Archive of September 14, 2012

Bishop Conley appointed to lead Diocese of Lincoln

Lincoln, Neb., Sep 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - As the Diocese of Lincoln celebrates its 125th anniversary, Bishop James D. Conley has been named the region's ninth bishop by Pope Benedict XVI.

“He will serve the people of Lincoln with great enthusiasm, strong leadership, and with a deep love for Jesus Christ and the Church,” Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver said in a Sept. 13 statement.

Bishop Conley, who has served as the auxiliary bishop of Denver since 2008, is a Kansas native and was raised Presbyterian.

He will succeed Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz, who has served the diocese for over 20 years and submitted his resignation according to Church procedure upon reaching his 75th birthday in 2010.

“In the four years Bishop Conley has served as auxiliary bishop of Denver, he has become well-known for his commitment to the unborn, his enthusiasm for young people, and especially for the devotion with which he celebrates the Most Holy Eucharist,” Archbishop Aquila said.

Archbishop Aquila assured Bishop Conley of prayers from Denver, as well as “our continued hope for his success” in his new role as shepherd of Lincoln.

Having converted to Catholicism during in college, Bishop Conley was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Wichita in 1985.

He completed his philosophical formation at Mount St. Pius X Seminary in Erlanger, Ky. and his theological studies at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., earning his master's in divinity.

As a priest, Bishop Conley served as associate pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Wichita and and as the diocesan director of the Respect Life Office.

After earning his licentiate in Rome in 1989, Bishop Conley was appointed pastor of St. Paul parish at the Wichita State University campus Newman Center in 1991.

During that time, he received both his mother and father into the Catholic Church.

In 1996, he was called back to Rome where he served as an official in the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.

While in Rome, Bishop Conley served as chaplain to the University of Dallas Rome Campus from 1997 to 2003 and as adjunct instructor of theology for Christendom College Rome Campus from 2004 to 2006.

He was named “chaplain to his holiness” with the title monsignor in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.

In 2006, he was called back to the Wichita Diocese where he served as pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish.

From 2011-2012, Bishop Conley served as the Apostolic Administrator of the Denver Archdiocese until Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila was installed as the new shepherd.

The Diocese of Lincoln is home to over 95,000 Catholics in 136 parishes, has 150 priests and 141 women religious, and is home to one diocesan seminary, St. Gregory the Great, and one religious seminary, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Bishop Conley will formally be installed as the new bishop Nov. 20 at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ.

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'Care of souls' chief concern for Lincoln's new bishop

Lincoln, Neb., Sep 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Evangelization and the pastoral tending of souls are among the main goals for Bishop James D. Conley, who was named the ninth bishop of Lincoln by Pope Benedict today.

“There is nothing more important for a bishop than the care of souls,” Bishop Conley told members of his new diocese at a Sept. 14 press conference.

With the support of the diocese, he said he has “one aim” consisting of three parts; that all men and women will “come to know Jesus Christ,” that they “live in the abundance of his love,” and in turn strive to “become holy as our Father in heaven is holy.”

“I am dedicated above all else to this noble mission,” he said. “I am grateful to know that I can already count on your prayers and your collaboration.”

Bishop Conley will replace Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz, who has served the diocese for over 20 years and submitted his resignation according to Church procedure upon reaching his 75th birthday in 2010.

“He has been a true champion of the Catholic faith and he has been a personal hero of mine for years,” Bishop Conley said. “All of us owe him a great debt of gratitude.”

Bishop Bruskewitz assured Bishop Conley of his new diocese's support in a Sept. 14 statement.

“We promise Bishop Conley our prayers and dedicated support in all his undertakings and apostolic labors here in Southern Nebraska,” he said. “We cannot be happier about this appointment.”

Bishop Conley, whose installation will take place Nov. 20 in the Cathedral of the Risen Christ, has chosen “heart speaks to heart,” from Bl. John Henry Newman as his episcopal motto.

“I hope that as our hearts speak with one another,” he said, “all of us may encounter the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Conley, who was raised Presbyterian, has “a heart for evangelization,” he said, as he converted to Catholicism in college and even “had the privilege” of receiving his parents into the Church after he was ordained a priest.

