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Archive of June 5, 2011

St. Barnabas, apostle and missionary, celebrated June 11

Denver, Colo., Jun 5, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholics will celebrate the memory of St. Barnabas on June 11. The apostle and missionary was among Christ's earliest followers and was responsible for welcoming St. Paul into the Church.

St. Barnabas was born to wealthy Jewish parents on the Greek-speaking island of Cyprus, probably around the time of Christ's own birth. Traditional accounts hold that his parents sent him to study in Jerusalem, where he studied at the school of Gamaliel (who also taught St. Paul). Later on, when Christ's public ministry began, Barnabas may have been among those who heard him preach in person.

At some point, either during Christ's ministry or after his death and resurrection, Barnabas decided to commit himself in the most radical way to the teachings he had received. He sold the large estate he had inherited, contributed the proceeds entirely to the Church, and joined Christ's other apostles in holding all of their possessions in common.

Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul, approached Barnabas after the miraculous events surrounding his conversion, and was first introduced to St. Peter through him. About five years later, Barnabas and Paul spent a year in Antioch, building up the Church community whose members were the first to go by the name of “Christians.”

Both Paul and Barnabas received a calling from God to become the “Apostles of the Gentiles,” although the title is more often associated with St. Paul. The reference to the “laying-on of hands” in Acts, chapter 13, suggests that Paul and Barnabas may have been consecrated as bishops on this occasion.

Barnabas and Paul left Antioch along with Barnabas' cousin John Mark, who would later compose the most concise account of Christ's life and be canonized as St. Mark. The group's first forays into the pagan world met with some success, but Mark became discouraged and returned to Jerusalem.

The question of Mark's dedication to the mission would arise again later, and cause a significant personal disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. For many years prior to this, however, the two apostles traveled and preached among the Gentiles, suffering persecution and hardships for the sake of establishing Christianity among those of a non-Jewish background.

The remarkable success of Barnabas and Paul led to one of the earliest controversies in Church history, regarding the question of whether Christian converts would have to observe Jewish rites. During the landmark Council of Jerusalem, recorded in the book of Acts, the assembled apostles confirmed St. Peter's earlier proclamation that the laws of the Old Testament would not be mandatory for Christians.

Barnabas and Paul finally separated in their ministries, while remaining apostles of the one Catholic Church, over Paul's insistence that Mark not travel with them again.

In death, however, the “Apostles to the Gentiles” were reunited. Mark is said to have buried Barnabas after he was killed by a mob in Cyprus around the year 62. St. Paul and St. Mark were, in turn, reconciled before St. Paul's martyrdom five years later.

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Connecticut archdiocese welcomes five new priests

Hartford, Conn., Jun 5, 2011 (CNA) - Joy and gratitude filled the Cathedral of St. Joseph on May 14 as Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, Connecticut ordained five men to the priesthood.

Candidates Iain Highet, Diego Jimenez Olaya, George Mukuka, Anthony Smith and Robert Turner were presented to the archbishop by Father Michael J. Dolan, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Hartford.

The presence of virtually the entire community of nuns from the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, who came to celebrate the ordination of one of the members of their own spiritual family, spoke volumes about the significance of the newly ordained to the Church.

"We’re very grateful for this day and looking forward to having Brother Iain serve the Archdiocese and us," said Mother David Serna, of the Order of St. Benedict of the Strict Observance, abbess of Regina Laudis, "and we’re grateful for Archbishop Mansell’s vision to accept him for ordination."

Mother Augusta Collins was equally enthusiastic about the newly ordained priests. "It’s fantastic," she said. "We need them, we want them, and we’ve been waiting a long time to have someone regularly at the Abbey."

Archbishop Mansell, too, expressed "gratitude and appreciation to almighty God" for the gift of the "wonderful" candidates for priestly ordination, and encouraged them to "bring the love of Jesus Christ to all." Putting his comments in the context of ritual, images and traditions of the Church over the centuries, he noted that surveys of Catholics indicate that having parish priests is "at the top of their list" of requisites most essential to their faith.

