Madrid, Spain, Aug 18, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Archbishop-designate of Philadelphia Charles J. Chaput told thousands of young people gathered in Madrid for World Youth Day that an authentic relationship with Christ isn't based purely on emotions.
“Ultimately, it will not be how you feel that will determine how genuine and profound your encounter with Jesus is,” he told pilgrims.
“Instead, it will be determined by how much you are transformed into Him and how much you burn in the desire to bring Him to others, by announcing the Gospel, by serving the poor and the needy, by defending the unborn, by securing a culture that is not hostile to the growth of Christian families,” he said.
Archbishop Chaput made his remarks to English-speaking youths at the Madrid Arena – which seats 12,000 people – on Aug. 17 for the “Noche de Alegría” or “Night of Joy.”
The French lay movement the Emmanuel Community organized the evening's events, which included prayer, worship, music and Eucharistic Adoration.
If “you want to know how mighty the transforming power of Jesus is, how much He is capable of changing your lives, do not focus too much on how intensely you feel tonight,” Archbishop Chaput told the massive crowd.
“If He gives you a profound, moving experience, praised be to Him! If you don’t experience that emotion, if you don’t feel shivers running under your spine, praised be to Him too!”
The archbishop pointed to the examples of Saint Teresa of Avila and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta who both illustrate “how the transformative power of Jesus operates in our lives.”
“St. Teresa of Avila experienced 30 uninterrupted years of dry, frustrating prayer life,” he said. “Nevertheless, her fidelity to Jesus’ calling, and her fervent dedication to reform the Carmelites were always intense and unstoppable.”
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, “as we learned after her death, went through a long, terribly painful period of total lack of spiritual consolations,” the archbishop added. “She nevertheless achieved one of the most impressive Catholic congregations, dedicated to serve the poorest among the poor.”
Archbishop Chaput said the “Noche de Alegria” must be centered on “He who is the reason for this event: the Holy Eucharist, Jesus in his real presence.”
“In this way, this 'Night of Joy' will truly become an anticipation of what our lives should be.”
Everything from “the testimonies from around the world, which you have heard, to music and praising – everything must revolve around and prepare us for the Eucharistic adoration.”
“But,” he added, “receiving the Eucharist has consequences. Adoring Jesus in the Holy Sacrament, as we are preparing ourselves to do, has consequences” and requires action on the part of the faithful.
Archbishop Chaput pointed to the passage from the Gospel of Luke where Christ's disciples journey with him on the road to Emmaus after his death and resurrection.
After Christ shares the Scriptures with the disciples and breaks bread with them – a foreshadowing of the Mass, Archbishop Chaput explained – their eyes are opened to see who he really is.
“No doubt, the joy and peace experienced by the disciples after recognizing Jesus must have been indescribable,” he said.
“But as deep, intense and personal as it was,” the archbishop concluded, “it did not paralyze them in individualistic satisfaction.
“On the contrary, it moved them to run back to their peers to bring the Good News to them.”
“Brightened by the internal light that comes from personally experiencing Jesus, they were immediately moved to share the power of Jesus’ redemption with the rest of the world.”
Washington D.C., Aug 18, 2011 (CNA) - More than 2.2 billion people live in countries where government restrictions on religion or social hostilities involving religion rose “substantially” in recent years, a new report says.
Restrictions on religious beliefs and practices substantially rose between mid-2006 and mid-2009 in 14 of the world’s 198 countries and substantially decreased in eight countries, says the Pew Forum’s report “Rising Restrictions on Religion.” Countries with rises in government restrictions on religion included Algeria, Egypt, France, Hong Kong, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Serbia and Malaysia.
Ten countries had a substantial increase in social hostilities: Bulgaria, China, Denmark, Mongolia, Nigeria, Russia, Sweden, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.
Restrictions on religious beliefs and practices are “particularly common” in countries that prohibit blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion. By mid-2009, 59 countries had such laws, rules or policies at some level of government. Penalties ranged from fines to imprisonment or death and were enforced in 44 of the 59 countries.
“While such laws are sometimes promoted as a way to protect religion and reduce social hostilities involving religion, in practice they often serve to punish religious minorities whose beliefs are deemed unorthodox or heretical, and who therefore are seen as threatening religious harmony in the country,” the Pew report said.
