Rome, Italy, Feb 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Raymond L. Burke thinks that Blessed John Paul II's life and teachings are a model for how Christians should view suffering.
“Blessed John Paul II is extraordinary,” Cardinal Burke said Feb. 25. “His own life is a testimony to suffering embraced in order to love more.”
“But in addition to that he was also the great teacher, especially in this document ‘Salvifici Doloris,’ which he wrote after the attempt on his life.”
Cardinal Burke spoke to CNA after giving the keynote address at “The Boundaries of the Human” conference in Rome. The Feb. 25-26 gathering was organized by the groups The Life Guardian Foundation, Family of the Americas, and the Italian pro-family group Associazione Famiglia Domani.
In his speech, Cardinal Burke challenged “a mechanical approach” that views the sick person merely “as an object burdened with great suffering,” leading to “the conclusion ... that their life no longer has meaning.”
Instead, he said, “the mystery of suffering” should be seen as “something to be lived and to be accepted as an invitation to love God and our neighbor more completely.” It is also an opportunity for others to “demonstrate the same kind of love” in how they care for those who are suffering.
This way of seeing suffering was lived out by Bl. John Paul II, he said.
“Here is a person who from his very early years of life experience one great suffering after another,” recalled Cardinal Burke.
Born in 1920 in the Polish town of Wadowice, Bl. John Paul II lost his mother, brother and father in the early years of his life. He then suffered the hardship of Nazi occupation, which was followed by Communist persecution.
“And what do we see but a man who grows ever greater in love, embracing the priestly vocation and becoming a heroic priest and bishop and eventually Pope.”
Cardinal Burke described the final days of Bl. John Paul II’s life in 2005 as “perhaps one of the most powerful lessons he gave to us” on how to suffer. The way the Pope died, he added, was “extraordinarily beautiful and inspiring.”
Cardinal Burke recalled how Bl. John Paul II rejected the medical description “vegetative” because the person suffering “does not become a vegetable or an animal – he remains a human being.”
“Even if he is not able to respond in any way perceptible to us, our relationship with that person grows and develops and can even become heroic in its virtue,” the cardinal said.
Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Colombian bishop who will turn 93 on March 9 told young people worldwide that they are the future and “the greatest treasure of the earth.”
Bishop Emeritus Gregorio Garavito of Villavicencio will celebrate his golden jubilee as a bishop and 70 years as priest in 2012.
“My family was very poor but very religious,” he said, recalling the upbringing that lead to his vocation. “We prayed the rosary, we read the catechism, and slowly the decision to be a priest filled me with peace.”
In an interview on Feb. 22 with the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, he said he feels “an immense peace and spiritual joy over the excitement of knowing that God has chosen him as a messenger.”
The bishop said he was 17 at the time he heard the call to become a priest and said he “has never forgotten that day.”
Bishop Garavito remembered traveling to remote areas to evangelize, noting how creative he had to be in bringing the Gospel to risky places.
“I have always trusted in God. When you entrust your life to Him, you fear nothing,” he underscored. “I think that all these non-conformist movements in the world spring up because young people are hungry for Christ.”
Bishop Garavito lamented changes in Colombia’s constitution in 1992 that no longer required religion to be taught in public schools. This caused harm to the family and led to the high rate of divorce in country today, he said.
He also warned seminarians they are living in “an eroticized world where temptations abound. Pray with your hearts to be free of temptation and for your faith to increase, that you may serve God with pride.”
Only pure love will save the human person, he said. “Do not be afraid of God, He awaits us, He loves us, and we seem to flee from Him. A times it seems like we are embarrassed of our relationship with Him. Continue on the journey, Jesus goes ahead of you, as the friend who will never let you down.”
Lahore, Pakistan, Feb 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A new book on Asia Bibi's imprisonment and death sentence in Pakistan includes an unpublished letter she wrote to her husband and children urging them to have faith in God.
“My children, don’t lose courage or faith in Jesus Christ,” Bibi says in her book, “Get Me Out of Here,” released the week of Feb. 20.
