Archive of January 30, 2013

Pope says Biblical view of God can help fatherhood crisis

Vatican City, Jan 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI said the Bible can help clarify the true meaning of being a father during his general audience today.

"Despite the crisis of fatherhood in many societies, the Scriptures show us clearly what it means to call God 'Father,'" he said Jan. 30 at the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

"For those who have had the experience of an overly authoritarian and inflexible father, or an indifferent, uncaring, or even absent one, it is not easy to calmly think of God as a father or to confidently surrender themselves to him," he told the crowd.

Pope Benedict pointed out that "it isn't always easy today to speak about fatherhood and, not having adequate role models, it even becomes problematic to imagine God as a father."

"But a Biblical revelation helps us to overcome these difficulties by telling us about a God who shows us what it truly means to be a father," the pontiff said.

According to the Pope, "it is the Gospel above all that reveals to us this face of God as a father who loves us even to the point of giving us the gift of His Son for the salvation of humanity."

"Jesus reveals God as a merciful father who never abandons his children and whose loving concern for us embraces even the cross," he said.

The Pope's reflections were part of a weekly series on faith, which he will continue during the Year of Faith. Today's teachings were drawn from the Creed's description of God as "the Father Almighty."

"In Christ, God has made us his adopted sons and daughters and the cross shows us also how God our Father is almighty," he stated.

The pontiff noted that "God is infinitely generous, faithful and forgiving and that he so loves the world that he has given us his only Son for our salvation."

He explained that God's omnipotence transcends the limited human concepts of power. "His might is that of a patient love expressed in the ultimate victory of goodness over evil, life over death, and freedom over the bondage of sin," he said.

God's omnipotence, the Pope noted, is not expressed in violence or destruction, but through love, mercy and forgiveness.

It is expressed through his tireless call to a change of heart, through an attitude that is only weak in appearance, and which is made of patience, clemency and love.

"God, to whom all things belong because he made them all, reveals His strength by loving everything and everyone, patiently awaiting our conversion because he wants us as his children," Pope Benedict reflected.

"As we contemplate the cross of Christ," he concluded, "let us turn to God the almighty father and implore the grace to abandon ourselves with confidence and trust to his merciful love and his saving power."

The full text of the Pope's General Audience address can be found here:

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Author cheers Pope's 'flurry' of social media outreach

Orlando, Fla., Jan 30, 2013 (CNA) - A Catholic author and blogger says Pope Benedict's use of social networking has given the Church an example of how to better evangelize through the media.

“I’d say the most recent efforts are several steps in the right direction,” Brandon Vogt told CNA Jan. 29 – something he and other “tech-savvy Catholics” have been supportive of for some time.

Although Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor Pope John Paul II often stressed the importance of using new forms of media to evangelize, especially on the Internet, little action was taken to put such tools to use on the Vatican’s part.

However, events such as the creation of Pope Benedict’s Twitter account and the launch of a new iPhone application show a pointed effort on the Vatican’s part to expand its social media outreach.

Just within the last year, Vogt said, the Pope’s “flurry of digital activity has been very surprising and encouraging.”

One day before Pope Benedict announced his World Communications Day message, the Vatican launched “The Pope App,” a tool for the iPhone and iPad that will give users the ability to stream papal events, view several live papal webcams, read news concerning the Pope’s happenings at the Vatican.

This development, as well as the Pope’s theme of “Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization” for the upcoming World Communications Day in May, show the Vatican is “walking the walk” Vogt said.

He explained that the significance of Pope’s newest social media endeavors is not “what those apps in themselves will accomplish” – which is sure to be “efficacious” – but rather, “that all of his work inspires other Catholics to take up the social media mantle and use these tools themselves.”

He added that witnessing “an 86 year-old pontiff using an iPad” does not leave “much of an excuse” to younger Catholics who have yet to utilize these tools in a similar way.

In his World Communications Day message, the Pope noted that rather than being a “parallel or purely virtual world,” the “digital environment” is “a part of the daily environment of many people, especially the young.”

Vogt said this message reflects a recognition of social media as a way to reach out like never before to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

“I think the Pope is recognizing that and he’s helping the Church to slowly grasp that we now have the means – the most powerful means that we’ve ever had – to reach those groups we’re most desperately trying to reach.”

In their online interactions, the Pope encouraged the faithful to “show their authenticity by sharing the profound source of their hope and joy,” which the Pope said is, “faith in the merciful and loving God revealed in Christ Jesus.”

Christians can show this through patient and respectful dialogue with other online users, as well as “in the explicit expression of their faith,” the Pope noted.

“Social networks, as well as being a means of evangelization, can also be a factor in human development,” Pope Benedict said.

