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Archive of June 11, 2012

Pope stresses importance of fidelity for Vatican employees

Vatican City, Jun 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI told the Vatican’s diplomatic school that “faithfulness” is a key virtue for anybody working in the service of the Holy See.

“Certainly, this is something which ought to apply to every Catholic, and even more to every priest. Yet for those who work in the Holy See, it is of particular importance, since they spend much of their energy, their time and their daily ministry in the service of the Successor of Peter,” he told the students and staff of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy on June 11.

The Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy is the training school for the Vatican’s diplomatic service. In recent months the internal bureaucracy of the Holy See has been rocked by the ongoing disclosure of confidential papal documents to the media. Many of the leaks seemed aimed at the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who is directly in charge of the diplomatic service.

In his speech to the future diplomats at the Apostolic Palace, the Pope repeatedly stressed the need for faithfulness among those employed by the Vatican.

“God’s faithfulness is the key to, and the source of, our own faithfulness,” he said, telling the students that he “would like today to remind you of precisely this virtue, which well expresses the unique bond existing between the Pope and his direct collaborators, both in the Roman Curia and in the Papal Representations.”

Pope Benedict specifically mentioned “with gratitude” the assistance he receives “every day” from his “many collaborators” in the Curia.

Faithfulness, he said, is “grounded in the priestly character,” and its necessity can be amplified by the particular missions entrusted to those who serve the Successor of Peter.

The Holy See has formal diplomatic relations with the 177 states that have United Nations membership. It also maintains 110 permanent missions to foreign countries, along with delegations to international organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union and the Arab League.

As well as loyalty to God and the Church, the Pope told the future diplomats that they should “cultivate a relationship of profound esteem and benevolence” towards the “Churches and the communities to which you will be sent.”

That faithfulness should also be “concretely manifested” each day by their “diligence and devotion to your work” and by their attentiveness to the “joy, sadness and even tragedy” of the to which they are sent. He urged them not to miss “all that God’s grace has accomplished in every people and nation.”

Updated at 3:12 p.m. MDT. Corrects number of governments with diplomatic relations with the Holy See to 177 and the number of countries to 110.

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Mexico City archdiocese decries profanation of Corpus Christi procession

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Archdiocese of Mexico City has denounced a group of “professional activists” linked to the Democratic Revolution Party for profaning a June 7 Corpus Christi procession in Zocalo plaza.

The activists “profaned an act of worship by shouting insults as the Blessed Sacrament passed by,” the archdiocese said in a statement released through its news service.

The Mexico City archdiocese said it was saddened by “this aggression against the faith of the Catholic people.”

These types of incidents show that “the freedom of expression of Catholics is not guaranteed in the self-described ‘City of Freedoms,’” the archdiocese said.

The city regularly provides up to 500 police officers for other public events, the archdiocese noted, but in this case they failed to stop the same activists who gather every Sunday near the cathedral to shout insults against the Pope, the Church and Catholics.

“We pray to God for forgiveness for those who, without the slightest sign of tolerance, offend Him and the faith of Catholics,” the archdiocese stated.

Sources from the archdiocese told CNA the group linked to the Democratic Revolution Party was comprised of 25 people who also took part in the violent 2007 profanation of the Cathedral of Mexico City, which had to be closed until new security measures were put in place.

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HHS mandate defender sees Catholic institutions as distractions

Washington D.C., Jun 11, 2012 (CNA) - Washington Post columnist Anthony Stevens-Arroyo is a Catholic who does not believe the Obama Administration is attacking religious liberty by mandating Catholic institutions to pay for birth control in their employee health plans.

But he also doesn’t think the Church should even be in the business of operating universities, hospitals and other agencies that serve the public welfare.

“I believe it is a distraction and an imperfection in the Catholic Church for us to be running institutions like hospitals where the Church is receiving money, and has public obligations,” he said.