As the Church nears the start of the Year of Faith, Bishop Conley said he is eager to begin his work in sharing the Catholic faith with non-Catholics, especially those who are “in their student years.”

Bishop Conley served as pastor of Wichita State University's Newman Center, chaplain to the University of Dallas' Rome Campus and was an adjunct instructor of theology for Christendom College's Rome Campus.

He said he has already heard of the University of Nebraska Newman Center's “stellar reputation” and is “filled with great joy” over what he called an “important apostolate.”

Lincoln, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary as a diocese, has long been known for its “steadfast defense of the unborn, civil and religious liberty, traditional marriage between a man and a woman, and strong family values,” Bishop Conley noted.

“I am not yet the Bishop of Lincoln,” he said, “but I am already proud of the people of this great state.”

While looking forward to “forging the bonds of fraternity and friendship” with them, Bishop Conley said he is excited to know the priests of Lincoln “as brothers in the vineyard of the Lord.”

In closing, Bishop Conley thanked all those who have aided him throughout life including Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, his family and most especially, the Virgin Mary.

Bishop Conley dedicated his ministry to the Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception, who is the patroness of the Diocese of Lincoln.

“She is our life, our sweetness and our hope,” he said. “Of course, I wish to consecrate my ministry here in Lincoln to the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

Men and women religious, whose “consecration serves the whole Church”, are a “sign of the universal vocation to holiness,” Bishop Conley said.

The Diocese of Lincoln is home to over 95,000 Catholics in 136 parishes, has 150 priests and 141 women religious, and is home to one diocesan seminary, St. Gregory the Great, and one religious seminary, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Bishop Conley noted his history with the Diocese of Lincoln, pointing out that while in Wichita, he served under Bishop Michael O. Jackels and Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted who were “both men chosen as bishops from the ranks of the Lincoln presbyterate.”

He said he is also familiar with the legacies of Archbishop James V. Casey and Bishop J. Henry Tihen, both of whom served first as bishops in Lincoln and then Denver.

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Maronite priest says Muslims will welcome Pope to Lebanon

Rome, Italy, Sep 14, 2012 (CNA) - The Rector of Rome’s Pontifical Maronite College predicts that all the people of Lebanon – Muslims included – will welcome Pope Benedict XVI to their country at the start of Apostolic Visit Sept. 14-16.

“Muslims are also waiting for the Holy Father’s visit and there will certainly be many who await the moments Pope’s arrival at the airport and drive to the nunciature,” said Msgr. Antoine Gebran who was back in his homeland recently to witness preparations for the 3-day visit at first hand.

“One of the Muslim leaders said, ‘We must welcome the Pope with the streets covered in roses.’ That is, it’s a sign of eastern spirituality.”

Msgr. Gebran spoke to CNA before this week’s outbreak of militant Muslim protest against United States diplomatic missions in the Middle East. The violence was sparked by the posting on YouTube of extracts of a low-budget US film mocking the Prophet Mohammed, the 6-7th century founder of Islam.

On Tuesday, Sept. 11 a mob stormed the United States consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi which left four Americans dead including the US ambassador to the country, J Christopher Stevens.

While similar protests have not emerged so far in Lebanon, recent events are likely for form a backdrop to Pope Benedict’s discussions with Muslim leaders on Saturday, Sept. 15. Msgr. Gebran feels that the Pope has a particular ability to bring peoples and religions together.

“All await the Pope with pleasure, because they see the Pope not only as a religious, Catholic or state leader, no, in Lebanon there are many state leaders. They see him as a symbol, as the successor of Peter and an apostle of peace.”

The Maronite Church is an Eastern Catholic Church that is in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. It forms just one element within Lebanon’s patchwork of religious communities.

It is estimated that around 60 percent of Lebanese citizens are Muslim with an even split in numbers between Shia and Sunni Islam. There is also a small but historically significant Druze community.

The Christian population constitutes about 39 percent of the population manifested in various Catholic and Orthodox churches. The Maronite Church is the largest such Christian group with 23 percent of the population as adherents.

“So, the papal visit important for everyone: Catholic Christians, Orthodox Christians, Sunni and Shia Muslims and the Druze,” Msgr. Gebran suggested.

