Vatican City, Nov 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI met with six new cardinals and their families, just two days after they made their vows, and encouraged them to promote the “holiness, communion and peace of the Church.”
The Pope addressed the gathering at noon on Nov. 26 in the Pope Paul VI Hall. He first greeted American Cardinal Harvey, Indian Cardinal Thottunkal, Nigerian Cardinal Onaiyekan and Filipino Cardinal Tagle in English, before addressing Cardinal Raï in French and Colombian Cardinal Salazar in Spanish.
"The College of Cardinals, whose origin is linked to the ancient clergy of the Roman Church, is in charge of electing the successor of Saint Peter and advising him in matters of greater importance," said the Pope.
"Whether in the offices of the Roman Curia or in their ministry in the local Churches throughout the world, the cardinals are called to share in a special way in the Pope's solicitude for the universal Church," he added.
He noted that "the vivid color of their robes has traditionally been seen as a sign of their commitment to defending Christ's flock, even to the shedding of their blood."
"As the new cardinals takes on the burden of office, I am confident they will be supported by your prayers and assistance as they strive with the Roman pontiff to promote throughout the world the holiness, communion and peace of the Church," Pope Benedict stated.
As he addressed Lebanese Cardinal Boutros Raï and his family in French, the Pope recalled his recent visit to Lebanon, saying that those days were ''happy memories.''
"I wish to encourage life and particularly the presence of Christians in the Middle East where they must live their faith freely, and start again an urgent appeal for peace in the region," he said. "The Church encourages all efforts for peace in the world, and the Middle East peace will only be effective if it is based on a genuine respect for each other."
Pope Benedict finished his greetings by speaking in Spanish to Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez with his family and friends, as well as the Archbishop of Bogota and the president of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia.
"May Mary, most holy, who in those noble lands is sweetly invoked under the name of Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá, always hold within her motherly love all beloved sons and daughters of Colombia, whom I have very present in my heart and prayers …” he said.
"I invite everyone to raise fervent prayers for the new cardinal, that he is increasingly linked to the Successor of Peter and to work tirelessly with the Apostolic See. Ask God also to assist him with his gifts, so that it remains a witness to the truth of the Gospel of salvation, righteousness and faithfulness …”
He told the new cardinals that their "ministry has been enhanced with a new commitment to supporting the Successor of Peter, in his service to the Church universal."
"Therefore, as I again offer to each of you my most cordial good wishes, I am confident in the support of your prayers and your help. Continue confident and strong in your spiritual and apostolic mission, keeping your gaze fixed on Christ and strengthened in your love for his Church. "
He finished his speech by saying that this love can also be learned from the saints, which is the fullest realization of the Church.
Manila, Philippines, Nov 27, 2012 (CNA) - The Catholic clergy in the Philippines are strongly campaigning against political candidates who back a controversial “reproductive health” bill, helping stall its progress because politicians fear a backlash from Catholic voters.
Bishop Arturo Bastes of the Sorsogon diocese has instructed his priests about a campaign to inform the laity about candidates’ position on the bill, CBCP News reports.
“This is an important issue and this is a very good test whether the Philippines is a Catholic country or not,” the bishop told the Archdiocese of Manila’s Radio Veritas. “I hope even those who are not Catholics who believe in the sacredness of life will not vote (for) the politicians pushing for the RH bill.”
The legislation would mandate sex education in schools and subsidize contraceptives as part of a population control program.
Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa had particularly forceful words against the bill.
“We must use the Catholic vote and show them what the real Catholic is. There are fake Catholics here, they are the ones ruling in our country,” he said. “We can only stop ethnic cleansing, (the) contraceptive mentality, immorality, increasing number of broken families, and promiscuity if we vote for candidates who love life.”
Catholic leaders are also concerned that some of the contraceptives might cause abortions.
The Catholic campaign is having an effect. Although bill supporters like President Benigno Aquino III predicted it would move through the House of Representatives, required debates on the measure have been postponed because not enough lawmakers are attending to hold a quorum. Lawmakers are either missing sessions or leave after roll is called.
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said most of the absent lawmakers are supporters of the bill.
Manuel Mamba, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, told the Philippines Inquirer News that lawmakers do not want to provoke their parish priests by appearing in the deliberations on the bill or voting for it.
