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Archive of October 11, 2012

US bishop thanks Pope for approving unborn blessing

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville has personally thanked Pope Benedict XVI for the Vatican's recent approval of a new blessing for the child in the womb.

“Warmly extending the love of Christ to families as they prepare for the birth of their child, this sacred gesture is both a positive and hope-filled way to announce to society the great gift of human life as well as a gracious invitation for the parents to begin steps for the baptism of their child, once born,” said Archbishop Kurtz to the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican Oct. 9.

“The Blessing of the Child in the Womb” was approved on Dec. 8 2011 by the Congregation for Divine Worship for use by the Church in the United States.

Archbishop Kurtz told the gathering of bishops from across the globe that the new blessing was “a pastoral moment of first evangelization of the child and new evangelization of the family.”

The Kentucky prelate is one of seven American bishops participating in the Vatican summit that runs from Oct. 7 to 28. Together with 255 other “Synod Fathers” they hope to chart the Church’s “new evangelization” of the contemporary world.

With the Pope still present, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio used his address to suggest that the synod “humbly ask the Holy Father to consecrate the world to the Holy Spirit.”

“In order that Jesus Christ’s salvation may reach the whole world and transform it, that the Church may be renewed and holiness may flourish in it, that we Christians go forward with the New Evangelization, we need a new Pentecost,” he said Oct. 9.

Meanwhile Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson called upon the synod to “strongly and unequivocally affirm that justice and charity are at the heart of the work of evangelization.”

“Inextricably linked to our preaching of the saving message of the Gospel, our acts of love and justice are a prophetic evangelical call,” he said Tuesday.

He proposed that Catholics “will move hearts to the vision of Christ” when they “demonstrate our faith as Catholics with renewed energy for charity and justice at home and all through the world.”

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Anglican archbishop suggests contemplation for reaching post-Christian world

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2012 (CNA) - Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams addressed the synod of Catholic bishops on the New Evangelization about the importance of contemplation for reaching people in a post-Christian world.

“To be contemplative as Christ is contemplative is to be open to all the fullness that the Father wishes to pour into our hearts,” the archbishop said Oct. 10. “With our minds made still and ready to receive, with our self-generated fantasies about God and ourselves reduced to silence, we are at last at the point where we may begin to grow.”

He urged Christians to show to the world “the face of a humanity in endless growth towards love” and a humanity “so delighted and engaged” by the glory of God, stressing its importance for evangelization.

The Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization is meeting at the Vatican over the next three weeks to consider how to evangelize the contemporary world, especially those who are baptized but have drifted away from the Church.

Archbishop Williams told the synod that evangelization is “always an overflow of something else,” like the journey to maturity in Jesus Christ led by the Holy Spirit.

He said people recognize in contemplative practices the possibility of “living more humanly” with “space for stillness” and with an awareness of “solid and durable joy” discovered in the disciplines of self-forgetfulness.

Contemplating God in Jesus, he declared, teaches Christians “how to look at one another and at the whole of God’s creation.”

Archbishop Williams described contemplation as “the key” to prayer, liturgy, art, ethics, and “the essence of a renewed humanity” that is free from “self-oriented, acquisitive habits” and their distortions.

“To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit,” the Anglican archbishop said.

His comments referenced key Catholic theologians and writers like Henri de Lubac, Thomas Merton.

He said the Second Vatican Council, which opened 50 years ago, was “a sign of great promise” and a sign that the Church was “strong enough” to ask whether its culture and structures were adequate to sharing the gospel with the modern world.

He suggested “serious work” to examine how ecumenical, shared contemplative practices can help reach out to lapsed Christians and a “post-Christian public.”

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Many Catholics considering religious vocations, study finds

Washington D.C., Oct 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new report shows that while a significant number of Catholics are considering religious vocations, more education and outreach are needed to foster encouragement, especially among Latino populations.

“Although many speak of priest shortages and steep declines in the number of men and women religious, the survey reveals that there is no shortage of individuals who seriously consider these vocations among never-married Catholics in the United States,” the report said.