Social hostilities, including mob violence, occurred more often in countries with such laws. Eighty percent of the countries in the Middle East-North Africa region have such laws and these are enforced in 60 percent of them. Nearly 40 percent of European countries have such laws and 31 percent of countries actively enforce them.
The report also cited French discussion on whether women should be allowed to wear the burqa as well as government attempts to declare the Church of Scientology to be a “criminal enterprise.” In Serbia the government refused legal registration for Jehovah’s Witnesses and several other minority religious groups. Some Serbian officials referred to minority religious groups as “sects” or “other pejorative terms,” Pew said.
Christians were harassed in 130 countries while Muslims were harassed in 117. Jews faced harassment in 75 countries, Hindus faced harassment in 27 countries, while Buddhists faced harassment in 16. Members of other religious groups in 84 countries reported harassment.
The report said harassment and intimidation take many forms, including physical assaults, arrests, the desecration of holy sites and discrimination against religious groups in employment, education or housing. Harassment also includes verbal assaults.
Christians experienced governmental and social harassment in about the same number of countries, while Jews experienced social harassment in many more countries than they faced government harassment.
In recent years there were at least 1,300 annual hate crimes in the U.S. involving religious bias, FBI reports say.
The Pew report was based on 18 sources of information, including reports from the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and Human Rights Watch.
Since the time period covered by the report, social tensions and government restrictions concerning religious belief have flared up in some countries. Controversies over mosque construction and Catholic adoption agencies’ desire to follow Christian ethics when placing children continue to arise in the United States.
In Egypt, Coptic Christian women are increasingly forced to marry and convert to Islam. Forced conversions are also a problem in Pakistan, where extremist defenders of the country’s strict blasphemy law have assassinated several high-ranking government officials who have criticized the law.
The communist government of Vietnam has been accused of religious freedom violations, including detention of priests and crackdowns on Catholics seeking the return of confiscated property. Leonard Leo, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, has called for the country to be re-designated as a Country of Particular Concern for its “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
In June 2011, over two years into the Obama presidency, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted the swearing in of Baptist pastor Suzan Johnson Cook as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Critics saw the delay in her appointment as a sign of the Obama administration’s lack of vigilance concerning global religious freedom.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 18, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has challenged World Youth Day pilgrims to respond to the initiative that God has already taken in their life.
“I want to tell young people that faith is a response to God’s initiative and that his initiative in creation and in history culminates in Jesus Christ who give us a name that enables us to enter into friendship with God,” Cardinal George told CNA during a morning catechesis session for English-speaking pilgrims on Aug. 17.
“And I want to tell them they should figure out their response in their own life – a response to evil, a response to the challenge of mission,” he added.
Cardinal George addressed over 1,000 youngsters at the Church of St. Teresa and St. Joseph in central Madrid’s Plaza de Espana. With all the pews taken, pilgrims found whatever space they could on the church floor, balcony or even the street outside.
“I thought Cardinal George did a really great job. He was very inspiring,” said 24-year-old Carlie Collins from Melbourne, Australia, “talking about the use of a name in someone’s life and how important that is and the connection you get from it just because of their name was really interesting.”
“I think Cardinal George was very impressive,” said Fr. Jim Doyle, a young priest from County Wexford in Ireland.
“I liked the whole thing about the person and that God calls each of us individually and as a person -- so we’re not like anybody else and Jesus works within each person individually and has a special calling for everyone.”
Cardinal George’s also took questions from several young people before leading the congregation in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and then Mass.
At the same time, similar catechesis sessions were being hosted by bishops in churches all across Madrid.
“World Youth Day is always a wonderful experience,” concluded Cardinal George.
“It’s something I’ve tried to be part of ever since I’ve been a bishop. It’s always very rewarding to see the young people come together and reinforce each other’s faiths from very many parts of the world.”
Madrid, Spain, Aug 18, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Madrid for World Youth Day 2011, to the delight of a massive throng of young people. Over the next four days, he will meet and pray with over a million young pilgrims.
“I come as the Successor of Peter, to confirm them all in the faith, with days of intense pastoral activity, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life,” he said upon his midday arrival at Madrid’s Barajas Airport.
Pope Benedict was formally welcomed by a King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain along with Cardinal Rouco Varela of Madrid.
