Rome, Italy, Dec 14, 2011 (CNA) -
Nhora Valentina Munoz, the 10-year-old girl who was kidnapped by a Colombian rebel group last October, said she is now free thanks to the prayers of Pope Benedict XVI.
Munoz told CNA that seeing the Pope “means a lot to me, because Pope Benedict XVI prayed for me when I was kidnapped, and thanks to him I am free.”
The girl was in Rome with her family to participate in a Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12.
After hearing of the girl’s capture, the Pope began offering prayers for her immediate release and “for all those kidnapped in Colombia.”
Munoz said she was “very happy” to represent Colombia at the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday. She was among dozens of young people who each carried the flag of their respective country.
Juan Sebastian Lozada, 25, who was kidnapped for three years by Colombian rebels together with his mother and brother, also attended the Mass. He said the experience was “very exciting” and that “to see first-hand what the Holy Father conveys is always a reason for admiration and pride.”
Lozada’s mother, Gloria Polanco, is a former congresswoman and the widow of the former governor of the province of Huila, Jaime Lozada. She was kidnapped by the Marxist rebel group FARC, along with her husband and two sons on July 26, 2001.
While they were held hostage, Jaime Lozada was assassinated by FARC for not paying the ransom money the rebels demanded for his family.
Sebastian Lozada said their faith sustained them during their captivity. “I think that in the most difficult and darkest moments, when everything seems lost, only the faith and the hand of God can help someone endure,” he said.
He added that his devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe helped him to withstand the suffering. “I am very devoted to Our Lady and to God, to my entire Catholic faith, and this has enabled me to bear everything we have had to suffer in the last few years with greater incentive,” he said.
Rome, Italy, Dec 14, 2011 (CNA) -
Cardinal Velasio De Paolis ordained 50 priests, including 49 priests for the Legionaries of Christ, on Dec. 12 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.
Fifteen of the new priests come from the United States, while 20 come from Mexico and five each from Brazil and Colombia.
About 2,000 people attended the ordination, including parents, relatives, friends and members of the Legionaries of Christ, the Regnum Christi Movement, and the Somascan Fathers.
Fr. Pablo Galvan, a member of the Somascan Fathers, was the one non-Legionary priest ordained on Monday. His brother, Marcos Galvan, was one of the Legionaries ordained at the same Mass.
Three pairs of brothers were ordained, including Frs. Jason and Michael Mitchell from western Pennsylvania.
Fr. Roberto Carlos Lazalde of Durango, Mexico dreamed of being a professional soccer player and played for the minor league Cruz Azul team. Instead of pursuing his dream further, he decided to become a priest.
Another new priest, Fr. José Guadalupe Padua, had already received his master’s in law when, during Bl. John Paul II’s 1999 visit to Mexico City, his eyes met those of the Pope. He said the experience changed his life.
The youngest of the new priests is 29 and the oldest is 35.
The priests tell the stories of their various paths to the priesthood in a new multilingual book “Witness of God’s Gift,” known in Spanish as “Dios lo da todo.”
The Legionaries now have over 900 priests in 20 countries.
Cardinal De Paolis is the papal delegate to the Legionaries of Christ. He is overseeing the reform of the congregation since revelations that its founder Fr. Marcel Maciel led a double life and committed serious sins.
Des Moines, Iowa, Dec 14, 2011 (CNA) - Presidential candidate Rick Santorum signaled his disagreement with the U.S. bishops' recommended immigration reforms, in an interview due to be broadcast on Iowa Public Television Dec. 13.
“If we develop the program like the Catholic bishops suggested we would be creating a huge magnet for people to come in and break the law some more,” said Santorum, a former U.S. senator and current Republican presidential hopeful known for his Catholic faith, according to the Des Moines Register.
“We’d be inviting people to cross this border, come into this country and with the expectation that they will be able to stay here permanently,” Santorum told Register columnist Kathie Obradovich, during a half-hour discussion filmed for the “Conversations with the Candidates” series.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops supports immigration reform that would offer the possibility of citizenship for qualified immigrants.
In his Jan. 14 letter to members of the 112th Congress, Conference President Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan offered advice on changing “a broken immigration system which harms both immigrants and our entire nation.”
“Comprehensive reform is needed to deal with the economic and human realities of millions of immigrants in our midst,” the conference president wrote, in a letter outlining the “principles and priorities that guide the public policy efforts of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.”
Archbishop Dolan said immigration reform should “include a path to earned citizenship.” He stated that it should also support the goal of reuniting families, “the bedrock principle upon which our national immigration system has been based for decades.”
“We realize that reform must be based on respect for and implementation of the law, and for the legitimate and timely question of national security,” the archbishop wrote.
