Rome, Italy, May 7, 2012 (CNA) - Father Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican's press office, said Pope Benedict XVI wanted to leave “a sign of his presence and his word for the entire continent” during his visit to Mexico last March.
In an interview with CNA, the spokesman called Mexico the ideal place for this gesture, “because it is a central place of devotion, faith and Latin American culture thanks to the presence of Our Lady of Guadalupe, joined to a great tradition of faith.”
“From Mexico, the Pope sent this message to all the peoples of Latin America, especially the Spanish-speaking ones,” he said. “For this reason, this trip was not only to Mexico and Leon but to the entire continent.”
Fr. Lombardi, who had visited Mexico previously for the canonization of St. Juan Diego in July of 2002, said the country “loves the Pope a lot.”
“This nation has welcomed the last two Popes with great affection, with great enthusiasm. It is a nation with very profound spiritual roots that are expressed in a very spontaneous and authentic way.”
Fr. Lombardi noted that the expectations for Pope Benedict XVI's March 23-25 visit Mexico were surpassed because of the affection and love the Mexican people displayed for him.
He said two particularly moving moments were the Mass in Leon celebrated before half a million people and the serenade by a Mariachi band outside the school in Miraflores.
As the Pope greeted the musicians, he donned a Mexican hat and said he now understood “why my predecessor (Blessed John Paul II) said, 'I am a Mexican.'”
Madrid, Spain, May 7, 2012 (CNA) - At the release of a new photographic book on World Youth Day Madrid 2011, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela recalled the global youth event as a “powerful” opportunity for conversion.
Titled, “A True Cascade of Light,” the 302-page book features 224 photographs including Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival to his entrance through the Gate of Alcala, his meeting with religious and professors at El Escorial, the Way of the Cross and the stormy evening at Cuatro Vientos Airfield.
The new book, which was edited by Isidro Catela Marcos and photographer Anahi Rodriguez Villalba, also includes all of the Pope's addresses.
In his prologue, Cardinal Rouco Varela wrote that the event surpassed “our most ambitious expectations” and has had an immediate impact.
He noted that more than 40,000 confessions were heard at Madrid’s Retiro Park during World Youth Day, and that together with the long lines for confession at other stations throughout the city, they were a “sign” of the “very powerful” conversions that took place because of the event.
World Youth Day Madrid was a “lesson in Catholicity” and a call to bring Christ “to all the young people of the world,” regardless of the condition in which they live, he said.
Cardinal Rouco Varela recalled presenting the Pope with the first copy of the new book on Monday of Holy Week and said he gasped as he opened it to see a double-page photo of the massive throng of young people gathered at Cuatro Vientos.
Washington D.C., May 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Georgetown University is drawing strong criticism for inviting U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to speak at a ceremony during its commencement weekend.
“Georgetown insults all Americans by this honor,” said Cardinal Newman Society president Patrick J. Reilly.
In a letter to Georgetown President John DeGioia, Reilly called it “scandalous and outrageous” that America’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university would provide such a “prestigious platform” to a Catholic who supports abortion and has played a key role in launching the controversial contraception mandate that threatens the continued existence of many Catholic institutions.
On May 4, Georgetown announced Sebelius as one of several speakers chosen for this year. She will address Georgetown’s Public Policy Institute at an award ceremony on May 18.
Georgetown holds individual graduation ceremonies for each of its undergraduate and professional schools, as well as several other award ceremonies.
The announcement came one day before Pope Benedict XVI met with a group of U.S. bishops and emphasized the need for Catholic colleges to remain faithful to Church teaching.
In 2004, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a document entitled “Catholics in Political Life,” in which they stated that “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”
Sebelius has come under fire after announcing a federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
Catholic bishops from every diocese in the United States have spoken out against the mandate and the threat that it poses to religious freedom. They have warned that the regulation could force Catholic hospitals, schools and charitable agencies to cease their services.
Sebelius also has a long history of support for abortion, both in her current position and as governor of Kansas, where she opposed restrictions on abortion and vetoed pro-life legislation.
In a May 2008 column in the Kansas City Catholic newspaper The Leaven, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann said that he had met with Sebelius several times about her support for abortion and had asked her to refrain from receiving the Eucharist until she had “made a worthy sacramental confession and taken the necessary steps for amendment of her life.”
In announcing Sebelius as a speaker, Georgetown said that “she has led efforts to improve America’s health and enhance the delivery of human services to some of the nation’s most vulnerable populations.”
It also described the changes that she is implementing under the health care reform law, which “she says have ended many of the insurance industry’s most discriminatory practices and will help 34 million uninsured Americans get health coverage.”
President DeGioia described the chosen commencement speakers as “exceptional individuals who represent the highest levels of excellence.” He said that they will “provide inspiration for our students as they envision more clearly the impact they can make in the world.”
Asked to respond to the concerns voiced by Reilly and others, a Georgetown spokesperson told CNA that the ceremony at which Sebelius is speaking “is one event during commencement weekend, but it is not a commencement ceremony.”
“We do not have one main commencement speaker,” she said.
Organizers of protest groups who demonstrated at Notre Dame when President Barack Obama was invited as commencement speaker in 2009 have already announced that they will be present to protest Sebelius as well.
