Madrid, Spain, Aug 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Events planned for English-speaking young people at World Youth Day in Madrid will include tributes to Blessed Pope John Paul II.
“At the first World Youth Day since Blessed Pope John Paul II was beatified, this tribute is particularly appropriate,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who is currently in Madrid.
“The Love and Life Center: A Home for English-speaking Pilgrims” is open from Aug. 16 - 19 at the Palacio de Deportes, Madrid's 11,000-seat concert and sports arena located in the heart of the city.
Relics of Blessed Pope John Paul II will be on display in the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel in the Palacio, which include two items that Blessed Pope John Paul II owned.
The first relic is a mitre – the pointed hat that Catholic bishops wear – and the second is a rosary that was a gift to the late Pope from the people of Gdansk, Poland, where the Polish Solidarity Movement was born.
A memorial book will also be available for pilgrims to sign with their remembrances of Blessed Pope John Paul II, and interviews of pilgrims discussing his influence in their lives will be recorded on video throughout the week.
“An entire generation of Catholic young people is known as the John Paul II generation,” Anderson noted, “and the presence of so many pilgrims shows the timeless nature and inspiration of the World Youth Day experience.”
Blessed Pope John Paul was named a patron of this year’s World Youth Day – an event he founded in 1985.
In addition to speakers such as Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who was recently named the leader of the Philadelphia archdiocese, and Carl Anderson, the events for English-speaking pilgrims will also feature an array of top speakers, actors and musicians.
Stamford, Conn., Aug 17, 2011 (CNA) - The Catholic community in Stamford, Connecticut is grieving the loss of 31 year-old Navy Seal Brian Bill, whose helicopter was gunned down in Afghanistan by the Taliban on Aug. 6.
“He was very committed to our Catholic faith” and “was devoted to the people he cared about – his family, his classmates and his country,” recalled assistant principal Diane Warzoha from Trinity Catholic High School.
Bill was also a “reflective, quiet young man who was a very intense, sensitive person” and “always wanted to make a difference for others,” Warzoha told CNA in an Aug. 16 interview.
The Navy Seal was one of 38 people – including 25 American special operations personnel, five Army National Guard crewmen, seven Afghan commandos, and one Afghan interpreter – who lost their lives in the Chinook helicopter crash after Taliban members reportedly hit it with a rocket-propelled grenade.
Warzoha said that Bill, who graduated from Trinity Catholic in 1997, was “in several of my Spanish classes when I was a classroom teacher.”
“I will always remember his smile and the way he had the ability to 'read a situation,'” she said. “He knew what was going on around him and if someone was having a bad day, he wanted to be able to fix it.”
Despite Bill's impressive achievements throughout his life, he always maintained a sense of deep humility, Warzoha said.
“He was an Eagle Scout and I was invited to his Eagle Court of Honor – he was so proud of his accomplishment, but did not want the attention it brought him,” she remembered.
“Whatever he did, he wanted to do it the best that he could – be it on the ice as a part of our hockey team, in the classroom or in the community.”
The assistant principal said the local Catholic community has been hit hard by his death.
“We look to our Faith,” she said. “We continue to keep Brian, his family and those that were killed with him in our prayers.”
On Aug. 13, members the school's class of 1997 were joined by more than 200 friends and community members at a memorial led by Bishop William E. Lori of the Bridgeport diocese. The Stamford Navy Sea Cadets formed an honor guard and placed the American flag at half-mast in front of the high school building.
“Last weekend we woke in horror to the news,” said Bishop Lori, who visited with the family before coming to the vigil. The bishop noted that the Bill family was “united in grief with a strong and intrepid faith that sustains us all as we grieve.”
Trinity Catholic will dedicate the opening school Mass to Bill, who will also be remembered at the local Memorial Mass on Nov. 2 as well as at a Mass held by the Catholic Veteran's Group.
The school's sports teams will pay tribute to him by wearing a patch on their jerseys throughout the season.