“Equally, however, it must defend the rights and dignity of all peoples, recognizing that human dignity comes from God and does not depend on where people were born or how they came to our nation.”
Santorum, however, believes the suggested path to citizenship would send the wrong message at home and abroad.
“We have to have rules and we have to keep those rules in America, or we would be a magnet for more people who want to break the law,” he said during his interview for Iowa Public Television.
Santorum's grandfather left Italy during Mussolini’s rule in 1925, legally immigrating to the U.S and eventually becoming a citizen. His family, however, could not join him in the country for five years after his arrival.
The candidate warned against any immigration policy that would slight “all the families who are doing it the right way,” along with those “who are separating from their families” and “making those sacrifices.”
“And then we say well, everybody who broke the law came here and we’re going to let you in – and those folks, well, sorry, you’re chumps, you played by the rules,” he said.
The U.S. bishops' migration committee, however, maintains that current law fails to account for the effects of economic globalization and the needs of families.
“The U.S. Catholic Bishops believe that immigrants should come to the United States lawfully,” Migration Chairman Archbishop Jose H. Gomez told a congressional subcommittee in written testimony submitted Feb. 10.
“But we also understand that the current immigration legal framework does not adequately reunify families, and is non-responsive to our country’s need for labor.”
Dublin, Ireland, Dec 14, 2011 (CNA) - Non-practicing and non-believing Irish Catholics should be honest about their relation to the Church, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told the makers of a TV documentary that aired Dec. 11.
“It requires maturity on two sides: maturity of those people who want their children to become members of the Church community, and maturity of those people who say, 'I don't believe in God, I really shouldn't be hanging on to the vestiges of faith when I don't really believe in it,'” he said.
Archbishop Martin's comments were featured in an episode of “Would You Believe,” RTE Television's investigative series on religion.
Its Dec. 11 episode looked at the issue of Irish parents who have ceased to practice their faith, but still want their children to receive the Catholic sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation.
Filmmaker Mick Peelo's interviews showed many self-identified Irish Catholics seeking sacramental preparation for their children, while lacking either the intention or the ability to pass on the principles and meaning of the faith.
People interviewed for the show gave various reasons for wanting their children to receive the sacraments, despite their own lack of belief and practical commitment.
One woman described the rites of initiation as a “platform from which (children) can question” in later life. Another noted that a child often “doesn't want to be left out” when their peers are making their First Communion.
While Archbishop Martin called for honesty among adults no longer committed to the Church's faith, he also acknowledged that the problem's roots run deep.
“Irish Catholics are very weak, and that's the fault of generations of the Church in their understanding of Scriptures,” he said, reflecting on teachings that “taught us things about religion” but “didn't really deepen our faith.”
He suggested that practices of the past may have inspired anxiety, in place of a personal commitment.
“For many people in Ireland, the God we were practicing and teaching wasn't necessarily the God of love at all. It was a God who inspired fear, it was a God who was sort of a 'somebody watching you,' rather than freeing and empowering you.”
The situation calls not only for honesty, but for a more substantial presentation of Catholicism.
“We have to do a radical new look at the way that religious education takes place,” Archbishop Martin said in his interview with Peelo.
“A religious education is not simply for the schools or for school-age. You can't be a mature Catholic in today's world just on the basis on what you learned in primary school or secondary school. But we're not offering an ongoing formation to people in the way that they needed and wanted.”
The makers of “Would You Believe” spoke with several Irish clergy who acknowledged the inter-generational problems surrounding Catholic identity and commitment.
One of them, Fr. John Hassett, is shown baptizing the child of two parents who appear hesitant toward Catholic practice and belief in several interview segments.
But the priest says he encourages parents to show integrity by living up to the obligations of their choice.
“At every Baptism, I finish the ritual, the couples come up behind the altar, and I say: 'This is a fake – this is a fraud, this is hypocrisy – if the next time your child touches this holy space is on the preparation of (first) Holy Communion,” Fr. Hassett explained.
Vatican City, Dec 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI says that people should trust in God’s loving plan for their lives, even when events do not meet their expectations.
“When we ask the Lord for something in prayer, we must not expect an immediate fulfillment of our requests, of our will,” he said at his Dec. 14 general audience.
“Rather, we should entrust ourselves to the will of the Father, reading events in the perspective of His glory, of His plan of love which is often a mystery to our eyes.”
The Pope continued his focus on the theme of prayer in his comments to the 7,000 pilgrims gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall.
“In our prayer,” he said, “request, praise and thanksgiving should fuse together, even when it seems to us that God does not respond to our expectations.”
