Baltimore, Md., Nov 16, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo emphasized Nov. 15 how important the Church’s post-abortion counseling ministry Project Rachel is and said that it must play a role in the New Evangelization.
“Project Rachel Ministry is at the heart of the Church’s mission at this time in her history,” Cardinal DiNardo said at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall general assembly, which is being held in Baltimore Nov. 14-16.
Cardinal DiNardo, who is chairman of the bishops' pro-life committee, told the gathering that he believes Project Rachel must play a central role in the New Evangelization.
He explained that many women who have had abortions despair of ever being forgiven by God, and consider abortion an unforgiveable sin.
The Church must reach out to these discouraged women and encourage them to seek forgiveness, he said.
Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel, said that the report shows the bishops’ commitment to working towards healing for those who are suffering from a past abortion.
She told CNA that the U.S. bishops worked closely with her from the time that she initially began Project Rachel in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 1984.
The involvement of the bishops grew as the ministry rapidly expanded, she said.
Several years ago, Thorn turned over Project Rachel’s service mark—a trademark used for services—to the bishops, who had greater resources to continue its work. The ministry is now available in more than 110 dioceses across the country.
“It really is a ministry of the Catholic Church,” she said.
In a Nov. 15 press conference highlighting the work that Project Rachel does, Cardinal DiNardo explained that abortion affects more people than just the woman who has one.
Rather, he said, the fathers who lose their children are also harmed, along with the doctors who perform abortions and the friends and family who may influence the decision.
“There are millions of women and men who struggle, often for years, with profound grief and with remorse and with guilt,” he said. Many of them also suffer trauma-related symptoms, including flashbacks, nightmares and panic attacks.
Isolated and ashamed, fearing that they can never be forgiven, “many then become trapped in despair.”
“But that is not God’s plan for us,” Cardinal DiNardo insisted.
Rather, he explained, God longs to draw humanity to his loving heart, healing and renewing all who are wounded.
Through Project Rachel the Church offers a way “out of the darkness of despair over a past sin” and into “a new life of hope, joy and peace.”
Baltimore, Md., Nov 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops conference chose Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle as their new secretary-elect, who will also serve as chairman of the conference’s Committee on Priorities and Plans.
The bishops picked new chairmen-elect for several other committees at their fall general assembly in Baltimore, Md. on Nov. 14.
After serving for one year as chairman-elect, each bishop will serve a three-year term as chairman of their individual committees.
Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City was chosen as chairman-elect of the Committee on Communications and Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis was picked as the new head of the bishops' committee on doctrine.
Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Tx. will become the new leader of the cultural diversity committee while Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati was chosen as chairman-elect of the Committee on National Collections.
The bishops selected Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap. of Boston as head of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines was elected as chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace. Unlike the other committees, Bishop Pates was chosen as the chairman rather than the chairman-elect of the committee and will assume leadership at the end of the meeting.
The unusual situation was due to the fact that Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien of Baltimore had been chosen as chairman-elect in 2010 but will not be able to take up the position as chairman because he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in August as pro-grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
The bishops also elected Bishop Flores, Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City and Auxiliary Bishop Martin D. Holley of Washington to the board of Catholic Relief Services.
Bishop Joseph A. Pepe of Las Vegas and Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock were also chosen to be members on the board of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
Tirana, Albania, Nov 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - After decades of Communist rule in Albania, Pope Benedict XVI’s initiative to dialogue with non-believers drew hundreds of young people for a two-day event in the capital of Tirana.
“There is a great thirst for spirituality in Albania after 47 years of atheist, communist, absolute dictatorship,” Richard Rouse of the Pontifical Council for Culture, which organized the event, told CNA.
“In communist Albania,” Rouse added, religion “was absolutely not allowed. For 47 years they tried to kill God—and failed.”
On Nov. 14 and 15, the Pontifical Council for Culture, along with the local Catholic Church in Albania, organized a series of events that facilitated both dialogue with and discovery of Christianity.
In the piazza in front of Tirana’s St. Paul’s Cathedral on Nov. 14, hundreds of young people took part in discussions in three different tents on the topics of work, spirituality and information and communication.