“If you’re a politician, you stay out of trouble. They (the clergy) are not even the enemy. Why provoke them? By voting for the measure, you’re provoking the Catholic hierarchy,” Mamba said. “In local politics, there is a Catholic vote, especially in areas where the clergy are very influential on their flock. If the clergy are popular, they have the pulpit. They can do it every Sunday.”
Backers of the bill have said surveys show over 70 percent of Catholic voters support the bill. Some backers, like bill co-sponsor Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, have said activism from bishops and clergy constitutes a “borderline violation” of the constitutional separation of church and state.
Bishop Arguelles responded that the separation of church and state limits the state from showing religious favoritism.
“This does not mean that the church cannot comment or speak on moral issues,” he said. “The Reproductive Health bill is a moral issue.”
Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City has suggested that some political leaders are changing their mind on the bill not only because of fear of political backlash.
“They now realize that it violates the Constitution, is coercive in nature, is morally incorrect, it assaults the Catholic religion, is medically unsafe, and is an unsound policy for a developing economy,” he said, charging that the bill will waste “billions of pesos” on condoms and contraceptives instead of investing in education and health care.
Some backers of the bill are playing political hardball, threatening some skeptical lawmakers that funding for the regions they represent will be cut if they do not vote for the bill.
Washington D.C., Nov 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A new government report estimates the number of U.S. abortions dropped five percent in 2009, drawing praise from pro-life advocates and researchers who say the drop could be due in part to an increase in the numbers of pro-life Americans.
“Overall I’m pleased to see the abortion numbers are coming down,” Michael J. New, a political science professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, told CNA Nov. 26. “We’ve seen a pretty consistent downward trend in abortion since 1990. The numbers have declined almost every year. The numbers are down almost 25 percent overall since the early nineties. Overall, that’s a good thing.”
New said it is “very hard to say” what caused the short-term decline. He suggested a combination of more pro-life laws, the lack of abortion clinics in many parts of the country, and the change of “hearts and minds” on abortion.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Nov. 21 released a report based on figures from 43 states and two cities. Although there are an estimated 1 million abortions in the U.S. each year, the report counted about 785,000 in 2009. The figures do not include statistics from California, which has the most abortion providers in the country.
Using the available figures, researchers found that abortions fell from 16 per 1,000 women of child-bearing age in 2008 to about 15 per 1,000 women in 2009, about 38,000 fewer abortions.
New noted that 2009 was the first year a majority of respondents to the Gallup Survey questions on abortion said they were pro-life.
“Now in fairness we don’t have a lot of research which correlates public opinion towards abortion with abortion rates, but I think that’s something that ought to be considered,” he said.
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, President and CEO of Americans United for Life, said the drop in abortions is “a real cause for giving thanks.”
However, she questioned why the abortion-related deaths of 12 women are “buried in the very last table of the report and unremarked on in the news.”
“The news from this report is that abortion harms women, as well as their babies,” she said Nov. 23.
New, whose work has examined the possible effects of state policy on the abortion rate, said the decline was “pretty broad based” and not confined to states that vote mainly Republican or Democratic.
Among reporting states, Mississippi had the lowest abortion rate of 4 per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. New York state, which has the second most abortion providers in the U.S., had the highest abortion rate of 29.8 per 1,000 women of child bearing age. New York also reported 466 abortions per 1,000 live births.
Most abortions are performed by the eighth week of pregnancy, the government report said. About 85 percent of women who seek abortions are not married. White women had the lowest abortion rate of 8.5 abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. The rate among Hispanic women was 19.3 per 1,000, while among black women the rate was 34.2 per 1,000.
There are few records that measure how many women choose to carry their babies to term after engagement with pro-life advocates.
The 40 Days for Life organization, which leads national campaigns of prayer and outreach outside abortion clinics, reported that its participants helped save over 430 babies from abortion in its spring 2009 campaign and over 600 babies in its fall 2009 campaign.
Several researchers told the Associated Press that the drop in the numbers of abortions could be due to more widespread and more effective use of contraception.
However, New was skeptical.
“Quite honestly there is no evidence to back that up,” he told CNA. “I haven’t seen any data which suggests that starting in 2009 women started to use contraception more often or they started to use more effective contraception. I think that’s just purely conjecture.”
Barcelona, Spain, Nov 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A study carried out in Spain on the digital breach between adults and young people revealed that teens see the online world as an extension of reality, while adults use the internet as a tool.
Sociologist Jordi Busquet of the Ramon Llull University said that for teens, both real-life and virtual interactions are “two parallel realities that form part of their own lives.”