He added that “abandoning ourselves to the love of God” is a “fundamental principle in our dialogue with Him,” and leads to the “the greatest gift He can give us,” which is “His friendship, His presence, His love.”
To illustrate his point, the Pope reflected on two scenes from the Scriptures – Jesus healing a deaf man in the Gospel of St. Mark and the raising of Lazarus as recounted in the Gospel of St. John.
Pope Benedict highlighted the individual care and love Christ gave the deaf man, noting that Jesus took the man away from the crowd and created “a unique relationship” with him.
He then cured the man with a particular “intensity of attention,” using his own fingers and saliva on the specific location of the disability. Then, Jesus looked up to heaven, sighed and said “Ephphatha,” meaning “Be Opened” in Aramaic.
The “central point” of the episode is “the fact that Jesus, at the very moment He works the cure, directly seeks His relationship with the Father” by looking up to heaven.
“The narrative shows, then, that human involvement with the sick man led Jesus into prayer,” said the Pope. In that moment of prayer, Jesus’ “unique relationship with the Father emerges once again, His identity as Only-begotten Son.”
Pope Benedict also saw the two-way relationship between Christ’s union with his Father and his individual love for each person at work in the raising of Lazarus from the dead. In fact, Jesus was so “deeply moved at the sight of the suffering of Martha and Mary, and of all Lazarus' friends,” that he himself wept.
As with the deaf man, Christ again “prays directly to the Father,” this time in front of the tomb. The Gospel of St. John recounts how “Jesus looked upward and said, Father I thank you for having heard me.”
This episode “shows us that Jesus had not for a moment ceased His prayer for Lazarus’ life,” said Pope Benedict. “That prayer was continuous, indeed it strengthened Jesus’ bond with His friend and, at the same time, confirmed His decision to remain in communion with the will of the Father.”
Despite the apparent disaster of his friend’s death, it is in Christ’s “plan of love” that the glory of God was displayed, the Pope observed.
He concluded his discourse by teaching that while Christ’s concern for humanity “causes him to turn to the Father,” conversely, it is also this “communion with the Father” that leads him to be “attentive to the real-life situations of man.”
When Christians pray, the Pope said, they must share in this “profound bond between love for God and love for others.” This will allow them to “open the door to God” and learn “how to abandon our own selves in order to come close to others, especially in moments of trial, bringing them consolation, hope and light,” he said.
Before leading pilgrims in praying the Our Father and imparting his Apostolic Blessing, Pope Benedict also bestowed a particular Advent blessing.
“As we prepare to celebrate the Savior’s birth at Christmas, I cordially invoke upon you and your families his abundant blessings of joy and peace!”
Vatican City, Dec 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pontifical Council for the Laity has confirmed that World Youth Day 2013 will take place in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro from July 23-28.
The announcement was made on the official website for the event, www.rio2013.com, and by Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro via Twitter, after organizers met with members of the council Rome on Dec. 12.
Archbishop Tempesta is currently meeting with officials from the council together with Bishop Joel Portella Amado, the general coordinator of World Youth Day 2013, Father Marcio Queiroz, communications director, and Father Renato Martines, director of the main events.
The official logo for World Youth Day Rio 2013 will also be selected during the meetings from a group of proposals drawn from an international contest. Upon returning to Rio later this week, organizers will be meeting will local leaders to report on preparations for the event.
Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 14, 2011 (CNA) - Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City said that he and other Church leaders in the country are thrilled over Pope Benedict’s plans to travel to Mexico and Cuba in 2012.
“We are very happy that the Pope is coming to Mexico, and we are going to welcome him with great affection, because we all know what the Holy Father means to us,” he told CNA.
During a Mass for Latin America on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pope Benedict said he would travel to the two countries before Easter of 2012 in order to “proclaim the Word of Christ there and to and convince people that this is the time to evangelize with strong faith, living hope and burning charity.”
Cardinal Rivera said the bishops of Mexico are also happy that the Pope is traveling to the city of Leon in the state of Guanajuato, “a region that is very symbolic in Mexico.”
Outside the city, a 65-foot statue of “Christ the King of Peace” sits atop Cubilete Hill, where young people gather on pilgrimage each year.
The statue has a long history going back to the Mexican Revolution. It was originally built in 1920, but the government blocked access to the hill in 1923. After Mexicans continued to defy the government and visit the shrine, it was destroyed by dynamite in 1928. Pieces of the original statue, including the head and the Sacred Heart, are preserved in a museum located at the shrine today.
In December of 1944, construction began on the statue that currently sits atop the hill. Pope Pius XII personally sent his blessing for the project.
Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar Martinez of Tehuacan told CNA the decision of which city Benedict XVI would visit was made after ruling out “high-altitude places and places that were already visited by Pope John Paul II.”
The “exact location of his visit has not yet been determined,” he added.
Vatican sources told CNA the Pope is tentatively planning to visit Leon in the state of Guanajuato March 23-26. From there he will travel to Havana, Cuba, on March 26 and return to Rome on March 28.
Montevideo, Uruguay, Dec 14, 2011 (CNA) - The bishops of Uruguay have voiced support for a married couple who testified that the country is under pressure from international organizations to legalize abortion.
The couple’s testimony was criticized by the country’s media outlets.
In its bi-monthly bulletin, the Archdiocese of Montevideo published the entire testimony given by Victor Guerrero and Gabriela Lopez of the bishops’ Committee on Family and Human Life “so that our readers can draw their own conclusions.”
The bulletin, distributed in all the parishes of Montevideo, reaffirmed the Church’s position on a proposal that would legalize abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy.
Guerreo and Lopez gave their testimony on Nov. 29 and denounced the measure as a ploy by international organizations to pressure Uruguay to accept abortion. “Unfortunately these kinds of measures do not stem from the initiative of local legislators but rather from strategies internationally promoted by institutions that seek to deceive the people and their legislators,” they said.
“Behind this pressure are international foundations like the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and many others … that see world population growth as a security issue,” Lopez said.
The bishops of Uruguay were dissatisfied by the media coverage of the couple’s testimony and therefore decided to publish their remarks in their entirety.
Senator Monica Xavier, who sponsored the bill together with Congressman Alvaro Vega, called the couple’s testimony “completely out of place” and said that while some organizations might consider abortion to be a “sin,” the State cannot classify it is a “crime.”
Vega said their testimony did not deserve a response because the Church “is outside the world.”
“The Church is not happy about this because not only do abortions have to be outlawed but in vitro fertilization as well. You can’t use condoms, pills, and so on,” he said.
In addition to the Archdiocese of Montevideo’s bulletin, the Bishops’ Conference of Uruguay issued a letter on Dec. 5 to the president of the Senate Committee on Health Care saying, “The position of the entire body of bishops that make up the Episcopal Conference of Uruguay is in tune with the magisterium of the Catholic Church throughout the world.”
The president of the Population Research Institute’s office for Latin America, Carlos Polo, told CNA on Dec. 13, “I praise the Uruguayan bishops for their courage. The promoters of the culture of death believed that the Church in Uruguay was weak and was not going to resist the abortion measure.”
“I think that the abortion supporters of the ruling party proposing this anti-life measure are in for a huge surprise. I am sure that Uruguay will have great news for all of us who defend life in Latin America,” Polo said.
Rome, Italy, Dec 14, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Lord Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth, told Pope Benedict XVI that he fears Europe is losing its Judeo-Christian heritage.
“We are very concerned obviously with the soul of Europe, I mean Europe was built on Judeo-Christian foundations, even the market was built on Judeo-Christian foundations,” he told Vatican Radio in an interview following his private audience with the Pope Dec. 12.
The 63-year-old Englishman, who was elevated to the British House of Lords in 2009, stated that Judeo-Christian roots best historically explain why the West has outstripped other cultures both politically and economically.
He also believes that while religious leaders have “no power” in the modern world, they still “have a great deal of influence.” Rabbi Sacks said the Pope’s influence was why he came to visit him, “because I think if Jewish and Christian voices are heard, along parallel lines, then they should not underestimate the influence they have.”
Rabbi Sacks said he saw this influence in action last year during Pope Benedict’s four-day visit to Scotland and England when “everyone was amazed that the interest was so acute and so widespread.”
Religious leaders “should not aspire to political power,” he said, but they are engaged in “talking to people, especially when they’re thinking, ‘what kind of answer do I want to give to the meaning of life and what kind of value system do I want for my children?’”
It is Rabbi Sack’s belief that Europe is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the answers offered by secularism and materialism – two factors he has blamed in the past for a rise in selfishness and the decline in the birthrate.
Many people, he said, are now wondering if “there is something lacking in the wider secular culture where all that matters is ‘what I am, what I spend, what I buy, what I earn,’ instead of ‘what I am.’” One practical outcome in the Jewish community has been an increase in the number of parents choosing to send their children to Jewish schools.
He also wants to foster a united Judeo-Christian front against both anti-Jewish and anti-Christian persecution around the world. In fact, just last week he spoke during a debate in the British House of Lords in which he condemned Christian persecution in the Middle East.
“It is important that Jews, the British Jews, the European Jewish community stand in solidarity with Christians where they face persecution,” he said to Vatican Radio.