The highpoint of the Papal Visit will be the Pope’s signing of his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in the Middle East on Friday Sept. 14.

“The most important part of the visit is to confirm that he chose Lebanon because in Lebanon all of these confessions are found, not only Catholics or Orthodox, but all of the communities that believe in God,” said Msgr. Gebran.

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Q&A with Bishop James D. Conley

Denver, Colo., Sep 14, 2012 (CNA) - On Sept. 13 Denver Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley spoke to the Denver Catholic Register about his new appointment as bishop of the Lincoln Diocese.

Q: When and how did you find out about your new appointment?

A: I got the call on Friday, Sept. 7 as I was driving to the chancery. I saw on my cell phone that the area code was Washington and knew it was probably from the apostolic nunciature because I don’t know anyone else in Washington, so I pulled over. It was Archbishop (Carlo Maria) Vigano. He told me the Holy Father had named me the new bishop of Lincoln, Neb.
The next day, Sept. 8, was the birthday of the Blessed Mother.  So I spent Mary’s birthday marveling at the incredible ways God works in our life.  The Lord called Mary to be the Mother of God and she said yes, with trust and faith.  He has called me to be the bishop of Lincoln.  And he calls each one of us—every single one of us—to a mission for his sake, and to holiness in Jesus Christ.
Q: What was your reaction?

A: I am honored, and I am humbled, by the confidence the Holy Father has expressed in me. There is nothing more important for a bishop than the care of souls.  God has called me to be the shepherd of souls in the Diocese of Lincoln.  I know I need to rely on his grace for this great responsibility.
A couple of days before Archbishop Vigano called, on Sept. 5 the feast of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I had asked her intercession that if I was ever called to a diocese I would have the peace, tranquility and joy to accept wherever it might be. She answered that prayer because as soon as I heard the nuncio speak the words about my appointment, there was a certain peace.  Even though I love Denver, was formed as a bishop in Denver and have made such good friends here—it’s been a wonderful time in my life—I knew that this was from God.
I am very joyful for the blessings God has given me. Lincoln has always been a diocese that I’ve looked up to. There are a number of priests in the Lincoln Diocese I went to seminary with and I always admired them and the bishops I knew—Bishop (Glennon) Flavin and Bishop (Fabian) Bruskewitz—they are heroes in my mind. The other feeling I had when I heard the nuncio say “Lincoln” was a real unworthiness knowing I’d be filling the shoes of giants because I’ve looked up to both of those bishops throughout my whole priesthood. They have been stellar models of episcopal leadership.
Q: You grew up in Kansas, served as a priest there several years in two stints, then served at the Vatican 10 years, and the last four years you’ve served as an auxiliary bishop in Denver. How have those experiences changed you and how do you feel about leaving Denver?

A: I’ve been fortunate to be formed as a priest by the people of Wichita, by my experiences in Rome, and by my time in Denver, each in different ways.
Wichita is the diocese where I was ordained.  The priests and people there were instrumental in helping me discover my vocation, and in learning what it is to be a faithful servant of Jesus Christ.
In Rome I gained an experience of the universal Church, which helped me to appreciate the richness of the Gospel and of the Church’s tradition.
And in Denver I’ve been formed as a bishop.  Archbishop (Charles) Chaput, especially, is a hero and a friend—he helped me to understand the self-gift of a bishop’s ministry. I owe so much to him and to Archbishop (Samuel) Aquila, who has been a dear and trusted friend for over 20 years.

When a priest is ordained and gets his first parish, it’s always his first love. Denver will always hold that place in my heart because it’s where I learned to be a bishop.
 Furthermore, the vitality of the Church here has shown me the true fruit of the new evangelization.  And of course I’ve made life-long friendships here, in Rome and in Wichita.  I have been richly blessed in my friendships.
Q: How do you feel about your upcoming move to Lincoln and when will you actually move there?

A: My installation will be on Tuesday, Nov. 20.  I’ll leave for Nebraska shortly before that date.  I’ll spend the months of September and October preparing, and saying farewell to my friends here in Denver.