“For example, in the ‘work’ tent,” Rouse explained, “we discussed 'what does work itself mean? Is it just about getting money or is there some social dignity to it?'”
Each specific discussion session was then followed by a larger conversation in the piazza with members Catholic hierarchy and other participants.
What became clear, Rouse noted, is that Albania is “a great fertile terrain,” for Christianity.
On Nov. 15, dialogue with academics and intellectuals at two events hosted by Tirana’s universities held “more high-brow conversations that began with a more studied and philosophical set of questions,” Rouse said.
The topics discussed included questions of identity—both religious and national—as well as issues related to fundamental human rights and religious liberty.
The concept of the event, known as the Courtyard of the Gentiles, stems from a 2009 address by Pope Benedict, where he called for a Catholic dialogue “with those to whom religion is something foreign, to whom God is unknown and who nevertheless do not want to be left merely Godless, but rather to draw near to him, albeit as the Unknown.”
Members from the Pontifical Council for Culture, under the guidance of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, have initiated a series of similar gatherings across Europe beginning in Paris in March 2011. The invitation list, so far, has included a host of intellectuals drawn from both the arts and sciences.
The title given to these events is in reference to the “Court of the Gentiles” which, in the time of Jesus, was an area in the Temple of Jerusalem where non-Jews could interact with Jews.
Richard Rouse believes the new format, which will reach the United States in 2013, is already bearing fruit.
“I think that was a weakness in some previous dialogue was that we presumed a bit too much about the atheists,” he said, “so, we’ve gone back a step further to say ‘okay, open floor—tell us what is it you believe in.’ That’s very important.”
He said just by asking that question they have “enticed people” into a deeper reflection upon such things as the meaning of life and into asking “where can those questions lead to a religious perspective and how can that take on a social dimension?”
Vatican City, Nov 16, 2011 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will light up the largest Christmas tree in the world on Dec. 7 located in the Italian city of Gubbio in the region of Umbria.
Vatican Radio radio reported that the Pope will use an iPad to turn on the tree’s lights from his residence in the Papal Apartments.
Built in 1981, the Christmas tree stretches more than 2,000 feet up the face of Mount Igino outside Gubbio. It contains hundreds of lights and more than 25,000 feet of electrical cables and is considered the largest electric tree in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Before turning the lights on using a special iPad application, Pope Benedict will deliver a video message to the residents of Gubbio and the surrounding towns.
Vatican City, Nov 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI used his weekly General Audience to explain how Psalm 110 foreshadows the incarnation of Jesus Christ as messiah, king and high priest.
“The Church reads this Psalm as a prophecy of Christ, the messianic king and eternal priest, risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father,” said the Pope Nov. 16.
He explained that today would be the last time he focuses on a Psalm as part of his ongoing Wednesday general audience series on prayer. He said that he tried to focus on the “different situations in life and the various attitudes we may have towards God” in his remarks.
The Pope delivered his reflections for today on the “royal psalm” to tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on a sunny winter day. The Church calls Psalm 110 royal because it initially referred to the Davidic monarchy of the Old Testament but it also simultaneously paves the way for Jesus Christ.
“Saint Peter, in his speech on the day of Pentecost, applies its words to the Lord’s victory over death and his exaltation in glory,” the Pope explained.
Psalm 110 is one of the best known of the psalms and begins with the declaration, “The Lord says to my lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’”
It is used in vespers – the evening prayer of the Church – every Sunday and has been set to music according to its Latin text and title – Dominus Dixit – by famous composers like Handel and Monteverdi.
“From ancient times, the mysterious third verse of the Psalm has been interpreted as a reference to the king’s divine sonship, while the fourth verse speaks of him as ‘a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek,’ Pope Benedict said, explaining the short structure of the psalm, which runs only seven verses.
The Pope also pointed out that the Letter to the Hebrews “specifically applies this imagery to Christ, the Son of God and our perfect high priest, who lives eternally to make intercession for all those who, through him, approach the Father,” while “the final verses of the Psalm present the triumphant King as executing judgment over the nations.”
He then said that the Psalm’s prophecy “is accomplished and the priesthood of Melchizedek is completed,” in the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, “because it is rendered absolute and eternal, a reality that knows no sunset.”
