Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On a recent trip to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day 2013 preparations, a top Vatican official said the conversion of young people is essential for evangelizing formerly Christian societies.
Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, head of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, told CNA that he hopes the Rio World Youth Day will be “one more important step” in the Church's mission to bring young people closer to Christ.
He noted that over the last 25 years, World Youth Day has “proved to be an instrument of evangelization of extraordinary power. I'm sure that Rio will give a strong confirmation of this fact.”
Cardinal Rylko made his remarks at a March 2 press conference held in Rio de Janerio to discuss preparations for the global youth event. The cardinal was in Brazil Feb. 27--March 2 to meet with the local organizing committee and Archbishop Orani João Tempesta.
He told a packed room of journalists that “the preparations are very advanced” and that he has been touched by “the enthusiasm and the joy of those engaged in this path towards WYD 2013.”
He also praised the “sense of responsibility and professionalism” with which the preparations are being done, noting that “a good part of these works were entrusted in great measure to the young people themselves.”
Cardinal Rylko reminded the press that World Youth Day is returning to Latin America after 25 years, and that Buenos Aires was the first city to host the event outside of Rome in 1987.
The Polish cardinal said he was particularly impressed during his visit by fact that both civil authorities and Church representatives are working together with the belief that “the investment in the youth is the best possible investment for Brazil’s future, as well as the Church’s and world’s future.”
He also allayed concerns some have over whether or not the country is safe for young people to visit.
During a visit to the Rio de Janeiro Operations Center – an office designed with the latest technology to monitor traffic and security cameras and provide resources to security teams – the cardinal said he was impressed with the measures taken to guarantee the safety of visitors and pilgrims during World Youth Day.
“This makes us expect that in July 2013 the organization of the city of Rio will work perfectly,” Cardinal Rylko said.
“We are going back to Rome with a great certainty: World Youth Day in Rio will be an incredibly important event for the young people from the whole world.”
After answering a few questions from the press, the Vatican representative told CNA that he sees World Youth Day is an extension of the Great Continental Mission taking place in Latin America.
The mission – a set of pastoral initiatives proposed by Pope Benedict after the General Conference of Latin American Bishops in Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007 – is the “context in which World Youth Day Rio is inscribed,” he said.
He briefly touched on the state of young people today in South and North America, adding that it was difficult “in a brief moment to make an accurate analysis of the situation” during his short trip.
“But, from what we saw and heard, one thing is certain: the young people from Latin America have so many resources for the good that the Church in the Latin American continent must learn how to seize them and bring it to those to their full potential,” he emphasized.
On the effect that the global event will have on North American and European young people in particular, he said that every World Youth Day is “a laboratory of faith of global proportions during which this important dialogue – the sharing or exchange of different ways of living the faith today – takes place.”
“Therefore, I think that the young people from North America (and Europe) who come to Rio will find much to learn.”
During the press conference, Archbishop Tempesta noted that members of the Pontifical Council were able to meet with not only with authorities from the archdiocese and the Church in Brazil, but also with the governor, the mayor and other civil authorities from the State of Rio de Janeiro and the Brazilian Federal Government.
He affirmed that the Vatican personnel return to Rome with a positive evaluation of the city structure as it prepares to host millions of pilgrims next year.
Rome, Italy, Mar 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Jewish New Yorker who has made it his life’s work to clear the name of Pope Pius XII is welcoming the first public display of letters from the Vatican Archives that suggest the wartime pontiff helped many Jews escape Nazi persecution.
“This wonderful exposition is merely a tasting of what is in store for the world when the Secret Archives are fully opened,” Gary Krupp of the Pave the Way Foundation told CNA March 3.
The archived letters are featured as part of the “Lux in Arcana” exhibition, which opened last week in Rome. It showcases 100 articles from the Vatican’s Secret Archives to celebrate its 400th anniversary.
To date, documents relating to the 1939-58 papacy of Pope Pius XII have remained unpublished. In recent decades his critics have accused him of indifference to the plight of the Jewish people during the Second World War.
The new exhibition features several documents outlining his efforts to assists Jews in Italy.
They reveal that in 1941 the Pope sent a high-ranking Vatican official to inspect the welfare of Jews being held in seven internment camps in southern Italy. One year later, a rabbi who was being held in one of the camps wrote a long letter to Pope Pius thanking him for sending aid to the prisoners, including clothes for the interned children.
Finally, in 1944, former detainees wrote to express their gratitude to the Pope for his “keen and paternal interest” towards their “physical, spiritual and moral wellbeing” during their detainment.
They also credited him with saving them from deportation to Poland in 1942. “Your Holiness extended your fatherly hand to protect us and prevented the deportation of the Jews imprisoned in Italy, thereby saving us from almost certain death.”
