New Haven, Conn., Feb 19, 2013 (CNA) - The Knights of Columbus have invited the faithful to participate in a Twitter initiative to pledge their prayers for Pope Benedict XVI and his successor during the upcoming period of transition.
“In these remaining days of his papacy, our thoughts and prayers are with Pope Benedict XVI, who has worked so hard in leading the Church, and has always been such a good friend to the Knights of Columbus,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson on Feb. 11.
“We wish him all the best in his retirement,” Anderson continued. “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.”
The Catholic fraternal order is encouraging users of the social media website Twitter to send their messages of “prayerful support” to Pope Benedict in the final days before he steps down from the papacy.
The Knights are encouraging people to tweet the phrase “I am praying for you” to the Pope’s Twitter account, @pontifex. They can use the hashtag #prayerforthechurch to mark their tweet.
Those who pledge to pray for the Pope may also submit their names to the website www.prayerforthechurch.com. These names will be brought to the installation Mass of the next Pope.
The website provides a prayer written in English, Spanish, French and Polish. Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, the Knights of Columbus’ Supreme Chaplain, authored the special prayer soon after the Pope made his plans to resign public.
On Feb. 11, the Holy Father announced that he will be retiring at the end of the month due to declining strength and advancing age. The College of Cardinals will meet at the Vatican next month to elect a new pontiff.
During his most recent Wednesday audience, Pope Benedict asked for prayers from the faithful over the coming weeks.
“Continue to pray for me, for the Church, for the future Pope,” he said Feb. 13.
Archbishop Lori’s prayer 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 further 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 are also offering physical prayer cards for parishes, schools or local councils to use in praying for the pontiff.
With more than 1.8 million members across the globe, the Knights of Columbus is the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world. Last year, the knights donated more than $158 million and 70 million hours to charity and volunteer projects.
The organization has worked closely with the Vatican over recent years, and last December, the Holy Father addressed participants of a conference at St. Peter’s Basilica that the Knights of Columbus co-sponsored with the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
Furthermore, Anderson has worked with Pope Benedict XVI – as well as his predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II – and also serves on multiple Vatican committees.
“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,” Anderson said.
Denver, Colo., Feb 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Former Planned Parenthood abortion clinic manager Abby Johnson praised care centers for pregnant women as essential to the pro-life movement at large.
“I always tell people that we can't save the babies unless we help the mothers, and we have to love them,” she told CNA Feb. 16.
Johnson delivered the keynote speech at the Lighthouse Women’s Center Annual Gala, held at the Wings over the Rockies Air and Space Museum at the former Lowry Air Force Base in Denver. The center has two full-time employees, including a registered nurse, and several regular volunteers.
The women’s center operates around the corner from a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in northeast Denver. At no charge, the center provides pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, counseling, and referrals to other agencies.
Johnson had visited the women's center and the abortion facility earlier in the day before her address. At the clinic, she encountered vocal abortion protesters who shouted “murderer” at women entering the clinic and showed graphic images.
Johnson told CNA this kind of “overzealous” action risks focusing too much on the unborn, just as pro-abortion rights advocates focus too much on the woman involved in an abortion.
“We have to love them both. We have to care for them both,” she said. “I think that most pro-lifers get it.”
Johnson reflected that the pro-life women's center is especially important in light of the sometimes negative reactions by abortion opponents.
“I think it’s important to have a resource for women to go to where they do feel cared for, and they do feel loved, and they don’t feel condemned,” she said.
“My hope is there are centers like this that open up all across the country.”
The Lighthouse Women’s Center gala drew over 600 people to Saturday's event, with a silent auction, music and dancing.
Laura Salvato, a co-founder of Lighthouse Women’s Center, said the fundraiser aims to build community, to help Catholics become more aware of pro-life issues, and to help them “come together and support ourselves in the belief that all life is sacred.”
Johnson’s keynote speech drew on the story she recounted in her 2011 book “Unplanned.” Her Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas named her Employee of the Year for 2008 and she had hoped to rise higher in the organization. Though she had worked in a clinic position to reassemble the aborted bodies of unborn babies, she only witnessed her first abortion via ultrasound in September 2009.
The procedure was performed on a 13-week-old unborn baby. Johnson, 12 weeks pregnant with a daughter at the time, assisted in the abortion.
Johnson recalled to the gala audience that she kept telling herself that the unborn child would not feel anything – noting how Planned Parenthood had said in a memo to tell this to women undergoing abortions.
“I should have known better, because I was pregnant,” she said. “I remember when she would kick me and I’d poke her and she’d kick me back.”
