Madrid, Spain, Aug 19, 2011 (CNA) -
Indian Catholics attending World Youth Day in Madrid say that they are enjoying the feeling of not being a minority, even if it’s only for one week.
“It’s a wonderful feeling,” said 32-year-old Vivek Machado to CNA.
“We’re only two percent of the population in India but you only really realize the size of our religion, the Catholic religion, which is the biggest religion in the world, when you come here and meet so many people from across the world.”
Machado is in Madrid this week with a group of 200 youngsters from the city of Mumbai in western India. CNA met them as they made their way to a catechesis session at a church in central Madrid. In total, there are approximately 1,000 Indian pilgrims in the Spanish capital this week.
“It’s great. We’ve been to a lot of places,” said 24-year-old Sandia Furtado from Mumbai. “We’ve been to Italy, and before that we came through Catalonia as part of the ‘Days in the Diocese’ scheme.”
Days in the Diocese is a program that dispersed over 130,000 young people across Spain’s 65 dioceses in the week prior to the actual World Youth Day gathering.
“Everyone is one and everyone is equal over here. We’re one,” said Furtado. “We don’t usually get the chance to meet with young Catholics from all over the world so this is the time and this is the place -- and we’re making the best of this week,” she said.
Although Catholics are only a small percentage of Indian society, the presence of the Church is magnified through its extensive involvement in education, caring for the poor and health care.
The roots of the Christian faith in India are also ancient. It’s a widely-held belief that Christianity arrived on the subcontinent in the first century with St. Thomas the Apostle.
“It’s really overwhelming, it’s really amazing, it feels awesome,” said 17-year-old Sabrina Young, a schoolgirl from Mumbai, who is attending her first World Youth Day.
Young says that her experience has been so incredible because “there are very few Catholics in India, but everyone here is Catholic, everyone is together, is one, and is doing the same thing.”
Manila, Philippines, Aug 19, 2011 (CNA) - Catholics are again planning protests and rallies against the proposed reproductive health bill. Catholic Church leaders say there are only “very slim” chances of further dialogue with the bill’s backer, President Benigno Aquino, who has made it a priority.
“We will definitely hold conferences, seminars and marches against the RH bill,” said Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga.
The goal of the “diocesan-wide campaign” is to protect the sanctity of human life and the family, he told CBCP News.
Backers of the reproductive health say it would address population growth and help alleviate poverty. However, critics oppose its use of government funds to provide free contraceptives, its requirements that schools hold sex education classes and that contraceptive information be distributed in public and private schools, in part because these measures would undermine morality.
President Aquino “slammed the door shut” on further dialogue with his decision to make the controversial bill a priority measure, said Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Philippines bishops’ conference’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life.
This is “very painful” because of the president’s statements that he wants dialogue with the bishops’ conference.
“It seems he didn’t really want dialogue and this proves it,” Fr. Castro told UCA News.
Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, the next president of the bishops’ conference, said he was “saddened” that the bill had become a priority. He called upon the faithful to strongly oppose the measure.
“I personally would like to exhort the many people who believe in the cause of the Lord, the values that the Gospel preaches and the stand that we have been defending these months to rally to this cause,” the archbishop said.
Protests in Bataan have the support of at least two members of the Philippines House of Representatives.
Fr. Joel Jason, head of the Family and Life Ministry of the Archdiocese of Manila, said the Aquino government should learn from other countries now suffering the negative impact of similar reproductive health policy.
He pointed to how Canada’s aging population is presenting the country with economic and social problems and said that the same situation is being faced by many developed nations that have adopted population control measures. More people in these countries are now leaving the workforce than entering it, posing major challenges to employers.
Fr. Jason warned against a “contraceptive mentality” and said the Archdiocese of Manila will further strengthen its campaign to educate lay people about why they should oppose the bill.
Springfield, Ill., Aug 19, 2011 (CNA) - An Illinois judge has ruled that the state has the right to end its foster care partnership with Catholic Charities in four dioceses, despite the Church ministry's contention that it was being dropped on religious grounds.