“I think that the Church running corporations, taking tax money, engaging in anti-union practices ... I think all of that complicates the role of the Church as a beacon of truth. I would like the Church to return to its primitive state when the Church was not a part of any establishment.”

Stevens-Arroyo told CNA June 5 he would like to see Catholic universities “be restricted in terms of what is Catholic to the department of theology.”

“I don’t think you can bring Catholic thinking or Catholic thought into football teams or into the dorms of a frat house,” he said.

In his view,  trying to do so creates “an intolerable tension” on Church responsibilities and leads to “huge compromises” in behavior, like monitoring the actions of students and faculty.

He believes his approach favors what he sees as the Church’s return to “the purity of the Gospel.”

Stevens-Arroyo is a religion scholar and a professor emeritus of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College. He also writes at the Washington Post’s “On Faith” section and at its “Catholic America” blog.

His comments come after 43 Catholic dioceses and institutions, including the University of Notre Dame, filed suit against the Obama administration challenging a mandate requiring that most employers provide coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some potentially abortion-causing drugs.

Stevens-Arroyo rejected the claim that the mandate is an “attack” on religious liberty. He contended that the mandate controversy is “a conflict between the religious rights of the employer and the religious rights of the employee.”

A Catholic university, he said, should not require faculty and students to abide by “moral rigidity” or it will face “the contradiction between running a corporation and preaching the gospel.”

He argued that there is a difference between “direct and indirect cooperation” in an immoral action.

The Church, in his view, would only be paying for insurance that covers contraceptives. The moral burden would be on the employee to choose whether to use it or not.

The U.S. bishops have rejected this distinction. In a March 7 memo, the U.S. bishops’ attorney, Anthony Picarello, argued that the Administration’s regulations still force an employer to fund and facilitate objectionable coverage of morally objectionable medications and procedures.

Under the regulations, any health care plan is a cause of employees’ access to “the ‘free’ coverage of objectionable items,” Picarello explained.

While Catholic institutions say they are being coerced, Stevens-Arroyo says they are the ones trying to coerce their employees to go along with the Church’s moral teaching.

Stevens-Arroyo believes that the HHS mandate is “still in negotiation” and predicted that its final form will only affect entities that accept tax money, including universities that accept federal monies for student loans, and not any religious non-profits that are self-funded.

The mandate presently affects almost all employers with 50 employees or more, regardless of whether they receive taxpayer funding.

The Catholic bishops have warned that the regulation could force Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable agencies around the nation to close down.

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Eucharistic Congress opens with reflection on 'treasure of the Church'

Dublin, Ireland, Jun 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Church has nothing greater to offer than Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, Cardinal Marc Ouellet said as he celebrated the June 10 opening Mass of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.

“Our gathering is an act of faith in the Holy Eucharist, the treasure of the Church, which is essential to her life and to our communion as brothers and sisters in Christ,” said the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, who is representing Pope Benedict as Papal Legate at the celebration in Ireland.

The Church, he told pilgrims gathered at the Royal Dublin Society Arena, “draws her life from the Eucharist,” and “receives her own identity from the gift of Christ’s own body.”

“In communion with his body, the Church becomes what she receives: she becomes one body with him in the Spirit of the new and eternal covenant,” the cardinal reflected. “What a great and marvelous mystery!”

More than 12,500 pilgrims from around the world are gathered in Dublin for the June 10-17 Eucharistic gathering. Its opening ceremony, held on the Feast of Corpus Christi, featured a parade of international flags as well as insignia of Ireland's different counties, carried alongside symbols of the Catholic faith.

Cardinal Ouellet concelebrated the afternoon opening Mass with Dublin Archbishop Diamuid Martin, Archbishop Robert Jean Louis LeGall of Toulouse, Cardinal Thomas C. Collins of Toronto, and Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for Eucharistic Congresses.

In his homily, the head of the Congregation for Bishops recalled Ireland's “long traditional of fidelity to the Catholic faith.” The country's faithfulness “has enriched not only these shores, but has, through her missionary sons and daughters, helped to bring the Gospel to many other, far-distant shores.”

