New Haven, Conn., Feb 13, 2013 (CNA) -
A new prayer from the Knights of Columbus thanks Jesus for the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI and intercedes for the gift of a holy and faithful Pope after Benedict's retirement on Feb. 28.
“Until a new pope is elected, we encourage all members of the Knights of Columbus, their families and all Catholics to say this prayer daily for Pope Benedict, for the Church, and for our future Pope,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said Feb. 11.
The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal charitable order with over 1.8 million members worldwide.
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, wrote the prayer, which thanks Jesus Christ “for the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI and the selfless care with which he has led us as Successor of Peter, and your vicar on earth.”
“Good Shepherd, who founded your Church on the rock of Peter’s faith and have never left your flock untended, look with love upon us now, and sustain your Church in faith, hope, and charity,” the prayer reads.
It also asks Jesus to give Catholics a new Pope “who will please you by his holiness and lead us faithfully to you, who are the same yesterday, today and forever.”
The Knights of Columbus have supported many papal initiatives. The order co-sponsored with the Pontifical Commission for Latin America the December 2012 “Ecclesia in America” conference on regional challenges and evangelization. Pope Benedict XVI addressed attendees at the conference.
On Feb. 11, Supreme Knight Anderson said Catholics’ thoughts and prayers are with the Pope. He said Pope Benedict has “worked so hard in leading the Church” and has “always been such a good friend to the Knights of Columbus.”
“We wish him all the best in his retirement,” Anderson said. “In addition, we pray for all those cardinals who will take part in the conclave, and for his successor, that God may inspire them as they carry out the mission with which they are entrusted.”
Pope Benedict on Monday unexpectedly announced that he would resign from his duties on Feb. 28, citing “advanced age” and deteriorating strength. The consistory of cardinals he had previously convoked will serve as a papal conclave.
Scottsdale, Ariz., Feb 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Catholics today must help the U.S. return to its founding principles amid dangers to religious liberty, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore told a gathering of business leaders.
“In the spirit of the New Evangelization, may I invite you...to engage your network of family members, colleagues, and friends to understand more profoundly how religious freedom is threatened and to think of our political system with more than enlightened self-interest,” he said during his Feb. 8 address at the Annual Legatus Summit.
Legatus is a group which aims to help its members promote the faith through their business, professional, and personal lives. Its 2013 Annual Summit was held in Scottsdale, Ariz., and was focused on the Year of Faith as a summons to deeper conversion.
Archbishop Lori's keynote address on religious freedom began by recalling the American bishops' 1884 Council, which included discussion of the compatibility between the American system of government and the religious liberty enjoyed by the Church in the United States.
At the time the Church here was flourishing, and Cardinal James Gibbons, then the archbishop of Baltimore, wrote that “we consider the establishment of our country’s independence, the shaping of its liberties and laws, as a work of special Providence, its framers 'building better than they knew,' the Almighty's hand guiding them.”
The 1884 Council of Baltimore decided that there is a fundamental compatibility between the American constitution and “the Church’s understanding of the natural law.” However, Archbishop Lori noted, this view “has recently been called into question.”
The diminishing role of religion in America is leading to a different understanding of religious freedom than existed in the past, and this “is part of the challenge of the New Evangelization to which Pope Benedict has called us in this Year of Faith and beyond.”
The archbishop said that were all Catholics “vibrantly evangelized and systematically catechized, religious freedom would not be challenged so readily” as it is.
The growing skepticism that “basic moral truths” can be discovered by reason, that natural law exists, he said, leads to the growing belief in American society that religious institutions must conform to prevailing trends “or else be reined in.”
Archbishop Lori said that the federal contraception mandate rules “in effect limit full religious freedom mainly to worship and the teaching of doctrine” and that “we are losing our freedom to create a workplace rooted in Catholic values.”
He said that some believe the founding fathers' understanding of human rights were opposed to natural law, but the archbishop affirmed that their understanding of natural law was in accord with the Catholic view.