“But we had to believe the lie. Because if we didn’t believe the lie, then we couldn’t continue to do what we were doing every morning.”
On the ultrasound that day, she watched the suction instrument go up to the side of the unborn child.
“As soon as that suction tube touched the side of the child, the baby jumped,” Johnson recounted. “I watched as this little person began to flail his arms and legs, as if he was trying to move away from that abortion instrument. But there was nowhere to go.”
She then saw the child be dismembered in its mother’s womb. “I had never seen the humanity of the children that we were killing.”
Johnson said she was most startled by the fact that she did nothing herself in the moment. After that abortion, however, she quit her position and joined the pro-life movement.
In her keynote speech, she said “apathy” among Christians is the largest reason abortion is still legal in the U.S. “We just stand there,” she lamented.
Johnson’s organization And Then There Were None has helped 43 abortion workers leave the industry. She said all of these were professed Christians, and the majority of them were Catholics who went to Mass and received communion.
“If that’s not a wake-up call for our Church, then I don’t know what is.”
She said many of the women getting abortions held a rosary in their hand during the procedure. “We have a problem,” she said. “Social justice begins in the womb.”
“Our apathy has to end now.”
She said prayer at home was not enough. She credited her conversion to the prayers of pro-life witnesses who stood outside her clinic.
For all the political, economic and cultural power of those who support abortion, she said, “we have the number one God on our side, and that’s Jesus Christ.”
In remarks to CNA on Feb. 18, clinic founder Laura Salvato praised Johnson’s speech and estimated the event raised over $150,000 for the clinic. “She really challenged people but was compassionate and empathetic in her message.”
More information can be found on the Lighthouse Women’s Center website at: lighthousedenver.org.
Denver, Colo., Feb 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has left a lasting mark on Catholic education by showing how reason and knowledge can lead to an essential love of God, reflected scholars at leading Catholic universities.
“This is the chief idea of Pope Benedict about higher education: it isn't our job just to provide information about God, but that the Catholic university should be a place where God is in our midst,” John Garvey, president of Catholic University of America, told CNA Feb. 14.
“In his writings, this emphasis on coming to the love of God is essentially connected to what universities do...for Benedict there is this essential and intrinsic connection knowing God and loving God.”
Garvey reflected that Pope Benedict has tirelessly taught that Catholic universities should be bringing their students “not just to know God, but to love God.”
That perspective is part of the vision shaping Catholic University of America, Garvey said. He noted that students are formed in virtue while there, and that liturgical life is “essential...not accidental” to the life and work of the university.
During his 2008 address to Catholic educators which he delivered at the D.C.-based university, the Pope emphasized the importance of Catholic identity at institutions of higher education.
This address, in concert with the efforts of American bishops, Garvey said, has had “real, noticeable effects on the attention that Catholic higher education pays to the Catholicism of our universities.”
He noted first a “lessening of suspicion” within the academic community about the role bishops play in connecting Catholic universities to “the life of the Church.” He also mentioned a “greater willingness” among Catholic universities “be comfortable” in saying they are Catholic.
The final effect which Garvey thinks Pope Benedict has had on U.S. Catholic universities is an increase in efforts “to carry out their mission as Catholic universities” in the areas of “student formation” and in the intellectual life.
Another important point in the pope's thought about Catholic education, Garvey said, is that faith, alongside reason, is a path to knowledge of the truth.
“Benedict argues...that faith has an essential part in what we come to know at universities.”
Garvey discussed Pope Benedict's 2006 Regensburg address, in which he argued that theology does arrive at truth and therefore belongs in the academy, and is not mere opinion or speculation.
Faith and reason “are not separate enterprises...a university which closes itself off to discussions of faith and the role of faith in coming to know, is narrowing itself in an unacceptable way,” said Garvey. That universities must have a place for both faith and reason is one of Pope Benedict's enduring gifts to the intellectual treasury of the Church, he explained.
Related to this point is Pope Benedict's “wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom,” as he said at this 2008 address at Catholic University of America.
Counter to “unfair characterizations,” Garvey said, the pope has upheld the necessity, and indeed goodness, of academic freedom.
Pope Benedict affirms that the human person can, with the use of both reason and faith, come to know the truth. “'Academic' freedom,” he wrote in his book, 'The Nature and Mission of Theology,' “is freedom for the truth, and its justification is simply to exist for the sake of the truth.”
