Vatican City, Nov 23, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict said Nov. 23 that during his trip to the country of Benin this past weekend he saw that Africa is “a reservoir of life and vitality” for the Church and its future.
In keeping with tradition, the Pope offered his assessment of the Nov. 18-20 visit to Benin at today’s general audience, which was held in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall because of a winter rain storm.
“In Africa I saw a freshness in the 'yes' to life, a freshness of religious meaning and hope, a holistic vision of reality where God is not confined to that positivist perspective which, in the final analysis, extinguishes all hope,” he said.
“This tells us that the continent is a reservoir of life and vitality for the future upon which we can rely, upon which the Church can rely.”
Pope Benedict told attendees at the audience that during his three-visit, he and the Church in Africa had “lived together a touching experience of faith and renewed encounter with the living Jesus Christ.”
The Pope visited Benin to deliver his Apostolic Exhortation about the future of Christianity on the continent, “Africae Munus” (The Commitment of Africa). It was written in response to the conclusions of the 2009 Synod of African Bishops in Rome.
He explained that when he visited the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception of Ouidah in Benin on Nov. 19, he “placed the fruits” of that synod “at the feet of the Holy Virgin,” who is venerated in that church.
The Pope said his document invites African Christians “to inner reconciliation in order to become joyful instruments of divine mercy, each contributing to the common good with his own spiritual and material wealth.” This spirit of reconciliation should also extend to the “socio-political and economic life of the continent," he said.
The Pope handed over his Apostolic Exhortation during Sunday Mass at the Friendship Stadium in the city of Cotonou, where he was joined by over 200 African bishops and a congregation of over 80,000.
He said he hoped “the faithful will find the fundamental guidelines,” in the document, “to lead and stimulate the journey of the Church in Africa, which is increasingly called to be ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world.’”
One particular memory he picked out was his meeting with young people at St. Rita’s church in Cotonou, where he had explained how he prays. That talk followed a visit to a nearby shelter for abandoned, sick and malnourished children run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. There the children had danced and sang for the Pope.
On that evening, Pope Benedict said he “truly tasted the joy of life, the delight and enthusiasm of the new generations who represent the future of Africa,” and witnessed “how love and solidarity can cause the power and affection of the risen Christ to be present, even in weakness.”
The Pope also explained that his journey had allowed him to visit the tomb of his late friend Cardinal Bernardin Gantin as well as to mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first Catholic missionaries in Benin.
Overall, he believes that “the joy and the apostolic zeal” he experienced “is a sign of sure hope for the future of the Church” in Benin.
“My trip,” he concluded, was also meant to serve as an appeal to Africa to “concentrate every effort on announcing the Gospel to those who do not yet know it, to renew the commitment to evangelization, to which each member of the baptized is called by promoting reconciliation, justice and peace.”
He then commended the Church in Africa to “Mary, Mother of the Church and Our Lady of Africa.”
Philadelphia, Pa., Nov 23, 2011 (CNA) -
Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania has established the John Cardinal Foley Chair of Homiletics and Social Communication to honor Cardinal Foley for his lifetime of distinguished service as a professional communicator and for his “outstanding priestly service.”
“In establishing this chair, the seminary expresses esteem for Cardinal Foley, one of its most distinguished alumni, and seeks to perpetuate his high standards of communicating the gospel message in the life and ministry of future generations of priests,” the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said Nov. 21.
The seminary chair will train seminarians in homiletics, the art of rhetoric in public preaching. The chair will also teach them to cultivate a practical knowledge and mastery of modern communications media.
Cardinal Foley, a Pennsylvania native, was ordained for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1962 and edited the archdiocesan paper, the Catholic Standard & Times. He served as editor of Rome’s archdiocesan newspaper from 1970 to 1984 and was president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from 1984 to 2007.
For 21 years, he provided the English-language commentary for the global TV broadcasts of Christmas and Easter Masses.
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher and elevated him to the level of cardinal.
On his 76th birthday Nov. 11, Cardinal Foley said he was grateful to God for a wonderful life.
“As Andy Rooney said, ‘I certainly have nothing to complain about.’ It’s been marvelous and I pray that I may have the strength needed for the rest of my time here on Earth to try to continue to do some good for others,” the cardinal said, according to the Delaware County Daily Times.
The cardinal returned to Philadelphia for retirement after being diagnosed with leukemia and other health ailments. He presently lives in Darby, Pennsylvania.
Cairo, Egypt, Nov 23, 2011 (CNA) - Egyptian police have “no right” to threaten the lives of those protesting peacefully in Tahrir square, Giza Bishop Antonios A. Mina says.
“Using violence against peaceful people is not acceptable,” the senior Coptic Catholic Bishop told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need on Nov. 22. “The authorities must explain their actions.”
Bishop Mina spoke from Egypt as the country's military government faced protests comparable to those that drove out former president Hosni Mubarak in February.
The latest protests in Cairo began Nov. 18 and have drawn tens of thousands of people into the streets. But at least 26 people have been killed, and hundreds wounded, during a government response that Bishop Mina said was needlessly violent.
