Madrid, Spain, Sep 19, 2011 (CNA) - Sister Teresita, the world's oldest contemplative nun, celebrated her 104th birthday on Sept. 16 and received a birthday letter from Pope Benedict XVI.
Benedict XVI, who met with Sr. Teresita during his visit to Madrid for World Youth Day, encouraged the Spanish nun to continue “being an ardent lamp of faith, hope and charity.”
Father Angel Moreno, the chaplain of the monastery where Sr. Teresita lives with her community, gave her permission to publish the letter on his blog at PeriodistaDigital.com.
The message was signed by Msgr. Peter B. Wells, an advisor to the Vatican Secretary of State. “The Holy Father Benedict XVI has asked me to convey his deep gratitude for the books you gave him during the meeting he had with you at the apostolic nunciature in Spain,” Msgr. Wells wrote.
“The Pope, who treasures that wonderful moment in his heart, encourages you to remain rooted in the Heart of Christ, in order to continue being an ardent lamp of faith, hope and charity, and thus to show the world that fullness of life consists in joyfully following the will of God,” he said.
“As a token of abundant heavenly graces, and entrusting the sisters of your community to the constant intercession of Mary Most Holy, Queen of Virgins, the Supreme Pontiff imparts the apostolic blessing upon you and graciously extends it to all the benefactors of this Monastery of the Mother of God,” Msgr. Wells said.
Fr. Moreno explained in his blog that “Sister Teresita follows the daily rhythm of prayer, from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and she continues giving thanks to God for the grace of having met the Pope, which, she says, motivates her even more to pray for him and to be holy.”
“Congratulations, Sister Teresita, and thank you for your prayers for all of us!” Fr. Moreno said.
Santiago, Chile, Sep 19, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop Gonzalo Duarte Garcia of Valparaiso, Chile recently urged Christians in his country to reject laws that allow abortion or weaken the family.
“One of the greatest weaknesses of Chilean society is the fragility of the family. And the churches undoubtedly have a basic responsibility in this area. But so does the entire country. We need to show greater love and respect for the family,” Bishop Duarte said during an ecumenical prayer service on Sept. 15 at the Cathedral of Valparaiso.
He said special care should be shown to the difficult family situations of thousands of Chileans, especially children, young people, the elderly and single women.
He called on Chileans to reject laws in favor of abortion. “While some medical procedures to help the mother result in the death of the fetus as an unwanted and unintended effect, we must not accept any direct attack upon the life of an unborn child for supposedly therapeutic reasons,” the bishop said.
“The Chilean nation has repeatedly proven it is up to the challenges it must face. We are most certainly facing a time of great challenges and immense possibilities. We have the wonderful opportunity to take courageous and decisive steps toward building a more equitable and inclusive society for all, but especially for those who have historically been left on the sidelines.
“Let us not lose this wonderful opportunity that the Lord is giving us,” he concluded.
Manchester, N.H., Sep 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholics in New Hampshire received a new bishop from Pope Benedict XVI on Sept. 19. Auxiliary Bishop Peter A. Libasci of Rockville Centre, N.Y. will serve as the 10th bishop of Manchester, N.H.
“I am grateful to Almighty God who has brought me into being, to my parents who gave me life and to my family, friends and my Holy Catholic Church – all of who have sustained me to this very hour,” said Bishop Libasci.
“These include Bishop William Murphy, my diocesan bishop in Rockville Centre, my brother priests and deacons and all the lay faithful I was privileged to serve as priest and bishop in that Diocese since my priestly ordination in 1978.”
Bishop Murphy also had words of praise for Bishop Libasci.
“As priest, as pastor and as bishop, Bishop Libasci brought a deep sense of the holy to all the many pastoral efforts that have marked his tenure in this Diocese which will always be his home,” he stated.
“His brother bishops here as well as his brother priests of this Diocese are one in sending him our prayers and our congratulations, asking God, through the intercession of our Lady, to watch over him, bless and guide him in his new pastoral role as Bishop of Manchester and assuring him of our fraternal support in the years to come.”
At the same time that he named Bishop Libasci as the new bishop, the Pope also accepted the resignation of the current bishop of the Diocese of Manchester, Bishop John B. McCormack, who reached the age of retirement.
The appointment and resignation were announced on Sept. 19.
Bishop McCormack has been the bishop of Manchester since 1998. He was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston in 1960 and was named auxiliary bishop of Boston in 1995.
Peter Anthony Libasci was born November 9, 1951, in Queens, N.Y. He attended seminary at Saint Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre in 1978.
He worked as parochial vicar, administrator and pastor in several parishes before being ordained as an auxiliary bishop for the diocese in 2007. Since then, he has served as the Episcopal Vicar for the Eastern Vicariate of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Bishop Libasci is bi-ritual, celebrating the Liturgy in both the Roman Catholic Church and the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Church.