Garvey said there is a tendency to mistake the belief that “there really are false and true ideas...for a disbelief in academic freedom.” Pope Benedict's writings, in contrast, highlight that truth is the only context in which academic freedom can arise and have meaning.
The value of academic freedom Garvey noted, is that it allows truth to win out over falsehood in any “free and open encounter” between the two, as the 17th-century English poet John Milton said.
Garvey reflected, “The idea that there are true and false ideas are themselves the original basis for protecting … academic freedom. To imagine that Benedict doesn't believe in it, because he believes that there is a truth we can find about God, is both to misunderstand Benedict, and to have a kind of funny notion of where academic freedom came from.”
A little-noticed document of Pope Benedict's final months in the papacy will likely have a lasting effect on Catholic education. Only two weeks before announcing his resignation, the pope released two documents “on his own initiative” that drastically reduced the workload of the Congregation for Catholic Education.
The Congregation was relieved of oversight on catechesis and seminary formation on Jan. 25, freeing it up for its primary mission of overseeing Catholic universities worldwide.
Garvey visited the Congregation for Catholic Education in October and said he was “blown away” by the “scope of their responsibility.” He noted that the Congregation is left with the responsibility for ordering studies in philosophy and theology, and that the priests working there will now have more time to devote to this since they have been relieved of extraneous tasks.
Susan Hanssen, a professor of history at the University of Dallas, also discussed the significant work of the Congregation for Catholic Education under the reign of Pope Benedict.
She found the Congregation's 2011 decree reforming the philosophical departments of Catholic universities to be the clearest affirmation of the dignity of human reason since the Second Vatican Council.
She told CNA Feb. 13 that the decree emphasizes there are “perennially valid” truths which are accessible by reason, and shows that “an important part of being a Catholic is to affirm the dignity of human reason and what we can know by reason; and these are essential points for Catholic education.”
The affirmation of reason and its capacity for truth was a theme of Pope Benedict's Regensburg address, Hanssen noted. This point is important, she said, because it allows Catholics to engage moral problems – such as abortion and contraception – in the public sphere on the basis not of “biblical truth” but of “rational truth,” accessible to all persons.
Hanssen said the Regensburg address was important because it sought to engage the “academic establishment” which by and large has “lost its faith in reason” and reason's “capacity to actually arrive at truth.”
“Benedict XVI had a very clear grasp of the problems with Catholic education, and particularly with Catholic higher education – intellectual problems that had infected the universities,” she said.
“His understanding of academic freedom was always the freedom to pose questions about the ultimate things, about the origin and destiny of man, about religion and ethics,” Hanssen explained.
The dangerous notion of academic freedom as a refusal to raise questions of man's origin and destiny, “lest we discover any truth about them,” Hanssen said, is what Pope Benedict referred to as “the dictatorship of relativism.”
She added that with his Regensburg address and his 2008 lecture at Catholic University of America, Pope Benedict “diagnosed the problem of secularization” in Catholic education.
His accomplishment, and what she believes will be his enduring legacy, was his “revitalizing the base” and “appealing directly to the laity,” alongside Blessed John Paul II.
She discussed how Pope Benedict has influenced parents who are helping their children to choose from among universities. His public ministry proclaiming the importance of Catholic identity and of both faith and reason is easily accessible online for parents, and for prospective university students, to inform themselves with.
“Parents are much more informed consumers after this decade,” she said. They “are no longer fooled by Catholic labels” but are looking for “vibrantly Catholic” universities.
Hanssen described “roving bands of Catholic parents, well aware of their parental right to educate their children, determined to spend their money wisely, market-educated by listening to EWTN, reading up on colleges on the John Henry Newman Society website, and combing through Catholic college websites, faculty web pages, and university curricula for that rare commodity--a genuinely Catholic education worth its weight in gold.”
These well-informed parents, together with the proliferation of “smaller, newer, more vibrantly Catholic institutions” such as Wyoming Catholic College, “are the legacy...of Benedict XVI,” she said.
Pope Benedict has assisted parents in the “pretty serious moral decisions,” which “God has entrusted” to them, of guiding their children to make good decisions about their education, Hanssen reflected.
“Parents,” she concluded, “are much more alert than ten years ago, and they do their homework. So that's hopeful.”
Amman, Jordan, Feb 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, is visiting Jordan to take stock of the serious refugee situation created by the Syrian conflict and to assess how Catholic charities are responding.
“The humanitarian situation in Syria, and throughout the region is unsustainable. Some estimates speak of a million refugees, more than two and a half million displaced persons, and almost one hundred thousand deaths directly attributable to violence,” a Feb. 18 press release from Cor Unum says.