Sixty adults and 120 students were interviewed for the study, which was conducted over three years at schools in Barcelona, Madrid, Zaragoza, Seville and Santiago de Compostela.
Busquet said the analysis found that young people integrate online social networks into their daily lives, to such a degree that “there is little difference” between what they post on Facebook and how they act day to day.
Although the study did not focus on addictions, it found that many young people cannot live without social networks to the point that they make themselves available for contact “all day long.”
It also concluded that although young people are careful not to accept people they do not know as friends, they tend to be careless about their image because “they are not conscious that it is a public and not a private space.”
This naiveté, Busquet added, often leads them post photos that can affect their reputation and “can be jeopardizing in the long run,” such as when the time comes to look for a job.
The study also addressed the disconnect between adults and young people by showing that other variables separate them besides age, such as their level of education and their economic status.
It found that adults who have not mastered the new technologies tend to react in one of two ways – either neglecting their role as parents or establishing prohibitions.
Busquet said it is best that adults “accompany” young people in their technological lives, even if it is difficult, since fear and prohibitions only serve to undermine trust with teens.
The study also found that families tend to be “much more positive” in their attitudes about the internet than schools, which have a more conservative and reluctant stance.
Many schools have modernized in technology but not in their teaching methods and have “turned their backs on the social networks.” This can threaten the authority of teachers, Busquet said, as students tend to be very critical of teachers who don’t know how to use new technologies.
Washington D.C., Nov 27, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A successful Advent initiative in Washington, D.C., is urging people to use the true meaning of the Christmas season to learn more about the Catholic faith and grow closer to Christ.
In an online video, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., reflected that “when we think of Christmas, we think of gifts,” because gift-giving is “one of the ways in which we show our love for the people around us.”
“We are always looking for the right gift, the perfect gift,” he observed. “Christmas is all about that great and perfect gift that is Jesus Christ.”
To aid people in remembering that Christmas is an invitation to celebrate Christ’s birth and grow in a relationship with him, the archdiocese is continuing its “Find the Perfect Gift” and “Regalo Perfecto” initiatives that were successfully debuted during Advent last year.
The campaigns invite holiday shoppers in the D.C. area to remember the real meaning of Christmas and to enter into a deeper relationship with Jesus.
The archdiocese will distribute 10,000 yard and window signs announcing the initiative at the beginning of Advent on Dec. 2.
These websites offer information in English and Spanish on the Catholic faith, video testimonies and resources to find parishes, as well as service opportunities and prayer events during the Advent and Christmas seasons.
“The perfect gift will bring a big smile, but it's sometimes not easy to find,” the website observes.
It encourages readers not to be distracted by stressful searching but to open the doors to their hearts, allowing God to give them the perfect gift of Christ this year.
Website viewers can also find information about prayer and what constitutes real peace and happiness.
An online video offers testimonies of individuals who have converted or returned to the Catholic Church and have experienced how Christ is the perfect gift in their lives.
“Since coming back to the Church, I really understand what Christmas means,” one woman explained.
Another woman, who grew up in a Buddhist family in Hong Kong, said that she converted on Christmas Eve.
“As a teenager, I searched for the truth, and Jesus became my perfect gift,” she said.
Two men who converted while working with people with developmental disabilities said that “(t)he God we discovered in the Catholic Mass was the same God we recognized in the people we were working with.”
The “Find the Perfect Gift” campaign logo depicts the three wise men following the Christmas star on a journey to the baby Jesus.
Dr. Susan Timoney, assistant secretary of Pastoral Ministry and Social Concern for the archdiocese, explained that Christmas is about the world’s greatest love story.
It is this immense love that led God to take on our human form and become “a vulnerable, dependent infant named Jesus,” Timoney said.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 27, 2012 (CNA) -
The bishops of Spain will release a new document on Dec. 17 supporting marriage in the wake of a ruling by the Constitutional Court upholding same-sex unions.
The secretary general of the bishops' conference, Auxiliary Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino of Madrid, will present the document which describes the country as “witnessing the destruction of marriage through legal means.”
On Nov. 6, eight of the court's 11 judges voted in favor of a measure legalizing “gay marriage” amid tense opposition from traditional marriage supporters in the country.
“Convinced of the negative consequences that this destruction entails for the common good, we raise our voices in support of marriage and its legal recognition,” the bishops said.