Warzoha also said that school administration “will be meeting with Brian's classmates after the funeral takes place at the end of this week to plan a fitting, permanent memorial for him.”
“We are so very proud of Brian and are honored that he is a member of our school family,” she said.
“He truly is a hero in our eyes as well as the eyes of our country. We thank him for giving the ultimate sacrifice for us.”
New York City, N.Y., Aug 17, 2011 (CNA) - Family instability continues to grow in the U.S. despite falling divorce rates for families with children. Researchers say an increase in cohabitation is part of the problem, adding that society’s “retreat from marriage” harms children and has particularly hurt poor and working-class communities.
“In a striking turn of events, the divorce rate for married couples with children has returned almost to the levels we saw before the divorce revolution kicked in during the 1970s,” said Prof. W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia.
“Nevertheless, family instability is on the rise for American children as a whole. This seems in part to be because more couples are having children in cohabiting unions, which are very unstable,” he said.
Wilcox is the lead author of “Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences,” a report from the New York-based Institute for American Values’ Center for Marriage and Families.
More than 40 percent of U.S. children now spend time in a cohabiting household. They are much more likely to experience a parental breakup than children of married couples.
In the U.S., the breakup rate is 170 percent higher for children born to cohabiting couples up until age 12.
Wilcox said children of cohabiting parents are more likely than those from intact married families to suffer from “a range of emotional and social problems” such as drug use, depression, and dropping out of high school.
The report surveys more than 250 peer-reviewed journal articles on marriage and family life in the U.S. and around the world. It also has original analysis of data from the General Social Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation.
“(W)hether we succeed or fail in building a healthy marriage culture is clearly a matter of legitimate public concern and an issue of paramount importance if we wish to reverse the marginalization of the most vulnerable members of our society: the working class, the poor, minorities, and children,” the report’s executive summary said.
The report found that children in cohabiting households are at least three times more likely to be physically, sexually or emotionally abused, compared to children from intact marriages between their biological parents.
Researchers have also discovered that family stability is part of a class divide. Children from college-educated homes have seen their family lives stabilize, while children from less-educated homes have seen their lives become increasingly unstable. The highly affluent enjoy “strong and stable” families while others face “increasingly unstable, unhappy and unworkable ones.”
Divorces involving children have largely returned to levels before marriage laws were changed for easier divorce. About 23 percent of children whose parents married in the early 1960s saw their parents divorced by the time they turned 10. The numbers for children whose parents married in 1997 were nearly similar.
The report authors concluded that an intact marriage between biological parents remains the “gold standard” for family life in the U.S.
“Children are most likely to thrive, economically, socially, and psychologically, in this family form,” the Institute for American Values said in an Aug. 16 statement. Marriage is “an important public good” with a range of economic, health, educational and safety benefits that help all levels of government serve the common good.
The benefits of marriage also extend to poor, working class and minority communities, despite the weakening of marriage in these demographics in the last four decades.
“(T)he rise of cohabiting households with children is the largest unrecognized threat to the quality and stability of children’s lives in today’s families,” the institute said.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 17, 2011 (CNA) -
Catholics in Iraq are maintaining a strong faith despite persecution in their country, Iraqi bishops and seminarians explained to a group of young pilgrims at World Youth Day.
“All young Catholics are brothers in Jesus Christ, and Iraqis need all (of them) to pray for the entire country, both Christians and Muslims, because Iraq is very important to Christianity,” said Samir Haddo Atallah, a seminarian from Mosul, Iraq.
Atallah spoke with CNA in an exclusive interview on Aug. 16. He is part of a group of 18 Iraqi seminarians from Mosul that traveled to World Youth Day, along with city’s Syrian-Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petrus Mouche, and the former Bishop Georges Casmoussa. The group met with Spanish and Mexican youth at the parish of San Agustin in Madrid.
The seminarians and bishops explained that life is hard for Christians in countries like Iraq, where they are often persecuted and are targets of violence.