Archbishop Lori also affirmed that the framers' were “far from hostile to religion” and meant the separation of church and state to protect religious freedom, not “hem it in or to eliminate it.”
The positive relation between the Church and American government began to be threatened particularly in the early 20th century, when a leading Supreme Court justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, wrote many opinions which opposed natural law, reflected moral scepticism, and espoused relativism.
“Once human rights, our founding documents, and our legal system are divorced from any attachment to the real world, created by God with in-built meaning...then the path is cleared for human rights to expand exponentially: for new rights to be discovered in the founding documents that are not grounded in that truth and goodness which lead to human flourishing,” said Archbishop Lori.
He pointed to the so-called rights to abortion, sterilization, abortifacient drugs, and same-sex marriage. The archbishop contrasted these new 'rights' with the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, which was “rooted in deep convictions about the dignity of the human person whose rights and freedom are to be recognized and guaranteed by law.”
He noted that Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail referenced natural law, as it is understood by Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas. However, the “ever expansive world of human rights” wishes to ignore references to “values that flow from human dignity and human nature” in the founding documents of our nation.
Archbishop Lori described the divorce of human law from natural law as a “downward spiral,” starting with a relativistic scrutiny of religious and moral teachings “once shared by almost everyone.” The next step is legislation that upholds acts, such as abortion, that are contrary to the teachings once held in common.
Then there are merely “allowances” and “exemptions” are made for those groups who still hold the once-common values of society. Finally, “these exemptions are narrowed or removed as some religious and moral teachings are branded as a form of intolerable bigotry,” the archbishop said.
Archbishop Lori concluded his talk by describing natural law and religious freedom as the “bearing walls” upholding a free and democratic society.
“Let us and those around us allow (the) Holy Spirit to light our minds with Christ’s truth and to warm our hearts with his love, so that we be that generation of believers and citizens who call our country back to its founding ideals, who understand that the framers did indeed build better than they knew and in doing so demanded of us the very best.”
Vatican City, Feb 13, 2013 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to step down from his office was made soon after his trip to Mexico and Cuba in March 2012, according to a senior communications officer at the Vatican.
“What's interesting is how long ago this decision was made, shortly after the Pope's trip to Cuba, which was in March of last year,” said Vatican advisor Greg Burke.
On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict XVI announced to a gathering of cardinals in Rome that he no longer has the strength to carry out the office of the papacy and will resign on Feb. 28. He is 85 years of age.
Burke confirmed that the decision was made months ago, after a six-day trip during which the pontiff was described as visibly tired and speaking with a strained voice.
Burke's comments countered media rumors that the decision to retire was tied to the scandal of Pope Benedict's one-time butler, Paolo Gabriele, who stole confidential Vatican documents and leaked them to the media. The decision in March “was before the whole butler story even broke,” Burke observed.
His statement echoed the comments of Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, who explained at a recent press conference that “the trip to Cuba and Mexico, due to his fatigue, was another reason in the development of Benedict XVI's decision, but not its cause,” according to the Vatican Information Service.
“He did not resign the pontificate because he is ill, but because of the fragility that comes with old age,” Fr. Lombardi stressed.
The Vatican spokesman also acknowledged that the Pope has had a pacemaker for years and recently underwent surgery to replace the batteries in the device, although he said that this procedure “had no impact on his decision.”
Father Georg Ratzinger, the brother of Pope Benedict, has told reporters that the pontiff was advised by his doctor months ago not to make further transatlantic trips.
The decision has been a long-time coming, Burke noted.
“We should have all paid a lot more attention to the fact that the Pope prayed not once, but twice before the tomb of Celestine V. He obviously knew what Celestine was feeling when he stepped down,” the analyst observed.
Saint Celestine V became the first Pope to resign from the position in 1294. Pope Benedict visited the saint's relics twice during his papacy. In 2009, he prayed at the tomb and left his own pallium on top of it. And again in 2010, he visited the cathedral of Sulmona to visit the relics of St. Celestine and pray before his predecessor.
