Archive of October 7, 2012

Carmelites welcomed at St. Monica

Oakland, Calif., Oct 7, 2012 (CNA) - About 800 people — a congregation reminiscent of Christmas and Easter — filled St. Monica Church in Moraga to celebrate the official opening of the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, a new foundation of the Discalced Carmelites in the Diocese of Oakland.

Five nuns in brown habits and black veils and five novices with white veils took their places in the pews as the Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, archbishop-designate of San Francisco, celebrated the Solemn Pontifical Mass on Sep. 21.

The Mass, which was in Latin with priests dressed in red and more than a dozen altar boys serving, was celebrated on the Feast of St. Matthew.

The Rev. Gregory Eichman, FSSP, who was ordained to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in May, proclaimed the Gospel. His order is dedicated to the traditional liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. Father Eichman, 27, is assistant pastor at St. Anne Church in San Diego. His 19-year-old sister was among the Carmelite novices attending the Mass.

Their parents, who live in Fort Wayne, Indiana, were making their first trip to California.

The Mass and following reception offered a rare opportunity to see the sisters. Later that day, they returned to their monastery in the hills of Canyon, which would then be enclosed. The nuns will be behind grilles, and just two of them will be designated to speak to the public.

"Today we rejoice and give thanks to the Carmelite sisters who are establishing their enclosure with this Mass," Archbishop-designate Cordileone said in his homily. "You have left the world to seek the more perfect life, the life of single-hearted perfection in union with Christ. Your life is a more perfect life because it is in anticipation of the life of heaven. You leave the world to be exclusively with our Lord. Your prayers sanctify us and bless us."

He called upon those "who must live in the world" to understand "how to leave what is of the world while still living in the world. We must learn to leave all that is sinful, all that is selfish, all that is of the old self, so that Christ might make us new in his image."

At a reception after the Mass, supporters of the Carmelites gathered around the sisters, wishing them well and asking for prayers.

The sisters, who in the course of a day, rarely speak, were smiling and gracious with their well-wishers.

Fifteen members of the Third Order of Lay Carmelites from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Fairfield filled a van, and four traveled by car, to attend the Mass.

The group, which in addition to studying the Carmelite saints, performs works of charity and outreach to meet the needs of the sisters.

"It's not very often that we can get in community with the sisters," said Barbara DiMarco.

Another attendee passing by, added: "They're angels."

Posted with permission from The Catholic Voice, official newspaper of the Diocese of Oakland, Calif.

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Pharmacists' patron St. John Leonardi celebrated Oct. 9

Denver, Colo., Oct 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Oct. 9, the Catholic Church honors the memory of Saint John Leonardi, who studied to become a pharmacist but eventually chose the life of the priesthood. He founded a religious order, and helped establish the Vatican department now known as the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Declared the patron of pharmacists in 2006 because of his original career path, St. John Leonardi was hailed by Pope Benedict XVI during a 2009 general audience as a “luminous priestly figure” whose life offers a model for contemporary clergy. In that address, the Pope highlighted the saint's Christ-centered approach to the social and spiritual problems of his day.

The 16-century Italian priest saw that humanity “stands in extreme need of Christ,” Pope Benedict recalled. Thus, St. John Leonardi's apostolate proceeded in the knowledge that “there is no area that cannot be touched by his power; there is no evil that cannot find a remedy in him, no problem that is not resolved” in the person of Jesus Christ.

Born to middle-class parents during 1541 in the Tuscan region of Lucca, John (or Giovanni) Leonardi was the youngest of seven children. He enrolled at age 17 in courses to become a pharmacist, studied diligently for 10 years and became certified to practice the trade. But the young apothecary had long been interested in the priesthood, and soon turned to the study of theology to prepare for ordination.

Ordained in 1572, John soon became the spiritual director to a small group of young men looking to pursue vocations to the priesthood. They organized a communal form of life near a local church, and began the process that would lead to the formation of the present day Order of the Mother of God (also known as the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God).

Civic leaders in Lucca opposed the formation of a new religious order, however, and acted to stop its formation. While ultimately ineffective, their efforts forced John Leonardi to spend most of the remainder of his life outside Lucca, with special exceptions granted by its government under the influence of the Pope.