I’m thrilled to go to Lincoln.  It is a place of holy priests, holy religious, and holy families.  To follow in Bishop Bruskewitz’s footsteps is a tremendous joy.  I’m looking forward to getting to know the people, and to working alongside them in the new evangelization.  The Year of Faith is a wonderful time to begin ministry in a new diocese—to grow together in the richness of our faith.
Q: Do you have any connections to Nebraska?

A: My life as a priest is already connected to the history of Lincoln. As a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, I served under the leadership of Bishop Michael Jackels and Bishop Thomas Olmsted— both men chosen as bishops from the ranks of the Lincoln presbyterate.
As auxiliary bishop here in Denver, I’ve read about the legacies of Archbishop James Casey and Bishop J. Henry Tihen,  men who served first as bishops of Lincoln and then of Denver.
And because of the strong friendship between Bishop David Malony, the bishop who received me into the seminary, and Bishop Flavin, a true giant in the history of the Diocese of Lincoln, many of the priests of Lincoln were seminarians with me at St. Pius X Seminary in Erlinger, Ky., and Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

So there’s an interesting triangle of connection between Wichita, Lincoln and Denver—the “trifecta” as I call it.

Q: What does your family think of your new appointment?

A: My mom lives in Kansas City, and Lincoln is only about three hours away.  So she is glad that I’ll be closer to her.  But she loves Denver and her many friends here—especially (archdiocesan events coordinator) Tess Stone!  She’s told me she’ll miss visiting us here.  Like me, I think my family has always accepted whatever the Lord wants for my ministry—so I know they will be a big support for me in Lincoln. 
Q: You’re a runner, like to ski, hike, golf, and enjoy going on pilgrimage. What is something people might be surprised to know about you?

A: I try to be transparent—so I don’t have very many things hidden.  I think being authentically ourselves is a key to the Christian life.  I love the outdoors, as you mentioned, and just got back from walking a portion of “The Camino” to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. I also love to read—especially Blessed John Henry Newman, my mentor and spiritual patron, and Charles Dickens, my favorite author. But not many people realize that I listen to a lot of alt-rock and folk music, in addition to Latin hymnody!
Q: What do you see are the main differences between the Lincoln Diocese and the Archdiocese of Denver and how will those differences impact your ministry?

A: Lincoln is a smaller diocese—there are around 90,000 Catholics there—and more than 500,000 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Denver.  The territory of the diocese is also smaller.  But Lincoln has more in common with Denver than it has differences—a mix of rural and urban settings, a holy and fairly young presbyterate, a history of great bishops, and a lot of very serious and committed Catholic families.
Both dioceses are known for their fidelity and their love for Holy Mother Church. The other big similarity is the fact that both the Archdiocese of Denver and the Diocese of Lincoln have experienced a tremendous increase in vocations to the priesthood. In Lincoln we have 44 seminarians studying for the priesthood in a diocese of just over 90,000 Catholics—that’s tremendous. Lincoln always has among the highest number of seminarians per Catholic population in the country and Denver has that same distinction. They are both enjoying a rich harvest of vocations.

I am looking forward to getting to know Lincoln, but my mission as bishop there will remain the same: to help all people to encounter Jesus Christ, and to become holy, as God in heaven is holy.

Q: As a priest and bishop, you’ve had a heart for pro-life and young adult ministry. Will those apostolates continue to be a priority for you?

A: I’ve always been involved in pro-life work and I like that Nebraska is a very actively pro-life state.  The people of Nebraska have really been tireless advocates for the unborn, as well as for religious liberty and the defense of marriage between a man and a woman.  So I am excited to work with them on these issues.

The Newman Center at the University of Nebraska—in collaboration with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students)—is another great apostolate.  The student years are a time when many really hunger to encounter Christ—so I look forward to working with the Newman Center in their missionary work.

I’ve worked with college students most of my priesthood as a chaplain at three different colleges and as a teacher.  And in Denver I formed very strong relationships and friendships with young adults at Theology on Tap lectures and Vigil Praise liturgies. I’m looking forward to tapping into—no pun intended—the young adult community in the Diocese of Lincoln.
Q: What are you most looking forward to as you begin your new ministry?