"To be among God’s people and inspire them is essential to all," he said.

Those in the pews to witness the ordination, who came from parishes throughout the state and beyond, broke into applause at the conclusion of the two-hour liturgy in a welcoming gesture of approval and appreciation for the new priests.

"Our parish was blessed to have Father Smith with us for the last few months of his transitional diaconate," said Ronald Shea, a parishioner of and business manager at St. Mary Parish in Branford. "Our parishioners quickly adopted ‘Deacon Tony’ as one of our own," he said, "and the parish arranged for a bus to take about 30 parishioners to the Cathedral for the ordination. Needless to say, they were deeply moved by the beauty and spirituality of the rite, and were honored to be among those receiving Father Smith’s first blessing after Mass."

Elaine Huguley also was on hand. She is a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Bloomfield, where Father Mukuka had been serving. "It’s beautiful," she said about the ceremony. "He’s a wonderful man, very well-educated and working on his degree in canon law. We’re very happy for him."

Also happy was Alexander Highet, Father Highet’s father, who flew in from Montreal for the ceremony. "It’s a big day," he said. "We’re very pleased, very proud of him."

A moment of laughter was created by Father Vito C. DeCarolis, who had encouraged Father Highet to apply for ordination two years ago. After helping his protégé to don priestly vestments, he turned and raised his cane toward the congregation, shaking it to reflect his jubilation.

Among other parents expressing joy was Maria Jimenez Olaya. "This is a lot of happiness for us," she said about her son’s ordination. "It’s a miracle of God that he finally was able to fulfill his dream. He has a wonderful gift of words that will help him reach many people."

Stating a simple, "Oh, wow," in commenting about his son’s ordination, Arthur Smith noted, "We’ve waited a long time for this. There have been a lot of prayers. It’s a wonderful day."

Father Turner’s mother Alyce Miller, who came from South Carolina, was reflective. "When he made his first holy Communion," she recalled, "I encouraged him to become an altar server and said ‘I’ll give you a dollar for every time you serve.’ Within a few weeks, he came to me and said, ‘Mom, I don’t want the dollar. I like being up there.’ He was always so pious.

"Now it’s just unbelievable to see my son become a priest," she said. "He’s always been so spiritual. I know he’s going to do amazing things."

As for the new priests, the reality was hard to put into words. "It’s a wonderful moment," said Father Smith after the ceremony. "It’s a little overwhelming. I’m still just soaking it all in."

Father Jimenez Olaya was also trying to absorb it. "It’s a wonderful celebration; and I’m very happy and very surprised by all of this. I’m looking forward to celebrating my first Mass later today and working with the people in the parish where I’m assigned."

Added Father Mukuka, "Glory be, and thanks be to God. I’m very happy."

The principal concelebrants were Archbishop Emeritus Daniel A. Cronin, Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter A. Rosazza.

The more than 40 priests and 20 deacons were joined by many of the 43 seminarians currently in formation in the archdiocese.

Printed with permission from the Catholic Transcript, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn.

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Sudan avoids return to war, but violence leaves thousands homeless

, Jun 5, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Sudan's north and south have reached a deal to avoid returning to war over the disputed oil-producing city of Abyei, which is due to come under temporary joint administration next month. But the agreement comes too late for tens of thousands who fled the city as northern troops invaded in May.

“The south is very unhappy that the north has occupied the area,” said Stephen Hilbert, the U.S. Catholic bishops' foreign policy advisor for Africa. “Now that they occupy it, they are basically allowing people to come in and loot the place.”

“It's very unfortunate, and it's very destructive to the peace deal,” Hilbert told CNA on June 2.

South Sudan's government says the invasion killed 116 civilians and displaced 80,000 others. Nevertheless, the country's two main regions – which will split into separate countries on July 9 – agreed on May 30 to demilitarize their border, and resolve the status of Abyei in negotiations facilitated by the African Union.