Vogt said he sees Pope’s Benedict’s message for World Communications Day as “the climax” of “not just of this whole social media crescendo” but also of the Year of Faith and “the burgeoning new evangelization movement that surrounds us.”

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Archbishop Gomez hails Senate immigration reform plan

Washington D.C., Jan 30, 2013 (CNA) - Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles welcomed an immigration reform plan proposed by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators as a much-needed foundation for further reform efforts.   

“It is vital that the framework includes a path to citizenship, so that undocumented immigrants can come out of the shadows and into the light and have a chance to become Americans,” said Archbishop Gomez, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration.

The proposal “gives hope to millions of our fellow human beings,” he continued.

On Jan. 28, a bipartisan group of eight senators introduced a series of principles to guide Congress in enacting broad immigration reform in the U.S.

The framework would offer a “tough but fair” pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. It would work to secure borders and better track immigrants, while promoting reforms that keep families together.

In addition, the plan would change the process for allowing future immigrants to enter the workforce, particularly those working in agriculture or obtaining advanced degrees in America. It would also strengthen efforts to effectively verify employment, prevent the hiring of unauthorized workers and fight identity theft.

The eight lawmakers who introduced the blueprint are Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jeff Flake (R-Fla.) Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Marco Rubio (R- Fla.).

The proposal aligns with many of the goals laid out in the U.S. bishops’ 2003 pastoral letter, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.”

That document outlines policy goals for U.S. immigration reform that include a path to citizenship for the undocumented and “family-based” immigration policies that reduce family separation times.

It also calls for programs allowing low-skilled workers to enter the country and work with adequate wages and protections.

In a Jan. 28 statement, Archbishop Gomez hailed the Senate blueprint as an “important first step” in the immigration reform process that “sets a bipartisan tone.”

However, he also observed that the current proposal will need to be improved, since it fails to address the root causes of migration, including persecution and a lack of living wages.

In addition, he noted, the framework fails to restore the due process protections for immigrants that were taken away by the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.

Still, the archbishop vowed that the bishops’ conference will support immigration reform legislation, while maintaining hope that reforms can be found to satisfy all parties.

“A reformed system can protect human dignity and the homeland at the same time,” he said.

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Bishop praises Catholic schools for role in evangelizing

Washington D.C., Jan 30, 2013 (CNA) - In a statement commemorating Catholic Schools Week, Bishop Joseph P. McFadden of Harrisburg, Pa., lauded Catholic schools for helping evangelize the nation.

“It is a challenging education in an atmosphere where Jesus Christ is the center,” the chair of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Catholic Education said Jan. 29.

“The unique atmosphere of our Catholic schools is a space and place where the New Evangelization can reach out to parents and children in a way that is respectful of the human person, presents the teachings of the Church, and supports family life.”

He noted that Catholic Schools Week is an opportunity to “recognize and support parents” as they exercise the right to choose Catholic schools “to support the faith formation and excellent education for their children.”

Bishop McFadden said that the more than 6,800 Catholic schools in the U.S. reach 2 million students daily. He thanked the 151,000 people who choose to give themselves as teachers at these schools, giving a “witness of love and commitment to parents and young people.”

He said Catholic schools in the U.S. have a “rich history” in supporting evangelization. The intention of Catholic education is to offer “the life giving Word of the gospel in an environment that shows respect for the human person, the virtues of good citizenship and academic excellence.”

Catholic education, the bishop noted, has saved the country more than $20 billion a year, and pointed out its successful graduation rates.

“In this Year of Faith it is important to remember that our Catholic schools are centers for the New Evangelization for families of a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and diverse cultures,” he said.

He said the ethnic diversity at Catholic schools, as well as the 15 percent of non-Catholic pupils, creates “a rich environment for catechesis and cultural diversity.”

Bishop McFadden also used his letter to thank the parents who choose Catholic schools and all those who support Catholic education.

“This important week reminds all of us that Catholic education is needed now more than ever to be that place 'which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction,'” he concluded.

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Child malnutrition offends human dignity, warn Guatemalan bishops

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Jan 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Bishops’ Conference of Guatemala called on authorities to address the stark hunger and malnutrition facing thousands of children and rural workers in the country.

The current food crisis, affecting thousands of Guatemalans, “constitutes an affront to the dignity of all those who are suffering from it,” the bishops said.

“This crisis, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, ‘is more serious than the financial crisis,’” they added, pointing especially to the many “boys and girls who are chronically malnourished.”

The bishops discussed the food crisis in a statement released at the conclusion of their plenary assembly, held Jan. 21-25.

They explained that the “very grave” plight of the many rural workers who are suffering from hunger, labor exploitation and other injustices cannot be set aside any longer.

Denouncing the continued problems of violence and social instability in Guatemala, the bishops called for a new development model that would allow for comprehensive, unified and sustainable progress.

