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Archive of February 20, 2012

Journalist chronicles a day in the life of Pope Benedict

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI, at age 84, never goes to sleep before 11:00 p.m., prays the Rosary every day, gets up at 5:00 a.m. and uses a cell phone only accessible by his closest advisers.

In an article published online at Europaquotidiano.it on Feb. 17, Italian journalist Aldo Maria Valli documents a day in life of the Pope, who wakes up when Vatican City “is still immersed in silence.”

Valli says the Bavarian pontiff is a “typical German, a methodic man” who “likes to organize his day down to the last detail, according to a very precise schedule.”

Benedict XVI begins his day by celebrating Mass in the papal chapel at 7:00 a.m., together with his two personal secretaries, Father Georg Ganswein and Father Alfred Xuereb.

Other members of the papal household who also attend the Mass include the Pope’s assistants –  Carmela, Loredana, Cristina and Rosella – who are all consecrated women belonging to the Memores Domini community of the movement Communion and Liberation, as well as his personal valet, 46 year-old Paolo Gabriele, who is married and has three children.

After the Mass, which is always celebrated in Italian, Benedict XVI has breakfast at 8:00 a.m. and then heads to his study, where he remains working until 11:00 a.m. His office always has a crucifix and two phones, one of which is a cell phone with a number only accessible to his closest collaborators. 

Valli says the Pope likes to stay informed of current events around the world and reads news reports in various languages, including German, Italian, English, French and Spanish.  He also devotes some time to answering important correspondence.

Once finished with his morning work, the Pope holds meetings with visiting heads of state, ambassadors and other representatives on the second floor of the Apostolic Palace.

The meetings are usually held in the Papal Library, depending on the number of visitors and the solemnity of the occasion. The visits usually last for around two hours. On Wednesday, they are interrupted by the Pope’s General Audience, which takes place at the Paul VI Hall or at St. Peter’s Square. 

At 1:30 p.m. the Holy Father has lunch with his two secretaries. Rarely do they ever have a guest, and the menu is usually Mediterranean. Benedict XVI never drinks wine, always orange juice, Valli says.

After lunch the Holy Father enjoys a short walk for no longer than 10 minutes together with his secretaries around the balconies of the Apostolic Palace “adorned with lemon and orange trees and that provide a splendid view of Rome.” On these walks there is usually no talking about work.

The Pope rests for one hour and at 3:30 p.m. he returns to his study. He devotes the rest of the afternoon to writing documents, speeches and homilies. He does not use computers but writes everything by hand, and afterwards his texts are transcribed and translated.

Valli says the pontiff is an “extremely careful” writer who enjoys “retreating into his study to write in peace, with personal control over his sources by consulting his vast personal library.”

At 5:30 p.m. he signs documents prepared for his signature by his secretaries and then meets with some of his closest collaborators, such as Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, and others.

The Pope then goes downstairs to take another walk, this time in the Vatican Gardens. He is usually joined by one or both of his secretaries and they pray the rosary before a replica of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.

A light dinner is usually served at 7:30 p.m. At 8:00 p.m. the Pope returns to his study and later goes to the chapel for night prayers.

He “never goes to bed before 11:00 p.m.,” Valli writes. “All the proof you need is to just walk through St. Peter’s Square around that time and see what time the light is shut off in the window of the top floor of the Apostolic Palace.”

That’s when the entire Vatican City shuts down for the night, except for the security guards and a few engineers, Valli says.

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Abuse case points to plight of baby girls in India

New Dehli, India, Feb 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The case of a two year-old baby girl in India who was unconscious and covered in human bites when admitted to a local hospital is bringing attention to the issue of sex-selective abortions in the country.

Carlos Polo, director of the Office for Latin America of the Population Research Institute, told CNA on Feb. 17 that this kind of abuse shows the effects that abortions based on gender discrimination have on society.

He noted that sex-selective abortions “have been practiced for decades to eliminate unborn baby girls in India and in many countries where the culture exalts the birth of a son but disparages the birth of a daughter.”

India’s Ministry of the Interior has launched an investigation into the incident after two-year-old baby Falak (whose name means sky) was taken to a hospital in New Delhi on Jan. 18 with bruises on her head, broken limbs and human bite marks on her body.

A doctor caring for the baby at a New Delhi hospital told CNN on Feb. 11 that medical staff is unsure if she will survive and that she will most likely sustain permanent brain damage if she does.

“What was done to this girl is very similar to what is done to a woman who is expecting a baby girl,” Polo said.

The Population Research Institute's bulletin from Dec. 14, 2011, reported practices that take place when a family member is pregnant with a baby girl. “Her husband and relatives push her, kick her in the stomach, and deny her food, water and rest, all for the purposes of bringing about an abortion,” the institute said.

