Rome, Italy, Jan 16, 2012 (CNA) - Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, emphasized that the presence of Catholics on the internet is essential.
He noted that in 2009, roughly 440 million Catholics went online.
Archbishop Celli made his comments at Mercy University in the Swiss city of Fribourg during a meeting organized by the Bishops’ Conference of Switzerland and the Swiss Press League. The event was held in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the pastoral instruction on social communications, “Communio et progressio.”
According to L’Osservatore Romano, Archbishop Celli said society has passed from the “era of information” to the “era of conversation,” in which the content is itself the object of dialogue.
Speaking about the social media, the archbishop said, “Language, understanding of communities and visibility are the great challenges facing those who want to be present in the new digital continent.”
He noted the important contributions to the world of communications made by Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI and said Catholics must meet the challenge of stepping into this “courtyard of the gentiles,” where God is unknown to many.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 16, 2012 (CNA/Europa Press) - Officials in Merida, Spain have rejected a request by local Socialist party leaders to ban the theatrical production “Vidiana. An Abortion Clinic,” which opened Jan. 14.
The play tells the story of eight women who decide not to go through with their abortion plans.
According to Europa Press, the United Left political party in Merida was the first to call for the play to be banned. Socialist party leaders quickly followed suit, as party representative Marisa Tena issued a press release calling on the city to stop the debut.
Tena also criticized local city council member Angel Pelayo, who called Spain’s new law on abortion “unjust and unnecessary.” Pelayo should “put aside his personal opinions and beliefs” and as a public official not support “actions contrary to the law,” Tena argued.
A spokesman for the city government, Fernando Molina, told reporters that city officials have “never” enacted “this kind of censorship” of “theatrical works, no matter what their content.”
“We are not going to veto any work because of its content,” as that would “be against freedom of expression,” he said.
The play is being promoted by the Pro-Life Madrid Association and will be performed in various venues in Spain. During a press conference on Jan. 10, members of the association, together with the director of the play, Isidro Leyva, and city council member Angel Pelayo, said the play recounts the stories of eight pregnant women.
All are willing to have an abortion except one, who in the end convinces the rest not to do so, thus “casting a spotlight on the new abortion law.”
Leyva said the play is not recommended for children under 16 as it has a very “descriptive storyline with intense scenes which explain, for example, how an abortion is performed.”
Pelayo said a law allowing a 16-year-old girl to get an abortion without parental consent was wrong and that abortion is “something evil and undesirable for women.”
Vatican City, Jan 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Vatican’s Palatine Guard was officially disolved in 1970, but its former members still serve the Pope today.
“We didn’t actually leave the Vatican at all because our faith and our faithfulness were unchanged,” said Antonio Martini, who joined the guards just after World War II.
When he decreed the dissolution of the Guard in 1970, Pope Paul VI created the Association of Saints Peter and Paul to replace it. This allowed the men to “work to carry on the good that the Palatine Guard had done for so many years,” Martini explained.
The Palatine Guard was formed in 1850 by Pope Pius IX and largely performed a ceremonial role during the Vatican’s major Church and State events.
The only time they actually saw active service was in 1870 when papal forces put up resistance to Italian government troops occupation of Rome.
Often made up of Roman shop keepers and office clerks, the Palatine Guard also bravely guarded Vatican property throughout the Nazi occupation during World War II.
“Certainly, there was displeasure when on September 15, 1970, the Palatine Guard was dissolved, but we did understand the reason for which was done,” Martini said.
“It was after the Second Vatican Council, things had changed, so this armed guard within the Church was no longer, I won’t say ‘necessary’ because perhaps it wasn’t necessary before either, but it was from a different time.”
In 1971, Pope Paul VI established the Association of St. Peter and Paul so that the “unique and exemplary characteristics of the Palatine Guard” would be “preserved, strengthened, adapted and developed.”
The association consists of lay Catholics who live in Rome and, according to its statutes, are “eager to offer a special witness of Christian life, apostleship and fidelity to the Apostolic See.”
