Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2011 (CNA) - As South Sudan prepares to become the world's newest country on July 9, international observers and Church officials are trying to prevent genocide from taking place on its disputed border.
“The situation of the people in South Kordofan is extremely critical, especially in the capital Kadugli,” Sudanese Bishop Macram Max Gassis told the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need in an interview made public on June 17.
“After Darfur,” he said, “there is now a new impending genocide in Sudan.”
Sudan's northern government has been bombing the central Sudanese region of South Kordofan since June 6. An anonymous aid worker told the New York Times on Wednesday that northern forces were “killing the black people” there, in retaliation for their support of the south.
“Hundreds of thousands have now fled the area,” said Bishop Gassis, whose diocese includes the embattled border state.
U.N. officials say the recent bombings have displaced around 60,000 people, in addition to nearly 113,000 who have fled from the border city of Abyei since northern troops invaded and occupied it on May 21.
A June 15 U.N. report described a “growing sense of panic among some of the displaced populations who find themselves trapped by the ongoing violence and the ethnic fault lines.”
U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R – N.J.), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, held a hearing on June 16 to discuss several of the problems fueling violence just weeks before South Sudan's official independence day.
“We are nearly on the eve of independence for Southern Sudan, yet many issues remain unresolved,” said Rep. Smith, chairmain of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights.
These issues include South Sudan's partially undefined border, questions of citizenship for ethnic southerners living in the north, the sharing of oil revenues between the north and south.
But the most urgent problem may be the northern military attacks, which have continued despite an agreement by both sides reached to demilitarize their border last month.
Princeton Lyman, the U.S. State Department's Special Envoy for Sudan, said during Thursday's hearing that “major consequences for the government and people of (northern) Sudan” would follow, if the Khartoum-based government's “decision to resort to military action” is not “quickly reversed.”
Last month, Sudan's north and south agreed in principle to demilitarize their border region as they seek to establish the exact boundaries of their impending separation. But southern officials say northern attacks have extended at least 12 miles into southern territory.
Colonel Philip Aguer, a spokesman for the southern Sudanese military, told the New York Times that northern soldiers “are occupying what they think the border should be,” in places where the dividing lines “have not been demarcated.”
Vatican City, Jun 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican will celebrate Pope Benedict’s 60th anniversary of priestly ordination with a month-long exhibition featuring 60 artists from around the world.
Details of the month long exhibition entitled ‘The Splendor of Truth, the Beauty of Love’ were unveiled in Rome today.
“We wanted to think of a very fluid and generic theme closely connected to the papacy of Benedict XVI – on the one hand truth and on the other charity,” explained the Pontifical Council for Culture’s head Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi.
“It’s almost like a card of congratulations addressed to the Pope,” he said to CNA.
The event will begin on July 4, when the artists and their work will be presented to the Pope himself. A wide range of art forms will be represented, including painting, sculpture, architecture, photography and music from globally renowned composers such as Ennio Morricone, Arvo Part and James McMillan.
“I was overjoyed and proud to have been invited to participate in this marvelous festival,” McMillan commented. The Scottish composer wrote much of the music to accompany Pope Benedict’s visit to the U.K. last year.
McMillan said he is very appreciative of the guidance Pope has given the Church, “even in his priestly years before becoming our Supreme Shepherd.
“His advice and direction in liturgy and music have been especially inspiring to musicians like me.”
A similar reaction has come from all those artists asked by Cardinal Ravasi to participate.
“The response from the artists invited has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Richard Rouse of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
“They’re all encouraged, they take this as a good opportunity to reopen a dialogue of works rather than just words. And that’s something that the artists continue to say to us – finally it’s not just words it’s also pictures, it’s also music.”
The event is in some way a spin off from the first meeting Pope Benedict had with artists in the Sistine Chapel, back in 2009. At the time, he promised that they would meet again.
“Pope Benedict, as everybody knows, is a man who’s interested in truth, he’s interested in dialogue, in charity. And we thought that having already had that meeting with artists in 2009 of reaching out again in this dialogue,” Rouse explained.