Burke also affirmed that there will be no problem of “competing popes” after the pontiff's resignation goes into effect on Feb. 28.
He explained that “if Pope Benedict still wanted to have influence, he wouldn't have stepped down.”
Vatican City, Feb 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Two days after saying he will resign, Pope Benedict XVI said that he has been able to feel, “almost physically,” the prayers and love that have been poured out for him.
“I have felt, almost physically, your prayers in these days which are not easy for me, the strength which the love of the Church and your prayers brings to me,” he said at the beginning of his weekly general audience.
“Continue to pray for me and for the future Pope, the Lord will guide us!" he told the thousands of pilgrims.
The outpouring of support for Pope Benedict was evident from the moment he stepped onto the stage in Paul VI Hall. He was met with sustained applause when he began his remarks and had to pause until it subsided.
“Thank you for your kindness,” he responded as he resumed.
“I decided to resign from the ministry that the Lord had entrusted me on April 19, 2005. I did this in full freedom” the Pope stressed, adding that he made the decision “for the good of the Church after having prayed at length and examined my conscience before God, well aware of the gravity of this act.”
The Pope reiterated his official statement of resignation by saying that he was “also well aware that I was no longer able to fulfill the Petrine ministry with that strength that it demands.”
“What sustains and illuminates me is the certainty that the Church belongs to Christ whose care and guidance will never be lacking.
“I thank you all for the love and prayer with which you have accompanied me.”
Pope Benedict XVI will resign his office as the Successor of Peter on Feb. 28 at 8:00 p.m., the time at which his workday usually ends.
Following his resignation, the College of Cardinals will hold a conclave to decide who the next Pope will be.
Vatican City, Feb 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The last days of Pope Benedict XVI will include three public appearances, a meeting with the priests of Rome, Lenten spiritual exercises, and audiences with politicians and cardinals.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi detailed the final events of the Pope’s schedule for the press at a Feb. 13 meeting.
The first event on the list is Ash Wednesday Mass this evening in St. Peter’s Basilica, which will be his final concelebration of the liturgy.
It was originally slated to take place at Santa Sabina Basilica on Rome’s Aventine Hill in keeping with tradition, but the timing of the Pope’s announcement dictated that the Mass will take place in St. Peter’s.
On Thursday, Pope Benedict will meet in Paul VI Hall with the clergy of the Diocese of Rome and reflect on the Second Vatican Council.
Three politicians will have the chance to meet with the Pope before he leaves office. The president of Romania will be received on Feb. 15, while Guatemala’s president and the Italian Senator Mario Monti will be granted audiences on Feb. 16.
Two groups of bishops from Italy – one from Liguria and the other from Lombardi – will have a chance to talk with Pope Benedict as part of their “ad limina” visit that happens every five years. Their audiences will be on the 15th and 16th, respectively.
As he does every Lent, the Holy Father will participate in a week of spiritual exercises, which will begin on Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. This year the reflections for the retreat will be offered by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the head of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
The spiritual exercises will end on Feb. 23 and the Pope will deliver a short speech at that time.
As he heads into his final days as Pope, Benedict XVI will offer his final Sunday Angelus reflection on Feb. 24.
On Monday, Feb. 25 he will grant private hearings to some cardinals.
His final public appearance will be the general audience on Feb. 27, which was originally planned for Paul VI Hall, but is being moved to St. Peter’s Square because of the large number of people expected.
On his last day as pontiff, Pope Benedict will be greeted by cardinals at 11:00 a.m. and then at 5:00 p.m. he will quietly move to Castel Gandolfo.
At 8:00 p.m. on Feb. 28 the See of Peter will officially become vacant. Preparations for the conclave of cardinals to elect his successor will being on March 1.
