Madrid, Spain, Apr 2, 2012 (CNA) -
Argentinean coach Marcelo Bielsa – whose soccer team from Bilbao is making headlines with a winning record in the Europa League – revealed that he gets “help from on high” through the prayers of a Spanish community of cloistered nuns.
Since last October, the fifteen contemplative nuns at the St. Clare Convent in Guernica have been praying for Coach Bielsa and his team.
Chilean newspaper La Tercera reported that the unusual relationship forged on Oct. 3 of 2011 when Biesla and his wife Laura made a visit to the convent.
“At first we weren’t sure if we should let him in, because we didn’t know who he was, so we made sure first and then we let him in,” said Mother Maria Teresa Gerrikabeitia, the convent superior.
Once inside, Bielsa introduced himself as an Argentinean and as the coach of Bilbao Athletic.
“We were truly surprised and amazed that such an important person as him would be interested in visiting this small group of nuns who live behind the cloister,” Mother Maria Teresa said. “We found him and his wife to be a wonderful couple.”
During the meeting, Bielsa shared his faith with the nuns.
“He told us he had an aunt who was a nun and that she was the reason his faith in prayer grew. He also told us he is very Catholic and he asked us to pray for him and for Athletic.
And he told us to watch the games because he would have a sign out with our names on it to say hello to us. However, we couldn’t watch the games because they are on pay-per-view,” the superior said.
The community accepted his request and at 8pm that Monday, when Athletic faced off against Pamplona, the fifteen nuns prayed for the team.
“Since he seemed to be a very religious man of great faith, we were pleased to grant his request. Even though we are not big soccer fans, we sat down to listen to the game on the radio,” Mother Maria Teresa added.
During a game on Oct. 17, Bielsa had a sign with the words “Poor Clares” hung from the substitute bench on the field, but one of the referees ordered it be taken down. Athletic still ended up winning the match by 3-1.
Vatican City, Apr 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Blessed John Paul II remains alive with God, continuing to offer his prayers for the Church on earth, the head of the Holy See Press Office said on the seventh anniversary of the late Pope's death.
“John Paul II for us is still alive and present,” Father Federico Lombardi told CNA on April 2. “He was proclaimed as blessed by the Church, so we are sure that he is alive and he continues to be present and to intercede for the Church just as he did while he was our pastor on the earth.”
The seventh anniversary of Blessed John Paul II's 2005 death is the first remembrance of the Pope's passing to take place since he was beatified on May 1, 2011.
“He continues to be an intercessor for us, near to God,” said Fr. Lombardi.
Although Blessed John Paul II's feast day falls on Oct. 22 (the date of his installation as Pope), the anniversary of his death remains significant for many faithful around the world.
This year that anniversary came one day after the April 1 diocesan-level celebration of World Youth Day – an event inaugurated by the “Pope of Youth,” who was later named its patron in 2011.
On April 2 Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of 5,000 pilgrims from Spain who came to Rome for its local World Youth Day as a gesture of gratitude to the Pope for his 2011 visit to Spain for the last international-level youth gathering. The pilgrims were accompanied by a group of priests and bishops led by Madrid's Cardinal Archbishop Antonio María Rouco Varela.
Pope Benedict praised the young pilgrims as “the protagonists and main beneficiaries” of World Youth Day, “promoted vigorously by my beloved predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, whose passage to heaven we remember today.”
“Whenever I bring to mind the twenty-sixth World Youth Day in Madrid,” Pope Benedict told the pilgrims, “my heart fills with gratitude to God for the grace to experience those unforgettable days.” He described the young attendees at the gathering as “eloquent signs of the risen Christ.”
He also renewed his call for young people to give a joyful and faithful witness in their everyday lives.
“You are called to cooperate in this exciting and worthwhile task,” he told them. “Christ needs you to extend your hand and build his kingdom of love … You all have a vocation that he has wanted to propose for your happiness and holiness.”
He urged the young Spaniards to follow the example of the saints, “always spreading the light of God and the power of your love, transforming the world into a welcoming home for all, where God is glorified and his children are blessed.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Eight people in the Mexican state of Sonora were detained on March 27 as suspects in the murder of two children and an adult woman during a ritual sacrifice to “Saint Death.”