“The authorities have no right to shoot peaceful people,” declared the bishop, who said the army had “not learned the lesson that if you shoot people they will react.”
Troops have used teargas and rubber bullets – and, by some accounts, live ammunition – against protesters, some of whom have thrown rocks and firebombs at police, according to the Associated Press.
Protesters want an end to the military rule that began after Mubarak stepped down. As of Nov. 22, the army said it had accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and his cabinet, and would form a new administration with the intention of moving to civilian rule by July of 2012.
But many Egyptians do not want to wait seven months to elect a new president and end military rule.
With parliamentary elections set to begin Nov. 28, some protesters want an immediate end to the military government as well. One possibility that the military’s governing council is considering is a popular referendum on the question.
Bishop Mina said public trust in Egypt's army was fading.
“The young people, who began the revolution (against Mubarak), no longer trust people in authority, especially the military. They were full of hope when the revolution began but now no longer.”
He said Christians and Muslims were “together in Tahrir Square now,” voicing “the same desire for a new future.”
Egypt's Coptic Christians have seen little improvement in their second-class status since the February revolution. A Coptic rights march in October ended in violence that left 25 people dead and 300 injured, with police being accused of running over protesters and collaborating with Islamist mobs.
Meanwhile, the government has done little to address Coptic concerns over church-building rights and religious discrimination. In September 2011, the European Union of Human Rights Organizations said nearly 100,000 of Egypt's Christians had emigrated since February.
San Francisco, Calif., Nov 23, 2011 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of San Francisco won a three-year legal fight Nov. 18, after a Superior Court judge moved to throw out charges against the archdiocese for a multimillion-dollar “delinquent” tax bill.
“The Archdiocese of San Francisco is delighted that the Superior Court has vindicated the position the archdiocese has taken all along,” George Wesolek, director of communications, said in a Nov. 18 statement.
Judge Richard A. Kramer issued a 43-page “Tentative Statement of Decision” in favor of the archdiocese after a grueling legal battle with San Francisco assessor-recorder Phil Ting.
Ting attempted to impose a transfer tax of $14.4 million on more than 200 parish and school properties when San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer initiated a corporate restructuring of the archdiocese in 2007.
Ting argued that the tax was fair and equitable and said his office examined various exemptions that could have applied to the archdiocese but found that none did.
Taxes in the state are typically collected when properties are sold or transferred to a separate and distinct legal entity.
“The land and buildings involved are all used to serve the nearly half-million families and children in the archdiocese’s parishes and schools and countless others,” Wesolek said, adding that the tax would have had “had a crippling effect” on the parishes and schools.
In court arguments, the archdiocese maintained that the city’s transfer tax ordinance applies only to property “sold” in San Francisco and specifically exempts internal reorganizations of this kind.
The Church also argued that state and federal law have long recognized that internal reorganizations such as what took place in the archdiocese are not transfers and are not subject to such taxes.
Wesolek said that Ting “underestimated the resolve of the church,” in this situation, but also lamented how the ongoing case drained time and resources.
“It is unfortunate that the miscalculation forced the archdiocese to spend more than three years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees to defeat this illegal action,” he said, “but the archdiocese is hopeful that the Assessor/Recorder’s office will now be dissuaded from taking similar measures in the future.”
Judge Kramer has scheduled a case management conference for Jan. 9, 2012.
Rome, Italy, Nov 23, 2011 (CNA) - A new book gathers reflections from Pope Benedict on the Virgin Mary to encourage children in devotion to the Blessed Mother.
The 48-page book titled “Mary, The Mother of Jesus,” was published in Italian by La Piccola Casa Editrice and begins with an introduction by the new Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Scola.
“The first face we all see as soon as we are born is that of our mother,” Cardinal Scola writes.“Little by little we begin to recognize her face and respond to her smile, learning with trust to distinguish it from other faces in our lives. And the same thing happened to Jesus.”
In his introduction, previewed by Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano on Nov. 21, Cardinal Scola highlighted the Pope’s reflection on the Byzantine tradition of depicting Mary's tenderness.
Pope Benedict speaks of one Byzantine image in particular which “shows the child Jesus with his face cheek-to-cheek with his Mother’s,” Cardinal Scola said.
The cardinal described the Pope's observation in the book that Mary “experienced our same joys and sorrows, our difficult moments, our same fatigue and enthusiasm…but always trusting in and entrusting herself to God.”
“And this is the difference and what makes life dignified and beautiful, as Pope Benedict says in another part of this book: 'Only if God is great is man also great. With Mary we should begin to understand that this is so.'”
Cardinal Scola noted that the Pope explains how Mary “teaches us not to be discouraged about things that don’t work out or that affect us, or about our mistakes, if we have the humility to admit them and to ask for forgiveness.”
His introduction ends with a suggestion to children on how to trust in Mary: “Kneel down before your beds each night and pray a Hail Mary. I did this and it helped me a lot.”