On Oct. 9, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced the release of a study on the consideration of vocations, conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

The study, entitled, “Consideration of Priesthood and Religious Life Among Never-Married U.S. Catholics,” was commissioned by the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

It found that among never-married Catholics, 12 percent of men and 10 percent of women have considered a vocation “at least a little seriously.”

Three percent of male respondents said they have “very seriously” considered entering the priesthood or becoming a religious brother, and two percent of female respondents said they have “very seriously” considered becoming a religious sister.

“This is equivalent to 350,000 never-married men and more than 250,000 never-married women,” the report explained.

“Shepherding more of these individuals on the path to seeking a vocation would  likely require a combination of greater outreach from the Church, encouragement  from others, assistance in obtaining educational prerequisites, and dealing  with other issues such as student loan debt and citizenship status,” it suggested.

The report revealed “generational differences in the consideration of vocations,” with a low point falling in the Post-Vatican II Generation, those born from 1961 to 1981, and a slight increase among those born after 1981.  

Catholic education also played a significant role. Male respondents who attended Catholic high school were more than six times more likely to have considered a vocation than those who did not, and female respondents who attended a Catholic elementary school were more than three times as likely to do so as those who did not.

Participation in a parish youth group was also related to higher vocational consideration.

“Encouragement from others is also important,” the survey found. Both men and women were almost twice as likely to consider a vocation if someone had encouraged them to do so.

Other positive factors in considering vocations were participation in a World Youth Day or National Catholic Youth Conference, the use of traditional media to access religious or spiritual content and knowing someone who was living a religious vocation.

Most of the adults in the survey who had considered a vocation “did so between the ages of 13 and 24,” the report said, and “one in four Catholic females who have considered becoming a religious sister did so before they were a teenager.”

The survey found “few differences related to race and ethnicity” and said that “Hispanic respondents – both male and female – are no less likely than others to say they have considered a vocation.”

However, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has warned of an “urgent” shortage in Hispanic clergy and religious. While about 35 percent of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic, “only 15 percent of the 2012 ordination class and 9 percent of the 2011 religious profession class were Hispanic,” the conference said.

The study found that citizenship requirements and educational prerequisites could be challenges facing Hispanic vocations. Hispanic respondents were the least likely to report having a college degree or being enrolled in Catholic schools at any level of education.  

In addition, while Hispanic respondents were “among the most likely to participate in devotional practices and other prayer” associated with higher levels of considering a vocation, they were also “among the least likely to report that they have ever been encouraged to seek a vocation.”

“The good news is that more than 500,000 never-married men and women have seriously considered a vocation to priesthood or the religious life,” said Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations.

“The challenge is to pastor and guide these individuals more effectively,” he continued. “This will require greater and more consistent encouragement from others, particularly within the family, and a more urgent focus on access to Catholic education for our young people.”

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Catholic bishop supports girl shot by Taliban

Islamabad, Pakistan, Oct 11, 2012 (CNA) - A Catholic bishop in Pakistan has voiced “sympathy and solidarity” towards Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Muslim activist critically injured by Taliban gunmen who said they shot her for her advocacy of girls’ education and Western culture.

“Every person has a sacred right to life and education,” Bishop Rufin Anthony of Islamabad-Rawalpindi told Fides news agency Oct. 10. “God created man in his own image; every life is precious and belongs to Him alone.”

On Oct. 9 masked gunmen singled out and shot Yousafzai on a bus of schoolchildren in Pakistan’s northwestern Swat Valley near the Afghanistan border. She was in stable condition at a hospital in Peshawar, where doctors removed a bullet that passed through her head and stopped in her shoulder.

Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited the unconscious girl in the hospital and denounced the attack.

“The cowards who attacked Malala and her fellow students have shown time and again how little regard they have for human life and how low they can fall in their cruel ambition to impose their twisted ideology,” he said, according to the BBC.