Vatican City, Feb 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
After thanking everyone for their love and prayers since he announced his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on how modern culture frequently offers people the temptation to set aside their faith.
“The tests which modern society subjects the Christians, in fact, are many, and affect the personal and social life,” the Pope said during his Wednesday general audience Feb. 13.
“It is not easy to be faithful to Christian marriage, practice mercy in everyday life, leave space for prayer and inner silence, it is not easy to publicly oppose choices that many take for granted, such as abortion in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, euthanasia in case of serious illness, or the selection of embryos to prevent hereditary diseases.
“The temptation to set aside their faith is always present, and conversion becomes a response to God which must be confirmed several times in life,” he told the thousands of pilgrims in Paul VI Hall.
In a change from his series of reflections on faith that coincided with today’s start of Lent, Benedict XVI based his teachings on the temptation of Jesus in the desert.
“What is at the core of the three temptations that Jesus suffered?” he asked. It is the proposal to manipulate God, to use him for your own interests, for your own glory and success, the Pope said.
“Everyone should then ask: what is the role God in my life? And is he the Lord or am I?”
Pope Benedict’s words took on a particular significance since he appeared to follow his own advice in stepping down from the papacy.
He noted that every Christian must undergo the “journey” of overcoming the temptation “to place God in submission to oneself and one’s own interests or to put Him in a corner.”
“Conversion,” he explained, “means following Jesus in so that his Gospel is a real life guide, it means allowing God transform us, no longer thinking that we are the only protagonists of our existence, recognizing that we are creatures who depend on God, His love, and that only by 'losing' our life in Him can we truly have it.”
“This means making our choices in the light of the Word of God,” he emphasized.
“Today we can no longer be Christians as a simple consequence of the fact that we live in a society that has Christian roots: even those born to a Christian family and formed in the faith must, each and every day, renew the choice to be a Christian, to give God first place, before the temptations continuously suggested by a secularized culture, before the criticism of many of our contemporaries.”
Pope Benedict concluded his second to last general audience by calling on everyone to renew their commitment during Lent and the Year of Faith to “the process of conversion, to overcome the tendency to close in on ourselves” and to “make room for God.”
Washington D.C., Feb 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The importance of strong families for the well-being of society was discussed by leaders of both political parties as President Barack Obama delivered his 2013 State of the Union address.
Addressing the problem of poverty in his Feb. 12 speech, President Barack Obama promised to “work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples.”
The president’s address, delivered as he begins his second term in office, dealt heavily with the economy and also touched on issues of immigration, education and minimum wage.
However, he also discussed the need for healthy families, pledging to promote active fatherhood, “because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.”
In his State of the Union address, the president did not mention his unprecedented support for a redefinition of marriage to include gay couples, which he announced last spring. However, he said that he would “ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight.”
Earlier this week, the Department of Defense announced that it would be extending military spousal benefits to the same-sex partners of armed service members.
The president also promised to work towards an end to extreme poverty in the developing world, placing emphasis on “realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation,” among other health and education goals.
In a push for increased gun control, he added that “what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource – our children.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also touched on family values – as well as faith and the dignity of human life – as he delivered the Republican response to the State of the Union address.
“America is exceptional because we believe that every life, at every stage, is precious,” the Catholic senator explained.
He discussed problems with the economy and health care, while stressing that family and faith have an important role in solving society’s troubles.
“And the truth is every problem can’t be solved by government,” Rubio said.
“Many are caused by the moral breakdown in our society. And the answers to those challenges lie primarily in our families and our faiths, not our politicians.”
Vatican City, Feb 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Given the number of people that inevitably swarmed to the Holy Father’s last public Mass, Benedictine Abbot Nokter Wolf understands why his monastery did not host the Pope.
“This is the last public concelebration of Benedict XVI before he leaves the pontificate. So that’s the reason which is given, and I understand that well,” said Abbott Wolf in a Feb. 12 interview with CNA.