The book in Italian can be found at: http://www.itacalibri.it/it/catalogo/benedetto-xvi/maria.html?IDFolder=144&IDOggetto=39506&LN=IT
Madrid, Spain, Nov 23, 2011 (CNA) - The Spain-based group Right to Life added to increasing criticism of Father Carlos Novoa, calling the Colombian priest's support for abortion unacceptable.
“There is no circumstance that can lead us to the conclusion that abortion can be a good,” the organization said on Nov. 22.
In several recent radio and television interviews, Fr. Novoa—who teaches at the Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogota—defended the practice through his own interpretation of passages from John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” documents from Vatican II and canon law.
On Nov. 12, dozens of young people gathered on campus to protest Fr. Navoa's views. Human Life International president Father Shenan J. Boquet also weighed in on the controversy in a Nov. 17 statement underscoring that “there is absolutely no justification” for abortion in Church teaching.
“As we have been reiterating for years, nothing justifies the deliberate elimination of a human being,” Right to Life said. “The solution for a woman facing a difficult pregnancy is never to kill the child, but rather to offer her help and give her reasons for hope.”
“The people of Colombia should learn from the tragic experience of Spain, where legislation has led to an increasingly aging population of 45 million with more than 120,000 abortions annually,” the group said.
Derry, Northern Ireland, Nov 23, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop Seamus Hegarty from the Diocese of Derry in Northern Ireland for health reasons, effective Nov. 23.
“The Holy Father has very kindly considered my letter, along with the medical reports provided by experts, and today graciously accepted my resignation,” the retiring bishop said in a statement released by the Derry diocese.
Bishop Hegarty, 71, had offered his resignation to the Pope due to a health condition he said was “assessed to render me unable to fulfill the obligations of my office as Diocesan Bishop.” Bishops must offer their resignation at age 75, but are encouraged to take the step earlier under certain conditions.
The bishop revealed on Nov. 7 that he was being treated for an “irreversible and progressive” illness.
“I would ask for prayers that the Holy Spirit may guide the selection of the new Bishop of Derry,” Bishop Hegarty said in his announcement.
“On a personal level, I would entrust my health to the prayers of the people of the diocese.”
Ordained a priest in 1966, Bishop Hegarty became the Bishop of Raphoe in the spring of 1982. He took up his position as the Bishop of Derry in November 1994.
A report on the handling of sex abuse by clergy in the Diocese of Raphoe, spanning several decades that include Bishop Hegarty's term of leadership, has been completed and is awaiting publication. He has declared his support for the inquiry, and urged prosecution of those who committed abuse.
Northern Irish Member of Parliament Mark Durkan, former leader of the country's Social Democratic and Labour Party, praised the retired bishop in comments to BBC News on Nov. 7.
Durkan said Bishop Hegarty had a “particular passion” for education, and had “always impressed” him as “someone who is straight-talking and hard-working with a keen and active interest in the whole range of public affairs.”
With his resignation, Derry becomes the fourth Irish diocese without a bishop. The bishops of Cloyne, Kildare and Leighlin, and Limerick have resigned during that time and have not yet been replaced.
Ireland also currently has no apostolic nuncio as of September 2011. The Vatican recalled and reassigned its representative after Ireland's prime minister accused the Holy See of trying to cover up abuse cases. The Vatican’s spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., said those claims are untrue and the accusations show the Irish government does not understand how canon law works.
A group of eight priests will elect a member of the clergy as the Diocesan Administrator of Derry, while the diocese waits for the appointment of a new bishop.
Vatican City, Nov 23, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The bishops of New York’s eight dioceses began their “ad limina” visit in Rome today.
These trans-Atlantic pilgrimages allow “our Bishops to be confirmed in the Apostolic Ministry in communion with the Successor of Peter and the local Churches,” Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, the Rome-based coordinator of the visit, explained to CNA.
This is the second visit by a group of American bishops this month. The first delegation of bishops to set foot in Rome came from the Boston province. During the coming months, 15 groups will fulfill the meaning of the Latin phrase “ad limina apostolorum,” which describes their visits to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Msgr. Figueiredo – who is responsible for the visits by the approximately 200 bishops – explained that these visits also allow the bishop to inform the Pope and the Vatican “of the situation of the dioceses in such important areas as vocations, evangelization, the response to the sexual abuse crisis,” while also receiving “the wisdom of Pope Benedict XVI” and the Roman Curia in return.
One issue that is almost certain to be raised in those meetings is how family life and the Church are impacted by New York legalizing same-sex “marriage” in June of this year.
In total, there are 20 bishops from in the Empire State who have made the journey to Rome, including Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York and his immediate predecessor, Cardinal Edward Egan. The other dioceses represented are Albany, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Rockville Centre and Syracuse.
For the bishops of New York, this next week’s schedule is filled by meetings with key Vatican departments and their pilgrimage.
But the timing of their visit also means that they will have to celebrate Thanksgiving in Italy. They will celebrate the American holiday with a Thanksgiving Mass at the Pontifical North American College, before joining in the 300-plus seminarians and staff in festivities.