Stockton, Calif., Nov 9, 2011 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops' committee leader on domestic justice said that clean air and environmental stewardship should be serious concerns within the pro-life movement.
“It is hard to imagine a situation that so clearly illustrates this link between the environment and life issues as the impact of mercury and other toxic air pollution on children’s health,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., who heads the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
“Children, inside and outside the womb, are uniquely vulnerable to environmental hazards and exposure to toxic pollutants in the environment.”
Bishop Blaire made his remarks at a Nov. 7 address to leaders from various religions at the Festival of Faiths conference in Louisville, Ky. titled, “Sacred Air: Breath of Life.”
In his speech, he said that people honor and serve God “when we care for all living beings by protecting the air, which is God’s gift to us.”
Bishop Blaire made note in his address of the threats posed by mercury and other toxic air pollution to children, who are “more exposed than adults to such health hazards.”
“It is well known that power plants are the largest source of mercury and other toxic air pollution in the United States,” he said. “Scientists tell us that mercury from power plants is contaminating our lakes, streams, rivers and fish.”
“This is of great concern for pregnant women and their unborn and newborn children,” he added, reporting that a staggering “one in six babies are now born with harmful levels of mercury in their blood.”
Bishop Blaire also explained that excess greenhouse gases—primarily from the burning of fossil fuels—are seriously impacting our climate “with significant consequences for humanity.”
He said that just as the poorest U.S. citizens—such as migrant farmworkers, the elderly, the homeless—are the most impacted by local air pollution, poor people around the world suffer the most from climate change.
“They do not have the resources to protect themselves from extended droughts or severe flooding,” he said. “They do not have insurance policies to guard against crop failures, homes lost to floods or diseases exacerbated by hunger and thirst.”
“Unless we begin seriously to address our carbon footprint,” he stressed, “future generations may experience even greater hardship.”
Bishop Blaire cited Pope Benedict's 2009 encyclical letter “Caritas in Veritate,” which stated that the Church has “a responsibility towards creation and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere.”
“As stewards of God’s creation we can live more simply, using the earth’s resources wisely, reducing our consumption, working to eliminate air pollution and reducing our carbon footprint,” he underscored.
“In the end it just makes good sense to want to have clean air for our children and families to breathe and for future generations.”
Rome, Italy, Nov 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The organizer of the 2012 International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin fears the Irish government may have killed off any hope of Pope Benedict XVI visiting Ireland for the event.
The development follows a recent statement in the Irish Parliament in which the country’s foreign minister Eamon Gilmore said he had no intention of inviting the Pope to Ireland in 2012.
“I think that statement puts the Pope in a very diplomatically difficult situation,” Fr. Kevin Doran, the Secretary General of the Congress, told CNA on Nov. 8.
“If the Pope now came in the full knowledge that the government did not want to invite him, then he would be forced to come as a private citizen,” he noted.
Gilmore’s Oct. 18 statement to parliament began with him being asked “if an invitation has issued to the Pope to visit here in 2012.” He replied, “An invitation has not issued nor is one currently under active consideration.”
In response Fr. Doran said, “I am not aware of any other friendly nation that has been treated this way in the past. In fact, we just had two very successful state visits from the President of the United States and the Queen of England – both very well received and welcome.”
Fr. Doran said the situation is all the more disappointing because the Pope is the head of a friendly state that was one of the first to establish diplomatic relations with Ireland after the country achieved independence in 1922, “at a time when Ireland really relied on having friends overseas.”
Last week, Gilmore also announced the closure of Ireland’s embassy to the Holy See after 82-years in existence. His claim that the decision was taken solely on economic grounds was met with skepticism by many leading Irish Catholics.
Relations between Dublin and Rome have been strained since the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, launched a blistering attack on the Catholic Church in July. He accused the Vatican of attempting to “frustrate an inquiry” into clerical abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne, County Cork.
The Vatican rejected this accusation and a spokesperson for the prime minister later confirmed that he was not referring to any specific incident. Nevertheless, Kenny has refused to withdraw his remarks or apologize for them.
The 50th International Eucharistic Congress will take place in Dublin from the June 10 to 17, 2012. Held every four years, the congress brings together Catholics from across the globe to pray and study the meaning of the Eucharist.
The Dublin event is expected to attract about 25,000 visitors per day, with 80,000 attending the final Mass at the city’s Croke Park stadium. The organizers had been waiting to hear from the Vatican in December or early January whether Pope Benedict would be the main celebrant for the closing Mass.
Fr. Doran, who visited the Vatican for talks last week, said the organizing committee has always been careful not to “express the expectation that the Pope would visit.” But they also recognize that “the Congress is an encounter with Jesus Christ and, so, if the Pope would have come then what could have been better?”
“The fact that he can’t come won’t deter (us) from celebrating the Congress with care and with energy.”
Washington D.C., Nov 9, 2011 (CNA) - Republicans are more likely to attend church than Democrats, while Catholics’ presence in both U.S. political parties has dropped slightly, a new Gallup poll says.
