Archive of August 19, 2012

Memorial of Pope St. Pius X celebrated Aug. 21

Denver, Colo., Aug 19, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Aug. 21, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of Pope Saint Pius X, known for opposing doctrinal errors, promoting frequent Holy Communion, and initiating liturgical reforms during the early 20th century.

“He loved Christ and fed His flock,” Pope Pius XII said of his predecessor St. Pius X, in a May 1954 message delivered shortly after his canonization. “He drew abundantly on the heavenly treasures which our merciful Redeemer brought to the earth, and distributed them bountifully to the flock.”

In that statement, Pope Pius XII praised St. Pius X for giving the Church “the nourishment of truth,” and for showing “charity, earnestness in governing, fortitude in defense. He gave fully of himself and of those things which the Author and Giver of all good things had bestowed on him.”

Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto was born June 2, 1835 in the Italian town of Riese near Venice. He was the oldest of eight children born to Giovanni Sarto, a postman, and his wife Margherita, a seamstress. His humble family background gave the future Pope a lifelong appreciation of poverty and simplicity.

A local priest instructed Giuseppe in Latin, and a scholarship enabled him to attend high school in a nearby town. His parents encouraged their son's discernment of a vocation to the priesthood, and he received a second scholarship to enter the seminary in Padua during 1850.

Ordained in 1858, Father Sarto served as a parish priest in a poor area of the Trentino district, assisting a pastor who observed his pastoral gifts and predicted his rise within the Church. In 1867 he became a pastor in the Treviso diocese, where he was known for his charity and sound teaching.

Nine years later he became chancellor of the diocese, canon of its cathedral, and rector of its seminary. Alongside these responsibilities, he devoted time to instructing children in their faith, giving special attention to public school pupils who received no religious formation in the classroom.

In 1884, Pope Leo XIII appointed Canon Sarto as Bishop of Mantua. As a bishop, he worked to reform the troubled diocese, urging its priests to embrace their responsibility to communicate the truths of the faith. He continued to lead by example, personally undertaking the work of religious instruction.

Made a cardinal and named Patriarch of Venice in 1893, he demonstrated his customary care for the poor and attention to the teaching of the faith. But Cardinal Sarto had no expectation of becoming Pope after Leo XIII died in 1903, nor did he want to assume the responsibility.

Against his own wishes, however, he was chosen as Leo's successor, taking the name of Pius X. His motto, “To restore all things in Christ,” was implemented with a focus on priestly formation, instruction of laypersons, the revival of traditional sacred music, and the Church's liturgical and sacramental life.

During his pontificate, Pius X took steps to combat the heresy he termed “modernism,” characterized by the idea that religious truths were ultimately unknowable and subject to change throughout history. Modernism received its strongest condemnation in his 1907 encyclical “Pascendi Dominici Gregis.”

While his reforming efforts bore fruit among the faithful, Pope Pius X was distraught over his inability to prevent the coming World War, which he is said to have predicted as a catastrophe for civilization and the Church. He died on Aug. 20, 1914, only weeks after the war began.

Beatified in 1951, St. Pius X was canonized in 1954. He was the first Pope to be declared a saint since the 1712 canonization of the 16th century Pope St. Pius V.

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Maronite patriarch warns Syrian conflict could spread to Lebanon

Antioch, Turkey, Aug 19, 2012 (CNA) - Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai of Antioch, the head of the Maronite Catholic Church, has warned that the armed conflict in Syria is affecting neighboring Lebanon and could trigger a major conflict in the country.

“The civil war in Syria between the Sunni majority and the Alawite minority has already begun to have an impact on the Sunnis and Alawites in north Lebanon, in Tripoli and Akkar,” he told Aid to the Church in Need.

The Lebanese are split into “supporters of the Assad regime and supporters of the opposition,” he said. The ongoing political conflict between Lebanon’s anti-Assad Sunnis and the pro-Assad Shiites will “become more pronounced due to the events in Syria.”

In response, he urged Lebanese Christians to become “more united” and meet their responsibilities.