In his August 18 ruling, Illinois Circuit Court Judge John Schmidt held that “no citizen has a recognized legal right to a contract with the government.”
Thus, he explained, the state had no obligation to renew a long-standing arrangement with Catholic Charities in the dioceses, as it had annually for over 40 years.
But Catholic Charities argued that the state refused to renew the contracts because of the ministry's policy of adopting children only to married couples or single non-cohabiting adults, in keeping with Catholic teaching. Attorneys from the Thomas More Society maintained that Catholic Charities was illegitimately losing its contract due to its exercise of religion.
Illinois' Department of Children and Family Services had previously told Catholic Charities that it was ending the contract over Catholic Charities' alleged refusal to obey the 2011 “Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act,” which established legal privileges for same-sex and opposite-sex couples in civil unions.
Judge Schmidt, however, bypassed that issue in favor of what he said was the more fundamental question: not the reason why the state had chosen to pull the contracts after four decades, but whether the state was obligated to make or renew a contract with Catholic Charities under any circumstances.
And it was that question – which Judge Schmidt saw as both separate from the religious issue, and more basic – that he answered in the negative on Thursday.
“The fact that the Plaintiffs have contracted with the State to provide foster care and adoption services for over forty years does not vest the Plaintiffs with a protected property interest,” Judge Schmidt stated.
“The Plaintiffs invite this Court to extend the term 'legally protected property interest' to those whose state contracts are not renewed. The Court declines this invitation.”
“In sum,” Judge Schmidt held, “the Plaintiffs have failed to show they have a legally recognized property right to renew their contracts. The State may refuse to renew the Plaintiffs' contracts.”
Peoria Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, whose diocese is home to one of the Catholic Charities agencies involved in the lawsuit, expressed disappointment in a response issued the day of the ruling. He stressed Catholic Charities' contention that the state had no legitimate cause to end the contract.
“We continue to believe we can adhere to our religious principles and operate within Illinois law,” Bishop Jenky said.
He recalled that Catholic Charities has been “one of the lead providers of foster care services in the state,” and observed that “clearly the intent of the civil union law was not to force the state to end these contracts and force the transfer of thousands of children’s cases.”
An appeal against Judge Schmidt's August 18 order is possible. The Thomas More Society said on Thursday that its lawyers were “reviewing the ruling and considering next actions” with Catholic Charities officials.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Issues with World Youth Day's official website are due to hacking attempts, the event's press office announced Aug. 19.
While Pope Benedict XVI ate lunch with 12 youth from around the world, the press office issued a statement explaining that “out of respect for the millions of people who are following us around the world and the 4,900 accredited communication professionals at WYD, we believe it is necessary to inform the public about this hacking attempt.”
The organizers said they regret “any distress caused” and confirmed they are working to resolve the issue.
The official site can be viewed at: www.madrid11.com
“WYD is also grateful for all the support that it continues to receive from the overwhelming majority of Spanish people and people worldwide, who share with us the desire of freedom for all, always through peaceful and respectful means.”
The website began experiencing problems on Aug. 15, when organizers confirmed that the site was being relentlessly attacked. Although technicians were successful in preventing the destruction or modification of the content, they were not able to stop several “Denial of Service” (DOS) attacks, which took temporarily down the site on several occasions.
The delivery of electronic press releases to journalists has also been affected.
“While we recover the normal functioning of the website, we invite you to continue the conversation through our news aggregator www.somos.madrid11.com,” organizers said.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The immense crowd of young people in Plaza de Cibeles was filled with excitement after Pope Benedict XVI’s address to the youth in Madrid, Spain on Aug. 18.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” beamed Hannah Davidson, an 18 year old from Kansas. “(My faith) is definitely stronger and I am going to promote it a lot more.”
Language was no barrier for Pope Benedict’s message to be heard and understood by non-Spanish speakers. Pilgrims were able to listen to the Pope’s message in their native languages through various radio stations with live translations.
In his message, the Pope urged the youth to build “your lives upon the firm foundation which is Christ.” He added, “(t)hen 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.”