Cardinal Sarah is being joined on his Feb. 19-21 trip by Monsignor Giampietro Dal Toso, who is the secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. The pair will take part in the regional conference of Caritas in the Middle East, North Africa, and Horn of Africa, which is taking place in Jordan.
The pontifical council is responsible for overseeing the international Catholic relief agency Caritas, distributing funds to disaster victims and coordinating Catholic charitable efforts.
The meeting will provide an opportunity to assess humanitarian aid provided by Catholic charities, including Caritas, to refugees and victims of the violence in Syria.
The scale of the refugee crisis is vast. Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey have all received people trying to escape the fighting between government troops and opposition forces. The U.N. estimates that 5,000 people are leaving Syria every day, although other reports indicate the actual number could be significantly higher.
As of Feb. 18, the number of refugees in Jordan had reached 355,000. On Monday, the Jordanian border guard forces reported that 1,279 people had crossed into the country in the last 24 hours alone.
The stream of refugees pouring into Jordan “has exceeded all expectations as the number of Syrians crossing the border between the two countries during the first week of the new year has come to 8,835 refugees, whereas, the number in December was 22,000,” a Jan. 12 situation report from Caritas Jordan said.
In its Feb. 18 statement Cor Unum also noted that the “harsh winter is further contributing to this sad situation of suffering of an exhausted people, especially the weakest and most vulnerable on the fringes of society.”
During their trip Cardinal Sarah and Msgr. Del Toso will visit some of the places where refugees are being housed. They will also meet with King Abdullah of Jordan.
Rome, Italy, Feb 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict’s decision to dedicate himself to a life of prayer will enable him to impact people who might not have listened to him while he was Pope, according to a cloistered Dominican nun.
“When he lives this monastic lifestyle, his prayers will reach those who maybe were unbelievers during his papacy,” said Mother Maria Angelica.
“I’m absolutely sure of this, of the value of his prayer and of his silence. And it will reach the whole world, even where it wasn’t previously able to reach,” she told CNA on Feb. 16 at the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria del Rosario.
The cloistered Dominican nun also reflected on how the Pope will be living a life similar to her own.
“For us it is something great and beautiful because we will feel him even closer than when he was Pope, because it is an extraordinary greatness to know that he is following our same lifestyle.”
“I think it is marvelous that he wishes to be a ‘monk,’ dedicated to prayer and writing,” she added.
Mother Angelica said she was saddened about Pope Benedict’s resignation, but that “beyond the sadness lies great admiration for his great humility and courage to do so.”
According to the superior, a non-Catholic or someone who has never dealt with an enclosed religious may never be able to understand the lifestyle or its beauty.
“He will smile, but I don’t think he will understand it, although he will feel the effects of its prayer, which I believe also reaches those people,” she explained.
Mother Angelica also offered some of her memories of Pope Benedict from the time when he visited the convent on June 24, 2010 in response to the nuns’ repeated requests.
Her biggest highlights were watching him arrive and accompanying him from the garden to the choir.
“It was beautiful to live the moment between his glance and my glance, and it was a paternal look, tender and full of sweetness,” Mother Angelica recalled.
“It was also a very beautiful thing when he greeted the sisters one by one because he wanted to know the name of each one.”
She said that it is very different to see the Pope on television, and that he has left her community with “a great memory.”
Above all, she noted, “he donated a beautiful homily exclusively to us.”
The convent’s rules say only the Pope and cardinals are allowed within the enclosed part of the convent.
The convent safeguards the hand of Italy’s patron saint, St. Catherine of Sienna, the Dominican nun who convinced Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI’s older brother explained that the pontiff’s decision to resign is good for the Body of Christ because he had become too weak to carry out his ministry.
“It is a beneficial decision for the Church,” said 89-year-old Msgr. Georg Ratzinger in an interview with the Spanish daily ABC, published on Feb. 17.
“He no longer has strength,” Msgr. Ratzinger observed. “He is going through the natural process of aging, like I am as well.”
He said that the Holy Father had cited his advanced age in informing him that he planned to resign.
“My brother wants more peace for his old age,” he explained. “As you get older, your strength begins to fade.”
“In addition, he has had to confront difficult tasks, which he has done as much as he can,” the Pope’s brother said. “It was simply a decision that was made. It’s the natural course of life and nobody escapes from it.”
Asked how he thinks the Holy Father will be remembered, Msgr. Ratzinger said he hopes his brother will be seen “as a Pope who strove to deepen and spread the faith of the Church with all of his strength,” as well as someone who provided “an example of a life of belief guided by the Faith.”