The tentative agreement comes as a relief to international observers, who feared that the northern seizure of Abyei would start a third civil war between the separating sides. The current humanitarian crisis, however, remains a serious one.

The U.N. World Food Program said on June 1 that it had already provided food aid to 45,000 people displaced by the fighting in Abyei. Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told Vatican Radio that “many people have gone into hiding in the bush.”

Edwards said U.N. workers were “seeing a number of places in which families have been split during the fighting.” He reported that “looting and sporadic shooting” were continuing as of May 31.

Catholic Relief Services told CNA that it could not currently provide details regarding its role in the aftermath of the violence, because of security concerns. But the organization said that it would be “working with … local leaders to meet the needs of the displaced.”

The final status of Abyei remains a critical and unresolved issue between Sudan's two main regions, which spent most of their post-colonial history locked in two bloody civil wars. The country's largely Muslim north and its primarily Christian and Animist south never managed to live together as a single state, although they did negotiate an end to their second civil war in 2005.

The agreement reached during that year, between the northern government in Khartoum and the southern administration in Juba, spelled out a plan for Abyei to vote on its future as a part of either the north or south. But several of the deadlines for that referendum have already passed, over disagreements as to who would be eligible to vote. No vote is scheduled at present.

A third civil war between Sudan's north and south is considered a worst-case scenario for both groups, and the region as a whole. Last month, it seemed like a distinct possibility.

Around May 19, Stephen Hilbert explained, “there was a skirmish” in Abyei. “Southern troops fired upon a small column of northern troops that were being escorted by the U.N. out of the area.” 

The attack still defies explanation. “Was it a rogue unit? Was it people that were just out of control, or an error? We may never know.”

Sudan's northern government, based in Khartoum, responded by invading and occupying the city on May 21. By many people's account, Hilbert said, the north “used it as an excuse” to take back Abyei – in a hugely disproportionate attack involving artillery, tanks, and infantry.

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir said on May 24 that Abyei was “a northern land” from which his troops would “not withdraw.” According to the Sudan Tribune, the northern Sudanese leader said his forces were “prepared for war.”

But the leader of Southern Sudan's autonomous government in Juba, President Salva Kiir, said on May 26 that he would not return to war over Abyei.

According to Hilbert, foreign diplomatic pressure helped to convince President Al-Bashir to back down.

Sudan's northern government wants relief from its international debts – which are in the tens of billions of dollars – and full diplomatic recognition from the U.S., which currently labels the Khartoum government as a state sponsor of terrorism. U.S. diplomats reportedly used both points as leverage to keep the north from provoking a full-scale war in May.

Some experts, including Georgetown Professor Andrew Natsios, believe President Al-Bashir launched the invasion as a domestic show of force, to intimidate dissidents within his own territory who may be considering an Egyptian-style revolution.

In a May 27 essay, Natsios, a former U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, explained that Al-Bashir purged his political opponents from army leadership positions before undertaking the invasion.

“Bashir's worst fear would be for these pockets of opposition to unite in a grand alliance with civil-society groups in the capital against his rule, a fear that he appears to be trying to stave off by drumming up a war in Abyei,” Natsios observed.

Whatever the motive for the invasion may have been, the diplomatic priority now is to ensure that the two sides' fragile peace can bear the weight of South Sudan's historic transition to independence.

Hilbert is optimistic. He expects Al-Bashir to restrain himself out of economic self-interest, if nothing else, now that “the die of southern independence has been cast.”

“Both sides need the oil revenue,” Hilbert said. “The oil is in the south, but the refinery and the pipelines and the export facilities are in the north. Both sides need to make sure that is not threatened.”

Abyei's final status will remained undetermined when South Sudan becomes independent in five weeks. By that time, Hilbert hopes the international community will have managed to alleviate the immediate suffering of thousands of people who were forced to flee the city.

“The effort has to be to mitigate the suffering as much as possible for these tens of thousands of people who have lost their homes, and can't go back,” he said, “while at the same time – probably in large part behind closed doors – sitting down with people in the north and saying, 'Look, you've got to pull these troops out.'”

