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Archive of November 16, 2012

Benedict XVI's final book on Jesus coming out next week

Colorado Springs, Colo., Nov 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict's latest book on Christ, which focuses on his infancy, will be published in the United States Nov. 21.

Image Books, a division of Random House, will be publishing the work's English translation in both the United States and Canada.

The book is titled “Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives,” and marks the third and final volume in Pope Benedict's series on Christ. It will focus on Jesus’ infancy and early life.

Pope Benedict focuses on the hope which the child Jesus represented for characters as diverse as Mary, Joseph, the magi and Simeon.

The first volume in the series, “Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration,” was published as a hardcover in English in 2007 by Doubleday and in paperback in 2008 by Ignatius Press.

In the introduction of his first book the Pope explained that it was in “no way an exercise of the magisterium,” but rather an “expression of his personal search for the face of the Lord.”

In the work, the Pope explored the majority of Christ's public ministry, including his baptism by John the Baptist, the sermon on the Mount, the meaning of the parables, the calling of the 12 apostles, the confession of Peter and the Transfiguration.

In the second work in the series, “Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week,” Pope Benedict examined Christ's entrance into Jerusalem, his suffering and death, his resurrection from the dead and his ascension into heaven.

Published in English by Ignatius Press in 2011, “Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week,” made its way to the New York Times Best Seller List shortly after being released.

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Expert finds religious freedom a matter of national security

Washington D.C., Nov 16, 2012 (CNA) - The protection of religious freedom worldwide is so essential to democracy and prosperity that it should be considered an issue of “national security” to the U.S. government, says a former diplomat.

“Religious freedom is buried in the bureaucracy and so people understand this is not a priority for us,” Dr. Tom Farr, senior fellow at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion Peace and World Affairs, said Nov. 14.

Farr, who spoke as part of the Family Research Council’s “Cry of the Martyrs” webcast and served as State Department’s first Director of the Office of International Religious Freedom, said that the U.S. needs to implement policies and provide resources to support religious freedom throughout the world.

Created 14 years ago, the Office of International Religious Freedom works to promote religious freedom as a “core objective of U.S. foreign policy,” but Farr said the current administration, as well as its predecessors, has largely fallen short in promoting this issue as foreign policy.

“That needs to change if we’re going to have an impact on persecuted Christians and others around the world,” he said. Protecting religious freedom abroad is “in our interest” since doing so can help emerging democracies to grow beyond just one generation.

“The point is religious freedom can lead to economic development, religious freedom can lead to political development,” Farr said, “There’s plenty of history and plenty of data today that suggests this.”

Even still, Farr said he’s concerned that “our government doesn’t pay much attention to this.”

During his remarks, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said the persecution of Christians is “on the rise, not on the decline” with 160,000 Christians “seriously persecuted” for their beliefs last year.

One of the biggest threats to religious freedom is “Islamic extremism” which he said has not been challenged enough to the extent that it should be by the Obama administration.

In Iran, for example, Vitter said the current administration has “not been aggressive at all in pushing back against” the growing trend of Christian persecution.

Vitter recommended that Americans raise awareness about persecution, such as in the case of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Christian who was sentenced to death for his faith, but released in September due to international outcry calling for his freedom.

Todd Nettleson, director of media development for Voice of the Martyrs, called on Americans to sign a petition calling for the release of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani mother sentenced to death for insulting the
Prophet Muhammad by defending her Christian faith at work in 2010.

In Nigeria, Emmanuel Ogebe of The Jubilee Campaign, said that despite the “persecution on steroids” Christians in his country are experiencing at the hands of Boko Haram – a radical Islamist organization – the U.S. government will not label the group as a terrorists and has failed to list proper data regarding the attacks in State Department reports.

“There’s a systematic desire not to label it as what it is,” Ogebe, who is also a Christian and lawyer, said. “They will not concede that Christians are being attacked.”

He raised the point that although Boko Haram attacked three cities throughout Nigeria on Christmas Day in 2011, only one was recorded in the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.

Ogebe said he knows that data is incorrect because a family member attends one of the churches that was bombed and “anyone who Googles the Christmas Day attacks will see three cities were attacked.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, encouraged support for persecuted Christians through prayer and by petitioning the government to take more action in supporting religious freedom worldwide.