“After all, based on their culture and mental attitude they always strive for peace, progress and the values of modernity. They love peace and fight for justice,” he said. “They are willing to live together and cooperate with Muslims, without prejudices and ulterior motives.”

For 17 months, rebels opposed to the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad have battled government forces in a conflict that has left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.

Rebel forces have advanced on the airport of the strategic city Aleppo and have been fighting in Damascus.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that Qatar, Saudi Arabia and others are helping arm the rebels, the Associated Press reports. The rebel forces include factions of the terrorist group Al Qaida.

The Assad government is predominantly Alawite, an offshoot of Islam distinct from the Shiite and Sunni branches. The government is an ally of Iran and has the backing of the Iran-linked militant group Hezbollah.

Some rebel factions have targeted Christians, bombed churches and driven them from their homes, under the reasoning that they are likely Assad supporters.

The possible deterioration of peace in Lebanon has prompted the governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain to recommend that their nationals in Lebanon leave the country.

Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry also issued a similar warning “in anticipation of a spill-over from the Syrian Crisis.”

The patriarch said that Maronite Catholics in Syria are not being spared the violence of the conflict, but there are no direct attacks on them because “they are respected and do not interfere in politics.”

Patriarch Rai said that the rise of Islamist action will “absolutely not” end the Christian presence in the Middle East because most Muslims respect Christian contributions to society.

“The Muslims themselves recognize the importance of the presence of Christians due to their intellectual, moral and vocational qualities,” he said. “Also their respect for the law, their loyalty to the country and government authorities, without interfering in policy where the particular regime is theocratic, is also respected.”

The patriarch, who heads a branch of the Catholic Church that is in full communion with Rome, said he expects Pope Benedict XVI to address relations with Muslims and other faiths in September during his visit to Lebanon.

Pope Benedict’s apostolic exhortation concerning the 2010 Synod in the Middle East is set to be released during his visit.

Patriarch Rai said the letter will “inspire hope and encourage the peoples of the Middle East to intensify their unity and efforts at living together and to play their role within the Arab and international community.”


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Pope says Christ's life was one of sacrifice, not popularity

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 19, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI said that Jesus did not seek recognition during his public ministry but chose instead to preach the sometimes difficult truth of “his sacrifice of love.”

“Jesus was not a Messiah who aspired to an earthly throne,” Pope said during his Sunday Angelus address at Castel Gandoflo Aug. 19.

“He did not seek popularity to conquer Jerusalem, and indeed, he desired to go to the Holy City to share the fate of the prophets: to give his life for God and the people.”

Pope Benedict made his remarks from today's gospel of St. John in which Jesus reveals to the multitude in Capernaum that he is “the living bread which came down from heaven,” and that “if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever.”

The crowds – who had previously been enthused by the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes – are now dismayed as Christ clarifies that this bread that he “shall give for the life of the world” is, in fact, his “flesh.”

“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” many protested, according the gospel.  

The realization had sunk in, noted the Pope, that the “loaves, broken for thousands of people, would not result in a triumphal march, but predict the sacrifice of the cross, when Jesus became the bread broken for the multitude, the body and blood offered in atonement for the soul of the world.”

Pope Benedict said Jesus knew exactly what he was doing in addressing the crowd “to break their illusions and, especially, force his disciples to decide.”  

The result was that Christ's words did “dampen enthusiasm and cause many disagreements” among his disciplines such that “many of them no longer followed him.”

Jesus wanted to make clear that “he was sent to offer his life” and that “those who wanted to follow him had to join him in a deep and personal way, participating in his sacrifice of love.”

Hence he subsequently establishes the Sacrament of the Eucharist at the Last Supper so “that his disciples may have in themselves his charity and, as one body united to him, extend in the world his mystery of salvation.”

The Pope concluded by leading pilgrims in the praying of the midday Marian prayer before expressing some specific words of encouragement to English speaking pilgrims.

“May we always hunger for the gift of his presence in the Eucharistic sacrifice, wherein Jesus gives us his very self as food and drink to sustain us on our pilgrim journey to the Father. God bless all of you!”

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