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World needs Christian families more than ever, Pope says

Zagreb, Croatia, Jun 5, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict has given an emotional plea for all people to recognize the beauty, joy and witness of Christian marriage and family life, and to reject secularism, artificial contraception and co-habitation because they are opposed to true love.

“Everyone knows that the Christian family is a special sign of the presence and love of Christ and that it is called to give a specific and irreplaceable contribution to evangelization,” the Pope told over 400,000 pilgrims at Croatia’s first annual family day in the nation’s capital of Zagreb, on June 5.

“In today’s society the presence of exemplary Christian families is more necessary and urgent than ever,” he said.

The gathering at the city’s Hippodrome racetrack was the highlight of the Pope’s two-day visit to Croatia. In his homily he extolled both the virtues of Catholic family life and flatly rejected many of the modern attacks upon it.

Because of the “difficulties and threats” that Christian families face, Pope Benedict said that they have a “special need of evangelization and support.” He praised them as a decisive resource for education in the faith, for the way families build up the communion of the Church and the ways they contribute to the Church’s missionary presence “in the most diverse situations in life.”

Pope Benedict then turned to those things that destroy family life and happiness-- the first being extreme secularism.

“Freedom without commitment to the truth is made into an absolute, and individual well-being through the consumption of material goods and transient experiences is cultivated as an ideal, obscuring the quality of interpersonal relations and deeper human values; love is reduced to sentimental emotion and to the gratification of instinctive impulses, without a commitment to build lasting bonds of reciprocal belonging and without openness to life,” he observed.

“We are called to oppose such a mentality!”

In particular, he urged the young people in the vast congregation to reject co-habitation and artificial contraception. Both, he suggested, undermine true love.

“Do not give in to that secularized mentality which proposes living together as a preparation, or even a substitute for marriage! Show by the witness of your lives that it is possible, like Christ, to love without reserve, and do not be afraid to make a commitment to another person!”

“Dear families, rejoice in fatherhood and motherhood! Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them!”

He then gave parents practical advice on how to live out the radical Christian ideal he was proposing to them. 

“Dear parents, commit yourselves always to teach your children to pray, and pray with them; draw them close to the Sacraments, especially to the Eucharist.”

“Introduce them to the life of the Church; in the intimacy of the home do not be afraid to read the sacred Scriptures, illuminating family life with the light of faith and praising God as Father.”

The Pope said that while human effort and ingenuity are commendable, it is prayer and openness to the Holy Spirit which are primarily required if a Christian family is to survive and prosper.

“Sometimes it is thought that missionary efficacy depends primarily upon careful planning and its intelligent implementation by means of specific action. Certainly, the Lord asks for our cooperation, but his initiative has to come first, before any response from us: his Spirit is the true protagonist of the Church, to be invoked and welcomed.”

Ending his homily on that note, Pope Benedict concluded with a prayer. “Let us pray to the Lord, that families may come more and more to be small churches and that ecclesial communities may take on more and more the quality of a family!”

The Pope will now travel onto Zagreb Cathedral where he will pray at the tomb of Cardinal Blessed Aloysius Stepinac. He was the leader of the Catholic Church in Croatia under the occupation of the Nazis during the Second World War and the communists in subsequent years. Cardinal Stepinac died while under house arrest in 1960 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1998.

The Pope will then return to Rome after his brief 33-hour-visit to Croatia, a country where 89 percent of the population is Catholic.

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Thirty years after AIDS discovery, appreciation growing for Catholic approach

Rome, Italy, Jun 5, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva says that 30 years after the discovery of AIDS, international relief agencies and faith-based groups are beginning to show an openness to the Catholic solution for the illness.

“We are at the beginning of a convergence in the sense that functionaries of international institutions and organizations and people from faith-based groups are talking across the lines and coming to respect each other a bit more,” Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told CNA.
 
Archbishop Tomasi’s comments come three decades after the first medical paper recognizing the illness was published in the U.S.