“...we as individual believers in this country can take a stand in standing with our brothers and sisters that are being persecuted around the world, and then we can get our government to do the same,” he said.

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Jerusalem bishop laments new Israeli-Palestinian violence

Jerusalem, Israel, Nov 16, 2012 (CNA) - Amid renewed military action between Israel and the Gaza Strip, a bishop from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is lamenting the “vicious circle of violence.”

Bishop William Shomali, Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told Vatican Radio Nov. 15 that it is presently hard to know who started the violence “because everyone condemns the other.”

“What is true is that many victims are falling down. Innocent people are dying,” he continued, adding that many people on both sides of the fighting are hungry and students cannot go to school.

“Life becomes impossible in that region,” he said.

In recent weeks, rocket attacks on Israel from Palestinian militants in Gaza caused retaliatory airstrikes from the Israeli military. On Nov. 14, Israel launched an offensive that killed the Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari and destroyed several dozen rocket launchers.

Palestinian militants retaliated by shooting more than 200 rockets at the Tel Aviv area, killing at least three. The attacks reached farther into the city than ever before, the Associated Press says.

At least 15 Palestinians have been killed in two days and nearly 200 have been wounded.

The conflict is the heaviest fighting in four years and could push Israel to conduct a ground invasion of Gaza. Bishop Shomali urged Christians to pray for those suffering and to advocate for humanitarian aid for the victims.

“These people don’t only need our prayers. They need our help,” he said.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem itself expressed “deep concern” about the escalation between the Palestinians and Israelis.

“Violence will solve nothing in the crisis,” it said Nov. 15, advocating an “international solution.”

The patriarchate expressed solidarity with all the victims, saying they are “at the center of its thoughts and prayers.”

It also prayed that those with responsibility in the conflict “do not give in to hate.”

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Mexicans should draw on faith to confront country's problems

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 16, 2012 (CNA) - At the end of their annual meeting, Mexico's bishops encouraged Catholics to root their faith in Christ in order to address, with renewed hope, the grave “evils” that affect the country.

“Amid the serious evils that oppress our country such as violence, drug trafficking and organized crime, corruption and unemployment, we invite you to look upon this year of grace with great hope,” they said Nov. 15.

The bishops made their remarks at a press conference attended by the new president of the conference, Cardinal Jose Francisco Robles Ortega, outgoing Secretary General of the conference, Bishop-elect Victor Rene Rodriguez Gomez of Valle de Chalco, and Bishop Pedro Pablo Elizondo Cardenas of Cancun-Chetumal.

The bishops said that the Year of Faith decreed by Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council, is a time “to renew our enthusiasm to believe in Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world.”

“This is the year to rekindle the joy of following his way and to give concrete witness to the transforming power of faith.”

“Faith tells us that we are all God's beloved children and directs our relationships towards fraternity, solidarity and missionary service. In the conversion of each one of us, the Lord gives us the security and peace we so desperately need.”

Faced with various movements that aim to remove God from ordinary life, the bishops said it is important for Catholics to “strive to strongly ground our faith through our daily personal and communal encounter with Christ Jesus and through an ever clearer and more complete knowledge of the truths of our faith.”

After calling for the study the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the bishops encouraged the faithful to “turn to the documents of Vatican II. If we read them correctly, they will be a force for the ever necessary renewal of our church communities.”

“The Year of Faith gives new impetus to the continental mission and the commitment of the continental mission, in turn, renews and strengthens our faith. May this Year of Faith reinforce the missionary spirit that, beginning with Aparecida, has given new life and enthusiasm to pastoral projects and actions in our dioceses and parishes.”

In conclusion, the bishops of Mexico prayed that “our Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the woman who was blessed for believing and the star of evangelization, will be a model and inspiration for all of us who feel the call of the Lord to renew our faith and joy and share it with a missionary spirit to every man and woman, especially those who have gone astray the most.”

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World Youth Day pilgrims not required to pay for Brazil visa

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Nov 16, 2012 (CNA) - Organizers for World Youth Day Rio 2013 said pilgrims and volunteers who have proof of registration in the event will be able to enter Brazil without having to pay for a visa.