As military bands played the Spanish and Vatican national anthems, an honor guard composed of Spain’s military and, uniquely, a group of schoolboys dressed as mini-Swiss Guards met the Pope. Also there to welcome the pontiff were two thousand enthusiastic young pilgrims waving Spanish and papal flags.
King Juan Carlos thanked Pope Benedict for his third visit to Spain in his six years as pontiff, adding ,“we interpret this as a very special distinction for our country.” In return, the Pope described Spain as a country “rich in history and in culture through the vitality of its faith, which has borne fruit in so many saints over the centuries.”
Pope Benedict said that the hundreds of thousands of World Youth Day pilgrims were seeking an alternative to “the prevailing superficiality, consumerism and hedonism, the widespread banalization of sexuality, the lack of solidarity, the corruption,” and that “they know that, without God, it would be hard to confront these challenges and to be truly happy.”
“But, with God beside them, they will possess light to walk by and reasons to hope, unrestrained before their highest ideals, which will motivate their generous commitment to build a society where human dignity and true brotherhood are respected.”
During his four-day visit, Pope Benedict will attend a total of nine World Youth Day events. This will include leading young people in the Way of the Cross tomorrow, hearing their confessions on Saturday, and offering Mass for over a million pilgrims at Madrid’s Cuatro Vientos airport on Sunday.
Of the young pilgrims, the Pope said it gives him “great joy to listen to them, pray with them and celebrate the Eucharist with them,” because “they really have a future before them and are not afraid of the decisive.”
Hence, he said, “World Youth Day brings us a message of hope like a pure and youthful breeze, with rejuvenating scents which fill us with confidence before the future of the Church and the world.”
He then made his way to the papal nuncio’s residence in the popemobile. Pope Benedict was accompanied along the entire route by the cheers of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who chanted “Benedicto! Benedicto!” while showering the popemobile with confetti and balloons. Home-made banners were also in great evidence, with one displaying the message “From Madrid to Heaven with the Pope.”
Aboard the papal plane, Aug 18, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI used his flight to Madrid for World Youth Day to call for a new ethical code in global economics. Spain currently has the highest unemployment rate in the industrialized world, with nearly 50 percent of its young people unable to find work.
“The economy doesn’t function with market self-regulation but needs an ethical reason to work for mankind,” the Pope told reporters aboard the papal plane.
“Man must be at the center of the economy, and the economy cannot be measured only by maximization of profit but rather according to the common good.”
Pope Benedict drew upon his 2009 encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” or “Charity in Truth” in which he asserted that the dignity of the person must be central to all economic decisions.
He told reporters that the current economic crisis afflicting many young people in countries like Spain again shows that a moral dimension isn’t “exterior” but “interior and fundamental” to the formulation of economic policy.
Among the welcoming party at Madrid’s Barajas Airport were Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his conservative opposition leader Marian Rajoy. With both men listening, the Pope once again dwelt upon matters economic in his opening remarks.
“Many young people look worriedly to the future, as they search for work, either because they have lost their job or because the one they have is precarious or uncertain.”
It was a sentiment that echoed King Juan Carlos’ comments moment before. He said Spain’s youth are “frustrated by the lack of personal and work possibilities, and rebel against the serious problems facing the world today.”
Last night, around 5,000 individuals took to the streets of Madrid to protest, they said, against the cost of the papal visit to Spain. Police arrested eight of the demonstrators after groups of protesters started taunting and attacking young pilgrims.
Organizers of World Youth Day say the event is being fully paid for by the Catholic Church and pilgrims but not by the Spanish state. They also point out the economic boost that a million or more visitors to Madrid are giving to Spain’s ailing economy.
Vatican City, Aug 18, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Vatican released internal files online on Aug. 17 showing that despite prosecutors' claims, it had no prior knowledge of an Irish priest's history of sex abuse before he was sent to the U.S. in the 1960s.
The “newly-released documents show that the plaintiff’s lawyers’ long-standing accusations against the Holy See are false,” said Jeffrey Lena, the California-based attorney who is representing the Vatican in the case.
An anonymous plaintiff from Oregon filed suit against the Vatican in 2002 after Fr. Andrew Ronan, an Irish priest with a record of sexually abusing minors, was transferred from Ireland to the U.S. and eventually moved to Portland, Oregon.
Fr. Ronan, a Servite priest from the Friar Servants of Mary, died in 1992.