A: We never know exactly what God has in store for us. So I am eager to begin this new chapter in my ministry, and to find out what Jesus Christ has for me.  But my episcopal motto, “cor ad cor loquitor,” (“heart speaks to heart”) suggests an important part of my ministry—building relationships that point the way to faith.
I look forward to building relationships with the people of the various cities and towns that comprise the Diocese of Lincoln, which covers all of southern Nebraska.  I want to get to know the different communities and the different ethnic backgrounds and traditions of rural Nebraska as well as Lincoln.

Q: What do you find most daunting about your upcoming ministry as bishop of Lincoln?

A: I think learning all the things a bishop needs to know in a new diocese will be a challenge, but I am blessed because the priests and staff in the Diocese of Lincoln have already been so helpful to me.

Q: This summer you visited your titular “see beneath the sea,” Cissa. What happens to that now that you have a territorial diocese?

A: Providentially, I was able to visit Cissa, my titular see this summer.  It’s a beautiful place off the coast of Croatia. My “see beneath the sea” was teeming with fish! I have to say farewell to Cissa. But I know my new see, the Diocese of Lincoln, which is teeming with people who know and love Christ, will be even more beautiful.
Q: If there was one aspect of the episcopacy you’d like to clarify for people, what would it be?

A: Being a bishop means a lot of things.  I think many people think most about a lot of administrative work to keep the diocese going.  But the salvation of souls is the most important mission that a bishop has. The bishop’s role is to help the people of his diocese know and love Jesus Christ and realize their call to holiness.  I’m particularly excited about beginning my tenure in Lincoln during this Year of Faith. If everyone in Lincoln becomes a saint—I’ll be successful.  Until then, there’s work to be done—and all for the glory of God!
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: The people of Denver have been like a family to me.  I will miss them terribly. I am incredibly grateful to have been auxiliary bishop here and to have served 10 months as apostolic administrator. But we will be united in mission, in the Eucharist, and in eternity with God. We stay connected in the body of Christ.  I’m grateful for the way that so many people in Denver, in Wichita, in Rome, and in Kansas City, where I grew up, have influenced me, and shared life with me.  I look forward to our unity in heaven!

Posted with permission from Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver.

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Pope Benedict arrives in Lebanon as 'pilgrim of peace'

Beirut, Lebanon, Sep 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI says he is arriving in the Middle East with a message of peace as he begins a 3-day Apostolic Visit to Lebanon.  

“Dear friends, I have come to Lebanon as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of men. Christ says, Salami o-tikum, 'My peace I give to you,'” said the Pope at the official welcoming ceremony at the Beirut’s Rafik Hariri Airport Sept. 14.

“And looking beyond your country, I also come symbolically to all the countries of the Middle East as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of all the inhabitants of all the countries of the region, whatever their origins and beliefs. To them too Christ says: Salàmi o-tikum.”

Pope Benedict was greeted on the tarmac by Lebanon’s President Michel Sleiman along with two local children in traditional Lebanese garb bearing flowers.

The Pope has travelled to the Middle East to sign his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation for the Middle entitled “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente” which, he said, is “addressed to everyone” as “a roadmap for the years to come.”

The Pope then applauded Lebanon as an example of a Middle East country that has re-built a multi-religious community “despite many sad and painful events which have affected your beautiful country along the years” including a 15-year civil war that only concluded in 1990.

“The successful way the Lebanese all live together surely demonstrates to the whole Middle East and to the rest of the world that, within a nation, there can exist cooperation between the various churches,” said the Pope, “and at the same time coexistence and respectful dialogue between Christians and their brethren of other religions.”

The country’s population of 4 million contains an array of different religious groups with around 60 percent of people following some form of Islam. Approximately 39 percent is Christian with the majority of those members of Eastern Catholic churches that are in full communion with Rome.  

Pope Benedict recognized that this equilibrium “which is presented everywhere as an example” is, in fact, “extremely delicate.”

“Sometimes it seems about to snap like a bow which is overstretched or submitted to pressures which are too often partisan, even selfish, contrary and extraneous to Lebanese harmony and gentleness.”

It is for this reason that moderation, wisdom and reason “must overcome one-sided passion in order to promote the greater good of all” so that Lebanon will “serve as a model to the inhabitants of the whole region and of the entire world.”