Pope Benedict celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5:00 p.m. on Feb. 13, the first day of the Lenten season.
The basilica was filled to capacity as thousands flooded into the church to see the Holy Father, who announced just days ago that he will step down at the end of the month due to declining strength.
The venue had been changed, as the pontiff had previously been scheduled to preside over the traditional Lenten Stations of the Cross at Sant’ Anselmo church, followed by a procession to Santa Sabina Basilica on Rome’s Aventine Hill.
Traditionally, the procession is composed of cardinals, archbishops, bishops, the Benedictine monks of Sant’ Anselmo, the Dominican friars of Santa Sabina and lay people.
As the Pope, cardinals, bishops and faithful make their way between the two churches they sing the litany of the saints, which is based off of the full version of the Kyrie.
When they arrive at Santa Sabina, the Pope celebrates Mass, receives ashes and places them on the foreheads of the congregation.
Abbott Wolf also pointed out that “if he would have come to the Aventine, you can imagine the crowds that would have come up here, especially journalists.”
“This would have been an incredible amount of people, and the Aventine is not made for that,” he said, referring to the narrow streets and small quarters.
“So it’s far better that he does it at St. Peter’s.”
According to Abbott Wolf, the traditional procession was started by Pope John XXIII when he came to the Church of Sant’ Anselmo in 1961 for the opening of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute.
Vatican City, Feb 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI encouraged people across the globe to wholeheartedly return to God during his last Mass today as pontiff of the Catholic Church.
“May the invitation to conversion, to 'return to God with all our heart,' resonate strongly in us,” Pope Benedict said at St. Peter's Basilica on Ash Wednesday Feb. 13.
“Accepting his grace that makes us new men and women, with the surprising news that is participating in the very life of Jesus,” he said during the Mass held at 5 p.m. local time.
Benedict XVI's homily was his last as the head of the Church after he announced on Monday that he will be resigning on Feb. 28.
The Ash Wednesday Mass normally takes place in the Basilica of St. Sabina on Rome's Aventine Hill each year. Because it was Pope Benedict’s lass Mass, however, the liturgy was moved to St. Peter’s Basilica so that more individuals could participate.
Pope Benedict noted that the “return of heart” to God, which was read at Mass as the first reading from the second chapter of Joel in the Bible, is a reminder that not only involves the individual but the entire community.
“The community dimension is an essential element in faith and Christian life and Christ came to gather the children of God who are scattered into one,” said the 85-year-old, who has shepherded the Church since 2005.
“The 'we' of the Church is the community in which Jesus brings us together and faith is necessarily ecclesial.”
During Lent in particular, “each person must be aware that the penitential journey cannot be faced alone, but together with many brothers and sisters in the Church.”
The Pope said this witness reveals the face of the Church which is, at times, disfigured by the sins of disunity and division in the Body of Christ.
“Living Lent in a more intense and evident ecclesial communion, overcoming individualism and rivalry is a humble and precious sign for those who have distanced themselves from the faith or who are indifferent.”
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone greeted Pope Benedict after Mass as the Holy Father received a standing ovation of over two minutes – an overwhelming applause that echoed in the basilica.
Pope Benedict will hold his last public audience on Feb. 27 in St. Peter's Square instead of Paul VI Hall, where it normally takes place this time of year
Corrected on Feb. 14, 2013 at 11:21 a.m. Rome time. Changes location in last paragraph for the final general audience. It was originally reported as St. Peter's Basilica but it will be held in the square.
Vatican City, Feb 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The conclave to elect the next Bishop of Rome could start between March 15 and 19, according to the director of the Holy See's Press Office.
“If everything goes normally, it could be envisioned that the conclave begins between 15 and 19 March,” Father Federico Lombardi said Feb. 13.
“At the moment, we cannot give an exact date because it falls to the cardinals to determine it.”
The Diocese of Rome will be “sede vacante” or vacant at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, when Pope Benedict's resignation goes into effect.