Bishop Libasci will be entering a diocese with a population of 1.3 million. The Diocese of Manchester includes the entire state of New Hampshire and is home to approximately 300,000 Catholics, including 269 priests.
He will be installed as Bishop of Manchester at Saint Joseph Cathedral on Dec. 8, 2011.
Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2011 (CNA) - At a summit this past weekend in Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl encouraged theologians involved in re-evangelizing formerly Christian areas to be “rooted authentically in the Good News.”
“The saving message of the Gospel finds its home in the Church,” he said at a Sept. 17 Mass that concluded the symposium on the “Intellectual Tasks of the New Evangelization.”
The symposium, which was held Sept. 15-17 at the Washington Court Hotel, featured several episcopal and academic speakers who reflected on how to present the Gospel in a modern university setting. The gathering was designed for non-tenured theology and religious studies professors who have received their doctorates within the last five years.
Cardinal Wuerl, who is the chairman of the U.S. bishops' doctrine committee, explained that the gathering was part of an effort by the United States bishops to build up a relationship with a new generation of Catholic theologians.
In his homily, the cardinal emphasized the important role of theologians in proclaiming the Gospel to “a world that is not always prepared to hear and accept that message.”
As teachers in the classroom, he said, theology professors can identify with the sower of the seeds in the Gospel parable of Luke 8.
“For the seed to take hold, the ground has to be prepared,” he explained. “We not only sow the seed, we till the soil.”
Many people who have fallen away from the faith “lack the foundation even in the essentials of the faith,” the cardinal added.
The New Evangelization must reach out to these people, for whom “the Gospel has lost its taste, its freshness, its luster.”
Cardinal Wuerl emphasized the importance of remembering that “the New Evangelization has to be rooted authentically in the Good News.”
He encouraged the symposium participants to keep in mind the significance of “Apostolic continuity” and to turn to the living tradition of the Church when seeking to understand Scripture and present the Gospel in new ways.
“This is a new moment in the life of the Church,” he observed.
After the Mass, Cardinal Wuerl told CNA that he hoped the symposium would strengthen the participants, whose teachings and writings must be an important part of the New Evangelization.
“We are all together in the effort to spread the Gospel, whether we are bishops, theologians, teachers, or catechists,” he said.
“We all share the task of passing on the Good News, and I hope that this conference will underline how well bishops and theologians can work together in their task of the New Evangelization.”
Dr. Emily Reimer-Barry of the University of San Diego called the symposium “a wonderful opportunity to encourage one another.”
She said that she “especially appreciated the opportunity to meet other pre-tenure theologians and to hear about how they live out their vocations as teachers and theologians.”
“We are called to unity,” Dr. Reimer-Barry said. “Young theologians should be in dialogue with one another, and opportunities like this can strengthen us and strengthen the Church.”
Dr. Ronald Thomas of Belmont Abbey College said that he was “excited that significant people in the hierarchy of the Church are on the same wavelength as we are about what it will take to make Christ known to people today.”
Thomas said that the symposium left him “incredibly encouraged” to return to his classroom with a new sense of strength.
“I will continue to do what I have been doing, but with more love and reliance on the Holy Spirit, realizing that what I do is also planting seeds in the hearts of my students,” he said.
Vatican City, Sep 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican is maintaining its neutrality on Palestine’s bid for United Nations membership, despite the move being openly backed the former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
“We have nothing to say on the matter, although we have to show respect for the view of the United Nations,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, S.J., told CNA Sept. 19.
Palestinian officials say they will launch their application for full United Nations membership next week at the U.N. headquarters in New York. They intend to ask for international recognition based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as a capital. The idea is strongly opposed by Israel and the United States. In fact, the U.S. is likely to veto any Palestinian resolution at the U.N. Security Council, the first stage of the process.
The Palestinian bid was backed yesterday by Archbishop Michel Sabbah, the former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, during his Sunday Mass in the Palestinian city of Nablus. A joint statement was also issued by various Palestinian Christian clergy – including Catholic priests - to “support the diplomatic efforts made to achieve international recognition of the state of Palestine.”
This past June Pope Benedict described Palestine’s aspiration to statehood as “legitimate” during a meeting at the Vatican with the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. The Pope also cautioned that this should be achieved with the “just and lasting respect of everyone’s rights.”
A spokesman for the Apostolic Nuncio to Israel confirmed to CNA that the Vatican backs a “two-state solution” with a sovereign Palestine peacefully co-existing alongside Israel. He refused, however, to comment on the impending Palestinian bid for U.N. membership.
Some observers are suggesting that Palestinian leaders should compromise by trying for “non-member status” at the United Nations. Ironically, this is being referred to as the “Vatican option” since it would give Palestine the same level of diplomatic representation as the Holy See. It’s also a move that would not require the approval of the Security Council, making it easier for the Palestinian Authority to achieve. But President Abbas is thus far ruling out this diplomatic route.
The United States is insisting that any moves towards full Palestinian statehood should be achieved in cooperation with Israel.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government claims that a unilateral move by the United Nations to recognize Palestine would de-facto “delegitimize” the state of Israel.