He added that Catholics should “thank God for having entrusted the last few years to a good Pope and pray that he will send us another good leader of the Church.”
In an impromptu press conference shortly after the Pope announced his resignation on Feb. 11, Msgr. Ratzinger said that his brother “is not to be a full-time retiree.”
Even once he steps down at the end of the month and moves into a former monastery on the Vatican grounds, Pope Benedict is “not going to sit around waiting for the day to end,” he explained.
He added that he hopes to have more one-on-one time with his brother in the future, hopefully at Benedict XVI’s new residence.
“They’ll probably have a room there for me,” he said, discounting any possibility of the Pope returning to Germany in the near future.
Washington D.C., Feb 19, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has promoted and released guidelines for Masses and prayer services surrounding Pope Benedict XVI's resignation at the end of February.
“It is appropriate to offer special prayers for Pope Benedict XVI, for his health and well-being, and in thanksgiving for his service to the Church,” said the bishops’ Feb. 13 document, “Liturgical Notes and Resource Materials for Use upon the Resignation of the Pope.”
Encouraging the “attendance of as many of the faithful as possible is desirable,” the document suggests that both “the Diocesan Bishop and priests in every parish might consider offering a special Mass for the Pope.”
On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict XVI announced that effective Feb. 28, he would be stepping down from his position as Pope, due to advanced age and declining strength. After the Pope leaves office, Cardinals from around the world will meet in Rome to elect a new Pope in a special closed meeting called a conclave. A papal resignation has not occurred in nearly 600 years.
“With great surprise tinged with sadness, the Church learned of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. During his reign, he has been a faithful witness to Christ, and in this decision, he teaches us with his integrity and humility, putting the needs of the Church first,” said Rev. Msgr. Richard B. Hilgartner, executive director of the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat of Divine Worship.
In preparation for the end of the Pope’s reign and election of a new pope, the Secretariat of Divine Worship encouraged prayer and has prepared “liturgical and musical resources to assist dioceses, parishes, and other groups to pray for Pope Benedict XVI, to give thanks for his pontificate, and to pray for the Church as we look to the future and the election of a new Pope.”
The document describes appropriate prayers, wording for the Mass and music, as well as guidelines for homilies and other activities to pray for Pope Benedict and for a new pope.
It also reminds priests and bishops that until the pope’s resignation goes into effect at 8:00 p.m. Roman time on Feb. 28, the Pope’s name is to be used in the Eucharistic Prayers of the Mass and is encouraged in private prayer “in the recitation of the Rosary.”
It states that parts of the Mass also should include prayers for Pope Benedict and encouraged homilies that “reflect on the particular ministry of Pope Benedict XVI as an example to follow, especially as it relates to Lent.”
The “Liturgical Notes and Resource Materials for Use upon the Resignation of the Pope” also suggests that celebrants emphasize Pope Benedict’s teachings, writings and achievements. The document highlights the outgoing pope’s “love for the liturgy as well as his desire to foster an authentic celebration and participation in the sacred liturgy,” “ecumenical outreach,” writings on “the need for an authentic personal relationship with Jesus Christ” and his “constant care, concern and outreach for the poor, the sick, and oppressed.”
“Once the Pope’s resignation takes effect,” the document adds, “both the Diocesan Bishop and priests in every parish might consider offering a special Mass for the election of the Pope, according to the guidelines of the liturgical calendar.”
During this time from the evening of Feb. 28 until the election of a new Pope, references to the Pope are to be removed from liturgical prayers, because there is no apostolic successor to St. Peter.
In addition to advocating special Masses for the election of the Pope, the document also suggests the inclusion for prayers for a new Pope and guidance of cardinals during the Prayer of the faithful.
The statement also encourages the laity to offer their “private prayers, works and almsgiving for the successful election of a new Supreme Pontiff,” advocating the prayer of the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, and the inclusion of prayers for the election of a new Pope during the recitation of the Rosary.
The bishops’ document also addresses prayers and Masses surrounding the election of a new Pope, suggesting that “both the Diocesan Bishop and priests in every parish might consider offering a special Mass for the newly elected Pope according to the guidelines of the liturgical calendar.”
Such a Mass cannot be offered on Sundays of Lent or Easter, nor during Holy Week. The document adds that the faithful are strongly encouraged to pray for the new Pontiff, once elected, and suggests that flowers may “be placed near the Vatican flag” and displayed prominently in the church building.