This would require “a correct scale of values and goods,” which should be structured with God as the ultimate frame of reference, they explained.

The bishops also encouraged the people of Guatemala to foster peace amid the atmosphere of conflict that has enveloped the country.

Noting that the nation’s constitution upholds the right to life from the moment of conception as a basic principle, they stressed that the call to be a peacemaker requires “the defense of human life in all its stages.”

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Our Lady of Czestochowa icon touring Spain

Madrid, Spain, Jan 30, 2013 (CNA) -  A replica image of Our Lady of Czestochowa is currently traveling throughout Spain on a pro-life and pro-family pilgrimage that will span 12,000 miles and 23 countries.

Dubbed “From Ocean to Ocean,” the tour began last September in Vladivostok on Russia’s Pacific coast and will conclude at the Shrine of Fatima on the Atlantic coast of Portugal.

Organizers of the tour hope that “the number of people who discover and defend the dignity of the human being from conception to natural death will continuously increase.”

The famous image of Mary, normally housed at the Jasna Gora Shrine in Poland, has been in Spain since Dec. 15, visiting more than 25 dioceses.

Its stop in the region of Murcia was especially significant as the area was hit by a 5.1-magnitude earthquake in May 2011, which left nine people dead and 324 injured, in addition to causing widespread damage. Masses, holy hours and other services were celebrated as the icon visited the region’s cities of Vera Cruz and Lorca.

In the region’s capital city of Murcia, the icon visited the Poor Clare convent, where the nuns gathered for a special rosary. The convent is one of the important architectural sites in the city, as it was constructed over an ancient Arab palace.

From Feb. 7-14, the image will be in Madrid for a series of prayer vigils in defense of human life. 

The icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa - one of the most venerated images in Poland - depicts the Virgin Mary holding the child Jesus in her arms. Throughout its history, it has been the target of numerous attacks that have left marks on Virgin Mary’s face and neck.

Blessed Pope John Paul II had a special devotion to Our Lady of Czestochowa and kept a copy of the image in his papal apartment at the Vatican.

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Redefining marriage creates conflict, bishops warn Supreme Court

Washington D.C., Jan 30, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In recent legal briefs filed with the Supreme Court, the U.S. bishops warned that a redefinition of marriage would create an “engine of conflict” that threatens freedom of religion, speech and other liberties.

“Marriage, understood as the union of one man and one woman, is not a historical relic, but a vital and foundational institution of civil society today,” said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a Jan. 29 amicus brief supporting the California ballot initiative, Proposition 8.

“The government interests in continuing to encourage and support it are not merely legitimate, but compelling,” the brief explained.

California voters passed Prop. 8 in 2008, reversing a court decision that imposed “gay marriage” on the state.

However, that effort was overturned by a California federal judge in August 2010, claiming that there is a “fundamental right to marry.” His decision was upheld in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2012.

That decision is now being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The bishops’ brief for the case observed that the ballot measure “encourages and supports the union of one man and one woman.”

This is a legitimate state interest because these unions are the only ones capable of creating new life, the document argued, adding that it is reasonable to believe that a home with a mother and a father is “the optimal environment for raising children.”

The brief said the Ninth Circuit’s definition of marriage as simply “a committed lifelong relationship” is “incoherent,” “wildly over-inclusive,” and “leads to absurd results” because it would not exclude parent-child relationships, unions between two lifelong friends or relationships between more than two people.

In addition, the bishops’ conference warned, the redefinition of marriage would adversely affect constitutional rights like the freedoms of religion, conscience, speech and association.

It pointed to instances where businesses were forced to host “gay weddings” or close, as well as cases where public officials such as town clerks were forced to give up their positions over their objections to same-sex relationships. It also referenced religiously affiliated nonprofits that are facing the prospect of lawsuits for following their beliefs and declining to recognize same-sex “spouses” in benefits policies.

Another brief from the bishops’ conference supported the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for purposes of federal law. The act was passed in 1996 with overwhelming bipartisan support and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

That law – which the Supreme Court will also rule on this summer – is being challenged by a New York woman who contracted a same-sex “marriage” in Canada. She argues that she was unconstitutionally required to pay more than $350,000 in federal estate taxes upon the death of her partner, while a spouse in a federally recognized marriage would have been exempt.

The bishops’ brief rejected the notion of a “fundamental right to marry a person of the same sex.”

Civil recognition of same-sex relationships is “not deeply rooted” in U.S. history, it said, and previous court decisions about the right to marry “plainly contemplate the union of one man and one woman.”

The brief also rejected the claim that the plaintiff is part of “a politically powerless group needing protection against majoritarian impulses.”

“To the contrary, the last two decades have witnessed far-reaching changes in how the law treats persons in same-sex relationships, changes that belie any claim of political powerlessness,” it explained.

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