“Democrats remain less likely to attend church weekly and more likely to seldom or never attend church than the national average,” Gallup reported on Nov. 7.
About 52 percent of Democrats or those who lean Democrat seldom or never attend church, a Gallup survey from June-August 2011 found. This is an increase of two percent since a Gallup poll conduced in January-March of 2008. Although the 2008 poll found that 29 percent of this group said they attended weekly, in 2011 only 27 percent said the same.
Among Republicans or those who lean Republican, 38 percent say they seldom or never attend church—a two percent increase since the 2008 poll. Forty-three percent of this group reported weekly attendance in 2008, while only 40 percent reported the same in the latest survey.
The slight two-point decrease in Democrats who attend church weekly is similar to the one-point decrease in the national adult sample,” Gallup said.
About 33 percent of respondents in 2011 said they attend church weekly, while 46 percent said they seldom or never attend.
The survey also reported a decline in Catholic representation.
In 2008, 26 percent of Democrats said they were Catholic, while 24 percent said the same in 2011. About 23 percent of Republicans in 2008 said they were Catholic, though 22 percent said so in 2011.
The 2008 poll also showed that 25 percent of U.S. adults identified as Catholic, while in 2011 only 23 percent did, the Gallup Poll says. The number of those with no religious preference grew from 12 to 15 percent.
About 19 percent of Democrats and those who lean toward the party in 2011 stated they have no religious preference, an increase from 15 percent in 2008. Republican-leaners with no religious preference grew from seven to nine percent.
The Gallup Poll used telephone interviews of random samples of more than 88,000 adults aged 18 and over. It claims a margin of error of plus or minus one percentage point.
Vatican City, Nov 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI spoke today about Psalm 119 as a wonderful discourse on the breadth and depth of man’s relationship with God.
The psalmist’s song “voices the range of sentiments which fill the hearts of those who pray: praise, thanksgiving, trust, supplication and lament, all within the context of a heartfelt openness to the Lord’s word,” the Pope said.
He explained to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Nov. 9 general audience that the psalm is “an acrostic” – an ancient poetic structure in which each stanza contains eight verses and begins with a different letter from the 22-word Hebrew alphabet. These 22 stanzas also make the psalm the longest in the Bible.
“This is a very challenging and original literary construction, in which the author of
Psalm had to deploy all his skills,” said the Pope, “but what is more important for us is the central theme of this Psalm.”
This theme was the Psalmist’s proclamation of “his love for God’s Law, which brings light, life and salvation,” recounted in his “solemn celebration of the Torah, the Law of the Lord.”
It is a psalm, “pervaded by the certainty of divine grace and the power of the Word of God,” such that even the verses most marked by suffering and darkness remain “open to hope and are permeated with faith.”
“The Psalmist’s faithfulness arises from listening to the Word, from keeping it in his heart, meditating upon it,” the Pope taught, drawing a parallel with the Virign Mary, who “‘treasured in her heart’ the words addressed to her, the marvellous events in which God revealed Himself and asked for her response of faith.”
When Christians pray this psalm, they see Mary as the model of the same “loving docility to God’s will, and in Jesus the fulfilment of the Law,” said the Pope.
This is a dynamic relationship, he explained, where the Word of God is “listened to with obedience but not servility, with filial trust and awareness,” which brings about a “personal encounter with the Lord of life.”
As an example of such an encounter, the Pope focused in on the psalm’s verse 57, which proclaims, “The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words.”
He explained how the term “portion” refers to “the partition of the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel, when the Levites were given no part of the territory because their ‘portion’ was the Lord Himself.” Among the 12 tribes of Israel, only the tribe of Levi, could not own land because it was tasked with specific religious duties.
These verses, said the Pope, have particular resonance today for Catholic priests “who are called to live from the Lord and from His Word alone, with no other guarantees, no other wealth, and having Him as their one source of true life.”
“It is in this light,” he said, “that we can understand the free choice of celibacy for the Kingdom of Heaven, which must be rediscovered in all its beauty and power.”
At the same time, the psalm speaks to all the Christian faithful, who are “called to experience the radical nature of the Gospel, to be witnesses of the life brought by Christ, the new and definitive ‘High Priest,’” Pope Benedict said.
This morning’s ceremonies concluded with Pope Benedict being given honorary citizenship in the village of Naz-Siaves, the birthplace of his great-grandmother, Elisabeth Maria Tauber, and his grandmother, Maria Tauber-Peintner. The small, German-speaking village is situated in the northern Italian province of Bolzana, near to the Austrian and Swiss borders.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 9, 2011 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Maria Arancedo of Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz has been elected to a three-year term as president of the Argentinean Bishops’ Conference.
The archbishop was elected on Nov. 8 during the bishops’ 102nd plenary assembly. He succeeds Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, who held the post for six years.
The AICA news agency reported that Bishop Virginio Bressanelli of Neuquen and Archbishop Mario Cargnello of Salta were elected as first and second vice presidents. Auxiliary Bishop Enrique Eguia Segui of Buenos Aires was re-elected as secretary general.