Several young people spoke with CNA after the address, including Chris Desousa, a 27 year old from Australia. He said that so far, his favorite part of the experience was “building up to World Youth Day and actually seeing (the Pope) here. Now he is going to spend the next few days with us!”
“It was beautiful to hear him speak and address all the youth,” he said, with an Australian flag tied around his neck.
For 19-year-old Michael McCormick from Massachusetts, it was powerful to see “people from all over the world who practice the same faith.”
He explained that at home, “it can seem like you are the only one, but (to) see all of these people alive for God is really fantastic,” especially “after a long couple of days in the sun and sitting here for a few hours.”
Even those who were not able to see the Pope directly on stage had meaningful experiences, thanks to the many screens and speakers set up throughout the streets around Plaza de Cibeles.
“His presence here in Spain (is) so exciting,” Kris Gomez, a 16 year old from the Philippines, said. Even though she did not get to see him drive by, “him being here was just… wooh!” she exclaimed, jumping with joy.
The area surrounding Plaza de Cibeles was filled with excited conversations, impromptu dances and cheers following the Pope's appearance.
Volunteers and city workers who picked up trash and directed traffic were encouraged by groups of pilgrims who cheered them on and expressed their thanks, with an authentic sense of fellowship that exemplified the event's energy.
Vatican City, Aug 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, urged Catholics and Muslims to strengthen their families and pass on moral values to their children, in a message for the upcoming end of Ramadan.
“Christians and Muslims, beyond their differences, recognize the dignity of the human person endowed with both rights and duties,” Cardinal Tauran said.
“This is why the transmission of such human and moral values to the younger generations constitutes a common concern,” he explained.
“It is our duty to help them discover that there is both good and evil, that conscience is a sanctuary to be respected, and that cultivating the spiritual dimension makes us more responsible, more supportive, more available for the common good.”
Cardinal Tauran made his remarks in a letter to the Muslim community to mark the end of Ramadan, the traditional Islamic month of fasting which takes place this year from Aug. 1 – 29.
“The end of the month of Ramadan offers the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
a welcome occasion for sending you our most cordial wishes, hoping that the efforts you have
so generously made during this month will bring all the desired spiritual fruits,” he said.
Cardinal Tauran noted that the council wanted to emphasize “the theme of the spiritual dimension of the human person” in its annual Ramadan greeting.
“This concerns a reality which Christians and Muslims consider to be of prime importance, faced as we are with the challenges of materialism and secularization,” he said.
“Christians and Muslims,” he noted, “are too often witnesses to the violation of the sacred, of the mistrust of which those who call themselves believers are the target.”
“We cannot but denounce all forms of fanaticism and intimidation, the prejudices and the polemics, as well as the discrimination of which, at times, believers are the object both in the social and political life as well as in the mass media,” he underscored.
Cardinal Tauran concluded his letter by saying that the Catholic community is “spiritually very close to you, dear Friends,” and “asking God to give you renewed spiritual energy” as “we send you our very best wishes for peace and happiness.”
The letter was also signed by the council’s secretary, Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI met with young religious sisters and later with young university professors on Aug. 19 at the royal site of El Estorial. He emphasized the importance of the sisters’ radical consecration and urged the professors to be a source of encouragement for students.
“The Pope spoke about a personal encounter with Christ, and that (encounter) is what fulfills us,” said Sr. Ruth Martin, a 38-year-old sister of the recently founded religious community, Ieuso Communio.
“It was a huge privilege, a great joy!” she told CNA, amid the cheering and singing of sisters from various communities.
The sisters of Ieuso Communio, as young as 18 years old, caught the attention of those present, because of their denim habits, which symbolize the current day and age.
Pope Benedict told the group of more than 1,000 sisters gathered that the Church needs their “youthful fidelity, rooted and built up in Christ.
“Thank you for your generous, total and perpetual 'yes' to the call of the loved one,” he continued.
“Your lives must testify to the personal encounter with Christ which has nourished your consecration, and to all the transforming power of that encounter.”