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Pope signs momentous document on Church in the Middle East

Beirut, Lebanon, Sep 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has signed his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in the Middle East, “Ecclesia in Medio Oriente,” during the first day of his visit to Lebanon.

“The Exhortation as a whole is meant to help each of the Lord’s disciples to live fully and to pass on faithfully to others what he or she has become by Baptism: a child of light, sharing in God’s own light, a lamp newly lit amid the troubled darkness of this world, so that the light may shine in the darkness,” he said.

Pope Benedict made his remarks during the official signing ceremony at the Melkite Greek Catholic Basilica of St. Paul in the coastal town of Harissa, Sept. 14.

“The document seeks to help purify the faith from all that disfigures it, from everything that can obscure the splendor of Christ’s light,” he noted.

“For communion is true fidelity to Christ, and Christian witness is the radiance of the paschal mystery which gives full meaning to the cross, exalted and glorious.”

The exhortation is the Pope’s response to the deliberations of the Synod of Bishops of the Middle East held at the Vatican in October 2010. The topic for discussion then was “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness.”  

The Pope, who is in the country from Sept. 14 -16, noted the providence of signing the document on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which has its origins in 4th century Jerusalem during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine.

He also reminded those present that next month is the 1700th anniversary of the appearance to Constantine of the Chi-Rho, the first two letters of Christ’s name in Greek. It appeared to the emperor as a “radiant in the symbolic night of his unbelief and accompanied by the words: 'In this sign you will conquer!'” prior to victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge near Rome, thus paving the way for the acceptance of Christianity within the Roman Empire.

Reading the exhortation with these historic events in mind “leads to renewed appreciation of the identity of each baptized person and of the Church, and is at the same time a summons to witness in and through communion,” said the Pope.

“For Christians, to exalt the cross means to be united to the totality of God’s unconditional love for mankind. It means making an act of faith!” he said.

“To exalt the cross, against the backdrop of the resurrection, means to desire to experience and to show the totality of this love. It means making an act of love!”

“To exalt the cross means to be a committed herald of fraternal and ecclesial communion, the source of authentic Christian witness. It means making an act of hope!”

Listening to Pope Benedict was a packed congregation consisting of leaders of Lebanon’s 40 percent Christian community – mainly Catholic and Orthodox – along with leaders of other religions including the region’s dominant faith, Islam.

The Pope thanked God that it was the people of the Middle East “were the first to welcome his incarnate Son” but also recognized that following Jesus Christ in the region today often requires much “courage and faith.”

This was why, he said, the Synod Fathers were keen to reflect upon the “joys and struggles, the fears and hopes of Christ’s disciples in these lands.”

“In this way, the entire Church was able to hear the troubled cry and see the desperate faces of many men and women who experience grave human and material difficulties, who live amid powerful tensions in fear and uncertainty.”

Such is the way of the exultation of the cross, said the Pope, that it often requires following Christ “even in difficult and sometimes painful situations.”

“It is here and now that we are called to celebrate the victory of love over hate, forgiveness over revenge, service over domination, humility over pride, and unity over division.”

Middle Eastern Christians, therefore, should not fear the future but, instead, should “stand firm in truth and in purity of faith” that results from the “the cross, exalted and glorious.”

“Churches of the Middle East, fear not, for the Lord is truly with you, to the close of the age!” urged Pope Benedict, “Fear not, because the universal Church walks at your side and is humanly and spiritually close to you!”

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Benedict XVI: fundamentalism a 'falsification' of religion

Aboard the papal plane, Sep 14, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict described fundamentalism as “a falsification of religion,” which goes against its true purpose as “an invitation to share God’s peace throughout the world.”

“Therefore the commitment of the Church and of religions is to undertake a purification of such temptations, to illuminate consciences and to try and provide everyone with a clear image of God,” said Pope Benedict on Sept. 14 during an in-flight press conference on his way to Lebanon.

“We must all respect each other,” the Pope told a group of journalists at the beginning of his three-day trip, “Each of us is an image of God and we must mutually respect each other.”

Pope Benedict’s condemnation of fundamentalism comes as anti-American protest spreads across the Middle East following the online publication of a low-budget film mocking the Prophet Mohammed, the 6-7th century founder of Islam.