Archbishop Arancedo was born in Buenos Aires on October 26, 1940. He was ordained a priest in 1967, in Lomas de Zamora, and he was named Auxiliary Bishop of that diocese in 1988.
He was then named bishop of Mar del Plata in 1991, where he served until being appointed Archbishop of Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz.
Rome, Italy, Nov 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Msgr. Guido Marini, the master of ceremonies for papal liturgies, spoke of Pope Benedict XVI’s loving concern for detail in the celebration of the Mass.
The Pope takes great care to “develop the liturgy as the celebration of the mystery of Christ,” and “often repeats that the liturgy is the Church’s greatest act of adoration,” Msgr. Marini told CNA on Oct. 28.
He said the Pope believes it is very important to contemplate the crucifix during the celebration of the Eucharist.
When Pope Benedict presides over a Mass, “one of the most significant aspects is that of the centrality of the crucifix on the altar,” the liturgist said. At the moment of the consecration, it is essential that everyone direct their eyes and hearts “towards him who is at the center, the Lord, in order to renew his sacrifice of love for the salvation of all.”
Msgr. Marini also observed how participating in a Mass celebrated by the Pope is an opportunity to strengthen one’s faith. “At those moments I think to myself, ‘I am at the side of the Vicar of Christ,’ and I renew my faith,” he said.
The priest noted how the liturgy is made up of “many little things,” such as kneeling while receiving Communion or keeping silent at the appropriate times. Attention to these details is important in order for the Mass to be a true conversation with the Lord, he added.
“I pay attention to everything that goes into the rite in order to really help those participating to experience God and to help those who are in a spirit of adoration,” Msgr. Marini said.
He also said that attention to detail is crucial in order to affirm “the centrality of the presence of the Lord” and “the authentic meaning of participation in the mystery of Christ.”
God “is truly the great liturgical protagonist and in which participation is authentic in the measure in which one enters into the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel of the Lord.”
Vatican City, Nov 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
After praying the Angelus in St. Peter's Square on Nov. 9, Pope Benedict called on Catholics to pray for and assist flood victims in Central America and Southeast Asia.
“I wish to express my closeness to all those who suffer from these natural disasters,” the Pope said.
Over 500 people have been killed in Thailand from flooding or electrocution as monsoon waters swamp 63 of the country's 77 provinces. Many citizens fear a shortage of food and supplies as the disaster continues.
Central America has also been devastated by floods, particularly the tiny country of El Salvador, which has been hit with its most damaging natural disaster in decades. Flooding has effected 10 percent of the country and forced more than 50,000 people out of their homes.
The recent disasters “have caused many deaths and left many missing and homeless,” the Pope lamented.
He asked the faithful for “prayer for the victims and their families as well as solidarity, so that the institutions and people of good will work together with a generous spirit, to assist the thousands of people tried by such disasters.”
Jackson, Miss., Nov 9, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Mississippi’s proposed ballot initiative intended to recognize legal personhood from conception onward failed to pass on Tuesday, but its backers resolved to continue their work.
With about 90 percent of the vote counted on the evening of Nov. 8, Initiative 26 was failing by 58 to 42 percent.
“(C)hanging a culture—and changing a country—will not happen with one election, and so it is not unexpected. We thank the over one quarter of a million Mississippians who voted for Amendment 26,” said Keith Mason, president and co-founder of initiative Personhood USA.
“We vow to continue on this path towards affirming the basic dignity and human rights of all people because we are assured that it is the right thing to do, and we are prepared for a long journey.”
Mason said the initiative enjoyed the “widest, broadest base of support” ever seen on a pro-life amendment.
“This alone demonstrates that the tide is turning in America,” he said Nov. 9.
Other backers also weighed in.
“We are disappointed, but not discouraged. We are going to continue the fight for those who can't fight for themselves,” Rev. Jimmy Porter, executive director of the Christian Action Commission of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
Mason said the campaign “fell victim to the outright lies of our opposition, and because of their lies, children will continue to be murdered in Mississippi.”
Opponents included groups that support legal abortion as well as those who feared it would ban birth control pills, IVF treatments and procedures necessary to save the life of a pregnant mother in medically dangerous pregnancies.
Critics also objected to its lack of exceptions for abortion in cases of incest or rape.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America argued the initiative “would have allowed government to have control over personal decisions that should be left up to a woman, her family, her doctor and her faith.”
Meanwhile, Catholic Bishop Joseph N. Latino of Jackson, Miss. was neutral on the initiative. In an Oct. 28 letter, he expressed support for the amendment’s goals but voiced concerns about the unintended legal challenges the initiative could create.
Similar amendments backed by the Colorado-based Personhood USA were placed on the Colorado ballot in 2008 and 2010 and also failed to pass.
Mason told CNA in an interview before the election that past political successes like the abolition of slavery, the women’s suffrage movement and the civil rights movement required repeated pushes to gain support until they succeeded.
Even unsuccessful efforts can continue to gain support and can give the issue a national profile, he said.