Havana, Cuba, Apr 30, 2012 (CNA) - During a recent visit to the United States, Cardinal Jaime L. Ortega of Havana said he is willing to endure criticism and attacks for the sake of achieving reconciliation in Cuba.
Cardinal Ortega spoke at an event in Boston on April 28 titled, “The Role of the Catholic Church in Cuba,” organized by Harvard University and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.
The Archbishop of Havana, a target of criticism from Cubans in exile who want him to take a harder line with the Raul Castro government, spoke on the need for reconciliation in Cuba among those with different political and philosophical positions.
“I am not going to attack those who think differently, I only want to say that they play a great role, with some taking great personal risk at being harshly convicted,” he said.
“We are aware of this, and the Church in Cuba and I are attacked in every way possible, but I think that it would be good for there to be a process of reconciliation among Cubans.”
Cardinal Ortega pointed to the exemplary life of recently-deceased Bishop Agustin Roman, the first Cuban appointed a bishop for the United States and founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in Miami.
The cardinal said when he first came to Miami in 1995, “Our dear friend, Bishop Roman, who is no longer with us now and who I loved so much as well, took me aside and said, 'In your speeches, your homilies, you talk about reconciliation. Don’t mention that word in Miami.'”
“It was hard for me not to, but he knew the situation there better than me. But it is terrible that a bishop, that we, cannot say that word which is ours and belongs to Christianity.”
“But what shall we do? Not say it forever? Wait for better days to come? Or bring about better times so that it is understood that we have to be a reconciled nation?” he asked.
“Perhaps this takes time and is a sort of martyrdom all Christians, including myself as pastor, must undergo. That is what it means to give your life for the sheep.”
“We must endure these sufferings, because there is no resurrection without the cross, and I have accepted that I must endure this, and that we must endure this in order to bring about that reconciliation among Cubans,” the cardinal said.
The complete event, as well as Cardinal Ortega’s speech, can be seen at:
Vatican City, Apr 30, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI says that forgiveness is the key to creating harmony between peoples and nations.
“Forgiveness is not a denial of wrong-doing, but a participation in the healing and transforming love of God which reconciles and restores,” Pope Benedict said April 30.
“Historic wrongs and injustices can only be overcome if men and women are inspired by a message of healing and hope, a message that offers a way forward, out of the impasse that so often locks people and nations into a vicious circle of violence.”
The Pope made his comments in a message to Professor Mary Ann Glendon, the President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which was made public on April 30. The academy is holding its April 27 – May 1 full assembly in Rome to explore the legacy and lessons of Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical “Pacem in Terris” (Peace on Earth).
“While the global political landscape has changed significantly in the intervening half-century,” Pope Benedict noted, “the vision offered by Pope John still has much to teach us as we struggle to face the new challenges for peace and justice in the post-Cold-War era.”
At the time of its publication, Pope John XXIII described his encyclical as an “open letter to the world” in which he made the case for the “tranquility of order” as the foundation for global peace.
“The world will never be the dwelling-place of peace,” he wrote, “till peace has found a home in the heart of each and every human person, till all preserve within themselves the order ordained by God to be preserved.”
The popular Italian pontiff, who is often referred to as “Good Pope John,” was gravely ill at the time he wrote his encyclical, causing it to be sometimes described as his “last will and testament.” He died two months later.
Pope Benedict XVI described “Pacem in Terris” in his recent message to the academy as “a heartfelt appeal from a great pastor, nearing the end of his life, for the cause of peace and justice to be vigorously promoted at every level of society, nationally and internationally.”
He explained that at the heart of all the Church’s social doctrine is an “anthropology which recognizes in the human creature the image of the Creator, endowed with intelligence and freedom, capable of knowing and loving.”
Peace and justice, he said, are the “fruits” of this right order that is “written on the human heart” and therefore “accessible to all people of good will,” regardless of their religion.
Pope Benedict asserted that because humanity is made in the image of God, therefore, its affairs should reflect the God of justice who is “rich in mercy.”
“It is the combination of justice and forgiveness, of justice and grace, which lies at the heart of the divine response to human wrong-doing,” he said, quoting his own 2007 encyclical “Spe Salvi.”
A similar sentiment, he noted, was issued by Pope John Paul II in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, when he insisted that there can be “no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness.”
Pope Benedict took heart from the fact that since 1963 “some of the conflicts that seemed insoluble at the time have passed into history.” He finished his message by commending the work of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences to “Our Lady, Queen of Peace.”
Madrid, Spain, Apr 30, 2012 (CNA) - At the conclusion of their annual meeting on April 27, the bishops of Spain issued a statement lauding Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming official proclamation of St. John of Avila as a Doctor of the Church.