Based on a study of homosexual men in California and New York, the new ailment was initially labelled GRID, or Gay-related Immune Deficiency. Since then, the U.N. estimates that 65 million people worldwide have been infected by HIV/AIDS, with over 25 million killed.

The most significant point of departure between the Catholic Church and many other bodies involved in the fight against AIDS is over the use of condoms as a preventative measure.

“It has been proven and even documented now that the really effective way is to change your behaviour. And so, this has been our insistence,” Archbishop Tomasi said, stressing the Catholic Church’s emphasis on behavioral change over condom-distribution.

His comments also come in the week that a new report suggests millions of people are dying from AIDS because Western governments are refusing to accept that condoms are ineffective in curbing the spread of the disease.

The report, entitled “The Catholic Church and the Global AIDS Crisis,” is the work of the American public health expert Matthew Hanley.

“We are always told that condoms are the best known ‘technical’ means for preventing HIV transmission, but we are never told that condom promotion has failed to reverse those most severe African epidemics; behavioral modification, on the other hand, has brought them down,” says Hanley. 

Hanley estimates that six million infections would have been averted in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade if the Catholic approach of fidelity and abstinence had been promoted instead of widespread condom use.

“That this is not common knowledge should give us pause. Public health leaders may increasingly recognize this reality – but remain, by and large, reluctant to emphasize behavioral approaches to AIDS control over technical solutions.”

Hanley’s report also claims that in east Africa, Uganda saw a 10 percent drop in the number of people with AIDS between 1991 and 2001 after investing in abstinence programs. The rates of infection only began to climb again when foreign donor agencies insisted on the increased use of condoms in the fight against AIDS. 

Last month the Vatican held a two-day conference on how best to tackle the AIDS epidemic. It was aimed at finding common ground on the issue and included contributions from those who disagree with the Catholic Church.

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As he departs, Pope says he feels united with Croatia (Updated)

Zagreb, Croatia, Jun 5, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Updated Monday, June 6, 2011 at 9:03 MDT. Corrects previous report which did not include information about the ceremony being affected by bad weather.

After a short but eventful two-day visit to Croatia, Pope Benedict bid farewell, saying that although his trip was short, it was “graced with encounters” that made him feel one with the Croatian people.

“My visit to your country is drawing to a close,” said the Pope in farewell text that was read to the media by Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., at Zagreb international airport on June 5.

The planned farewell ceremony at the airport had to be abandoned due to bad weather. This saw Pope Benedict, instead, having to take shelter under an umbrella as he waved goodbye to Croatia and boarded his plane back to Rome.

“Though brief, it has been graced with encounters that have made me feel part of you, and part of your history, and they have given me the opportunity to confirm the faith of the pilgrim Church in Croatia in Jesus Christ, our only Saviour,” said the text.
 
During his 33-hour visit Pope Benedict addressed Croatian civil society, met with young people at a prayer vigil, addressed families at a Mass for over 400,000 this morning in the capital city of Zagreb, and prayed at the tomb of the great Croatian hero and martyr, Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, just before his departure.

“As I leave for Rome, I place all of you in the hands of God. May he who is infinite providence, the giver of all good things, always bless the land and the people of Croatia; may he grant peace and prosperity to every family,” the Pope said in his farewell remarks. 

In return President Ivo Josipovic of Croatia planned to thank the Pope for his visit noting that it came at a significant time in the country’s history. Croats are marking the 20th anniversary of independence this year, at the same time as they are preparing for membership in the European Union.

“Your visit to Croatia is an exceptionally important state event. But it is also a spiritual event in which I have participated with joy, confident that it will give Croatian citizens moral encouragement, a sign of hope and an incentive for the future,” President Josipovic told the Pope.

“Croatia has welcomed you with open arms and is bidding you farewell with love and gratitude. For this reason, thank you for your visit, Your Holiness, thank you for your noble messages of reason, love and peace!”

The Pope then returned to Rome, after a 45-minute delay, onboard a chartered Alitalia flight that was code-named “Shepherd One.”

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Mt 13:24-43

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