Amongst the 60 contributions, the Pope will receive a musical arrangement of the Our Father, written by the Estonian composer Arvo Part. It will be sung by a boy treble with Part himself at the piano.
The man behind the music to films like the Mission and the Untouchables, Italian composer Ennio Morricone, has donated a new score which, when viewed as a musical manuscript, depicts a cross.
And the Italian sculptor behind a controversial contemporary statue of Pope John Paul II recently unveiled in Rome, Oliviero Rainaldi, will also produce a new work for the occasion.
The event will run until September 4. Those artworks being displayed will be exhibited at the atrium of the Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Pope Benedict was ordained to the priesthood, along with his brother Georg, in the Bavarian town of Freising on June 29, 1951.
Rome, Italy, Jun 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez of Valladolid, Spain has concluded an apostolic visitation of the lay branch of the Legion of Christ, Regnum Christi.
A statement issued by Regnum Christi on June 16 announced that Archbishop Blazquez’s visitation, requested by Pope Benedict XVI, had reached an end.
The visitation was coordinated with Cardinal Velasio de Paolis, the pontifical delegate for the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christ Movement.
The movement said Archbishop Blazquez is now drafting the report he will send to the Holy See at the end of June. It will contain observations and suggestions culled from his interviews with the consecrated members of the movement and “analysis of all the information” received.
“The Holy See will then evaluate the report and take the appropriate decisions about future instructions and communications,” the statement said.
After learning of the double life led by the founder of the Legion of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel, the Pope appointed five bishops to carry out a worldwide apostolic visitation of the order between July 2009 and March 2010.
One of the results of that visitation was the appointment of Archbishop Blazquez to carry out a visitation of the lay branch of the order, the Regnum Christi Movement.
After the conclusion of the visitation of the Legion, Pope Benedict XVI named then-Archbishop Velasio de Paolis—later cardinal—as pontifical delegate for the order. One of his principal tasks was the reviewing of the Legion’s constitutions, through a commission established in December of 2010.
Vatican City, Jun 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishops should build “bonds of fraternal love and mutual concern” with their priests so that “any tensions that may arise” will quickly be overcome, Pope Benedict XVI told a delegation of Indian bishops visiting him at the Vatican on June 17.
“You are to be supportive of your priests, your closest collaborators, and to be attentive to their needs and aspirations, showing solicitude for their spiritual, intellectual and material well-being,” the Pope said.
There are an estimated 20,000 priests spread throughout India’s 164 dioceses. That makes the Indian bishops conference the fourth largest in the world. In fact, their visits to meet the Pope every five years – called “ad limina” visits – have to be staggered over four different sessions, with today’s visit being the last of the four groups.
Pope Benedict reminded the group of bishops present today of the obedience promised to them by their priests upon ordination.
“They, as sons and co-workers, are called in turn to respect your authority, working cheerfully, humbly and with complete dedication to the good of the Church, but always under your direction,” he said.
But the Pope also reminded them of a bishop’s duty of acting as a “pastor and father” for their priests.
“The bonds of fraternal love and mutual concern which you foster with your priests will become the basis for overcoming any tensions that may arise, and will promote those conditions which are most propitious for the service of the people of God, edifying them spiritually.”
The greatest beneficiary of the witness of mutual love between priest and bishop, Pope Benedict suggested, is the laity.
“They look to you and your priests for a model of holiness, friendship and harmony that speaks to their hearts and teaches by example how to live the new commandment of love.”
India is the second most populous country in the world, with over 1.18 billion people. The country’s inhabitants are 80 percent Hindu, while Catholics comprised only 2 percent. The Pope will issue a response to all the Indian bishops’ ad limina visits, this coming September.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 17, 2011 (CNA) - The Argentinean Society of Medical and Biological Ethics is warning that sexual ethics in the country are rapidly declining.