The laws governing conclaves were laid down in 1996 in John Paul II's apostolic constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis,” and were modified by Pope Benedict. According to existing law, the conclave cannot start until 15 days after the Papacy becomes vacant, to allow all the cardinal-electors enough time to arrive in Rome.
Existing law also states that conclave must begin within 20 days of his date of resignation. This 15-20 day window corresponds to the conclave beginning as early as March 15 and as late as March 20.
On Feb. 28, the day the papacy will go vacant, 117 cardinals will be eligible to elect the successor to the Holy See. All the cardinals who are below the age of 80 will come to Rome to participate in the conclave. Most of these cardinal-electors have been appointed by Pope Benedict himself – 67 of the 117.
Under rules re-established by Pope Benedict in 2007, the conclave must achieve a two-thirds majority to elect the Bishop of Rome.
Recent conclaves have concluded quickly. Pope Benedict was himself elected in a 2005 conclave that lasted only two days. John Paul II was elected in 1978 after a three-day long conclave.
Once the Diocese of Rome is vacant, nearly all offices of the Roman Curia, the administrative offices governing the Church, are suspended, and will have to be reconfirmed by the next pontiff. One of the few that continues, because of its urgent nature dealing with issues of absolution and indulgences, is the Apostolic Penitentiary.
Washington D.C., Feb 13, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Department of Defense has drawn criticism over new policies providing same-sex partners some of the benefits normally reserved to military spouses.
The new policies make “a mockery of the Defense of Marriage Act that is still the law of this nation,” said Chaplain Ron Crews, a retired Army Reserve Colonel and executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty.
Speaking to CNA on Feb. 13, Crews decried these new policies, saying that they essentially ignore the intent of federal law by treating same-sex couples as spouses.
Crews pointed to the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for federal purposes. The U.S. Supreme Court will rule on a case challenging the law this summer.
President Barack Obama has previously announced that he thinks the Defense of Marriage Act is discriminatory and ordered the Department of Justice to stop defending it in court.
Now, Crews believes that the president’s administration is violating the intent of the law by treating gay couples as if they were married couples.
In a document released on Feb. 11, the Pentagon announced that some spousal benefits will be extended to same-sex partners of active duty members of the armed services.
“At the direction of the President,” the document stated, “the Department [of Defense] has conducted a careful and deliberative review of the services currently provided to the families of Service members.”
“We have now identified additional family member and dependent benefits that we can lawfully provide to same-sex domestic partners of Military Service and their children through changes in Department of Defense policies and regulations,” it said.
The expansion of benefits to same-sex partners follows a Congressional decision to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” thereby allowing individuals who identify as openly gay to serve in the military.
The new Pentagon document identifies a number of spousal services that will now be extended to same-sex partners of armed services members. These benefits include the provision of dependent ID cards, on-base shopping and recreation privileges, emergency leave, counseling programs, transportation services and compensation for a missing or captive partner.
Spousal benefits that are regulated by the Defense of Marriage Act – such as health care and housing allowances – are still reserved to heterosexual spouses.
However, the document explained that if that law is ruled unconstitutional, the Defense Department will “construe the words 'spouse' and 'marriage' without regards to sexual orientation,” expanding these benefits to same-sex couples as well.
Also excluded from the benefits that are being extended to gay couples are on-base housing and burial. Secretary of Defense Leon Penetta said that these benefits were not included because they “present complex legal and policy challenges” and may be banned by the Defense of Marriage Act.
He added that the Department of Defense would continue to investigate these benefits and determine “how best to ensure that all Service members are treated equally regardless of sexual orientation.”
Crews argued that in addition to defying the intent of the Defense of Marriage Act, the decision is unwise for a variety of reasons.
“It is an outrage that the Department of Defense would provide benefits to an unknown number of persons,” he said, “at significant cost to the military, at a time when the military’s budget is being reduced. It is even worse that this is being done without consulting Congress.”