Spanish publisher LibroLibres issued the new memoir, which was written by Bibi in her prison cell with the help of French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet.
Bibi’s case gained worldwide attention in 2010 when she was condemned to death for violating Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which state that anyone who offends Islam will be hanged. Critics say the country's blasphemy laws are often unjust and have become a tool for abusing religious minorities as well as vengeance between Muslims.
Bibi is still awaiting a ruling on the appeal of her death sentence and has been moved to an isolated cell without any windows, sink or toilet because of Muslim threats against her life.
In her letter to her family, Bibi movingly addresses her husband Ashiq and their five children while she awaited the granting of the appeal of her death sentence.
“Even since I have returned to by cell and have known that I am going to die, all my thoughts have turned to you, my beloved Ashiq, and to you, my beloved children. Nothing pains me more than to leave you alone in total anguish,” she said.
However, despite her fear, Bibi encouraged her family to keep alive their desire to be happy even though life is not always easy.
“We are Christians and poor, but our family is a light...I still don’t know when they will hang me, but be at peace, my loves, I shall go with my head held high, without fear, because I will be in the company of Our Lord and the Virgin Mary, who will welcome me into their arms,” she said.
Below is the full text of her letter:
My beloved Ashiq, my beloved children:
Since I have returned to my cell and have known that I am going to die, all my thoughts have turned to you, my beloved Ashiq, and you, my adoring children. Nothing pains me more than to leave you alone in total anguish.
Imran, my oldest son of 18 years, I hope you find a good wife who you will make as happy as your father has made me.
Nasima, my firstborn daughter of 22 years, you already have a husband whose family has embraced you so much. Give your father little grandchildren who you will raise in Christian charity like we have raised you.
My sweet Isha, you are 15, yet still a little rowdy. Your father and I have always considered you to be a gift from God. You are so kind and generous…Don’t try to understand why your mother is no longer at your side, but you are so present in my heart. You have a small place there reserved only for you...
Sidra, you are only 13, and I know that since I have been in prison you have taken charge of the home, you are the one caring for your older sister Isha, who needs so much help. I am so sorry I have thrust you into adult life, when you are such a young girl and should still be playing with your dolls.
My little Isham, you are only 9 and you are going to lose your mother. My God, how unfair life can be! But since you will continue going to school, you will be well prepared to defend yourself against the injustice of men.
My children, do you lose courage or faith in Jesus Christ. Better days shall smile upon you and up there, when I am in the arms of the Lord, I will continue to watch over you. But please, I ask the five of you to be prudent, I ask you not to do anything that would offend Muslims or the laws of this country.
My daughters, I hope you are fortunate enough to find a husband like your father.
Ashiq, I have loved you since the first day, and the 22 years we have spent together prove it. I have never stopped thanking heaven for finding you, for being fortunate to have a marriage that was based on love and not arranged, as usually happens in our province. We both had personalities that perfectly matched…Slanderous individuals have crossed our path. Behold, there you are alone with the fruit of our love: keep guard over the courage and pride of our family.
My children…the greatest desire of your father and I has been to be happy and to make you happy, even though life is not easy every day. We are Christians and poor, but our family is a light. I would have liked so much to see you grow up, to continue raising you and to make you into honest persons...And you will be! …I still don’t know when they will hang me, but be at peace, my loves, I shall go with my head held high, without fear, because I will be in the company of Our Lord and the Virgin Mary, who will welcome me into their arms.
My good husband, continue raising our children like I would have liked to have done with you. Ashiq, my beloved children, I shall leave you forever, but I will love you for all eternity.
Vatican City, Feb 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI’s call for more research into ethical treatments for infertility as an alternative to in vitro fertilization is being applauded by a leading Catholic bioethicist.
“The Pope is quite right when he says that IVF is a profit making business – they make a lot of money and their success rates are not great,” Dr. Edward Furton of the National Catholic Bioethics Center told CNA on Feb. 27.
“The profit motive here is not good. There are lesser known, more ethical, more effective methods which are being ignored because these labs are making money telling couples that IVF is the best or only option.”