The “originality” of St. John of Avila is found in his “consistent and ever-current theological knowledge, in the soundness of his teaching and in his vast knowledge of the Fathers, saints and great theologians,” the bishops said.
St. John of Avila will be the fourth Spaniard to be made a doctor, after St. Isidore of Seville, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avilia, and the thirty-fourth person ever to be given the honor. Pope Benedict is expected to officially name him Doctor of the Church in Rome this year although a date for the ceremony has not yet been scheduled.
In their statement, the Spanish bishops noted that St. John of Avila ranks among the Church’s doctors because of his study and contemplation of the mysteries of the faith “with unique clairvoyance” and for his ability to explain them and help the faithful live their lives in accord with Church teaching.
John of Avila was born in 1499 or 1500 in the town of Almodovar del Campo, where he grew up and learned his faith. He studied law at the University of Salamanca and Liberal Arts and Theology at the University of Alcala. He was ordained a priest in 1526.
In 1946 he was declared patron saint of the secular clergy in Spain by Pope Pius XII, and in 1970 he was canonized by Pope Paul VI.
He was known for his work promoting vocations at every level in the Church, whether to the priesthood or religious life, or to building of the vocation of the laity.
The saint was also considered a man who was “generous and in love with God and lived detached from material possessions,” they added.
The bishops recalled that after he was ordained a priest in 1526, he celebrated his first Mass in his home town and celebrated the occasion “by inviting the poor to his table and distributing his abundant inheritance to them.”
It was said of him at the time that “if the Church were to lose the Bible, he could restore it on his own because he knew it by heart.”
He was also known for his important writings, including a treatise on the spiritual life entitled, “Audi, Filia,” which he began writing while being held in prison by the Inquisition in Seville. He was eventually absolved of the false accusations against him.
Beijing, China, Apr 30, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The escape of Chen Guangcheng, a human rights advocate who opposed China’s brutal one-child policy, is resulting in calls for the U.S. to protest human rights abuses within the communist country.
“This is a test of Premier Wen’s commitment to fundamental human rights, the rule of law, and common decency,” said Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who chairs a U.S. House subcommittee on human rights.
“It is also a test of America’s resolve to safeguard human rights whenever and wherever those rights are violated.”
Chen Guangcheng, who was blinded by a childhood illness, is a human rights lawyer who has spoken out strongly against China’s one-child policy, which is often implemented through forced abortion and sterilization.
After spending more than four years in prison, Chen was placed under house arrest in Sept. 2010 without formal charges.
News reports indicate that he has escaped house arrest and is currently under U.S. protection in Beijing, although both President Barack Obama and the U.S. State Department have declined to comment on the situation.
Chen Guangchen’s flight from his home in the village of Dongshigu began with him feigning severe illness and an inability to move about two months ago, the Associated Press reports. He fled his home on the night of April 22 and managed to walk several hours, before activist He Peirong gave the exhausted and battered escapee a ride in her car.
News of the escape broke just days before U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and other diplomatic officials were scheduled to travel to China for meetings on May 3 and 4.
Clinton drew criticism in 2009 when she said that human rights concerns should not “interfere” with U.S.-China cooperation on economic, environmental and security issues.
But Rep. Smith said that the numerous U.S. leaders traveling to the country might be a “gift.” He emphasized the need to “push for human rights like never before.”
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney also called on U.S. officials to “take every measure to ensure that Chen and his family members are protected from further persecution.”
“This event points to the broader issue of human rights in China,” said Romney in an April 29 statement.
He explained that U.S. policy towards China “must confront the facts of the Chinese government’s denial of political liberties, its one-child policy, and other violations of human rights.”
Although he is “extremely pleased” by news of the escape, Smith said that he remains “extremely concerned” about the safety of Chen’s family members and friends.
Reports suggest that several of his relatives and friends have been arrested or subjected to harsh treatment since his escape.
The Texas-based human rights group ChinaAid has posted an online video of Chen confirming his escape and discussing his “brutal treatment” by the authorities, which he described as “even harsher” than the stories that have been circulating about him.
Chen said that over the past years, he has been beaten, robbed and refused medical attention. He and his wife and elderly mother have all been violently assaulted on multiple occasions, he said.
In the video, Chen asked Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to investigate and punish those responsible for the corruption involved in his abuse and home arrest. He also asked that the safety of his family be guaranteed.
Smith said these demands are “reasonable” and should be reiterated by the United States.
He also asked Secretary of State Clinton to engage in ongoing discussions with the Chinese government on the broader issue of human rights.
“The cruelty and extreme violence against Chen and his family brings dishonor to the government of China and must end,” Smith said.