesiae” (Of the Universal Church).
“I think the message to the bishops of the world tomorrow will be this – this is now part of the Church, let’s not try to get in the way of this, it’s part of the development of the Church’s life and liturgy and it’s something that can contribute to what Pope Benedict calls ‘the mutual enrichment of the older and newer forms of the rite’,” says Fr Finigan.
“Universae Ecclesiae” will be released to the media in seven different languages at 10 a.m. tomorrow although is embargoed until noon. It will then be published in the afternoon edition of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.
Washington D.C., May 12, 2011 (CNA) - Ahead of House Speaker John Boehner’s May 14 commencement address at the Catholic University of America, over 75 professors from Catholic universities have written a letter criticizing the Ohio Republican’s budget proposal.
However, the letter itself drew criticism.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said with some sarcasm that it was “delightful to learn that all of these professors are now on record expressing fidelity to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
He was dismissive towards the letter’s authors, saying they are “not representative of Catholic sentiment.”
The letter from academics said Boehner’s voting record is at variance from the ancient Christian teaching that those in power are “morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor.”
“Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress,” they charged.
The letter said the 2012 budget Boehner supported is “particularly cruel” to pregnant women and children, as it cuts $500 million from the Women Infants and Children nutrition program. The letter also criticized the budget’s cuts to Medicaid and Medicare and its “$3 trillion in new tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.”
Stephen F. Schneck, director of Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, helped draft the letter.
The signatories included many of the university’s faculty as well as Fr. Thomas J. Reese, S.J., of Georgetown University’s Woodstock Theological Center; Lisa Sowle Cahill, a theology professor at Boston College; and Francis X. Doyle, former associate general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Schneck is on the board of directors of the Democratic-leaning group Catholics In Alliance for the Common Good, while Cahill and Fr. Reese are on the group’s advisory council.
Donohue defended Boehner, noting that Boehner is pro-life. The speaker’s support for school vouchers for residents of Washington, D.C. shows his “strong commitment” to the poor.
The Catholic League president said that Schneck had signed a 2009 letter praising the nomination of abortion rights supporter Kathleen Sebelius as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services. He also supported the 2010 health care legislation over the objections of the U.S. bishops.
Catholic University spokesman Victor Nakas said that the decision to invite Speaker Boehner and give him an honorary degree was made by the university’s president, John Garvey, and approved by its trustees, who include prominent bishops and cardinals.
Discussing the issues of the professors’ letter, Nakas said, “(t)here are diverse viewpoints on these questions not only within our university but also within the Catholic community,” the New York Times reported.
A spokesman for Boehner said that the speaker will deliver “a personal, non-political message” that he hopes will speak to all members of the graduating class.