In the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, one demonstrator was killed and two others were injured as crowds set fire to an outlet of the American fast food chain KFC.

Elsewhere, three people were killed in Tunisia as crowds attempted to storm the US embassy compound in the capital city of Tunis. Meanwhile the German and British embassies came under attack in Sudan leaving one dead.

“The basic message of religion must be against violence which is a falsification like fundamentalism,” stated the Pope. Instead, the message must be one of “education and the illumination and purification of conscience to promote dialogue, reconciliation and peace.”

Despite the mounting levels of protest across the Middle East Pope Benedict said that “no-one ever advised me to cancel this trip and I never took that idea into consideration.” He asserted that as such diplomatic situations become “more complicated” it is “even more necessary to offer a sign of fraternal encouragement and solidarity.”

The Pope added that he took inspiration from Blessed Pope John Paul II’s visit to Lebanon in 1997 when the country was still recovering from a quarter-century of bloody civil war.

“Therefore the aim of my visit is an invitation to dialogue, to peace and against violence, to go forward together to find solutions to the problems,” he said.

In response to a question on the numerous anti-government uprisings in recent years across the Middle East, the Pope described the so-called “Arab Spring” as “a positive thing” given it denotes “a desire for greater democracy, more liberty, more cooperation and a new Arab identity.”

As with all revolutions, though, “this vital and positive cry for freedom risks forgetting” a “fundamental dimension for freedom – which is tolerance of the other.”

“The fact is that human freedom is always a shared freedom, which can only grow through sharing, solidarity and living together with certain rules,” the Pope said.

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Ryan highlights role of faith in his political views

Washington D.C., Sep 14, 2012 (CNA) - Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan defended his Catholic faith, pro-life views and economic policies at a conservative gathering in the nation's capital.

“I am a Catholic, not because anyone has ordered me to accept a creed, but because of the grace and truth revealed in my faith,” said the Wisconsin congressman.

Ryan spoke openly about his Catholic faith at the 2012 Values Voter Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 14.

In his address, he defended his economic views, which have drawn criticism for their proposed cuts in federal spending on some programs that aid the poor.

However, Ryan has asserted that “big government” approaches have not worked to reduce levels of poverty and says that his plan would help the poor by reducing the federal debt, growing the economy and creating jobs.

“Here we are, four years of economic stewardship under these self-proclaimed advocates of the poor, and what do they have to show for it?” he asked. “More people in poverty, and less upward mobility wherever you look.”

Pointing to a struggling economy and high levels of unemployment under President Obama, the vice presidential contender argued that he is not lacking in compassion for the poor, but instead has a different approach to addressing the problem of poverty.

This approach includes not only federal and local government, but also “civil society,” which Ryan described as good acts taking place through the work of families and communities.

He explained that for people of faith, “our hearts and conscience have called us to work that needs doing, to fill a place that sometimes no one else can fill.”

This unique and important role of faith-filled individuals and institutions is threatened, however, by the mandates issued under the Affordable Care Act, he said.

Among the most controversial of these mandates is a new federal requirement that forces employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs even if they hold strong moral objections to doing so.

Under these mandates, Ryan explained, organizations such as Catholic Charities are told that they must violate their consciences, despite the fact that they already excel at their job of serving needy Americans.

Ryan said that he and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will repeal the mandate if elected and “are honored to stand with you, people of faith and concerned citizens, in defense of our religious liberty.”

The congressman also highlighted the distinction between his own pro-life views and the extreme support for abortion expressed by the current administration.

“Giving up any further pretense of moderation on this issue, and in complete disregard for millions of pro-life Democrats, President Obama has chosen to pander to the most extreme elements of his party,” he said.

He observed that in “the Clinton years, the stated goal was to make abortion safe, legal and rare.”

In contrast, he said, the Obama-Biden ticket apparently now “stands for an absolute, unqualified right to abortion at any time, under any circumstance, and even at taxpayer expense.”

Ryan criticized this shift, arguing that “in this good-hearted country, we believe in showing compassion for mother and child alike.”

“We don’t write anyone off in America, especially those without a voice,” he said. “Every child has a place and purpose in this world.”

“Everyone counts, and in a just society, the law should stand on the side of life,” he stressed.

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