In addition, the Cardinal Newman Society is encouraging people to sign on to Reilly’s letter in order to petition DeGioia to withdraw the invitation.
The letter says that the choice of Sebelius “is especially insulting to faithful Catholics and their bishops, who are engaged in the fight for religious liberty and against abortion.”
It highlights the contrast “between Georgetown University and those faithful Catholic colleges and universities that have stood for faith and freedom.”
Both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archdiocese of Washington told CNA that they do not have a response to the invitation at this time.
Vatican City, May 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the new class of recruits for the Swiss Guard to draw close to Christ as they embark on their roles as the pontiff's guardians.
“To give love to others it is necessary to draw upon the furnace of divine charity, thanks to prolonged periods of prayer, constant listening to the Word of God, and a whole life centered on the mystery of the Eucharist,” he said May 7.
“The secret of the effectiveness of your work here in the Vatican, as well as in all your projects is, therefore, the constant reference to Christ.”
Pope Benedict addressed the Corp of the Swiss Guard a day after they welcomed 26 new recruits. The newcomers' family and friends were also present for Monday’s papal audience in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace as well as representatives of the Swiss civil authorities.
In his remarks, the Pope told them to take advantage of their time spent in Rome in order “to develop your friendship with Christ, to increase your love for his Church and to advance towards the goal of each true Christian life: sanctity.”
The Pontifical Swiss Guard dates back to 1506, and new members can serve between 2 and 25 years defending the Vatican.
Recruits must be single male Swiss citizens, between the age of 19 and 30, who are practicing Catholics with a “good ethical moral background.” They must also have a professional degree or high school diploma and have attended a military college in Switzerland. The minimum height requirement is 174 centimeters or 5 feet, 7 inches.
“It is heartening to see that young men choose to consecrate a number of years of their lives to helping Peter's Successor and his collaborators,” Pope Benedict told them.
“Your work is part of a tradition of unquestioned fidelity to the Pope, which became heroic sacrifice during the ‘Sack of Rome’ in 1527 when, on 6 May, your predecessors lost their lives,” he recalled.
On that occasion, 147 Swiss Guards were killed defending Pope Clement VII from the mutinous troops of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.
Pope Benedict also identified the characteristics which “distinguish each member of the corps” as “steadfastness in the Catholic faith, loyalty and love towards the Church of Jesus Christ, diligence and perseverance in the small and large daily tasks, courage and humility, selflessness and availability.”
“These virtues,” he said, “must be filled your heart when you give the service of honor and security in the Vatican.”
On May 6, new members took their oath in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of the Vatican’s Deputy Secretary of State, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu. In turn each man clasped the flag of the Swiss Guard, raised a three finger salute in honor of the Holy Trinity and promised to defend Pope Benedict and his successors “sacrificing if necessary also my life.”
Earlier in the day, the guards had attended a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica offered by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Both deacons assisting Cardinal Bertone at the altar were former Swiss Guards.
“I thank God, the source of all goodness, for the various gifts and missions He gives you,” Pope Benedict added, “and I pray that you too, as you begin your service, may respond to the call of Christ, following Him with faithful generosity.”
Vatican City, May 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI told a group of U.S. bishops that educating young Catholics in the faith is “the most urgent internal challenge” facing the Catholic Church in America.
He emphasized that responding to the challenge requires schools to have a strong Catholic identity and for theology professors to teach in unity with the Church.
“(T)he question of Catholic identity, not least at the university level, entails much more than the teaching of religion or the mere presence of a chaplaincy on campus,” Pope Benedict said May 5 in an address to U.S. bishops from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. The bishops were at the Vatican for their ad limina visit.
“All too often, it seems, Catholic schools and colleges have failed to challenge students to reappropriate their faith as part of the exciting intellectual discoveries which mark the experience of higher education.”
Pope Benedict said many new college students find themselves disassociated from their family, school and community support systems that previously helped transmit the Catholic faith to them. This fact should “continually spur Catholic institutions of learning to create new and effective networks of support,” he said.
The Pope said in his English-language address that many U.S. bishops have noted the need for Catholic colleges and universities to “reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to their founding ideals and the Church’s mission in service of the Gospel.”
He specifically called on Catholic universities to comply with canon law and the 1990 apostolic constitution “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” which both require theology teachers to receive a mandate from the “competent ecclesiastical authority.” The mandates, which usually are given by the local bishop, ensure that the teachers are in agreement with the Church’s teachings.
This requirement, the Pope said, shows ecclesial communion and is especially important in light of “the confusion created by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church’s pastoral leadership.”
This “discord” harms the Church’s witness and “can easily be exploited to compromise her authority and her freedom,” Pope Benedict warned the bishops.
His remarks also stressed the positive aspects of Catholic education.
It is inspired by “an intellectual charity” which recognizes that leading others to truth is “ultimately an act of love.” Faith recognizes the “essential unity” of all knowledge and protects against the “alienation and fragmentation” of reason detached from “the pursuit of truth and virtue.”
The Pope praised the “great progress” in improving catechesis and reviewing texts for conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
He also lauded efforts to preserve the “great patrimony” of America’s Catholic elementary and high schools, many of which face problems because of changing demographics and increased costs.