In a statement published by the AICA news agency on June 16, the society said the troubling outlook is based on various signs, such as the high production and sales of condoms at a rate of nearly 500,000 per day.
“Each year 18,000,000 packets of contraceptive pills are produced, which by law are distributed free-of-charge, as well as 4,000,000 packets of the morning-after pill, which are also free. The huge costs are covered by the state with tax dollars,” the society stated.
It also lamented the continuous push for “sexual education,” which has only led to an increase in teen pregnancies, promiscuity and sexual activity.
The society said the number of marriages and births is falling each year, turning Argentina into “a huge country with great riches but uninhabited, with demographic numbers in the red.”
Prostitution and the attention given to same-sex unions have become increasingly accepted, it said. “Rabbi Abraham Skorka was right when he said on TV: ‘Today we are living in extreme selfishness, and this is apparent in sexual matters as well, as each person seeks to satisfy his own fancies and there is no dialogue of love,” the society concluded.
Rome, Italy, Jun 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishops around the world are encouraged to promote 60 hours of Eucharistic adoration for the sanctification of all priests, for new vocations, and for Pope Benedict XVI, who will celebrate 60 years as a priest on June 29.
Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Vatican’s Congregation of the Clergy, said this would be an ideal time to “gather around the pontiff and show him our gratitude, our affection and our communion for the service he offers to God and the Church.” Above all, he continued, it will show the commitment to “making the truth shine out in the world,” which characterizes his pontificate.
In his statement published June 16 by L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said the 60 hours of Eucharist adoration could be continuous or spread out over the month of June and should be embraced “particularly by priests.”
The statement was also signed by the congregation’s secretary, Archbishop Celso Morga Iruzubieta.
The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (the Day for Priestly Sanctification) would be an ideal day to conclude the Eucharist adoration, Cardinal Piacenza added.
Through this special initiative, the cardinal continued, “We could offer homage to the pontiff with an extraordinary crown of prayers and supernatural unity, that shows the real center of our lives, from which all missionary and pastoral effort springs forth, as well as the authentic face of the Church and her priests.”
The Congregation for the Clergy recommended meditating on biblical passages featuring the Apostle Peter, the first Pope. It specifically mentioned chapters 20 and 21 of the Gospel of John, in which the Lord asks Peter if he loves him more than the rest, and chapter 16 of the Gospel of Matthew, in which Christ tells him, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.”
Pope Benedict was ordained on June 29, 1951, together with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, at the Cathedral of Freising in Germany, on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2011 (CNA) - A new video gives married couples’ reflections on marriage issues, the place of children and the complementary nature of the union of a man and a woman. Openness to children, it says, has a “major impact” on the Catholic view towards proposals to redefine marriage.
Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, chair of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, announced the new video “Made for Life” during his report to the U.S. bishops at their June 2011 meeting in Seattle.
“Our culture is one that often forgets the sacred gift of the child, and in so doing it also fails to recognize the vital importance of a mother and a father together for the life and upbringing of that child,” he said. “In contemporary debates about the meaning of marriage, the rights and dignity of the child should be at the forefront.”
He said the video addresses a “real gap” in public awareness about “the close connection between a culture of life and a culture that promotes and protects marriage.”
“The two cannot be separated,” Bishop Cordileone explained.
The new video is the second of five videos in a series aimed at promoting and defending marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
The video opens with several quotations from Genesis and shots of vineyards. It features several married couples and one single mother who reflect on the gift of children, sexual difference and the indispensible place of fathers and mothers.
“Being open to children is so foundational,” one married woman says in the video. “You’re not only open to children, you’re not just opening yourself to the possibility of the gift of life, but you’re (also) opening yourself up to your spouse.”
Other speakers reflect on their children as “a gift and a blessing,” the place of mothers and fathers as “the building blocks of the family,” and the right of a child to have a mother and a father.
Marriage is “perfectly designed” so that spouses love for each other can not only conceive but nurture and raise a child, one husband says.