“Priests and bishops are killed, it is very dangerous for us,” Father Salah Slaicua Rafo Sheto, who was recently ordained a priest, said. This is why they need “a new spirit to be an ecclesial church. We need to be people who are conscious about life, not about death.”
Bishop Casmoussa delivered a message from Christians in Iraq to the audience, asking for prayers and solidarity.
“Do not be afraid for us. We will carry the cross from beginning to end,” he said to the crowd consisting of members from different Spanish parishes and a group from Mexico.
Speaking to CNA, Bishop Casmoussa said that Christians in Iraq are not “against anyone,” and want to “work with Muslims to rebuild (the) country.”
Archbishop Mouche addressed those gathered by saying that the best way to transmit the faith is through the youth, particularly by attending Sunday Mass and having religious education available. He noted the importance of Catholic radio in Iraq, which is a new initiative funded with help from the San Agustin parish.
The seminarians and the pilgrims chanted, sang songs, and expressed their support for one another. When the exchange ended, an "Our Father" was prayed in Spanish and in Syrian, particularly for the peace and strength of Iraq and all its people.
“(This) is my vocation from Jesus, my Lord, to serve the people. We believe in love, and Jesus Christ is love,” said newly ordained Fr. Sheto, with a smile that reflected his firm conviction and joy.
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict used his Aug. 17 general audience to reflect on Mary's example of prayer and meditation, just before he travels to Madrid to celebrate World Youth Day with over 1 million young people.
“In our time, we are absorbed by many activities and duties, worries, problems,” he said.
“Mary teaches us how necessary it is to find in our days, with all of its activities, moments to gather our thoughts in silence and meditate on what the Lord wants to teach us, on how he is present and acts in the world and in our life.”
At his summer residence in Castel Gandalfo, the Pope reflected on the passage from Luke’s Gospel that says Mary observed events in her son Jesus' life, “kept all of these things, and pondered them in her heart.”
“Mary fully lived her existence,” he said, “her daily duties, her mission as a mother, but she knew how to hold within herself an interior space for reflecting on the word and will of God, on what was occurring within her, on the mysteries of the life of her Son.”
The Pope said that although modern men and women often see and remember only “negative things,” people need to learn how to mentally recall the positive experiences they have and the gifts that God has given them.
Since the way to heaven involves following God's will for our lives, he added, it's necessary for individuals to listen to and discern God's voice, which requires silence and meditation.
Pope Benedict explained that meditation involves creating “in ourselves a situation of contemplation, of interior silence, to reflect, to assimilate the mysteries of our faith and what God operates in us; and not just the things that come and go.”
He noted there are many ways to learn how to meditate and offered several practical suggestions, such as reflecting on a brief Scripture verse and talking to a spiritual director.
“Reading and reflecting on what we have read, trying to understand it, what it is saying to me, what it says today, to open our spirit to what the Lord wants to tell us and teach us,” he said.
The Pope recommended praying the Rosary, which he called “a prayer of meditation” that invites the faithful to reflect deeply on the life of Christ.
He also suggested focusing on private words or reflections that come during the celebration of the Eucharist, which enables “an intense spiritual experience” and can help a person enter into meditation.
At the end of the audience, the Pope asked everyone to pray for World Youth Day, which he will attend in Madrid between Aug. 18 and 21. His visit will culminate with an open-air Mass on Sunday.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The organizers of World Youth Day are praising the Spanish police after they arrested a Mexican chemistry student for allegedly plotting to gas anti-Pope protesters at this week’s Catholic youth festival in Madrid.
“We condemn any type of violence. This man was a volunteer for World Youth Day, but is no longer such,” said spokesman Rafa Rubio to CNA on August 17.
“The police have acted appropriately and in line with what they had to do. This man no longer works as part of World Youth Day.”
A police spokesman confirmed that they had indeed arrested an unnamed suspect yesterday and that he is a student specializing in organic chemistry. However, they stressed that no actual chemicals had been found during raids on his apartment.