Similarly, the “the offering of bread and wine, made by Melchizedek in Abraham’s time,” is fulfilled “in the Eucharistic gesture of Jesus, who in the bread and wine offers himself, and having overcome death, brings life to all believers.”
Jesus’ victory means that while in the “ongoing battle between good and evil and evil seems to be stronger,” the reality is that, “the Lord, our true King and Priest, Christ, is stronger because he fights with the power of God and despite all those things which make us doubt a positive outcome for history, Christ wins and good wins, love wins, not hatred,” the Pope said.
Pope Benedict summed up Psalm 110 as an invitation to look at Jesus Christ to “understand the meaning of true kingship, which is to be lived as service and the giving of self, following a path of obedience and love ‘to the end.’”
“Praying this Psalm,” he said, “we therefore ask the Lord to enable us to proceed along this same journey, following Christ, the Messiah, willing to ascend with Him on the hill of the cross to accompany Him in glory, and to look to Him seated at the right hand of the Father, the victorious king and merciful priest Who gives forgiveness and salvation to all mankind.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Nov 16, 2011 (CNA) - Dozens of youth in Colombia reacted against Jesuit priest Father Carlos Novoa's support for abortion and called on Colombian bishops and the Society of Jesus to make a statement on the controversy.
“It is very disappointing and frustrating to see people who have received formation as Jesuits not defending the message of Christ and the principles for which St. Ignatius of Loyola fought his entire life,” said student protestor Liz Rodriguez.
On Nov. 12, young people gathered outside the Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogota where Fr. Novoa teaches to protest against his repeated statements in favor of abortion.
In several recent radio and television interviews, Fr. Novoa defended the practice through his own interpretation of passages from John Paul II’s encyclical "Evangelium Vitae," documents from Vatican II and canon law.
Maria Isabel Magana, a student taking part in the protest, said that “the statements by Fr. Novoa have been very damaging to the Church because they contradict the messages that have been part of the magisterium and tradition of the Church throughout history which Pope Benedict XVI has also defended.”
“When a priest goes contradicts this message in the media, he is confusing the faithful. This attitude must be counteracted with courage and rigor,” she added.
Another protestor, Ramon Cortes, said Fr. Novoa’s statements are ultimately damaging to the pro-life movement at large.
“They put us at a disadvantage with pro-abortion groups,” he said. “Not only do we have to fight against these groups, but also unfortunately against some members of our own Church.”
“We call on the Jesuits to state their true position regarding the defense of life, and I think it should be the same thing that St. Francis Xavier or St. Ignatius of Loyola would say if they were alive right now,” Cortes said.
Student Liz Rodriguez added that life “is not negotiable. As the laity, as believers, we have to always defend it.”
“For reasons unknown to us, Fr. Novoa is saying things that are totally opposed to the principles we defend as Catholics, as believers and as citizens in defense of natural law,” she said.
The protestors signed a petition calling on the rector of the university, Father Joaquin Sanchez Garcia, the bishops of Colombia, the nunciature and Fr. Novoa himself to clarify the position of the Church on the defense of life from conception to natural death.
Phoenix, Ariz., Nov 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s recent clarification on the distribution of Communion is not him backing down but is rather an expression of his ultimate desire to bring people into intimacy with Christ, says the Phoenix diocese's liturgist.
“There was nothing to backtrack from,” Father John Muir emphasized in remarks to CNA on Nov. 15. Bishop Olmsted “never said he was going to restrict communion under both kinds.”
Fr. Muir made his comments after media reports depicted Bishop Olmsted as backpedaling when he released a Nov. 7 statement to clear up confusion over how the diocese is applying the Communion norms from the 2011 General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
Numerous news articles had incorrectly reported that the number of times the Precious Blood could be offered during Mass within the U.S. Church was being reduced from 14 occasions to only three.
“Bishop Olmsted's heart is to draw people into union with Christ—that's his heart, that's his passion and everything he does as a bishop has that as its goal,” Fr. Muir said.
“Generally people who would accuse him of anything besides that,” the priest added, “haven't carefully read what he's written on this subject.”
In his Nov. 7 final instructions, Bishop Olmsted stated that a diocesan bishop “may establish norms for Holy Communion under both kinds for his own diocese.”