Expected to draw hundreds of thousands next summer, the global youth event scheduled for July 23-28  in which Pope Benedict XVI is slated to attend.

The organizers announced that in order to obtain a free visa, attendees will need to present a form that can be obtained from the website of Brazil’s Ministry for Foreign Relations, along with their passport or equivalent document, and proof of registration received from event organizers.

The free visa will be valid for 90 days and can be obtained up to July 28, 2013. Volunteers can obtain an extended visa that will be valid for up to one year.

The application can be found at: http://www.portalconsular.mre.gov.br/.

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Pope asks young to heed Jesus' missonary call

Vatican City, Nov 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - In anticipation of next July’s World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Benedict XVI is challenging young Catholics to be courageous missionaries to their peers.

“Dear young people, I would ask all of you to hear, in the depths of your heart, Jesus’ call to proclaim his Gospel,” the Pope said in a message issued Nov. 16.

Over 4,000 words long, his message meditated on the theme of the next World Youth Day, “Go and make disciples of all nations!” (Mt. 28:19). He urged young Catholics to live the universal Christian vocation to help others to know and love Christ and his Church.

The Pope emphasized that youth can be particularly effective missionaries by using their love for social media to proclaim their Catholic faith and values. This is an important way they can advance the New Evangelization discussed at last month’s synod of bishops in Rome, he noted.

“Learn how to use these media wisely,” he counseled. “Be aware of the hidden dangers they contain, especially the risk of addiction, of confusing the real world with the virtual, and of replacing direct and personal encounters and dialogue with internet contacts.”

Pope Benedict also emphasized that being a missionary is a deeply personal matter, requiring one to grow in faith in order to share it with others one-on-one. The act of sharing also aids one’s own personal journey of faith because proclaiming the Gospel helps a person become more deeply committed to Christ and grow in Christian maturity.

The essence of being a missionary means being attentive to Christ’s words, noted the Holy Father. Young people must look to him as the supreme teacher who calls his disciples to “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.”

This means taking to heart the essence of Christianity, that God so loves mankind that he sent his Son to “free us radically from evil.” And it is this love that compels Christians to share this Good News with others.

Pope Benedict observed that young Catholics have an important field of missionary work among their peers, because many young people “seriously question whether life is something good, and have a hard time finding their way.”

The moment to become missionaries is now, the Pope told young people.

“Whenever you feel inadequate, incapable and weak in proclaiming and witnessing to the faith, do not be afraid,” he said. “Evangelization is not our initiative, and it does not depend on our talents. It is a faithful and obedient response to God’s call and so it is not based on our power but on God’s.”

Love is the impetus behind evangelization, he noted, allowing people to overcome the tendency toward self-absorption and bad habits, in order to courageously give others an encounter with God.

Pope Benedict finished his message by giving young Catholics ways to prepare to be missionaries. He encouraged them to learn the content of their faith, look to the examples of the saints, and sustain themselves with prayer and the sacraments.

In particular, he noted the great benefit afforded by Eucharistic adoration because “time spent in listening and talking with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament becomes a source of new missionary enthusiasm.”

The 14th World Youth Day will be held from July 23–28 in Rio de Janiero, Brazil’s most populous city.

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Conference counters threats to Catholic health care

Vatican City, Nov 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic health care providers and clergy are meeting in Rome this week to develop responses to the different ethical issues they are facing when they work with secular governments.

“The importance of this conference is in showing how much the Church is involved in health care and it highlights the pitfalls and obstacles we have to overcome,” South African Cardinal Wilfred Napier of Durban, told CNA on Nov. 16. “But it also allows us to see what we can do in all the different situations of the world, including in South Africa.”

Meeting in the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall, some 800 health care professionals and clergy are attending the Nov. 15–17 conference to examine Catholic identity in health care. The conference will focus on key issues like respecting life at all stages, giving compassionate care that treats a patient as a child of God, and palliative care to relieve and prevent the suffering of patients.

The conference is also addressing bioethical challenges and what do when government health care funding may have anti-Catholic strings attached.

Cardinal Napier said maintaining the Catholic identity of health care is a constant concern in South Africa.

“In South Africa the main issue is that (government funding of healthcare) is so often linked to conditions such as providing a full range of reproductive health products available,” he explained.