Two other girls were injured, one of whom was still in critical condition as of Wednesday evening.

Pakistan officials have offered a 10 million rupee award, about $105,000, for information leading to the arrest of Yousafzai’s attackers.

The group Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan said through spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan that its members committed the attack and “successfully targeted” her “although she was young and a girl and the TTP does not believe in attacking women.”

Its Oct. 10 letter accused the girl of being “pro-West,” opposing Taliban militants, and being part of a campaign against Islam and Shariah law.

The group said it is “deadly against co-education and a secular education system, and Shariah orders us to be against it,” Radio Free Europe reports.

The shooting sparked anti-Taliban protests in several Pakistan cities.

Yousafzai began writing a diary for BBC Urdu in 2009 about life under the Taliban, which had captured the Swat Valley in 2007, imposed a strict version of Islamic law, and closed girls’ schools. The Taliban were driven out by Pakistan’s military in 2009.

Muslim activist Tahira Abdullah told Fides that the Taliban is a threat to its opponents.

“Whoever speaks against religious extremism and Talibanization of the country is not safe in Pakistan,” she said. “Talibans are not only in the tribal areas but they are everywhere, and human rights activists are in danger.”

“We ask the government to punish the perpetrators of the attack, to ensure the protection of women and minorities, to protect the life and dignity of all citizens, as required by the Constitution.”

Anglican pastor Rev. Samuel Gill, who cares for 50 Christian families in the Swat Valley and another 50 families in Malakand, told Fides he has not noticed any dangers for Christians but they “live in uncertainty.”

“Malala was the victim of a targeted killing that may affect anyone, Christian or Muslim, who does not share the ideology of the Taliban,” he said.

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Pope opens Year of Faith, calls for return to Vatican II documents

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI opened the Year of Faith in Rome with a call for a new evangelization rooted in an authentic interpretation of the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

“I have often insisted on the need to return, as it were, to the ‘letter’ of the Council – that is to its texts – also to draw from them its authentic spirit, and (it is) why I have repeated that the true legacy of Vatican II is to be found in them,” the Pope said Oct. 11 to approximately 30,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the opening Mass of the Year of Faith.

Speaking on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, the Pope said that “reference to the documents saves us from extremes of anachronistic nostalgia and running too far ahead." Thus, “the new” can be welcomed “in a context of continuity.”

In scenes deliberately reminiscent of the opening of the Second Vatican Council on Oct. 11, 1962, the Mass began with a grand procession of over 400 bishops from around the world. During the liturgy, the same book of the Gospels that was used throughout the three years of the council was placed on the same golden throne that cradled it 50 years ago.

Pope Benedict also chose to concelebrate Mass with 14 of the 70 surviving Council Fathers.

As a young priest and academic, Pope Benedict XVI was present at the Second Vatican Council in an advisory capacity to Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne. Today in his homily the Pope recalled how he felt during those years.

“During the Council there was an emotional tension as we faced the common task of making the truth and beauty of the faith shine out in our time, without sacrificing it to the demands of the present or leaving it tied to the past,” he recalled.

He lamented that when the council closed in 1965 many Catholics misinterpreted its documents and “embraced uncritically the dominant mentality.” In doing so, they placed in doubt “the very foundations of the deposit of faith, which they sadly no longer felt able to accept as truths,” he said.

But the Second Vatican Council “did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient,” Pope Benedict stated. Rather, it was concerned with seeing that “the same faith might continue to be lived in the present day, that it might remain a living faith in a world of change.”

For that reason, the Pope said he hopes the Year of Faith will “revive in the whole Church that positive tension” between “the eternal presence of God” that transcends time but “can only be welcomed by us in our own unrepeatable today.”

Despite predictions of an increasingly secularized world, Pope Benedict said that he sees “innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life.” These signs include the upsurge in popularity of traditional pilgrimage routes such as the Way of St. James in northern Spain.