The plaintiff claimed he was abused by Fr. Ronan several times in 1965 and filed suit against the Vatican and the priest's order, charging in the case of John V. Doe v. Holy See that the Catholic Church was responsible for transferring the priest and conspiring to cover up the allegations.
However, lawyer Jeffrey Lena has argued since 2002 that the plaintiff has not provided evidence that the Vatican moved the priest or had control over him.
“For years, the plaintiff’s lawyers have accused the Holy See of transferring Ronan to Portland with prior knowledge that Ronan posed a danger to minors,” Lena said, but the Vatican “was not involved” in the transfer nor did it know of abuse allegations against the priest, as the internal files now show.
Although the federal courts “have dismissed most of the Doe lawsuit,” Lena said, the Vatican responded to the judge's request for documents relating to Fr. Ronan in order “to assist the Oregon federal district court in resolving the sole remaining jurisdictional issue in the case.”
Lena said that the documents, published Wednesday on the website of Vatican Radio, confirm that the Servite Order informed the Holy See of Fr. Ronan’s misconduct only when the priest petitioned to be laicized in February of 1966, after the plaintiff says he was abused.
Fr. Ronan said in his Feb. 14 letter that the reasons for his request were based on his “repeated, admitted, documented homosexual tendencies and acts against the vow of chastity and celibacy of the priesthood.”
The Vatican granted the petition for laicization just weeks later.
Lena underscored that the plaintiff’s lawyers “never had support for their calumnious accusations” that the Holy See transferred a priest it knew was abusive.
“They have nonetheless chosen to misuse the legal system as a vehicle to pursue a broader agenda – a decision that has misled the public and wasted considerable resources.”
The plaintiff's lawyer, Jeff Anderson, who claims to have won more than $60 million from the U.S. Catholic Church in clerical sex-abuse lawsuits, responded to the Vatican disclosure on Aug. 17. He claimed that the release is only partial and said that he will "reserve comment until the document production is received and reviewed."
Lena said that the Vatican's documentation should help “calm down those people who are too quick to make sensational and unfair comments without taking the time to get an adequate understanding of the facts.”
He also expressed sympathy for the abuse victim, despite the “plaintiff’s lawyers regrettable conduct,” and called Fr. Ronan's actions “deplorable.”
Madrid, Spain, Aug 18, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston has encouraged young people faithfully attend Sunday Mass and to bring their friends to Jesus Christ.
“We live in a culture that is addicted to entertainment but we don’t come to Mass to be entertained,” he told World Youth Day pilgrims at a morning catechesis session in central Madrid August 17.
“Our presence there, gathered as a family, is of crucial importance. It is at the Sunday Eucharist that we learn our identity as Christ’s family, where we witness to each other that we are believers and that we want to live as Jesus’ disciples.”
Cardinal O’Malley was addressing over 1,000 young English-speaking pilgrims who were crammed into the church of San Antonio. With pews at a premium, most of the young people had to make do with the marble floor.
Throughout his catechesis, the Archbishop of Boston likened the Church to a family - with the Eucharist at its heart.
“The Eucharist is Christ’s saving presence in our community. It’s our spiritual food. It’s the most precious possession which the Church has in her journey through history. It is God’s love taken to the extreme,” he said.
Cardinal O’Malley also emphasized how Sunday Mass is the “family meal” for Catholics which we should make sure to attend.
“The shortest book in the world is the Irish cookbook,” he joked, but his mother always insisted on family meals when he was growing up.
This morning’s catechesis session was only one of 220 being offered in 27 languages all over Madrid during a three-day stretch. The sessions are allowing young Catholics to be personally taught by some of the most senior bishops in the Church.
And it is through the Catholic Church, said Cardinal O’Malley, that young people “have the same opportunity to be with Jesus as they did 2,000 years ago.”
“Jesus established his Church and gave us the sacraments so that he will be able to touch our lives and not just the lives of those living 2,000 years ago in the Holy Land - so that he could be present everywhere in the world and for all times,” he said.
Cardinal O’Malley concluded by suggesting to the pilgrims that “there’s nothing more tragic than going through life without knowing how much we are loved by our family, our friends, by our God.” In order to prevent that from happening, he urged each of the youth to help bring their friends to Jesus Christ.
The example he gave was of the paralytic man in the Gospel of Matthew who was lowered through the roof by his friends in order to receive healing from Jesus.