The Pope said, referring to his World Youth Day message, that this witness is “all the more important today when we see a certain ‘eclipse of God’ taking place, a kind of amnesia which, albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity, is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity.
“In a world of relativism and mediocrity, we need that radicalism to which your consecration, as a way of belonging to the God who is loved above all things, bears witness.”
Lorena Amador, a 27-year-old member of the Trinitarian Sisters of Madrid, noted that the large gathering of religious sisters is an encouragement for “young women who might feel called to the consecrated life to take the leap of faith.”
In his address to university professors, the Pope stated that “(y)oung people need authentic teachers: persons open to the fullness of truth in the various branches of knowledge, persons who listen to and experience in own hearts that interdisciplinary dialogue; persons who, above all, are convinced of our human capacity to advance along the path of truth.”
He encouraged the more than 1,000 professors gathered to “never to lose that sense of enthusiasm and concern for truth. Always remember that teaching is not just about communicating content, but about forming young people.
“You need to understand and love them, to awaken their innate thirst for truth and their yearning for transcendence. Be for them a source of encouragement and strength.”
The Pope also explained that professors must be a source of understanding and love, as well as reason and faith.
“We cannot come to know something unless we are moved by love.”
Madrid, Spain, Aug 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus told young pilgrims in Madrid that the right to practice their faith could be kept or lost in the future, depending on their public witness and awareness.
“What are you going to do about it? Because I think you’ll have longer time to do something about it than I will,” he said, addressing over 1,000 pilgrims at World Youth Day 2011.
The Catholic fraternal and charitable organization's leader said the tone of Christians' public witness would be central to preserving religious liberty.
What “(w)e have to do is show people by the way we live our life that Christianity doesn’t frustrate human happiness – that Christianity actually promotes human happiness,” he observed.
The Supreme Knight was taking part in a panel discussion along with Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Law Professor Helen Alvare of George Mason University, Father Thomas Rosica of Canada's Salt and Light Media, and Pablo Barrosa, producer of the upcoming film “Cristiada.”
Their venue was the Love and Life Center at Madrid’s Palacio de Desportes, a hub for English-speaking pilgrims this week.
“Religious liberty goes to the center of what it means to be a person,” said Anderson, echoing the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. “It is foundational. It is at the very heart of the human person because it involves the human conscience.”
The Supreme Knight explained that the free exercise of religion was also at the heart of the United States Constitution. He went on to discuss what motivates modern attacks on this central human right.
He pinpointed the influence of three 19th century thinkers who attacked faith from different angles: Karl Marx, the Communist thinker who dubbed religion “the opium of the people;” Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher who called Christianity “a slave religion;” and Sigmund Freud, the psychologist who labeled religion “an infantile delusion.”
The impact of these anti-religious attitudes, he observed, was now being widely felt in contemporary Western societies. There, he noted, opponents of the Christian faith, and religion in general, often believe they are removing an obstacle to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Religion, in other words, is being lumped in with a number of practices that harm society.
“What do you do with someone who promotes slavery, promotes drug abuse or promotes insanity?” asked Anderson, explaining this point of view. “Do you protect their right their liberty to do this? Or do you attempt by all sorts of means to push these people to the side, to marginalize them?”
Anderson told his young listeners that they must show the opponents of religion, and religious freedom, that their view of the Christian faith is wrong. They should see instead that “people who follow the truth of Jesus Christ celebrate life and live joyful lives.”
“So if we are to protect our religious liberty,” he concluded, “we have be a people who practice and manifest our religious faith, and do so in ways that make people realize its value and its truth and the contribution it makes to society.”
Virginia resident Joe Duca, 19, left inspired by Anderson's advice.
“What really struck is the idea that we must combat our culture with beauty and that will lead people to truth more so than posturing and political ideas,” he told CNA as he left the seminar.
Duca said many modern people seemed stuck in a “selfish” and “loveless” way of living. He was struck by Anderson's message, and the need to witness through selfless love.
“It is our job to fight … not with anger, but by showing our fellow Christians – and particularly our fellow youth – the love we all want, and that it’s in Christ Jesus.”