“The association works in the fields of liturgy, culture and charity,” explained the association’s president, Calvino Gasparini.
“Perhaps the element it has always had in common with the foundation of the Guard in 1850 is its charitable role,” he said.
Members extend charity in a number of ways, including giving directions, information and advice to pilgrims and visiting priests, especially during big liturgical celebrations at St. Peter’s Basilica.
The groups also forms its members in the Christian faith. New recruits – many of them young – are given a “renaissance” education in spirituality, culture, charity, music and sport.
“As Christians, we all have to know our faith but we also have to live it,” says Monsignor Joseph Murphy, the chaplain for the association.
“So what we try to do is to show them that religion isn’t just a part of life that you reserve to one particular sector but is supposed to have an effect in one’s life as a whole.”
The steady flow of new recruits makes it likely that the association will be able to continue its service to the Pope and the Vatican for many years to come.
“We have existed for 150 years as the Palatine Guard and for 40 years as the association,” said Gasparini.
“We are not extinct and we continue on because of the young people who come in with that spirit that we Romans have always had – that of being faithful to the Apostolic See.”
Leon, Mexico, Jan 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A religious order unveiled new details on the convent where Pope Benedict and his entourage will be staying during his upcoming visit to Mexico March 23-26.
While in the city of Leon on March 23, the Pope will stay with the Servants of the Most Holy Eucharist and of the Mother of God in a remodeled room described as “very austere.”
“It will have a night stand, a crucifix, a statue of the Virgin Mary and a rosary,” community superior Mother Rocio told CNA on Jan. 15.
She noted that the Pope usually stays in a convent or monastery when he travels to a city where there is no Apostolic Nunciature.
After visiting the site in December of last year, Vatican officials decided the Pope should stay with the order – a congregation founded by Mother Trinity of the Most Pure Heart of Mary and originally from Spain. The religious community also runs a school in the city of Leon.
Mother Rocio said the chance to host the Pope “is a blessing for our congregation” and “a great gift from God in this year 2012.”
The sisters learned of the Vatican's decision from Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon, on Jan. 1.
Mother Rocio said that Mother Pilar Burgos Gonzalez – the superior general of the congregation – is slated to travel to Leon for the Pope’s visit and that the sisters are working diligently to prepare the room where Pope Benedict will stay.
“We are in the process of remodeling,” she said, “and people who have seen the room say it looks good.” The Pope’s room will also be outfitted with new furniture, “preserving the style it currently has, because he deserves it,” she said. “We know he is the living presence of Christ on earth.”
The most most important members of the Pope’s entourage will also be staying at the convent, Mother Rocio said. “We were asked how many rooms we have, and they are going to occupy the entire house.”
The community superior said that for security reasons, “we can’t show the room, but we can share our joy and blessing at being the hosts of the Successor of St. Peter.”
Mother Rocio provided CNA with pictures of the area outside his room which she says “convey the sobriety and simplicity with which our congregation will be welcoming him during his stay.”
Vatican City, Jan 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C. called to mind the Pope’s “living continuity” with St. Peter at the start of his “ad limina” visit in Rome.
“All of us in this chapel have a special bond to Rome because Peter continues to live and exercise his ministry here,” the cardinal said in his Jan. 16 homily for a Mass he presided over in the Crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Jan. 16 marked the beginning of the visit for the bishops of Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, the Virgin Islands and the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services. The group traveled to Rome as part of an ongoing series of visits for U.S. bishops that will last into 2013.
The trips take place every five years and involve a meeting in which the bishops brief the Pope on the Church in their individual dioceses, visit with various Vatican departments, and make a pilgrimage to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul.
As he delivered his homily, surrounded by the tombs of numerous Popes and St. Peter himself, Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the important role of the successor of Peter, “the rock on which Christ founded his Church” and the “touchstone” of the bishops’ ministry and proclamation of faith.
Bishops across the world can turn to that rock for assurance and encouragement as they continue to announce the Gospel and “tend the flock of Christ” that has been entrusted to them, he said.