“Isn’t that fantastic? Wouldn’t you like to have friends like that? Tell me?” the cardinal asked the young people, who responded with cheers and applause. “Well you have to be friends like that first!” he replied.
“Cardinal O’Malley’s words really made me proud to be a young Catholic and a member of the Catholic Church despite the persecutions you go through,” said 17-year-old Matthew McConnell form Kingston-upon-Thames, England to CNA afterward.
His friend, 16-year-old Caitriona Lowry also from Kingston-upon-Thames, nodded in agreement. “I thought it really interesting the way he related it all to family. It made it seem like the Church is a big community we’re all part of.”
Madrid, Spain, Aug 18, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI told the hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims at World Youth Day in Madrid that they will be happy and at peace if they center their lives on the “solid rock” of Jesus Christ.
Build “your lives upon the firm foundation which is Christ,” he urged. “Then you will be blessed and happy and your happiness will influence others.”
“They will wonder what the secret of your life is and they will discover that the rock which underpins the entire building and upon which rests your whole existence is the very person of Christ, your friend, brother and Lord, the Son of God incarnate, who gives meaning to all the universe.”
The Pope made his remarks on the evening of Aug. 18 at the Plaza de Cibeles. The gathering was his first face-to-face meeting with the massive throng of cheering young people gathered from dozens of countries across the globe.
As the popemobile made its way to the plaza through the crowds, Pope Benedict smiled and waved to the thousands of youth waving their national flags and enthusiastically yelling their greetings.
The night's events included a local group of university students singing for the Pope, an official welcome from Archbishop of Madrid Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, gifts being presented by several young people from the various regions of the world, and a liturgy that included a procession and Gospel reading.
“Today Madrid is also the capital of the world’s young people, and the gaze of the whole Church is fixed here,” Pope Benedict said. “Let us pray that his message of hope and love will also resound in the hearts of those who are not believers or who have grown distant from the Church.”
In his homily, the pontiff drew from the Gospel of Mark reading that contrasts the wise man who built his house on rock and the foolish man who built his house on sand.
When “we do not walk beside Christ our guide, we get lost on other paths, like the path of our blind and selfish impulses, or the path of flattering but self-serving suggestions, deceiving and fickle, which leave emptiness and frustration in their wake,” he said.
But if “you build on solid rock, not only will your life be solid and stable, but it will also help project the light of Christ, shining upon those of your own age and upon the whole of humanity.”
The Pope lamented that many people today create “their own gods” and believe that they need “no roots or foundations” other than themselves.
“They take it upon themselves to decide what is true or not, what is good and evil, what is just and unjust; who should live and who can be sacrificed in the interests of other preferences; leaving each step to chance, with no clear path, letting themselves be led by the whim of each moment.”
He noted that although these temptations are “always lying in wait,” it is important not to give in, since they lead to a fleeting and illusory half-life which fails to satisfy.
“We, on the other hand, know well that we have been created free, in the image of God, precisely so that we might be in the forefront of the search for truth and goodness,” he reminded the youth. We are “responsible for our actions, not mere blind executives, but creative coworkers in the task of cultivating and beautifying the work of creation.”
Pope Benedict encouraged the young pilgrims to use the upcoming days to get to know Christ better. If you are “rooted in him, your enthusiasm and happiness, your desire to go further, to reach the heights, even God himself, will always hold a sure future, because the fullness of life has already been placed within you.”
In his closing remarks, the Pope dedicated “the fruits of this World Youth Day to the most holy Virgin Mary, who said 'Yes' to the will of God, and teaches us a unique example of fidelity to her divine son, whom she followed to his death upon the Cross.”
“Let us meditate upon this more deeply in the Stations of the Cross. And let us pray that, like her, our 'Yes' to Christ today may also be an unconditional 'Yes' to his friendship, both at the end of this Day and throughout our entire lives.”
The Pope will pray the Stations of the Cross with the pilgrims at Cibeles Square on the evening of Friday, Aug. 19 after meeting with college professors and religious sisters earlier that day. On Aug. 20, he will meet patients at a local hospital and take part in a prayer vigil that night with the young people.
Pope Benedict’s World Youth Day visit will culminate on Sunday, Aug. 21 in an outdoor Mass which is expected to draw over 1 million people.