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Archive of July 2, 2011

Vatican City State and Holy See back in the financial black

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican City State ran up a surplus of $30 million over the past year, after three years of deficit. The figure was revealed in financial results published July 2.

“Both the excellent performance of the Vatican Museums – thanks especially to the increase in visitors, which runs against the current worldwide trend in the tourism industry – and the upswing in financial markets contributed to this positive result,” the report noted.

The figures show that in the last financial year the revenue of the Vatican City State was $371 million, while expenditure was $341 million.

The annual results have been published by the Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Financial Problems of the Holy See. The committee is comprised of senior cardinals drawn from around the world, who have responsibility for financial oversight within the Vatican City State and the Holy See.

The cardinals met in Rome on July 1 and 2 for a meeting chaired by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State. Today’s report was issued in the name of Cardinal Velasio de Paolis, President of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs.

According to the report, there has also been a slight decrease in the number of staff working in the Vatican City State. The figure has gone down from 1,891 in 2009 to 1,876 in 2010.

The Vatican City State is a sovereign territory created in 1929. It is distinct from the Holy See, which has been in existence from early Christian times. It is the Holy See, and not the Vatican City State, which represents the Pope diplomatically across the world. The financial results for both were published on July 2.

They show that the revenue of the Holy See was $356 million in 2010 while its expenditure was $342 million, resulting in a surplus of $14 million.

The past year’s balance review for the Holy See would, in its own words, “seem to confirm the positive tendency of 2009, notwithstanding the elements of uncertainty and instability still present in the world economic and financial situation.”

It also showed an increase in the number of people working for the Holy See, up from 2,762 in 2009 to 2,806 in 2010.

The balance sheet of the Holy See got a boost of over $67 million from the annual collection held among Catholics around the world for the Pope’s charitable works, a tradition known as “Peter’s Pence.” That number is down from last year, however.

“The Members of the Council express their wholehearted gratitude to all those who contributed, recognizing that their generosity is a real and vital support for and participation in the pastoral and charitable work of the Holy Father, especially in situations of calamity and emergency in various parts of the world,” concluded the report.

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Pope Benedict XVI welcomes 7,000 pilgrims from southern Italy

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict gave his welcome and blessing to over 7,000 Catholics from southern Italy on July 2. The pilgrims from the Diocese of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti are visiting Rome as part of their diocesan synod, a time of reflection on the local Church’s future.

The Pope told them that the synod was an event which gave them the chance to “live the experience of being ‘People of God,’ of being Church, a pilgrim community in history moving towards its eschatological fulfillment.”   

He also spoke to them about the true nature of the Church, pointing out that it is “not a social or charitable organization.”

“It is the community of God, the community that believes, loves and adores the Lord Jesus, opens its ‘sail’ to the breath of the Holy Spirit and, because of this, is a community that is capable of evangelizing,” he explained to the pilgrims gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall.

The diocese of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti is situated in the Puglia region of Italy – the "heel" in the boot-shaped Italian peninsula. Pilgrims started arriving in Rome from first thing in the morning, with most undertaking the five-hour journey by coach.

In his remarks to the pilgrims, the Pope recognized that the present era is “marked by light and shadows” in which many people suffer “deep existential distress” leading to “a turning in on self, narcissism, a desire for possession and consumption, with feelings and affections disconnected from responsibility.”

The ultimate “cause of this confusion,” he said, was “the denial of the importance of the transcendent foundations of the relationship between man and God.”

To counter this, the Pope suggested, the Diocese of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti should use its synod to examine how well it is educating people in the Catholic faith.

A thorough religious education, he said, can help a person “make a real journey of faith, through the different stages of life, a journey in which - like the Virgin Mary - the person receives the Word of God deeply and puts it into practice, becoming a witness of the Gospel.”

The first school of this education, the Pope said, should be the home.

“Dear parents, be the first witnesses of the faith! Do not be afraid of difficulties, in the midst of which you are called to carry out your mission. You are not alone!”

Finally, he urged priests to cooperate with families in this task by proclaiming “the Gospel with courage and loyalty, being witnesses to the mercy of God and guided by the Holy Spirit.”

The Pope concluded by entrusting the diocese to the protection of Mary, the mother of Jesus, before imparting his apostolic blessing.

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Bishops of North and Central America urge countries to protect migrants

San José, Costa Rica, Jul 2, 2011 (CNA) - A group of North and Central American bishops say their governments must take responsibility for the legal protection of migrants.

“We continue to witness great suffering among migrants in our countries and regions,” the bishops wrote in their June 30 statement. They said these migrants frequently experience exploitation and abuse from public officials, employers and crime organizations.

While acknowledging their governments' right to establish laws, the bishops said any law that separates migrant families or threatens life must be abolished for being “unjust and inhuman.” They placed special emphasis on the protection of migrant families, women and children.