He listed “Solemnities, Sundays, Holy Days of Obligation, weekday Masses and the occasions listed in the ritual books” as times when Communion can be offered under both forms.
The bishop also specified that he is allowing the pastor of each parish to make both species of Communion available “whenever it may seem appropriate … provided that the faithful have been well instructed and there is no danger of profanation of the Sacrament or of the rite's becoming difficult because of the large number of participants or some other reason.”
Fr. Muir said that “on this issue there was a lot of hearsay and a lot of ridiculous accusations, which is nothing new in the life of the Church.”
“But the bottom line is that Bishop Olmsted's decision is for the good of the faithful, just as everything he does is done out of pastoral charity.”
Fr. Muir explained that much of the confusion—“especially within blogs and media reports”—came from the missal's General Instruction 283, which addresses the issue of bishops establishing norms for their own dioceses.
“What the bishop decided to do was to fulfill what that paragraph gives him the faculty to do—which is the faculty to give priests … the permission to allow communion under both kinds on certain occasions,” he clarified.
“So when the bishop came out with the Nov. 7 document, he was simply laying out what those occasions are—and the bishop gave the widest possible permission.”
There was “a misunderstanding that the bishop was going to 'go beyond' or be more restrictive—but his intention from the beginning was to do what the documents say.”
Fr. Muir also said that the bishop sent a private letter apologizing to each priest in the diocese for the media confusion over the issue.
“He did write a letter to priests in which he apologized for some of the information that was communicated,” the priest said.
“It was a reasonable thing for him to do, and I think he wanted to express to his priests his apologies since many of them felt like they were in a difficult situation since they didn't have the information” they needed.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Religious liberty and evangelizing in the increasingly secular American culture topped the list of issues that the U.S. bishops proposed as new priorities for their 2013-2016 strategic planning cycle.
A discussion on conference priorities took place on Nov. 15, the second day of the bishops’ three-day fall General Assembly in Baltimore.
Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio, who serves as the chairman of the conference’s Committee on Priorities and Plans, facilitated the discussion.
Bishop Murry explained that the conferences’ long-term priorities are worked out through the 16 standing programmatic committees, which include the committees on Doctrine, International Justice and Peace, Pro-Life Activities and Catholic Education.
In addition, the conference designates short-term priorities, specific conference-wide initiatives that the bishops choose to focus on during given periods of time.
From 2009 to 2011, the five priorities chosen by the bishops were faith formation and sacramental practice, strengthening marriage, human life and dignity, priestly and religious vocations and cultural diversity in the Church.
Bishop Murry highlighted achievements that the bishops have made in these areas, including catechetical preparation for the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, which is set to go into effect this Advent, as well as launching websites to promote marriage and religious vocations.
“The past three years has been a time of gestation and birth for many projects and resources that have now become mainstream bishop responsibilities,” he said.
The bishops took time during their meeting to debate which issues were pressing enough to be considered priorities in the 2013-2016 strategic planning cycle. They gathered in regional groups to formulate and submit ideas for new priorities.
After receiving the suggestions, Bishop Murry announced that the Committee on Priorities and Plans would need time to reflect on them and decide how to integrate them into the bishops’ strategic plan.
The two issues that received “overwhelming support” from the regional groups were religious liberty and the New Evangelization, he said.
The bishops had also shown a “clear desire” to continue their work on the current priorities, he added.
Other suggestions for issues to add as new priorities included communication, leadership, the economy and immigration.
In the coming months, the Committee on Priorities and Plans will consider the bishops’ ideas and work to create a framework that will incorporate the two new priorities into the current initiatives.
The committee will give a presentation on its progress to the Administrative Committee in March and then to the entire body of bishops in June.
Vatican City, Nov 16, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - With only days to go before the Pope arrives in the African country of Benin, Bishop Barthélemy Adoukonou says he hopes Benedict XVI’s visit to his homeland will help Africa resist secularization.
“Some within the secularized culture of the West are trying to direct all mankind in the same direction, and (it’s) the wrong direction,” the secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture told CNA Nov 15.
Bishop Adoukonou said the influence of secularism is “a great injustice against other cultures, including our African culture, which is very much open to God.”