Dr. Sunita Puri, who is from India and works in San Francisco, said that she has seen many women in her practice pregnant with baby boys and unable to overcome the guilt they feel for not being able to save their baby girls in previous pregnancies.

She interviewed 65 immigrants for one study who chose to select the sex of their unborn baby. Published in 2011 in the journal Social Science and Medicine, her study found that “a surprising 89 percent of women pregnant with girls had abortions during the study, and almost half had already aborted a baby girl before.”

Despite the recent wave of negative publicity that has focused the public’s attention on these crimes, Polo said, “One can still find ads for abortion clinics offering sex-selective abortions in newspapers such as the New York Times.”

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Cardinal O’Brien: I will serve the Pope with my whole heart

Rome, Italy, Feb 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien says he will faithfully serve Pope Benedict XVI with his “whole heart.” The emeritus Archbishop of Baltimore made his promise as he knelt to receive his red biretta and cardinal’s ring from the Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica on Feb. 18.
 
“I said to the Pope, ‘I want to serve you as best I can, with my whole heart, and that with the grace that God gives me I will seek to serve you with my whole heart,’” he told journalists at a press conference moments after the consistory.

“So I want the grace and I want those prayers that will prompt that grace from the Good Lord, I hope.”
 
Cardinal O’Brien said he was “humbled and overwhelmed” by the ceremony, which he described as “Very impressive. Very simple, I think, and very solemn.”

The 72-year-old New Yorker is one of 22 new cardinals that were created this weekend by Pope Benedict. Their role is to assist and advise the Pope in the governance of the Church and, when the current Pope passes away, to elect the next pontiff.

“One hopes that it won’t happen too soon,” said Cardinal O’Brien, who pointed out that he “may precede the Pope to that gate of Heaven.” If he is alive when it comes time for a new Pope, the election “will certainly be a weighty responsibility” that will “always be in the back of one’s mind.”

Pope Benedict appointed Cardinal O’Brien as the Pro-Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem in Aug. 2011. The order supports the Church in the Holy Land, particularly the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, through prayer and good works. The new job requires Cardinal O’Brien to permanently move to Rome, but he will not do that until his successor as Archbishop of Baltimore is installed, he said.
 
He told the media is particularly looking forward to the upcoming Year of Faith that will begin Oct. 2012. Cardinal O’Brien believes it will “be celebrated on every level of the Church,” and will involve “not just prayer but study and good works.”

“It is going to be a renewal of faith, and only God knows what graces he has in store for us in celebrating that year, but I am convinced it will be a most enriching Year of Faith for us.”

Part of the vision for that year was outlined Feb. 17 by then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York. During a day of prayer and reflection at the Vatican for all cardinal-designates, he outlined a “creative strategy of evangelization” to counter secularism and bring people to Jesus.
 
“Gee, I think it was a home run,” said Cardinal O’Brien when he was asked about the speech, “the Pope certainly referenced it several times in his wrap up talk yesterday.”

So is the Archbishop of New York now a contender for Pope? “His mother thinks so,” said Cardinal O’Brien, causing an outbreak of laughter from the press. “He certainly is going to be given many responsibilities as a cardinal, and from what he said yesterday, it was certainly very profound, great insights, beyond that? Who knows,” he said.

Cardinal O’Brien believes that a return to the documents of the Second Vatican Council, which began 50 years ago, will play a key part in the New Evangelization.

“A lot of people speak of the ‘Spirit of the Council’ without having read the Council, and I think it is important to get back to it and see what the Council did say because there’s some wonderful thoughts there, very applicable to today, very contemporary.”

As a “parish priest of Rome” Cardinal O’Brien has been entrusted with a titular church in Rome, in his case, St. Sebastian on the city’s Palatine Hill.

“I don’t know too much about it. We tried to get in the other day, but it was locked,” he said, again engendering much laughter, “It must be very old and very historic, so we’ll look into that early next week.”

More immediately, he celebrated Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on Feb. 19 with his fellow cardinals and Pope Benedict. On Feb. 20 he will have an audience with the Pope, along with the many family members who traveled to Rome for this weekend’s celebrations.

“It’s just so exciting to be here and a great honor for the family,” said his cousin Rory Rosencrans who flew in from Kissimmee, Fla. She and many other family members were sporting cardinal red wool hats.

“He’s been a very disciplined man throughout his life, from the days he was a paratrooper jumping out of planes in the war in Vietnam,” she said.

“He is very genial. We’ve attended several family reunions he’s hosted, and he’s a very humble man.”