The traditionally anti-Catholic Spanish newspaper El Pais claims that the arrest was to avoid the chance that any failed attack would panic people.
The newspaper also said that police were alerted by the vehemence of the man’s comments on internet forums regarding recent verbal attacks on Pope Benedict by various figures in Spanish civil society.
The news of the arrest emerged only hours before a demonstration in Madrid this evening against the alleged costs of the papal visit.
“We are not angry about the Pope’s visit, which some will agree with and others won't, but rather over the financing of it with public money, especially at a time when many services are being cut because it’s necessary to curb government spending,” said campaign group 15-M said in a statement.
However, organizers of World Youth Day insist the event is at “zero cost to taxpayers” and will, in fact, bring money into the Spanish economy with over a million visitors expected in the nation’s capital this week.
Spain is currently gripped by an economic crisis that has resulted in it having the highest unemployment rate in the industrialized world.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Timothy Dolan predicts that the recent redefinition of marriage in New York will have a “big impact” on future attempts by young people to build up Catholic family life.
“That’s a good example of how our young people find, very often, the culture of our society to be at odds with what they treasure as Catholics,” the Archbishop of New York told CNA on Aug. 17 prior to an evening prayer service for hundreds of young New Yorkers at World Youth Day.
Gay “marriage” became legal in New York State last month following the passage of the Marriage Equality Act in the state legislature by 33 votes to 29. The approved bill was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo the same day.
Archbishop Dolan says the most effective thing that young Catholics can now do to defend marriage is “to model happy, faithful, life-giving marriage. That’s the best thing we can do.”
But he also stressed that young Catholics will have to be prepared to “never to shy away from the prophetic part of speaking the truth” in “letting people know that the defense of traditional marriage is not just some weird, superstitious, medieval Catholic cause.” Instead, it “is at the heart of the common good - namely providing the healthiest, most wholesome environment for children.”
Archbishop Dolan believes that events such as World Youth Day play a crucial role in equipping young people to defend the family. On Wednesday evening he led over 400 young pilgrims in evening prayer and benediction where, he said, they could be “united in prayer before Our Lord.”
“That’s what young people will tell me is so liberating and uplifting and enlightening and inspirational about this event,” observed Archbishop Dolan.
“It’s that they are with a million young people who share their values, who love the faith and are committed Catholics who are struggling day-in and day-out to live the kind of life that Jesus and his Church expect.”
World Youth Day is a week-long series of events culminating in Mass with Pope Benedict XVI at Madrid’s Cuatro Vientos Airport on Sunday. The Pope arrives in Spain on Thursday.
World Youth Day is “a real boost to them because, for at least five days, they’re in a culture of support and encouragement,” said Archbishop Dolan.
“And that arms them for the counter-cultural aspect of the faith which Blessed John Paul II spoke about always - that the faith is also counter-cultural.”
Denver, Colo., Aug 17, 2011 (CNA) - Corrected August 20, 2011, 9:08 MDT. Corrects earlier version in which Voris was identified as President and CEO of RealCatholicTV. Changes are in paragraphs one and six.
RealCatholicTV's Senior Executive Producer and host Michael Voris says he was completely unaware of recently discovered troubles within his organization, involving a staff apologist's sexually explicit writings, and his nonprofit corporation's loss of legal status two years ago.
“I don't know what the issue is on any of this stuff,” said Voris, who is currently in Spain promoting his unofficial “No Bull in Madrid” meetings during World Youth Day.
Voris told CNA on August 16 that he had “no idea” his nonprofit corporation St. Michael's Media had been automatically dissolved in 2009 after failing to file records with the state for two years. An official at the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs confirmed on August 10 that Voris' nonprofit was “no longer registered and in good standing with the State of Michigan.”
As of August 16, St. Michael's Media's website stated: “We are a 501(c)3 company & donations are tax-deductible.” An earlier test donation, made through the website via PayPal, showed that the officially defunct entity was still receiving contributions.