He said that the conference is addressing the need for Catholic hospitals to positively present their pro-life position when the media often portrays the Church as a “stick in the mud” for not distributing contraceptives, let alone facilitating abortions.

Cardinal Napier believes that this requires explaining the Catholic position in terms of “ethical and moral principles rather than simply a doctrinal position we have adopted.”

Auxiliart Bishop Donald Sproxton from the Perth archdiocese is attending the conference as chairman of Australia’s Bishops' Commission for Health and Community Services.

He spoke to CNA after participating in a round table discussion on “Catholic Hospitals in a Changing World.”

“The unique thing we have in Australia is the partnership the Catholic Church is able to develop with the government in providing structure for health in a government hospital,” he reported.

In fact, the Church recently inked a government contract to run a public hospital for 23 years.

“We are discovering that in a secular society there are many who are very critical of the Church running a public hospital,” he said, noting that Catholic health care in Australia is growing.

He also said that the conference is examining how each diocese can effectively maintain their hospitals’ Catholic identity, given the continuing decrease in consecrated religious to run them. One way is for the Church to create ethics committees at hospitals.

Bishop Sproxton had been chatting with a colleague, Rowena McNally, deputy chair of Catholic Health Australia's Stewardship Board.

She said she was heartened to hear the conference addressing issues such as increasing Catholic evangelization efforts within health care, countering threats to Catholic identity from anti-Christian secularism, and how to maintain Catholic healthcare “which remains true to the Gospel and where many of our employees and patients are not Catholic.”

Two of the conference papers that were presented are especially pertinent to much of the developed world, Australia in particular, McNally noted.

One addressed secular pressure to disrespect life at its beginning and end, from contraception and abortion at one end, to euthanasia at the other. The other submission concerned the valuable role of research in medicine and conducting it according to Church teaching.

McNally said that while embryonic stem cell research is a “potential issue” in Australia, science is showing that using adult stem cells “is perfectly effective, which solves a lot of problems.”

The conference will conclude with a Nov. 17 Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and an address from Pope Benedict XVI.

The Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers was established by Blessed Pope John Paul II to provide a forum to discuss Catholic-related healthcare issues. Some 120,000 Catholic healthcare facilities operate worldwide, putting into practice Christ’s command in St. Matthew’s gospel to “Go, preach, and heal the sick.”

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Bono thanks Vatican for helping with debt forgiveness

Vatican City, Nov 16, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The famous U2 vocalist Bono traveled to the Vatican Nov. 16 to thank the Church for its work to free the world's least developed countries from their foreign debt, enabling them to invest in education.

On Friday, Bono spent nearly an hour speaking with Cardinal Peter K. Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, according to Vatican Radio.

In 2000, the Church was an important backer of the “Drop the Debt” campaign, which coincided with the Church's jubilee year. Bono was one of the leading figures in the campaign, and is known for his activism for world’s poorest people.

Drop the Debt was an effort to persuade first-world nations to forgive the debt owed them by the poorest countries. The success of that effort has made possible “an extra 52 million children going to school,” Bono told Vatican Radio, since governments were able to use the money they would have had to pay back for investment in schools.

Bono said the Church deserves “incredible credit” for their role in securing debt forgiveness, and that Catholics should be made aware of how their faith was central in the efforts.

Jubilee years are celebrations of God's mercy, the forgiveness of sins, and reconciliation, and are rooted in Jewish tradition.

The Jewish tradition of jubilee years was that every 50th year, slaves and prisoners were freed. Debts were also forgiven, which is why the Great Jubilee of 2000 was an opportune time for the Church to advocate forgiveness of foreign debt.

Pope John Paul II met with Bono on the eve of the Jubilee year to discuss the debt campaign, and shortly after his death, Bono recalled that “we would never have gotten the debts of 23 countries completely canceled without him.”

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace promotes the Church's social teaching to advance justice and harmony the world over. Bono and Cardinal Turkson were looking forward to further collaboration on development and foreign aid.

Bono told Vatican Radio that “I just think the Church hasn’t done a good job yet of telling people what they’ve achieved and we were just trying to figure out how best to do that.”

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Lk 8:16-18

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