But Cardinal Ouellet acknowledged that the 50th Eucharistic Congress comes at a “turbulent time” for the Irish Church, which has suffered in recent years from revelations about sex abuse committed by clergy in past decades. The country also faces a priest shortage, and problems with theological dissent.

“The Church in Ireland is suffering and faces many new and serious challenges to the faith,” noted Cardinal Ouellet. “Well aware of these challenges, we turn to our Lord, who renews, heals and strengthens the faith of his people.”

The papal representative, who served as Archbishop of Quebec from 2003 to 2010, hosted the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in his archdiocese in 2008. The experience showed him “that an event such as this brings many blessings to the local Church and to all the participants.”

He urged the congregation at the Dublin arena to remember their baptismal identity as members of Christ's “new and eternal covenant,” in order to approach God's sacramental presence with awe and devotion.

“Every Sunday and every special feast day we go to church to meet the risen Lord, to strengthen our bond of love with him by partaking in the Holy Eucharist,” the cardinal observed.

“It may seem in the world’s eyes that we gather for social reasons or according to our cultural and religious traditions, but, in fact, we are called together by the Lord himself … who wants us to be one body with him in a real and faithful covenant of love.”

“Let us be aware of the unfathomable gift of the Holy Eucharist,” Cardinal Ouellet urged worshipers, setting the spiritual agenda for the coming week. “God deserves much more adoration and gratitude for this gift of love.”

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One thousand more Syrian Christians flee after ultimatum

Beirut, Lebanon, Jun 11, 2012 (CNA) - An ultimatum from the Syrian armed opposition’s military chief caused over 1,000 Christians to flee the west Syrian town of Qusayr, adding to fears that believers may be forced out of Syria.

“The Christian communities fear being targeted, destroyed or driven out,” said Neville Kyrke-Smith, Aid to the Church in Need’s U.K. director. “We all need to stand in prayer and solidarity now.”

Kyrke-Smith, who returned from Lebanon on June 11, told CNA that the report of Christian flight echoes the concerns he heard from bishops, priests, and religious communities concerned about Christians’ fate in neighboring Syria.

“The message time and again was ‘please do not forget the Christians of the Middle East,’” he reported.

Syrian opposition military chief Abdel Salam Harba had given an ultimatum for Christians to leave Qusayr, a town near Homs, by June 8. Some mosques in the city repeated the message in announcements from their minarets, Fides news agency reports.

Only 1,000 Christians remained in the town, which was home to 10,000 Christians before the conflict began between the Syrian government and opposition forces.

The reasons for the latest ultimatum are unclear. Some sources say it helps avoid more Christian suffering, while others say it reveals “a continuity focused on discrimination and repression.” Others say Christians’ open loyalty to the state is the reason they are driven away.

Some sources told Fides that Islamic Salafist extremists groups in the ranks of the armed opposition consider Christians to be “infidels” and are ready to start a “sectarian war.”

The extremists reportedly confiscate Christians’ goods and conduct executions.

Kyrke-Smith said that his organization has managed to provide some help to refugees from Homs, which witnessed an exodus of 50,000 or more Christians earlier this year. Other agencies and religious houses are giving refuge to Christians fleeing direct persecution.

He said there is “growing fear” that the conflict will expand and cross the border in to Lebanon and affect all communities.

“Christians are worried that they may suffer greatly as they could be targeted by all sides,” he wrote in a June 10 blog post.

Gregorios III Laham, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Damascus, has asked the Christian faithful to observe June 4 – 28 as a period of prayer, abstinence and fasting for peace.

“God can restore peace, brotherly love and mutual solidarity in Syria, in all its regions and among all its citizens,” his message said. “This is our response to the painful events that have caused weeping and heartbreak, implanting terrifying images and causing hatred and revenge.”

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