The group of Catholic bishops from the North and Central American regions and the Caribbean released the statement after a June 2011 meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Representatives from the bishops' conferences of the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras and Guatemala were present, as were the Council of Bishops' Conferences of Latin America, Caritas International, and religious and lay migration experts.

In their joint statement, the bishops explained that the ultimate solution to the dilemmas surrounding migration is in “development and economic opportunities throughout the hemisphere, so that families can find work and live in dignity in their counties of origin.”

The bishops clarified their definition of migrants, saying it includes those seeking work, asylum and refuge, as well as victims of human trafficking.

The bishops' statements reflect growing concern over the number of immigrant abductions and deaths, especially along Mexico's border with the United States.

Last year more than 70 South and Central American migrants were kidnapped and killed in northern Mexico. Mexico's National Commission or Human Rights says 9,758 migrants were kidnapped between the years 2008 and 2009.

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Denver archbishop says Supreme Court is wrong on video game violence

Denver, Colo., Jul 2, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput says a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on video game violence is “wrong,” and will contribute to “poisoning our future.”

In a July 1 column for First Things, Archbishop Chaput wrote that the court's June 27 ruling “extends and elevates the individual’s right to free expression – or in this case, a corporation’s right to make a healthy profit - at the expense of family sovereignty, the natural rights of parents and the intent of the Constitution’s authors.”

The decision in the case of “Brown vs. EMA” struck down a California law that banned minors from buying or renting violent video games. 

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said violent video games deserve First Amendment protection just like books, plays and movies. He wrote that video games should not be included in categories of expression that are excluded from First Amendment protection – namely, obscenity, incitement and fighting words.

But Archbishop Chaput said the ruling overlooked the government's duty to protect human dignity and the common good. “A law which respects mothers and fathers trying to make good choices for their family does just that,” he wrote.

Archbishop Chaput clarified that he does not believe video games are “bad.” But to allow minors access to violent video games without parental consent, he said, violates natural law and parents' rights.

Justices Ginsburg, Kagan, Kennedy and Sotamayor joined Scalia in finding California's law unconstitutional. Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts supported the majority opinion, but argued in a differing opinion that violent video games may cause significant social problems because they have a different impact on youth than radio, television or literature.

Archbishop Chaput acknowledged that the court's affirmation of what lawmakers can and cannot ban is important, in light of some religious teaching being labeled hate speech because of the recent push for gay “marriage.”

But he said the court acted prematurely in its decision to strike down the law, and made “a serious mistake in too quickly lumping violent video games under the same protections given Grimm's Fairy Tales or network TV.”

The archbishop argued that the California law protected parental authority and minors because it “did not preclude parents from buying or renting violent video games for their minor children – if they chose to do so as parents.”

He called attention to Justice Clarence Thomas' minority opinion, which held that the Constitution's intended definition of free speech does not include a right of minors to access speech without parental or guardian consent. Justice Thomas indicated in his dissent that the Founding Fathers supported parents' complete authority to direct the development of their minor children.

“Video games can simulate, and potentially stimulate, violence in a far more intensely immersive way than traditional media,” Archbishop Chaput noted, citing the opinion of a former army officer and author who once called violent video games “murder simulators.”

The Archbishop of Denver said that Colorado's 1999 Columbine High School shooting is “indirect but brutally real proof” of his point. He was Archbishop of Denver when the shootings occurred, and said he still remembers visiting with families of victims and “trying to make sense of the violence to the wider community.”

Archbishop Chaput addressed a special session of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation two weeks after the 1999 shootings, saying the violence found in video games has a direct impact on youth and is among the roots of real-life violence.

“Common sense tells us that the violence of our music, our video games, our films, and our television has to go somewhere,” he said at the 1999 session. “It goes straight into the hearts of our children to bear fruit in ways we can't imagine – until something like (the Columbine shootings) happens.”

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Pope's first tweet brings Vatican 50,000 Twitter followers

Denver, Colo., Jul 2, 2011 (CNA) -

Pope Benedict XVI’s first tweet has catapulted the Vatican’s presence on Twitter to new heights.

Thousands of Twitter users retweeted the Pope’s June 28 announcement that launched the Vatican website News.va, and thousands more subscribed to the Vatican’s English-language Twitter account.

The English channel follower count stood at over 65,000 as of Friday evening, an increase of almost 54,000 from the period before the Pope’s message.

“Dear Friends, I just launched News.va,” the Pope said through an iPad tablet device. “Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.”

Twitter allows users to broadcast to their followers short messages of 140 characters called tweets. The site has particularly caught on among news outlets and celebrities.