“Life can only come forth because of our differences, and it only makes sense that the true way to raise that life is by having those differences, meaning a husband and a wife,” his wife adds. “You have to have a husband and a wife to create a child. How perfect, then, and better for that child, to have a mother and a father in a stable unit to raise them.”
The video’s viewer’s guide calls marriage the “fundamental and irreplaceable pro-child social institution.” The attempt to redefine marriage to include two persons of the same sex is a proposal that will “ultimately empty marriage of its most basic elements.”
In addition to the viewer’s guide, the subcommittee also provides a resource guide for priests, deacons, catechists and teachers.
Previously, the subcommittee was called the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage. As a permanent subcommittee, it is now under the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, which is chaired by Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
The video and guides may be purchased through USCCB Publishing or may be accessed online at http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org.
Bellevue, Wash., Jun 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On June 16 the U.S. bishops approved a document on assisted suicide, which will become their first collective word on the matter. The statement, entitled “To Live Each Day with Dignity,” refutes the idea that assisted suicide is a compassionate form of medical treatment.
“Getting rid of yourself is a false choice,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, in a press conference following debate on the document at the bishops' spring meeting in Bellevue, Wash.
“The Church needs to respond in a timely and visible way to this renewed challenge, which will surely be pursued in a number of states in the years to come,” the pro-life chairman said.
The document required 180 positive votes from the bishops and received 191.
In “To Live Each Day with Dignity,” the bishops define true compassion as “meeting patients' needs and … a commitment to their equal worth.” This mentality contrasts sharply with physician-assisted suicide's elimination of the patient, as a means of ending suffering.
The bishops also state that the mindset of assisted suicide, if allowed into society, must “inevitably” target people with chronic illness and disabilities “whose suffering is considered serious enough for assisted death.”
At the press conference, Cardinal DiNardo also warned that the medical field risks losing its basic identity if it moves away from preserving life.
Rather than treating life itself as an illness, the bishops argue, physicians must provide “life-affirming palliative care” in keeping with “the principle of equal and inherent human rights and the ethical principles of the medical profession.”
Oregon was the first U.S. state to legalize assisted suicide in 1994. A popular referendum legalized the practice in Washington in 2008, and Montana's Supreme Court declared it legal in 2010.
Christchurch, New Zealand, Jun 17, 2011 (CNA) - The already damaged cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand was hit again by new wave of earthquakes that struck the country this week.
Bishop of Christchurch Barry Jones expressed sadness over the further destruction to the local Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, but said he was grateful that “no lives were lost” after two major earthquakes rocked the city on June 13.
The management at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral said the building “ sustained substantial damage” in the recent disaster. The cathedral had been closed since September of last year when a non-fatal temblor caused damage to the church.
This year's Feb. 22 earthquake – which killed over 180 people and has been described as New Zealand's worst natural disaster in history – shattered the cathedral's stained glass, destroyed its bell towers and shook the foundations.
Lance Ryan, head of the church's management board, explained that the new damage from this week's earthquakes involved the concrete floors on the outside of the church collapsing on to the floor below, damaging the north and south arches that help support the dome.
Ryan said that engineers are attempting to carry out a full inspection of the cathedral. Although they were initially able to fly a small drone into the building's interior to survey the damage, aftershocks have now put the project on hold.
“It will be several days before we are in a position to comment on the future of the building,” he said.
“These aftershocks are quite devastating as we were making such good progress in preparing the dome so that it could be lifted off in a couple of weeks,” Ryan said. But all of “this work is now on hold,” he added.
Bishop Jones told the cathedral’s parishioners in a June 15 statement that the local community is need of God's peace “as we come to terms with two more major earthquakes and the stress and uncertainty they have brought into our lives.”
“I keep our Diocese and its people very much in my prayers and am greatly reassured by the promise of prayers for us all from people living in other parts of New Zealand,” he said.
“The people of the Church have shown huge support for and solidarity with us and we need to be grateful and include them in our prayers.”