Officials at the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said they had no further information about the dissolved nonprofit corporation's status or the legal consequences of continuing to accept donations. The department said that additional questions should be directed to the Michigan Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division.
Voris was equally surprised by evidence showing that his staff apologist and program host Simon Rafe – who is the webmaster at St. Michael's Media, and co-authored its “Saint Michael's Basic Training” apologetics course – had also written the “adult” role-playing game “Castle Dracula,” and fan-fiction depicting homosexuality in the Star Wars universe.
“I don't know anything about this,” said Voris, when presented with descriptions of the works and evidence of Rafe's authorship.
As recently as August 15, the website batcave.co.uk hosted the text of “Castle Dracula: A Tunnels & Trolls Solo Adventure by Simon Rafe.” Signed and dated “Simon 'The Darknight' Rafe, Baptism of Our Lord, 2010,” the work contains a paragraph vividly describing a sexual encounter with “a beautiful Elven woman” revealed to be “Asrel, the goddess of love, life, health, healing, beauty and sex.”
Rafe gives the player a series of options in the scenario: “If you would like strength and vitality, turn to 70. If you would like health and life, turn to 383. If you would like true love, turn to 467. If you would like sex appeal, turn to 203. If you would like sexual potency, turn to 366. If you would like make love to the goddess (even if you are female - Asrel is an equal-opportunity lover!), turn to 11.”
A domain name registry search showed that Simon Rafe, working from the physical address of St. Michael's Media, used the e-mail address “[email protected]” to register at least one domain name. It was for a Catholic organization whose stated aim was to oppose “promotion of heresy in many Catholic educational establishments and other venues which should be a source of Catholic orthodoxy.”
Rafe gives the same e-mail address as his contact information for players of “Castle Dracula,” in the game's introduction.
In that same introduction to “Castle Dracula,” Rafe directs readers to his blog, which bears the biblically-inspired title “As Iron Sharpens Iron” and was written under the name “Darknight.” In one entry, “Darknight” discusses the ethical implications of a story he has written, which introduces lesbian elements into the storyline of Star Wars.
“Am I self-justifying? Perhaps I am,” he states, regarding his artistic license with characters' sexual behavior. “Perhaps I am also moving beyond some rigid position into a more nuanced one, one where the strictures of duty begin to give way to the fluidity of art. Perhaps this is a dangerous movement, perhaps I should not be going there.”
Voris said Rafe could not comment on the writings, because of a company policy under which only board members may speak to media outlets. For his part, Voris said he previously had “no knowledge … whatsoever” of evidence linking RealCatholicTV's speaker and apologist to the explicit writings, which CNA documented for him from its archives on August 16.
Voris told CNA that his “No Bull in Madrid” project, timed to coincide with World Youth Day despite its lack of approval from event organizers, was occupying his attention such that he would need “a week to figure out” the apparent problems within his organization.
However, the author who called himself “The Darknight” seems to have taken action.
As of August 17, Rafe's “Darknight” writings had disappeared from both the “Batcave” site and his blog. The blog instead featured “an explanation,” stating: “I am no longer running this blog. As it may be important to keep copies of the posts, however, I have marked them all as 'draft' so they do not appear but so they are still saved and accessible to me.”
On that same date, RealCatholicTV's website was still announcing that “Michael Voris, Simon Rafe and other hosts and personalities of RealCatholicTV.com are happy to come and speak at your parish, conference or other event.”
The page gives a number “to book Michael, Simon or another speaker,” and explains that “they can speak on a wide variety of topics related to the Church, Catholicism, Scripture, apologetics and other subjects.”
CNA also provided Voris with state records showing that St. Michael's Media was no longer in good standing as a Michigan nonprofit, having been dissolved by the state in 2009.
The following day, its website continued to claim the same nonprofit status, saying: “Saint Michael's Media is a 501(c)3 company and donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.” The “Make A Donation” button still takes users to a secure server, to make payments through PayPal or with a credit or debit card.