Gary Krupp said these wartime documents merely reflect the “thousands of pages of documents from the war years that have been available for years in individual diocesan archives throughout Europe.”
Those documents, he said, show how “the Pope acted firmly and directly while the Vatican was surrounded by hostile forces, infiltrated by spies, (and) without an army to protect them.”
Krupp himself has seen letters documenting how the Vatican sent money to support Jews in Austria, Romania and France. At present, his foundation’s website has over 46,000 similar documents in support of Pope Pius XII.
“For example, we have posted on line documents proving the Pope’s direct action to stop the arrests of October 16, 1943, thereby saving an estimated 12,000 Jews in Rome,” he said.
Bishop Sergio Pagano, Prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives, told the media last week that all the files relating to Pope Pius XII will likely be made available “within one or two years,” adding that “the final decision, however, depends on the Pope.”
He said that “Benedict XVI’s willingness to accelerate the opening” would also be “a way of silencing dissonant voices” and “can only benefit the Church.”
Cardinal Raffaele Farina, Archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church, said that the documents gave a “little preview of the archives for the period of Pius XII” which are “not yet ready” to be opened to the public in full.
“We’re still classifying these materials,” he explained.
Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 5, 2012 (CNA) - As Pope Benedict's March 23-25 visit to Mexico nears, local journalist Valentina Alazraki praised the Pope's strong leadership and willingness to directly address Church problems.
In remarks to CNA, the prominent reporter noted his “laudable efforts to help the Church overcome the different crises she is facing.”
Alazraki – who covered the conclave that elected Benedict XVI and is currently the Vatican correspondent for the Mexican network Televisa – also emphasized her great respect for the Pope.
“He is an extremely intelligent man who writes in a truly extraordinary way, and he expresses himself in a very intelligent way in his homilies and speeches,” she said. “He is a great teacher and has great patience, sobriety and intellectual and human poise.”
Alazraki recalled accompanying Pope John Paul II on 100 apostolic trips and traveling with Benedict XVI on twenty of his, saying the press receives “first-class treatment” aboard the papal plane.
She noted that while the Pope’s menu “is a little bit different because of his health, our menu is almost the same as that of the papal entourage.”
The Pope has a special section on the papal jet where he can rest, she added, and from there he emerges to meet with journalists during the flight.
“He almost always answers reporters’ questions in Italian, so that the majority can understand him, regardless of the language in which the question was posed,” she said.
Alazraki noted that Blessed John Paul II was the first pontiff to hold a press conference onboard a plane. “In the history of the Popes, there had never been a press conference. John Paul II walked the entire cabin and answered each reporter’s questions, in their own language as well.”
She said Pope Benedict's visit to Mexico will be instrumental in helping Mexicans overcome pessimism, despair and fear over the intense violence that is affecting the country.
“I pray that this visit will bring hope to the people, not only of our country but of the entire world. I am convinced that through this visit to Mexico, Mexicans will be able to become close to Benedict XVI and to understand and love him,” she said.
Indianapolis, Ind., Mar 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Indiana Catholics are committed to helping victims recover from the March 2 outburst of tornadoes that killed at least 13 people in the southern part of the state.
Jane Crady, the disaster response coordinator for Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, has visited several of the worst-hit areas. She said the devastation is comparable to that witnessed in the first day of Hurricane Katrina.
National Weather Service coordinator Bill Whitlock reported “extreme damage” in the area of Henryville, a town of about 3,000 people, while the local sheriff’s office described the town of Marysville, population 1,900, as “completely gone” in an interview with WTHR.
Aside from the damage to Henryville there are eight or ten towns that were hit just as badly, Crady said in a March 5 interview with CNA.
“We are responding in all areas,” she said, emphasizing that Catholic Charities’ is committed to the recovery “for the long haul.”
“Though we do respond immediately, we are focused on short-term and long-term aid until the last family is back in their house.”
Henryville’s St. Francis Xavier Church and its community center were among the few buildings left standing in the area, making it the logical command station for response personnel.
Greg Otolski, the archdiocese’s director of communications, said that the church building suffered roof damage but no structural damage. It held Mass on Sunday, despite the disaster.
The parish was holding its Lenten fish fry when the storms hit, and ended up using the food to feed disaster response personnel, Otolski said.
He noted that many people lost their workplaces and businesses as well as their homes. He asked that others pray for these victims.
“It’s going to take quite a while for people to get back on their feet,” he said.
Many parishes in the Henryville area are already working together to do cleanup, to take in newly homeless families, and to provide necessities for victims.
“They’re already taking care of their own neighbors,” Otolski said, noting that support from those outside the disaster zone has been “pretty overwhelming”
Crady said it’s too early for volunteers to sign up for Catholic Charities’ relief work. She estimated volunteers will be needed in at least three to four weeks when rebuilding efforts begin.