Cardinal Wuerl expressed gratitude for “the visible head of the Church,” Pope Benedict XVI, and for the ability to travel to Rome to meet with him.
He also thanked God for “the gift of faith” and the grace to respond to God’s call.
The cardinal recalled the Pope Benedict’s trip to the United States in 2008 and said that the bishops now have an opportunity to return that visit.
“We come to profess our faith, our loyalty and our love for the successor to Peter,” he said.
“Today, our celebration is a visible sign of the communion of faith spread throughout the entire world and how it is anchored here in Rome, where Peter lives, now bearing the name Benedict XVI.”
The phrase “ad limina apostolorum” is a Latin term meaning, “to the threshold of the apostles.” It refers to the pilgrimage to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul that every bishop is required to make.
The papal audiences for the U.S. bishops are being conducted according to the new format introduced by Pope Benedict XVI at the end of 2011. Instead of having brief one-on-one meetings with each individual bishop, the Pope is now holding longer discussions with groups of bishops.
Denver, Colo., Jan 16, 2012 (CNA) -
A new popular video of a poem from a Christian who says he “hates religion” but loves Jesus is wrong about religion’s role in Christian life, says Catholic speaker Chris Stefanick.
Stefanick, who is the director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver, responded in poetry in a Jan. 15 YouTube video.
“Pharisaism is religion without relationship / Jesus isn’t impressed by it / but hating religion because it’s twisted by some / is like hating diamonds because they might be zirconium,” Stefanick said in his reply, titled “Why I Love Religion and Love Jesus.”
“Religion puts a name on the creed / Religion gives a voice to the soul’s deepest need / Religion keeps His people one / Religion paves a path to the Son.
“True religion, like incense, rises from hearts seeking God.”
Stefanick was responding to Jefferson Bethke’s viral video “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus,” which has received nearly 12.5 million views on YouTube since it was posted on Jan. 10.
Bethke, a Tacoma, Wash. resident, attends Mars Hill Church in Federal Way and works in bringing the Gospel to the inner city.
His video said that Jesus “came to abolish religion” and that Jesus and religion are “on opposite spectrums.”
“One’s the work of God, but one’s a man-made invention / See one is the cure, but the other’s the infection.
“Religion puts you in bondage, while Jesus sets you free / Religion makes you blind but Jesus makes you see.
“If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars? / Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?
“Tell single moms God doesn’t love them if they’ve ever had a divorce, / but in the Old Testament God calls religious people ‘whores.’”
But Stefanick underscored that Jesus came to start a religion.
“What if I told you the Catholic Church has done more to serve the needy / than any other group in history?
“Our cathedrals, priests and nuns / are serving in those slums. / Open your Eyes! / It helps you get things done / when you’re organized.”
Stefanick is also co-author of a 2008 book “Do I Have to Go? 101 Questions about the Mass.”
He explained in a Jan. 15 exchange with CNA that his book touches on the same questions. Jesus does not treat sacred rituals and sacraments as things that interfere with a genuine relationship with him, he noted.
“If he thought such things would come between us and him then he clearly wouldn’t have given them to us. He wouldn’t have told his apostles to celebrate Mass (Luke 22:19) or to baptize every person on earth (Matthew 28:19).”
“All Christian denominations at least agree on baptism, and no one can make a really good case that baptism isn’t a religious ritual … try as you will!”
Rituals help relationships, Stefanick added, and religion has rituals just like marriages do.
“People can fall into just going through the motions in marriage just as in faith. Would a marriage counselor propose that a couple whose relationship is on the rocks stop celebrating Valentine’s Day? No!”
Stefanick stressed in his video response that religion is a gift from God.
“The heart of religion is relationship / Jesus didn’t come to get rid of it. He gave us Baptism, Eucharist, Last Supper, apostolic structure.”
“Hatred of religion is a modern man-made invention / Playing pure spirit is angelic pretension.”