Towards the close of the Mass, Pope Benedict XVI reenacted his predecessor Pope Paul VI’s conclusion of the Second Vatican Council by issuing a series of “Messages to the People of God,” including rulers, scientists, artists, women, workers and the young.

American journalist Kathryn Lopez of the National Review Online received the message to women, while Scottish composer James MacMillan was entrusted with the message to artists.

Pope Benedict concluded the ceremony by entrusting the Year of Faith to Our Lady, praying that “the Virgin Mary always shine out as a star along the way of the new evangelization.”

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Abortion activists in Argentina target young Catholics

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 11, 2012 (CNA) - Around 500 abortion activists in Posadas hurled insults, spat and threw paint on young Catholics who prayed the Rosary outside the local cathedral and prevented the demonstrators from entering.

The activists convened in the city Oct. 7 for the 27th National Meeting of Women in Argentina.

According to local media, the group march through the city, painting homes and streets with slogans in support of abortion and homosexual marriage as well as anti-Catholic slurs.

Some activists reportedly stripped naked, while others made sexual gestures at the young people standing in prayer outside the Cathedral of Posadas.

According to the pro-life organization Argentinos Alerta, in previous months members of the Misiones Federal Network of Families “distributed a letter warning about the excesses caused by abortion activists,” which had been “documented by the large number of videos of previous encounters.”

Bishop Juan Martinez of Posadas called the group “professional instigators of violence” and demanded they be brought to justice. He said the paint on the church building and walls would not be removed for 48 hours so that the public could reflect on what has happened.

During a press conference on Oct. 9, he said, “These militant groups always see the Church as an enemy. They hate Catholics.”  

“I think that this goes beyond religious discrimination,” the bishop added. “If this had been done to a synagogue, everyone would have condemned it as anti-Semitism. They do this against Catholics and many people look the other way.”

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Colombian bishops say nothing justifies legalizing euthanasia

Bogotá, Colombia, Oct 11, 2012 (CNA) - A representative of the Colombian bishops, Father Pedro Mercado Cepeda, has rejected recent efforts by a group of lawmakers to legalize euthanasia in the country.

“No circumstance can make it legally acceptable to intentionally cause the death of a human being.  The right to life is constitutionally inviolable,” he wrote in column published by local newspaper El Espectador.

On Oct. 8, a senate committee in Colombia voted 10-4 to send a proposed measure to regulate euthanasia to the full Senate for consideration. If approved the measure would be sent to the Colombian House of Representatives for a vote.

Fr. Mercado – who serves as the associate secretary general for the Colombian bishops' Relations with the State department – noted that every human being aspires to happiness and well-being, and therefore has a “natural aversion” to experiencing pain and suffering in death.  

“However, this natural rejection does not justify the taking of a human life. Life is good that must be protected by the State until its natural end,” he said.

Rather than “legislating the suppression of life,” congress should “promote conditions in our health care institutions that make the natural process of death a reality that corresponds to the dignity of all Colombians.”

This should be done first of all “through a deep reform of the health care sector, in which thousands of Colombians should be fighting more to live rather than to die,” he added.

“Secondly, by providing greater care to the chronically or terminally ill through subsidies and palliative care proper to their circumstances.”

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Legion and Regnum Christi head taking leave for health reasons

Rome, Italy, Oct 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Father Alvaro Corcuera, General Director of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, announced that he is handing over his responsibilities for the sake of his health.

“I have seen before God that I do not have the health and energy necessary to face responsibly the demands of the general governance in the present time in the history of the Legion and Regnum Christi,” he wrote Oct. 9 in a letter to his brother Legionaries and the members of Regnum Christi.

Fr. Corcuera has been General Director of the Legion since Jan. 2005, taking over from Father Marcial Maciel, who was found guilty of sexually abusing seminarians and leading a double life.

The Legion has been overseen since 2010 by Cardinal Velasio de Paolis, after an apostolic visitation determined that the order needed “profound re-evaluation.”