Pope Benedict made his remarks on Feb. 25 at a workshop hosted by the Pontifical Academy for Life to discuss ethically treating infertility. He said he is concerned that the field of human procreation seems to be dominated “by scientism and the logic of profit,” which often “restricts many other areas of research.”
The academy was holding its 18th General Assembly in Rome on the theme of “The diagnosis and treatment of infertility.” The body consists of 70 specialists appointed by the Pope and drawn from different branches of the biomedical sciences.
“The Church is attentive to the suffering of infertile couples,” the Pope told academy members, “and her concern for them is what leads her to encourage medical research.”
“Research into diagnosis and therapy is the most scientifically correct approach to the question of infertility, as well as being the most respectful of the human condition of the people involved,” Pope Benedict said.
He also underscored the Catholic position that IVF is an unethical means of treating infertility, and that “that community of love and life which is marriage, represents the only worthy ‘place’ for a new human being to be called into existence.”
The Pope’s IVF comments drew criticism from some sections of the global media in the following days. “Pope Benedict XVI faces backlash over rant against IVF treatment,” read a typical headline in the Australian Herald Sun newspaper.
“I think part of difficulty is that most people do not think about governing principles but they look simply at results. So IVF produced a beautiful baby and so it must be good, they think,” Furton said.
“But over time people will begin to see clearly, even those who pay no attention to principles, the damaging effects of IVF,” he asserted, pointing to the use of IVF to produce children of a certain sex or genetic disposition.
“We are playing with very strong natural forces which we think we can control but cannot,” explained Furton. “For example, we should not be deciding how many boys and how many girls there are in world.”
Furton also believes that many sections of the media fall prey to the erroneous assumption that “technology can solve moral problems.” But “human problems” will always rely upon “making sound moral choices,” he noted.
“Otherwise, you end up with the kind of solutions that only produce further problems,” such as introducing the human hand “between reproduction and new human life,” which introduces “moral chaos and extra difficulties.”
The Catholic Church also objects to the destruction of human embryos during the process of IVF treatment. The Pope also called for treatments that are the “expression of the concrete possibility of fruitful dialogue between ethics and biomedical research.”
Furton said “a lot of good work is being done” across the globe in developing treatments that are both ethical and more effective than IVF. He particularly praised the work of Milwaukee’s Marquette University and Dr. Thomas Hilgers of the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Neb.
On Saturday, Pope Benedict also wished to console infertile couples who cannot be helped by science. He reassured them that “their matrimonial vocation is not thereby frustrated.”
“The vocation to love, in fact, is a vocation of self-giving and this is something which no bodily condition can impede,” he said. “Therefore, when science cannot provide an answer, the light-giving response comes from Christ.”
Washington D.C., Feb 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan joined more than 500 university presidents, academics and religious leaders in a letter denouncing President Obama's contraception mandate “accommodation.”
The letter, released Feb. 14 with the title “Unacceptable,” characterizes the administration's proposed accommodation as a “cheap accounting trick” that insults the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims and other believers.
Cardinal Dolan, who serves as Archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. bishops' conference, joined other signers from numerous religious and political perspectives.
The Becket Fund, which released the letter and is fighting the mandate in court, said the letter is “an unprecedented coming together of people to defend religious liberty and the rights of conscience against a deeply misguided and unjust governmental action.”
The Obama administration announced on Feb. 10 that insurance companies, rather than religious employers, must provide coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs.
While the action was billed as a compromise, the letter says that the new rule “still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.”
“It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not ‘paying’ for this aspect of the insurance coverage,” the statement reads. “For one thing, it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers.”
The letter’s original drafters included Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon, Princeton professor Robert P. George, Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Notre Dame professor O. Carter Snead, and The Catholic University of America president John Garvey.
Along with Cardinal Dolan, signers include U.S. bishops’ conference vice-president Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Dr. Paige Patterson, Rabbi David Novak of the University of Toronto, Muslim scholar Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, and former Anglican Primate of Nigeria Archbishop Peter Akinola.
The number of signatories to the letter has increased since Feb. 13, when around 200 had signed it.