Vatican City, Sep 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged Indian bishops not to allow anti-Christian laws or violence deter them from spreading the Gospel in India.
“You must always be prepared to spread the Kingdom of God and to walk in the footsteps of Christ, who was himself misunderstood, despised, falsely accused and who suffered for the sake of truth,” he told the bishops at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, Sept. 19.
“Do not be deterred when such trials arise in your own ministry, and in that of your priests and religious.”
Although anti-Christian persecution has afflicted much of India, it seems that in recent years the problem persists only in areas governed by Hindu nationalist parties. Of the country’s 28 states, five have enacted “anti-conversion” laws, which impose heavy fines and jail sentences for those “forcing” others to change their religion.
“They talk of forced conversions but they haven’t been able to find out one case of a forced conversion,” said Archbishop Vincent Concessao of New Delhi in remarks to CNA, just before meeting with the Pope.
“They follow Hitler’s methodology of keep telling lies and after a while people will believe them.”
The Pope said that such laws, even if they are intimidating, should not deter the apostolic mission of the Church.
He said that if the local churches “ensure that an appropriate formation is given to those who, genuinely motivated by a love of God and neighbor, wish to become Christians,” then “they will remain faithful to Christ’s command to ‘make disciples of all nations.’”
The “anti-conversion” laws are currently being enforced in the north-central states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Orissa in the east, Gujarat in the west and Himachal Pradesh in the north. The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need reports that Hindu hardliners routinely engineer the arrest of Christians on charges of “forcible conversion.”
The bishops are in Italy for their 2011 “ad limina” visit to update the Pope on the health of the Church in India. Pope Benedict urged them to continue to receive converts from all social backgrounds: “God welcomes everyone, without distinction, into union with him through the Church.”
Recent years have seen an influx of “Dalits” – the bottom rung of the Hindu caste system – into Christianity. The Catholic Church has been at the forefront of the campaign to end discrimination against Christian Dalits, leading to the arrest of several bishops.
Although India is the second most populous country in the world, with over 1.18 billion people, only about 2 percent are Catholic. Eighty percent of the country is Hindu. But the Church does play a significant role in providing health care, education and welfare services across the country.
“As part of its ancient and rich heritage, India has a long and distinguished Christian presence which has contributed to Indian society and benefited your culture in innumerable ways, enriching the lives of countless fellow citizens, not just those who are Catholic,” said the Pope.
Many Indian bishops hope this year’s ad limina visit will pave the way for Pope Benedict to their country. An invitation to the Pope was personally issued during a previous ad limina session in May. If the visit does happen, it will be the fourth by a Pope to India, following trips by Pope Paul VI in 1964 and Pope John Paul II in 1986 and 1999.
Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishops and other Catholic clergy should speak about unemployment and poverty in their homilies, U.S. bishops’ conference president Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan said on Monday.
“Widespread unemployment, underemployment and pervasive poverty are diminishing human lives, undermining human dignity, and hurting children and families,” Archbishop Dolan said. “I hope we can use our opportunities as pastors, teachers, and leaders to focus public attention and priority on the scandal of so much poverty and so many without work in our society.”
The Archbishop of New York said that 46 million people, 15 percent of the population, now live in poverty in the U.S. Recent unemployment figures are also “dismal.” Sixteen million children, almost one in four, are growing up in poverty. African-Americans and Hispanics face unemployment and poverty at “far higher rates.”
“For us as bishops, these numbers are not statistics, but people suffering and wounded in their human dignity,” Archbishop Dolan said. “They are parents who cannot feed their children, families that have lost their homes and jobless workers who have lost not only income, but also a sense of their place in society. For us, each of these persons is a child of God with innate human dignity and rights that deserve respect.”
Economic turmoil takes a “terrible toll” on families and communities and Catholic dioceses are struggling to meet needs.
Rather than issuing another statement, Archbishop Dolan said, the administrative committee of the bishops’ conference wanted him to ask all the bishops to “lift up the human, moral and spiritual dimensions of the ongoing economic crisis.”
“The best way out of poverty is to work at a living wage,” the archbishop said. Rather than place blame, everyone should accept their personal and institutional responsibility to help create jobs and overcome poverty.
“Individuals and families, faith-based and community groups, businesses and labor, government at every level, all must work together and find effective ways to promote the common good in national and economic life.”
Archbishop Dolan pledged the Church’s solidarity with those who are poor and jobless and help for leaders who assist the poor and jobless by promoting economic growth and fiscal responsibility.
“In these tough economic times, we turn to the God who loves us. We pray for those who need work. We lift up the poor and suffering. We ask God's guidance for our nation,” he said, calling the present “a time for faith, hope and love.”
Archbishop Dolan noted some helpful materials already exist on the U.S. bishops’ conference website at http://www.usccb.org/about/justice-peace-and-human-development/unemployement-and-poverty.cfm.