Father Sylvester Heereman, the order’s vicar general, will assume his new responsibilities on Oct. 15 and they will last until the convocation of the order's next General Chapter in late 2013 or early 2014.

Fr. Heereman is 38 years-old and was appointed Vicar General by Cardinal de Paolis on Feb. 16, 2012.

Reflecting on his decision to step aside, Fr. Corcuera wrote, “I can see that the Legion and Regnum Christi are working their way forward on the path of renewal. It is path of suffering, still difficult and complex, but full of hope.”

“In recent months I have felt the great support of the General Council, which has begun to take on an increasingly active role. Cardinal de Paolis has been close to us with his guidance, very wise, giving us his energies and his time.”

Following conversations with the cardinal and reflecting on the Legion's Constitutions, Fr. Corcuera, who is 55, decided that while he is not gravely ill, “someone who is in full health” is needed to act as General Director. The decision is a measure to ensure his health will not be definitely compromised.

The decisions of the General Directorate will continue to be “reserved to the Papal Delegate,” Cardinal de Paolis said in an Oct. 10 letter sent to Legion and Regnum Christi members.

Though Fr. Corcuera will not be exercising his office, he remains the General Director of the Legion. He told his fellow Legionaries that he will “continue to offer you my closeness and company, with all my heart, to promote with you and advance together with you along the path of renewal on which we have set out.”

He exhorted them to give Cardinal de Paolis “dedication and adherence,” and Fr. Heereman “obedience and closeness.”

In his Oct. 10 letter Cardinal de Paolis acknowledged Fr. Corcuera's generous self-gift as General Director. He announced that the next Chapter of the Legion will elect new superiors, and “approve the new Constitutions which by desire of the Holy Father are now in the process of revision.”

It was mentioned in the cardinal’s letter that the idea for Fr. Corcuera to make “something in the order of a sabbatical year” came from the cardinal.

The decision was made for “the good of the Legion and Fr Alvaro himself,” the letter said.

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At Year of Faith opening, Orthodox patriarch hopes for unity

Vatican City, Oct 11, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Orthodox Christianity’s most significant bishop told Pope Benedict XVI that the Year of Faith should spur greater prayer, hope and effort towards the unity of their two Churches.

“We join in the hope that the barrier dividing the Eastern Church and the Western Church will be removed, and that – at last – there may be but the one dwelling, firmly established on Christ Jesus, the cornerstone, who will make both one,” said the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

The patriarch made his remarks in an address at the opening ceremony of the Year of Faith, which was inaugurated with Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 11.

“It is fitting that this occasion also marks for your Church the formal inauguration of the ‘Year of Faith,’ as it is faith that provides a visible sign of the journey we have travelled together along the path of reconciliation and visible unity,” he said.

The 72-year-old Greek cleric ranks as the “primus inter pares” or “first among equals” in the Eastern Orthodox communion which has over 300 million followers worldwide.

Patriarch Bartholomew recalled how the opening of the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago paved the way for a thawing of relations between Catholicism and Orthodoxy after generations of division dating back to the 11th century. 

“Over the last five decades, the achievements of this assembly have been diverse as evidenced through the series of important and influential constitutions, declarations, and decrees,” he told the Pope and over 400 of his fellow Catholic bishops in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica.

A key moment in the thawing of relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches came in the middle of the Second Vatican Council when, in January 1964, Pope Paul VI met with Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

The historic encounter was the first between a Pope and a Patriarch of Constantinople since the Council of Florence in 1439 when the breach between the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity – then 400 years old – was momentarily healed.

Amongst other fruits, said Bartholomew I, the warming relationship between the Churches since the mid-1960s has resulted in “the mutual rescinding of the excommunications of the year 1054, the exchange of greetings, returning of relics, entering into important dialogues, and visiting each other in our respective sees.”

While he admitted that the “journey has not always been easy or without pain and challenge,” Patriarch Bartholomew believes that his presence at the opening of the Year of Faith in Rome “signifies and seals our commitment to witness together to the Gospel message of salvation.”

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