Vatican City, Oct 29, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
At a Mass on Sunday closing the bishops' synod on the new evangelization, the Pope reflected on the need for faith in overcoming spiritual blindness and also appealed on behalf of the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Drawing from the day's Gospel of Mark reading, the Pope noted that Christ curing the blind man Bartimaeus “is the last miraculous healing that Jesus performs before his Passion, and it is no accident that it should be that of a blind person, someone whose eyes have lost the light.”
Pope Benedict noted that physical blindness “has great significance in the Gospels” because it “represents man who needs God’s light, the light of faith, if he is to know reality truly and to walk the path of life.”
“It is essential to acknowledge one’s blindness, one’s need for this light, otherwise one could remain blind for ever.”
The blind Bartimaeus represents mankind, the Pope went on to say, because he “represents man who has lost the light and knows it, but has not lost hope.”
Pope Benedict made his remarks at the close of the Oct. 7 - 28 synod on the new evangelization in Rome, which gathered bishops from the world over to Rome to discuss the transmission of the Christian faith in the modern world.
The synod “meaningfully coincided” with the opening of the Year of Faith and the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the Pope said.
Synod fathers have released a document of 58 propositions about the new evangelization. Pope Benedict will review the findings of the synod and will write a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, after considering their propositions.
During his homily, the pontiff said that Sunday's Gospel reading directly applies to the recent synod, and highlight three themes that emerged from the event.
“The first concerns the Sacraments of Christian initiation. It has been reaffirmed that appropriate catechesis must accompany preparation for Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist,” he said. “The importance of Confession, the Sacrament of God’s mercy, has also been emphasized.”
Secondly, “the Church’s task is to evangelize, to proclaim the message of salvation to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ.”
“A third aspect concerns the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism...Such people are found in all continents, especially in the most secularized countries.”
“The Church is particularly concerned that they should encounter Jesus Christ anew, rediscover the joy of faith and return to religious practice in the community of the faithful.”
The Pope then encouraged all the faithful to embrace full sight in Christ, putting away “all blindness to the truth, all ignorance and, removing the darkness that obscures our vision like fog before the eyes, let us contemplate the true God.”
He also pointed out that while many lands need to be re-evangelized, this is “essentially linked to the Missio ad Gentes” and that there are “still many regions in Africa, Asia and Oceania whose inhabitants await with lively expectations” the first proclamation of the Gospel.
Following the Mass Pope Benedict expressed his own solidarity with the victims of Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Caribbean this past week.
“I wish to assure you of my closeness and my recollection of those who have been affected by this natural disaster, while I invite everyone to prayer and solidarity, in order to alleviate the pain of the families of the victims and offer support to the thousands of people who have been hurt in various ways by the storm.”
More than 60 people have been killed by Sandy, which has already struck the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, and Jamaica. It is due to hit the Mid-Atlantic coast of the United States today.
At his Angelus prayer following Mass, the Pope stressed the need for “a renewed proclamation of the Gospel in secularized societies, in the twofold certainty that, on the one hand, he, Jesus Christ, is the only true innovation that meets the expectations of people of all ages, and on the other, that his message asks to be shared in a manner that is appropriate to changing social and cultural contexts.”
This, he said, is the focus of the new evangelization, that call to present Christ and his Church anew to the modern world.
He also pointed out that in reflecting on Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council we see that “the new evangelization is not our invention, but is a dynamic that developed in the Church particularly in the 50s of the last century.”
Abuja, Nigeria, Oct 29, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A suicide bombing of a Catholic church in northern Nigeria on Oct. 28 has been denounced as cowardly by Archbishop Matthew M. Ndagoso of Kaduna.
“A cowardly, barbarous and horrible act, that any ordinary person can only condemn. It is unthinkable that anyone is able to commit such actions, but unfortunately it happens,” the archbishop told Fides news agency Oct. 29.
On Sunday, a suicide bomber killed himself and seven others when he drove his explosives-filled jeep into St. Rita's parish in the city of Kaduna during a Mass. Hundreds were wounded in the attack.
The driver was stopped at the security gate outside the church. At first he reversed his car, but then drove straight through the church's wall and set off his explosives.
He ripped a large hole in the wall and ceiling of the building, near the sanctuary. The jeep's remains are hardly discernible as a vehicle.
The injured were taken to hospitals in the surrounding area.
Though responsibility for the attack has not been claimed, it is widely believed to have been carried out by Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group in the country whose name means “Western education is sinful.”
Local Christians have been asked by both government and religious leaders not to retaliate with further violence.
"I have no direct knowledge of retaliation actions, but as soon as the news about episodes of revenge on behalf of Christians spread, I immediately launched an appeal via radio to calm and peace. Unfortunately one cannot control everyone,” said Archbishop Ndagoso to Fides Agency.