The growth of the Vatican’s English-language Twitter channel, “news_va_en,” was massive compared to the Vatican’s Twitter accounts in other languages. The Spanish-language channel has about 11,000 followers, while the Italian-language channel sits at only 3,500.

The Twitter accounts won’t be for the Pope’s personal use. Instead, they will serve the Vatican’s first multimedia news portal News.va, which allows readers to view all of the Vatican’s media in one place.

Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told CNA on June 27 that the Vatican is trying to provide Vatican news in “a modern and accessible way, using new technology.”

Ahead of the launch of the Vatican’s new site, Fr. Federico Lombardi said that the Pope’s tweet will be “a simple but powerful and symbolic action.”

The News.va website integrates with social networks. Its design is geared toward mobile devices such as Apple’s iPad.

“This is a new approach for us,” Archbishop Celli noted.

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Chalice with special meaning headed to Alaska with priest

St. Louis, Mo., Jul 2, 2011 (CNA) - As Father Joe Classen makes the 5,000-plus mile journey to Alaska to start a new assignment, he'll be taking along with him an important piece of his childhood.

In mid July, Father Classen begins his work as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Kodiak, Alaska. Ordained for the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 2003, he previously had been serving as associate pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Maryland Heights.

Coming along with him on the journey is a decades-old chalice that once belonged to his childhood pastor, Msgr. Michael Owens. Father Classen got to know the priest, who died in 1988, assisting him as a server at Mass at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in St. Charles.

"A huge inspiration"

Known as "Iron Mike" for his no-nonsense ways, Msgr. Owens' example and devotion to the Eucharist left a mark on Father Classen.

"I tell people the original seeds in my vocation were planted in serving Mass for Msgr. Owens," said Father Classen. "When he was celebrating the Eucharist, using this very chalice and patent, going through the words of the Eucharistic Prayer, even as a little kid, I was aware that something profoundly sacred was taking place. That was a huge inspiration to me."

The story of how Father Classen obtained the chalice is laced with providence. Nearly eight years ago as a seminarian, Father Classen had been volunteering his summers helping out at St. Charles Borromeo. There, he began talking to parish employee Kathy Kasprzyk, who had worked with Msgr. Owens for years.

"Kathy was Msgr. Owens' number-one fan," said Father Classen. "As I was getting closer to ordination, we were kicking around the idea of tracking down his chalice." Through the help of Kasprzyk and others, Father Classen was able to track down the chalice to Father Thomas Begley, now a retired priest of the archdiocese.

It seemed that Father Begley had a family connection to Msgr. Owens and received the chalice after his own ordination. Father Classen contacted him and discovered that Father Begley had placed the chalice in storage in the midst of a priest reassignment. Sadly, he was unable to immediately locate the chalice.

Six months ago, Father Classen once again crossed paths with Father Begley, where the conversation turned to Msgr. Owens and the missing chalice.

"As we were talking, (Father Begley) said, 'Eight years ago, a seminarian called me, asking about his chalice.' I said, 'Well, that was me.'" Father Begley told him he had recently located the chalice and would clean it up and give it to him. Father Classen received it on the anniversary of Msgr. Owens' death, Feb. 24.

Father Classen was eager to share the news with Kasprzyk. The day he received the chalice from Father Begley, he returned to the rectory to receive a message that Kasprzyk had passed away that morning. Father Classen used the chalice for the first time at her funeral Mass.

"I kept thinking how excited Kathy was going to be," he recalled. "Like everything, this came full circle."

Moving to Alaska

In his move to Alaska, Father Classen will serve as pastor of St. Mary's Parish, which serves about 300 households and includes a school with approximately 100 students. Kodiak Island is on the southern coast of Alaska.

The assignment came after Archbishop Robert J. Carlson sent a letter earlier this year to archdiocesan priests, asking if someone would be willing to help out the Archdiocese of Anchorage. Father Classen's assignment will last three years.

"I've always had an interest in doing short-term mission work -- something within the United States," said Father Classen. "The idea of serving a smaller community appealed to me very much. And there's a real community spirit on Kodiak Island -- not just the parish but the whole island."

St. Mary's dates back to 1944, after the first Catholic priests and sisters arrived at Kodiak, first to assist with a hospital on the island. A decade later, the school was founded. Father Classen said the parish boasts a mutlicultural presence, including Filipinos, Hispanics and Samoans. There also is a presence of Russian Orthodox and native Yupik Eskimos on the island, he noted.

The avid outdoorsman also should find himself right at home in Kodiak, which is primarily known for its fishing industry. The island also is home to the Kodiak brown bear, the largest subspecies of the brown bear, and the largest U.S. Coast Guard base.

"People tell me that once you get there, if you don't love the outdoors and you don't love fishing, you're going to be miserable here," he joked.

Printed with permission from the St. Louis Review, newspaper for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri.

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