The spokesman for the Sonora Attorney General, Jose Larrinaga, told reporters that the suspects had confessed to the three murders which included two children, aged six and seven, and a 55 year-old woman.
He also revealed that the suspects were believed to be involved in the disappearance of another seven year-old boy.
The devotion to “Saint Death” has become popular in some parts of Mexico, especially among drug traffickers, criminals, former convicts and kidnappers, who pray for the success of their actions.
The controversial practice is linked to witchcraft and intensifies around the feast of All Souls.
Larringa said authorities were able to locate the remains of the victims from information provided by the suspects.
“They were stabbed to death. They said they offered their blood to Saint Death. They stabbed them in different parts of their bodies,” he said.
The spokesman noted that investigators are currently excavating the area for more possible victims.
Rome, Italy, Apr 2, 2012 (CNA) - Lourdes Varguez Garcia is the granddaughter of one of the many Catholics who defended their faith during rampant religious persecution in Mexico from 1917-1925.
Now a nun living in Rome, she has called on Mexicans to live consistently with the gift of faith that the Cristero martyrs gave to the country.
In an interview with CNA, Sister Lourdes explained that at the time, “not celebrating Christ was unthinkable to many Mexicans.”
At the age of 18, her grandfather, Romualdo Varguez Gamboa, lived through one of the most difficult periods in the history of the Church in Mexico. The government outlawed any type of religious expression or celebration, closed all the churches and persecuted the clergy.
Romualdo was arrested for being Catholic on three occasions. He saw his home destroyed and he was even tortured with electrical shocks. A member of Catholic Action in Mexico, he was detained alongside three of his friends.
“They were tied up and subjected to electrical shocks to force them to reveal where they were having their next meetings or Masses in order to surprise them in the act,” Sister Lourdes said. “They wanted him to reveal names and information, but they wouldn’t say anything.”
She said Romualdo also went to prison for convening religious meetings at private homes. “They were the messengers, and they had to be sure the police did not find out,” she explained.
Romualdo was a catechist, and when the parishes were closed, he continued to teach the faith in secret.
“One day it was at a certain home, the next day at another, because he could not always be in the same place because the police would figure it out,” the nun said.
He also helped priests in hiding and went with them on trips to administer the sacraments. “The police thought they were just a group of young people on an outing but they were really going to teach the catechism and to celebrate Mass and confession.”
She recalled that one day police officers showed up at her grandfather’s house even though no religious ceremonies were going on and “they destroyed everything. There are pictures to prove it, and they hauled some people off to prison.”
Miraculously, a painting of the Sacred Heart that hung on the wall remained intact and the family has it to this day.
“My father said that Sacred Heart had been a faithful witness to this faith and love for the Church,” she noted. “That Heart of Jesus accompanied them and always encouraged them, just as his Love is faithful to all of us.”
Romualdo ultimately survived the persecution and went on to marry Bertha Sansores. They had ten children, and he continued to be a missionary.
“My grandfather and grandmother lived their faith together and they passed it on to their children, who each one freely embraced the love of God and his presence in their lives,” she said.
“For my father, the testimony of his father, his missionary work, the love of his mother for her children…all of that was a force that strengthened him to be committed to the faith,” Sister Lourdes noted.
She said that her faith as a Mexican is the “fruit” of her parents as well as every man, woman, and young person who lived the teachings of the Church without fear during the country's persecution of Catholics.
Vatican City, Apr 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Seven years after his death, Blessed Pope John Paul II is inspiring those organizing the 2013 World Youth Day in Brazil.
“World Youth Day was an initiative by Pope John Paul II, who was born 7 years ago into heaven, and so there is a big responsibility on us to move things forward in Rio de Janeiro,” Archbishop Orani João Tempesta said to CNA on April 2.
World Youth Day was initiated by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1984. He is now co-patron of the international youth gathering, along with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
“At this World Youth Day in Rio we want to bring young people to the city to say that God loves all the young and that they have a lot of work to do in this world to make this world a little better,” said Archbishop Tempesta, who leads the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro.
The 61-year-old Brazilian cleric has been in Rome to participate in the first international preparatory meeting for those organizing the 2013 World Youth Day. The four-day summit concluded April 1 and was followed by an April 2 briefing for the media on the latest developments.