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Former ambassador dismisses move to change Spain's accord with Vatican

Madrid, Spain, Feb 20, 2012 (CNA) - Spain's former ambassador to the Holy See, Paco Vazquez, dismissed a proposal by Socialist Party leader Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba to revise the country's accords with the Vatican.

Vazquez told the Onda Cero radio network that such an idea has already been shelved and “makes no sense in present-day Spain,” reported Europa Press.

“This is not even an issue up for debate in any of our neighboring countries,” he said.

Vasquez's remarks come as the country's current Socialist Party has advocated for a more stringent and less amicable concordant or agreement with the Holy See that could effect diplomacy between the two entities.

The former ambassador said he was pleased that for the first time in many years, there was, appropriately, no focus on religion in Spain's most recent presidential elections.

He said the issue continues to be raised in the Socialist Party because “in the collective memory there still remains an identification of the religious right with the former political system.”

Vasquez emphasized that the relationship between the Church and the left has a decisive influence on stability in Spain, because when it has not worked it has led to “major disruptions.”

“The Church has the least of all in any kind of control over the State,” he said.

Vazquez noted that the Vatican has diplomatic relations “with 178 countries” and treaties “with 42 states such as those with Spain, which remain in force and have a constitutional character.”

The constitutionality of Spain's accords with the Holy See has “never” been questioned by the country’s Constitutional Court nor by the European Human Rights Court in Strasburg, he added.

“They do not imply any privilege at all” for the Holy See and they could be applied “to any of the religions officially recognized in Spain,” Vazquez said.

He also defended the charter school system in Spain “created by the Socialists and that allows the Church to have schools where the State pays the portion that corresponds to the expense of public education.”

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Pope says new cardinals recall Church’s universal mission

Vatican City, Feb 20, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI told the family and friends of the Church’s newest batch of cardinals that this weekend’s consistory was “an opportunity to reflect upon the universal mission of the Church in the history of man.”

“In human affairs, which are often agitated and confused, the Church is always alive and present, bringing Christ: light and hope for all humankind,” he told over 4,000 family members, friends and pilgrims gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Feb. 20.

“Remaining united to the Church and to the message of salvation she bears, means anchoring ourselves in truth, reinforcing a sense of true values, remaining serene whatever happens,” the Pope said.

In total, the Pope created 22 new cardinals this weekend. Among them were Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, Emeritus Archbishop of Baltimore and now the Grand Master of The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York. It’s estimated his diocese alone brought over 1,000 pilgrims to Rome.

“With great joy I meet you, relatives and friends of the newly created cardinals, just days after the solemn celebration of the consistory in which these your beloved pastors were called to the College of Cardinals,” said the Pope.

He said the occasion gave him the opportunity to extend his “cordial greetings more directly and more intimately” to all, and especially to the new cardinals. He hoped that the family and friends present would “gather with affection” around their cardinals so as to feel “ever closer to their hearts and their apostolic worries.”
 
“May you listen with lively hope to their words as fathers and teachers. Be one with them and each other in faith and charity, to be more fervent and courageous witnesses of Christ.”

Turning to the French-speaking pilgrims who accompanied the 91-year-old religious historian Cardinal Julien Ries from Belgium, the Pope said that “our society, which experiences moments of uncertainty and doubt, has need of Christ’s clarity.”

Pope Benedict hoped that each Christian would “bear witness with faith and courage” and that the imminent period of Lent will “favor a return towards God.”

He finished his remarks by exhorting the pilgrims to “always to remain united to your pastors, and to the new cardinals, in order to be in communion with the Church,” as “unity in the Church is a divine gift which must be defended and developed.”
 
The audience ended with the Pope entrusting the pilgrims and his “dear brother cardinals” to “protection of the Mother of God and of the Apostles Peter and Paul.”

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Presidents Day ad stresses importance of God and religion

New Haven, Conn., Feb 20, 2012 (CNA) -

A new Knights of Columbus commercial uses Presidents Day Weekend to remind Americans that past presidents saw God and religion as foundational to the country.

“The idea that our rights come from God and that religion has a role to play in our nation’s public life is not partisan or sectarian, it is quintessentially American,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said on Feb. 20, Presidents Day.

“This Presidents Day is an excellent opportunity to remind Americans that God is – and has always been – foundational to this country and to our system of ordered liberty.”

Among the presidents the ad cites is Thomas Jefferson, who asked “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are of the gift of God?”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his January 1941 State of the Union, said the United States has placed its faith in freedom “under the guidance of God.” George Washington deemed religion and morality to be “indispensable supports” for the “dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity.”

The ad also cites John F. Kennedy, who in his inaugural address said, “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”

The 60-second spot ran on national cable networks Feb. 18-20. It is running in regional markets from Connecticut to California.

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