There have been reports of reprisal attacks in the city committed by Christians.
Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has promised to redouble efforts to combat terrorism, and Archbishop Ndagoso reported that “the President of the Assembly, who is a Muslim, condemned the attack, today we will see if other Muslim leaders will join in condemning this brutal act.”
He said, “The situation is now calm, the police and the army control the streets. Even in the area of the attack the population is dedicated to their normal activities.”
Northern Nigeria is primarily Muslim, and the south is predominantly Christian and traditional animist. In 2011, the population of the Archdiocese of Kaduna was 9.2 percent Catholic.
The Islamist group Boko Haram seeks to overthrow the government and impose Shariah law throughout Nigeria. It has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on Christians and is reportedly involved with rebels and terrorist groups in the region.
According to the Associated Press, Boko Haram has been responsible for more than 690 killings this year alone, most recently at the cathedral in Bauchi on Sept. 23.
Washington D.C., Oct 29, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
As much of the East Coast braces for Hurricane Sandy, the Church is helping local people prepare for the storm, reaching out to offer shelter to the homeless and organizing disaster response efforts.
“Since Hurricane Katrina, we have focused on being prepared for future disasters,” Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, said in an Oct. 27 statement.
“Not only are we early responders, but our presence in the community also puts us in a position to be able to quickly assess and provide support in the long-term,” he added.
After hitting Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti, Hurricane Sandy moved toward the U.S. coastline as a Category 1 hurricane, predicted to slam much of the Northeast, including Washington, D.C., New York, and New Jersey.
As the massive storm starts to hit New England on Oct. 29, its potential to cause damage and take lives is increased by its collision course with an arctic blast from the north. Experts are predicting up to one billion dollars in damage from the storm.
Catholic Charities USA has worked with its local agencies in the days before the hurricane in order “to ensure they have provisions in place to provide for any possible needs the Hurricane may create in their communities,” the group said. Local agencies along the East Coast will be able to provide disaster relief and recovery services after the storm, including food, shelter, counseling and financial support.
The national office said that one of the toughest parts of preparing for the storm was the uncertainty about what its impact will be in different areas.
“One of the biggest mistakes people make is taking these types of weather warnings lightly,” said Samuel Chambers, senior vice president of disaster operations for Catholic Charities USA.
He observed that the National Weather Service has indicated that areas of the East Coast from New York down to Florida will feel some impact from the massive storm.
Catholic Charities USA encouraged people in Hurricane Sandy’s path to make sure that they charge their electronic devices and have cash on hand, as well as to assemble an emergency kit in case evacuation becomes necessary, along with bottled water and emergency supplies to last for several days.
The organization also offered updates in the days leading up to the storm, posting links on Twitter with information on how to prepare for the hurricane and a disaster hotline number.
Local agencies also spent the weekend preparing for Hurricane Sandy, organizing disaster response efforts and spreading information on how to remain safe.
Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Camden, N.J., assembled an Incident Command Team on Oct. 28 to help ensure that the hurricane response and recovery would run smoothly.
The agency explained in a Facebook post that it had filled the positions of incident commander, safety officer and liaison officer and was dividing its disaster response and recovery efforts into distinct categories of finance and administration, planning, logistics and operations.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., announced that its homeless shelters would remain open from Oct. 29 until 7 a.m. on Nov. 1 “so all residents can stay inside during the inclement weather.”
The agency tweeted that it had 922 people in three of its emergency shelters on the night of Oct. 28. It also posted a shelter hotline number on Twitter, encouraging readers to “please call if you see someone on the street who needs to get in out of the storm.”
In addition, Church leaders voiced support and encouraged prayers for all of those in the region that is threatened by the hurricane.
“Pray for all those impacted by Hurricane Sandy,” tweeted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Oct. 29.
Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas also used Twitter to call for prayers “for all affected by Hurricane Sandy, including those stranded in its path from the Diocese of Dallas.”
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia urged prayers “for all those persons injured or forced to leave their homes because of this extraordinary weather disaster.”
In an Oct. 29 statement, the archbishop noted that the storm comes amid election year discussions of the “important but carefully limited role” of government according to Catholic thought, which places a special emphasis on “local accountability and ensuring public safety.”
He praised Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Governor Tom Corbett, as well as others in the tri-state area, for responding “quickly and vigorously” so far.
These officials are “serving their people where it matters most - at the local and state levels, where the ‘common good’ has flesh and blood meaning,” he said, offering “the gratitude of the whole Catholic community” to these officials and the region’s emergency responders.
Archbishop Chaput explained that the archdiocese’s Catholic Human Services would work to provide shelter during the storm.
“While we do not have active disaster relief in place during the storm, we will cooperate fully with the Red Cross and government agencies to provide food, alternate shelter and financial relief as needed after the storm,” he added.