“We also note that everyone, from their own place in society, should defend and promote marriage and its appropriate treatment by our laws.”
True marriage is between one man and one woman, they said, and is faithful, exclusive and open to life, they noted. “These characteristics of life, so intimately linked together, are inseparable: if one is missing, the others will not be present either.”
Washington D.C., Nov 27, 2012 (CNA) -
Almost a year after being appointed to shepherd Anglican communities seeking to join the Catholic Church, Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson says the past months have been showered with blessings.
“I think the real joys have been to see communities that have struggled with the decision of discerning whether to become Catholic and have made that choice, and they have come in,” he told CNA in a November interview.
He described “the joy on their faces” as they enter the Catholic Church and said, “That’s the thing that sticks in my mind the most.”
Msgr. Steenson leads the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which was canonically erected on Jan. 1, 2012. Pope Benedict XVI approved the creation of the ordinariate, which is similar to a diocese but includes communities throughout the entire U.S. and Canada.
Based in Houston, the ordinariate allows for entire communities to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining elements of their Anglican heritage and liturgical practices, such as the Book of Common Prayer.
As of Nov. 1, the ordinariate included 1,336 members. It contains 23 priests, 69 seminarians and 35 communities, including large groups in Texas, Maryland, Florida and Pennsylvania.
A former Episcopal bishop, Msgr. Steenson and his wife entered the Catholic Church in 2007, and he was ordained a Catholic priest in 2009.
He holds a doctorate in patristics - the study of the Early Church Fathers - from Oxford University and played an important role in designing the formation program for former Anglican priests who seek to be ordained under the new ordinariate.
Because he is married, Msgr. Steenson cannot be a bishop. Instead, he is an “ordinary,” who carries all the authority of a bishop except that of being able to ordain priests.
The past year has brought both joys and challenges for the new ordinariate. Msgr. Steenson said that he has to be “very patient with people because this is a big, life-changing decision for them,” and for some people, “all of their mind isn’t really there at the same time.”
“Sometimes people think that it’s a very simple matter to become a Catholic, that it’s like changing your uniform,” he reflected. “That’s not the way it is. It requires a profound transformation at so many levels.”
“It’s challenging, because not everybody sees that right away in the middle of this,” he explained.
It is also important to ensure that those who are entering the Church “are genuinely becoming Catholic and not just running away from something,” he said, adding that the ordinariate cannot simply be a “refugee community.”
Among those who have chosen to become members of the ordinariate, Msgr. Steenson has seen a common understanding that “we need Peter.”
“I think they’re very grateful, too, to the Catholic Church for making it possible for them to continue with a tradition of prayer and worship that they’ve known all along,” he said, noting that some people who had previously converted and found themselves missing “the prayers that shaped their lives” are now joining ordinariate communities.
Over the past year, Msgr. Steenson has found great encouragement in the “incredible support” of American Catholics, particularly the U.S. bishops.
“We’re small, we’re starting modestly, and yet the excitement and the support from people have been really, really great,” he said.
He described how numerous diocesan bishops have “gone way beyond the call of duty,” helping to fund initial assessments and health insurance for some men in the ordinariate priesthood and finding positions for them during their transition period.
In addition, Msgr. Steenson said that he has begun to develop a deep friendship with the bishops.
“It’s really quite astonishing how welcoming they’ve been,” he said. “I feel it’s home for me now.”
The current Year of Faith is a special blessing for members of the ordinariate, Msgr. Steenson said. During the year, which runs Oct. 11, 2012 - Nov. 24, 2013, the Holy Father is encouraging Catholics to grow in their faith through prayer and study of Vatican II and the catechism.
Msgr. Steenson explained that the catechism “has been our textbook.” He hopes that both clergy and laity in the ordinariate will come to know the catechism cover-to-cover and recognize it as an incredible resource as they move forward in their new faith.
Even before his conversion, Msgr. Steenson said that he had been using the Catholic catechism. He recalled his time as an Episcopal priest in the 1990s, feeling lost and wondering where he could find the resources to teach his people the faith. He was attracted by the rich substance in the catechism, which he views as “an incredible intellectual achievement.”
Looking forward, Msgr. Steenson hopes that the ordinariate will be able to grow in its relationship with the rest of the Church and provide “a real enrichment of Catholic life with this culture and patrimony.”
“We’re never going to lose our accent,” he said. “And in many different ways, we’ll be able to bring that gift into Catholic life.”