Charlene Broad, a 19-year-old pilgrim from Canberra, Australia, agreed.
“It was a great, inspiring talk. I’m studying journalism, so it has given me hope for the future to impact upon the world by just telling the truth.”
Madrid, Spain, Aug 19, 2011 (CNA) - The sponsors of an exhibit on anti-Christian persecution gave blessed rosaries and medals to young Catholics from persecuted countries during World Youth Day.
Aid to the Church in Need gave pilgrims objects that were blessed by John Paul II during an Aug. 20, 1986 audience.
Among the first to receive the items were a young man and his fellow pilgrims from Egypt.
“Initially, he was very surprised to be given the gift and seemed to be deeply moved by the gesture,” said Edward Clancy, Aid to the Church in Need USA’s director of Evangelization and Outreach.
“He understood that the rosary and other devotional objects crossed cultural boundaries and that we were saying that although we may be in different parts of the world we are still praying for you and thinking of you.”
A priest from Alexandria, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of possible attack, spoke out about the terrible situation Christians suffer in Egypt.
He said the young pilgrims are “scared and nervous” because of the religious situation in their homeland.
“They never know what will happen – especially with the girls being abducted – that is why they feel happy (in Madrid), that is why they are in paradise.”
“For the young people it is like paradise here – because we live with trouble every day in Egypt,” he said.
Egyptian Catholics, who are a small minority, are strengthened in their faith by seeing that they are part of the universal Church, the priest explained. More than 800 young pilgrims from Egypt were in Madrid for World Youth Day.
The pilgrims in the priest’s group were physically very tired because they had not gotten much sleep at the event.
“But spiritually they are very happy. They see so many Christians from all over the world, so they feel very happy,” he said.
Aid to the Church in Need’s exhibit is open from Aug. 15-21 in the Royal Church of St. Jerome in Madrid. It tells the story of 15 martyrs from the last 50 years and encourages prayer for persecuted Christians.
It describes three examples of persecution which have drawn international attention: anti-Christian attacks in Gojra, Pakistan, in India’s Orissa state and at Algeria’s Tibhirine monastery.
The multimedia exhibition also features short presentations on Christians in Nigeria, China, Sudan, Cuba and Iraq.
The exhibit has hosted special events with individuals who talked about their personal experiences with Christians in Iraq, Cuba and Sudan.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
After a powerful portrayal of the Way of the Cross, Pope Benedict XVI told World Youth Day pilgrims that they must imitate and share the love that inspired Christ's sacrificial death for all mankind.
He told the crowd who witnessed the Aug. 19 procession at Madrid's Plaza de Cibeles that the cross “teaches us to love what God loves, and in the way that he loves,” which can extend “even to the supreme sacrifice of one’s life.”
“Christ’s passion urges us to take upon our own shoulders the sufferings of the world,” he said. “What can we do for him? What response shall we give him?”
He told his young listeners that God “expects you to give your very best,” developing the “capacity for love and compassion” in response to the love that God showed by laying down his life as a man.
Those who live in misfortune, he noted, are especially in need of the compassion acquired from Christ.
“May Christ’s love for us increase your joy and encourage you to go in search of those less fortunate,” Pope Benedict told the multitude of believers in the plaza.
The Way of the Cross, patterned after Spain's Holy Week tradition, spanned almost half a mile and featured traditional Spanish sacred art dating back as far as the 16th century. Youth from different countries, including Iraq, the Holy Land, Albania and Sudan, carried the cross to the stations representing stages of Jesus' last agony and death.
At each station, a specific group of young people took up the cross. They included residents of countries where believers undergo persecution, as well as the disabled and those who tend to AIDS sufferers.
“Two of my friends helped carry the cross,” said Antonio, a 10-year-old Spanish boy who was drawn into the sacred drama by his friends' participation.
Maria, 16, said she hoped her contemporaries would leave the plaza strengthened and encouraged. And she noted that the young people, in turn, “had an important role in supporting and encouraging the Pope.”
At tomorrow's vigil, the Pope will offer young people an even closer encounter with Christ through Eucharistic adoration.