Churches in the archdiocese have held collections at Mass for the victims. Donations to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis will target those without insurance or money.
The local Catholic Charities website is www.catholiccharitiesindpls.org.
Denver, Colo., Mar 5, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Over 4,000 people flocked to the Archdiocese of Denver for its annual “Living the Catholic Faith Conference” held this year from March 2-3.
The two-day conference – which began as a forum for Catholic educators and has only recently opened to the public – featured Justice Antonin Scalia and noted scientist Br. Guy Consolmango as keynote speakers.
James Cavanaugh, director of Evangelization and Catechisis for the archdiocese, told CNA that organizers added a Spanish Track and “invited speakers that would appeal to a broader audience” in order to reach as many Catholics in the area as possible.
This year was the most attended in the history of the conference, with about 1,500 participants for the Spanish Track and over 1,000 for the Teen Track, which was introduced for the first time in 2012.
During his address, Justice Scalia addressed a large crowd about how Christians are perceived as “cretins” or people of insufficient mental capabilities by “sophisticated society.”
St. Thomas More was a “prime example” of “the Christian as cretin” during his life in the 16th century, Scalia said. Although many martyrs before him died for “noble” causes such as refusing to deny Jesus or for spreading the Gospel, More – according to his peers – died for a papacy that was “corrupt and politicized.”
“But of course,” Scalia reminded the crowd, “More was not seeing with the eyes of men, but with the eyes of faith.”
“He went to his death,” Scalia said, for refusing to reject Christ's teaching that “only the Pope could bind and loose.”
Scalia reminded conference attendees that the mentality is not new to the modern era and cited the story of St. Paul trying to evangelize the Athenians in Acts of the Apostles, but having no success due to their refusal to believe that Christ rose from the dead.
“The 'wise' men of Athens circa AD 50 know just as well as the men of America AD 2012 that people don't rise from the dead,” Scalia said.
Planetary scientist and curator of meteorites for the Vatican Observatory, Br. Guy Consolmango, S.J., spoke about the unity between faith and reason in his talk, “The Word Became Flesh.”
He explained that God is not simply a part of logic, but the source of logic, which refutes the Deistic notion of God as something that was “necessary every now and then to cover the bits of the universe” that science cannot explain.
Although Greek philosophers studied logic and reason, “only the Gospel tells us that Reason itself became flesh,” Br. Consolmongo explained.
When Christ was born, the universe became at that moment “the baby in the manger” which is both “bizarre” and “exciting to think about.”
He said that the Nativity helps “even the most hardened rationalist” understand how God and creation “come together” in the form of the Christ.
Participant Dennis Sponable of Denver told CNA that he believed the content of all the talks during the conference “tied in together really well.”
Although intellectuals tend to see religion as irrational, as Justice Scalia mentioned in his talk, Sponable said he appreciated hearing about how a scientist like Br. Consolmango “sees the beauty of God” in the study of the universe.
Christie Valdez of Ft. Collins, Colo., who has attended the conference since before it was available to the general public, said that she thinks “every year is just as good as the next.”
The conference also featured talks from youth minister Chris Stefanick, Fernando Casanova, Abram Leon and John Allen Jr., as well as workshops which offered practical tips from Catholic leaders such as Dr. Mary Healy, Msgr. Bernie Schmitz, Ben Ackers, S.T.L., Fr. John Riley, Fr. Armando Marsal, Thomas Smith and Mark Shea.
This year the conference included a Teen Track in order to help people recognize that young people are “not just the Church of tomorrow” but “a very powerful part of the Church of today,” Chris Stefanick, director of youth and young adult ministry for the archdiocese, told CNA.
“This is a celebration of purity and faith which are really both one yes to God,” he said, “a lot of times kids might feel like they're alone in their faith or in their desire to live a pure life.”
Stefanick said that they had 800 seats for the event, but it was so crowded that a Fire Marshall had to come by to clear to doorways. He said such a large crowd really helped to show teens that “they're obviously not” alone in their commitment to God.
The Teen Track featured Mass, confession, praise and worship and talks from noted Catholic speakers.
Jason and Crystalina Evertt of Catholic Answers gave their testimonies about conversion and chastity and Catholic Answers LIVE radio host, Patrick Coffin, spoke about cooperating with God's plan.
Teen Laura Rosling of Roggin, Colo., who attended the conference with her mother and sister as part of her preparation for Confirmation, said she could relate to Coffin's story about a father who searched for his son after a natural disaster as an example of how God is always faithful.
High schooler Tom Brown of Greely, Colo. said that he “learned a lot” from the Teen Track and that he was still processing it all.