In keeping with the spirit of the Catholic Counter-Reformation launched by the Council of Trent, John Leonardi and his congregation of priests sought to deepen the knowledge and practice of the faith among clergy and lay Catholics. In a letter written to Pope Paul V during the early 17th century, he stressed the universal call to holiness of life for all members of the Church.

“As regards the remedies required by the Church as a whole, its reformation must be undertaken among high and low alike, among its leaders as well as its children,” he told the Pope. But he believed that priority should be given to the formation of pastors, “so that reform begins among those from whom it should be communicated to others.”

John received Papal approval for the Order of the Mother of God in 1595, and he was also appointed to oversee the reform of two important monasteries. Although the order's work was largely limited to Italy, John followed the suggestions of his spiritual director St. Philip Neri by founding a seminary for foreign missionaries, which became the present-day College for the Propagation of the Faith.

St. John Leonardi died in Rome on Oct. 9, 1609, having contracted a deadly illness while caring for victims of a plague outbreak. Pope Pius XI canonized him in 1938.

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Dutch leaders urged to investigate child trafficking case

Washington D.C., Oct 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Witnesses at an Oct. 4 Helsinki Commission briefing called for increased pressure on the Dutch government to look into numerous sexual abuse accusations against a high ranking government official.

“It is imperative that the justice system be ready to listen to allegations and to thoroughly investigate allegations no matter when they are raised – and no matter who is accused,” said Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chairman of the commission.

In a recent report on human trafficking, the U.S. recognized the Netherlands as having “Tier 1 Status,” meaning that the country fully complies with minimum standards to fight human trafficking.

However, Smith argued, the anti-trafficking laws in the country are not being properly enforced.

The briefing focused on allegations against Joris Demmink, the Secretary General at the Ministry of Justice in the Netherlands.

Demmink has been accused of raping two young teenage boys, now adults, while visiting Turkey in the 1990s.

The boys' lawyer, Adèle van der Plas, said that the criminal charges filed on behalf of these boys were never officially investigated, despite the availability of primary witnesses. One of the accusers has reportedly faced threats and abuse for coming forward with his story.

Rather than investigate the matter, she said, the government accepted Demmink’s claim that he was not in Turkey in the 1990s.

While Turkish sources have evidence to suggest that this is not accurate, she said, “there is considerable pressure exerted on the Turks by the Dutch not to reveal the truth.”  

The Turkish allegations are not the first time that a similar investigation has been deterred, van der Plas said. She explained that in 1998, Amsterdam police began an investigation into “a pedophile network of influential Dutch customers of boys brothels.”

However, “as soon as Demmink became a person of interest in this matter, the investigation was shut down” and law enforcement officers “were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements,” she said.

A key witness from the 1998 investigation also testified at the briefing, telling about how he was deceived in an Amsterdam train station at age 14, kidnapped and forced to work in a brothel, where he was repeatedly abused by pedophiles and forced to make child pornography films.

At one point, he said, he was sexually abused by Demmink, and he was later able to tell his story to the Amsterdam police force. However, when the investigation was suddenly dropped, he faced murder attempts, and he has been forced to hide his identity to this day in order to protect his safety.

Van der Plas voiced concern that a similar situation is now taking place with the Turkey allegations.

Klaas Langendoen, former Chief of Criminal Intelligence Services for the Netherlands, agreed.

He described how during the course of an investigation into wiretapping allegations, he came to believe that Turkish authorities had been blackmailing the Netherlands into framing a Kurdish activist after Demmink was caught sexually abusing minors at a 1995 party in Turkey.

Although he worked to help create an independent commission to uncover more facts, the Dutch Justice Department blocked the commission from travelling to Turkey and carrying out adequate research, he explained.

Langendoen said that he went on to conduct his own “extensive research,” which convinced him that “there is and has been abuse of minors” by high police and justice officials in the Netherlands, as well as efforts to block or cover up any attempts at criminal investigation or prosecution.  

He said that he has come to realize that the Dutch government is unwilling to “carry out a fair independent investigation.”

The witnesses asked the U.S. State Department to remove the Tier 1 Status from the Netherlands.

They also urged the Helsinki Commission to pressure Turkish officials to release Demmink’s travel dates during the 1990s in order to move towards a thorough criminal investigation into his activities.