His perspective on the Nov. 18-20 trip is one that is hard to find. He is not only from the southern Beninese city of Abomey, but he also knows Pope Benedict well from being his student at the University of Regensburg in the 1970s.
“All the people of Benin—Catholic and non-Catholic—are waiting for the Pope with joy and a great hope,” he said, looking ahead to this coming weekend. In fact, the Beninese are preparing for the Pope’s arrival by hosting a congress “aimed at reflecting upon the problems in society and issues that the Pope will likely raise in his exhortation.”
The Pope is scheduled to arrive in Cotonou, Benin’s largest city, on Friday afternoon. The primary reason for his visit is to sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which was held in Rome in 2009. The document is the Pope’s response to that meeting and it attempts to help chart a path for the future of the Church in Africa.
Bishop Adoukonou says he is eager to hear the Pope expand upon his 2009 description of Africa’s cultural and spiritual riches as the “spiritual lung” of the world. He believes that such an explanation would enable civil society—politically, economically and socially—to “gain a deeper understanding of this definition of the culture of Africa as the lungs of humanity.”
“I therefore hope the exhortation explains why the materialism of the West—a culture often without religion and often without a relationship to God—is not acceptable for other cultures and other nations today, such as those in Africa.”
During his three-day visit, Pope Benedict will also mark the 150th anniversary of the evangelization of Benin and pay a visit to the tomb of his late friend, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, who died in 2008.
“The Pope and Cardinal Gantin worked together in the Curia for more than 25 years, so a visit to his tomb will be a real personal highlight for the Holy Father,” he said.
Bishop Adoukonou said he hopes Pope Benedict’s visit and exhortation will bring a “fresh impetus” to the life of the Church in Benin, a boost for its “missionary agenda,” and a vision that will help African society create a future “based on reconciliation, peace and justice.”
Benin’s population of 8.8 million has almost three million Catholics.
Washington D.C., Nov 16, 2011 (CNA) -
Former U.S. bishop's conference employee Daniel Avila said his swift resignation after writing a column linking homosexuality with the devil is not evidence of the bishops shying away from the issue.
“The bishops have been and will continue to be strong,” said Avila, former bishops' conference policy adviser for marriage and family. “I resigned because of my desire to see the bishops continue their effective and courageous witness without distraction.”
“Unfortunately,” he added in his Nov. 7 statement to the National Catholic Register, “some will take away from this the opposite and erroneous lesson that the Church and people of faith should refrain altogether from speaking out to influence policymakers and recede entirely from the arena of debate.”
Avila offered his resignation to the bishops’ conference after an Oct. 28 piece of his in the Boston Pilot sparked a media firestorm.
In his piece on the meaning and importance of marriage, Avila said that the “ultimate responsibility” of biologically innate same-sex attraction should be attributed “to the evil one, not God.”
He said that applying “this aspect of Catholic belief to interpret the scientific data makes more sense
because it does not place God in the awkward position of blessing two mutually incompatible realities—sexual difference and same-sex attraction.”
Although Avila was quick to issue an apology after the article ran—“based on my own conscience and assessments”— he pointed out that his piece has been “exploited to divert attention from the core public-policy issues.”
“My resignation was not offered nor do I believe that it was accepted because anyone involved thinks that the Church’s role in the definition-of-marriage debate should be reduced,” he underscored.
Rather, he said his quitting was based “on my own realization that my continued employment was fueling public circumstances that could obstruct the mission of the Catholic Church and the bishops in the public-policy arena.”
Avila stressed that the U.S. bishops “must advance the Church’s policy positions recognizing the inviolable dignity of every human being and the inalterable nature of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
He also expressed “deep sorrow” for “any hurt caused by my column among those who especially need to be affirmed in their individual human dignity.”
“I do not take personally but I do take seriously the anger and ridicule expressed toward me on the Internet, by those who do not know me, as a further sign that people with same-sex attraction have suffered greatly and wrongly,” he said.
“God loves especially those who bear great trials, such as persons struggling with same-sex attraction,” Avila added. “Though none of my reflections was intended to hurt anyone, your pain is a tragedy, and I am heartbroken.”