Archbishop Tempesta told CNA that organizers aim to “make the core events in the South Zone of the city,” while the concluding prayer vigil and Mass on Sunday “will be on the West Zone of Rio.” The final decision on the venues still requires final approval from a Vatican organizing team that will visit Brazil later this year.
The Rio archbishop added that official bookings for pilgrim groups will first become available in July 2012.
The six-day festival will take place July 23-28 and is currently estimated to bring 2 million pilgrims to the city. Archbishop Tempesta said that “the aid of 60,000 volunteers” will be required to marshal the event and that 16,000 have already been signed up.
The organizers have made an effort to make information available online and present on social media. The event’s website, www.rio2013.com, is available in five languages and its Facebook and Twitter accounts already have “over 600,000 followers.”
More than 200 entries were submitted for the official logo, with the winning design coming from 25-year-old artist Gustavo Huguenin from Rio de Janeiro. The heart-shaped logo incorporates the national colors of Brazil along with some of the symbols of Rio, including the city’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue.
The official hymn for the celebration will be decided on by this July. So far, 180 proposals for the text of the hymn have been sent in. The next step, the archbishop explained, “will be the competition for the melody for that chosen text.”
Archbishop Tempesta has been accompanied in his visit to Rome by a delegation of civic officials from Rio, including the city’s mayor, Dr. Eduardo Paes.
Although World Youth Day usually occurs every three years, the Rio de Janeiro gathering comes only two years after the previous event in Madrid. This was to avoid a clash with the soccer World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016 which are both being hosted by Rio.
At today’s press briefing, the President for the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, said that the Brazilian city authorities realize that “in a sense” World Youth Day “will be a more important event” that the two sporting competitions that follow it.
“Both the number of participants, and because young people today need first and foremost to be rooted in faith and in the great family of the Church to contribute more and better to the life of society,” he said.
Cardinal Rylko also praised World Youth Day as “a prophetic intuition of Blessed John Paul II,” which has “worked a revolution in the field of youth ministry.”
The preparatory meeting, he said, clearly recognized that “the primary mission of the Church” is “to train new generations of Christians to fully live the Gospel and to transmit it with joy.”
Archbishop Tempesta concluded his briefing by recalling the words of Cardinal Rylko at the end of their four-day meeting, “They say all roads lead to Rome. Now we say: All roads lead to Rio.”
Dublin, Ireland, Apr 2, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Ireland’s national broadcaster RTÉ is likely to face charges of anti-Catholic bias following a soon-to-be-published report into why it falsely accused a priest of raping a minor and fathering a child.
“The report must ascertain what misjudgments were made that caused Fr. Kevin Reynolds to be so badly libeled and who made the key decisions?” Irish social commentator David Quinn of the Dublin-based Iona Institute told CNA April 2.
The independent inquiry was launched after RTÉ’s current affairs series “Prime Time” broadcast an episode titled “Mission to Prey” in May 2011. The program wrongly accused County Galway priest Father Kevin Reynolds of raping and impregnating a minor while working in Kenya as a missionary 30 years ago. It also falsely alleged that Fr. Reynolds secretly provided financial support for the baby over many years.
Prior to broadcast, Fr. Reynolds had volunteered to undergo a DNA test to prove his innocence but RTÉ refused. He was subsequently removed from his home and parish ministry. His innocence was later proven however by two separate and independent DNA tests.
In November of 2011, Fr. Reynolds agreed to accept substantial damages from RTÉ in an out-of-court libel settlement. The broadcaster’s Director-General Noel Curran apologized and admitted it was “one of the gravest editorial mistakes ever made” in the stations 51-year history.
“Why did RTÉ not accept Fr. Reynolds’s offer of a paternity test? Has the presumption of innocence being lost in the case of priests?” Quinn asked.
“Will RTÉ bias only ever be exposed when a black and white scientific test is failed, or will some other criteria be developed to determine when bias is at work in the making of programs about the Catholic Church?”
The country’s official broadcasting watchdog, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, has now sent a copy of their independent investigation to RTÉ along with notification of the financial sanctions it plans to impose.
RTÉ could be fined up to 250,000 euros or $333,000 U.S. dollars. It will be given 14 days to respond to the broadcasting authority’s conclusions. At the end of the process, the authority will officially publish its report along with notification of the financial penalties imposed.