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Pope Benedict creates two new Doctors of the Church

Vatican City, Oct 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has named two new Doctors of the Church: the 16th century Spanish priest St. John of Avila and the 12th century German nun St. Hildegard of Bingen.

St. John of Avila was “a profound expert on the sacred scriptures, he was gifted with an ardent missionary spirit,” said the Pope Oct. 7, “he knew how to penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity.”

St. John of Avila was a priest, mystic, preacher and scholar. Pope Benedict announced his intention to name him a Doctor of the Church at World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid last August, much to the delight of Spanish Catholics. Today’s declaration took place in a brief ceremony prior to Mass in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

The Pope said St. John was “a man of God” who “united constant prayer to apostolic action.”

“He dedicated himself to preaching and to the more frequent practice of the sacraments, concentrating his commitment on improving the formation of candidates for the priesthood, of religious and of lay people, with a view to a fruitful reform of the Church.”

Turning to St. Hildegard of Bingen, Pope Benedict called her “an important female figure of the 12th century” who “offered her precious contribution to the growth of the Church of her time” by “employing the gifts received from God and showing herself to be a woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority.”

Among her vast array of talents, St. Hildegard was a writer, composer, philosopher and mystic, as well as an abbess and founder of several monasteries. In May 2012 Pope Benedict formally added her to the Church’s roster of saints, extending her liturgical feast throughout the world.

“The Lord granted her a prophetic spirit and fervent capacity to discern the signs of the times,” explained the Pope to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square. St. Hildegard, he said, “nurtured an evident love of creation, and was learned in medicine, poetry and music” but “above all” she “maintained a great and faithful love for Christ and the Church.”

The title of Doctor of the Church is bestowed upon a saint whose writings are deemed to be of universal importance to the Church. The Pope must also declare the individual to be of “eminent learning” and “great sanctity.” Other Doctors of the Church include St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Catherine of Siena.

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Pope opens bishops' synod with universal call to holiness

Vatican City, Oct 7, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has formally opened the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization with a “universal call to holiness” aimed at all Christians worldwide.

“Holy men and women bloom among the generous missionaries who announce the Good News to non-Christians, in the past in mission countries and now in any place where there are non-Christians,” the Pope said in his homily for the Oct. 7 opening Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

“Holiness is not confined by cultural, social, political or religious barriers. Its language, that of love and truth, is understandable to all people of good will and it draws them to Jesus Christ, the inexhaustible source of new life.”

Over the next three weeks the Synod of Bishops will aim to map out a new evangelization of the contemporary world. The Pope explained that the particular focus of “new” evangelization are those people “who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life.”

“The Synodal Assembly which opens today is dedicated to this new evangelization, to help these people encounter the Lord, who alone who fills existence with deep meaning and peace,” he said. He added that a rediscovery of the Christian faith can be a “source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life” for the re-evangelized.

Wearing green vestments, the vast majority of the 262 Synod Fathers joined Pope Benedict in St. Peter’s Square to concelebrate Mass. The Pope advised them that the synod session should be focused on “the glorious One who was crucified.”

“In every time and place, evangelization always has as its starting and finishing points Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” he told them. He identified the crucifix as “the supremely distinctive sign of him who announces the Gospel: a sign of love and peace, a call to conversion and reconciliation.”

“My dear Brother Bishops,” he said, “starting with ourselves, let us fix our gaze upon him and let us be purified by his grace.”

The Pope also reflected on the Sunday gospel reading, in which Jesus proclaimed the indissolubility of marriage: “what therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” Pope Benedict recognized that “unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis.”

He urged the synod to make marriage “not only an object but a subject of the new evangelization,” suggesting that there is “a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage.”

“Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way,” he said. Marriage “as a union of faithful and indissoluble love” is “based upon the grace that comes from the triune God, who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross.”

This statement, he explained, is “in contrast to the painful reality of many marriages which, unhappily, end badly.”

In conclusion, Pope Benedict placed the Synod of Bishops under the protection of the saints, particularly Bl. John Paul II “whose long pontificate was an example of the new evangelization” and “the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization.”

“With her let us invoke a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that from on high he may illumine the synodal assembly and make it fruitful for the Church’s way ahead.”

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