Denver, Colo., Feb 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As Pope Benedict XVI prepares to conclude his duties as Holy Father, young Catholics are recalling his marked efforts to renew the faith of the youth throughout the world.
Catholic youth speaker and author Chris Stefanick told CNA that the Pope has been “extremely effective with young people” because of the “amazing clarity” and “humility with which he has carried out his pontificate.”
Echoing his predecessor’s call for a new evangelization, Pope Benedict often spoke of the importance of taking the Gospel message to all parts of the world, including to what he called “the digital continent.”
Stefanick noted that although the Church “has been talking about new evangelization for a long time,” Pope Benedict’s use of the social media website Twitter shows his sincere interest in reaching out to the next generation of Catholics by any means possible.
“It was a simple gesture,” Stefanick said, “but it was a profound gesture.”
Within a month after his Twitter debut, Pope Benedict had amassed 2.5 million followers in eight languages.
The Holy Father personally posted his first tweet on Dec. 12, saying, “Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.”
Subsequent tweets are being posted by the pontiff’s assistants with content that he approves.
When Pope Benedict addressed the youth during his 2008 visit to New York, Stefanick noted that he exuded “the warmth of a really wise, loving grandfather.”
“I think young people really love him,” he said.
Recently, Pope Benedict voiced his concern for the youth to the Pontifical Council for Culture. At the council’s Feb. 6-9 assembly, he said that the “uncertainty and fragility that characterize so many young people” marginalizes them, making their generation “almost invisible and absent” from today’s world.
Emily Seaton, who was 16 when she attended Pope Benedict’s first World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany in 2005, said he was able to break through the apathy that can easily take hold of today’s youth.
Rather than trying to achieve the “impossible” task of being “another John Paul II,” Seaton told CNA, Pope Benedict won over the youth in a different - yet very personal - way than his predecessor could have.
“It was like he somehow managed to pierce every teenager’s heart with the message that, ‘You matter,’” Seaton, who has also attended World Youth Day in Sydney and Madrid, said.
“He won us over because he listened to us and treated us like adults, and then we respected him for that,” she said. “He just knew how to call us on and challenge us.”
At the events, Seaton recalled that “there was no lack of fervor for him” on the part of the youth from all over the world.
“We listened to every word he said,” she recalled. “We stood in line for 10 hours just to see him drive by.”
Although some media outlets predicted that Pope Benedict would fall short of his predecessor’s outreach to the youth, Ted Mast, who was 19 when he attended the 2005 Papal Christmas Mass, emphasized that the papacy is not a popularity contest, but rather a personal response to the unique needs of the Church.
In “trying to be himself” Pope Benedict has been “able to recognize where the Church is today, especially in regards to technology and moral relativism and the reasons people are leaving the Church," Mast said.
“He wasn’t trying to fill John Paul II’s shoes,” Mast said, “but he was trying to fulfill his mission to bring the youth into the Church.”
Despite the concerns he expressed for the youth, Pope Benedict has emphasized the Church’s great confidence in young people, saying, “She needs their vitality in order to continue living the mission entrusted to her by Christ with renewed enthusiasm.”
Jenna Grable, a convert who was 21 when she attended the Pope’s Easter Mass in 2009, described the event as “one of the most moving experiences I have had as a Catholic.”
“The joy of Easter was present in his demeanor,” she said. “His connection to our Lord was evident in his bright eyes and smile.”
Even though the Pope “did not share my language,” Grable said, “he shared my Creator.”
St. Louis, Mo., Feb 20, 2013 (CNA) -
The Archdiocese of St. Louis and a breakaway Polish-American church have ended a decade-long legal dispute that has led to the community's official split from the Catholic Church.
“St. Stanislaus has agreed that it will not hold itself out as affiliated in any way with the Archdiocese of St. Louis or the Roman Catholic Church,” the archdiocese and St. Stanislaus Corporation said in a joint Jan. 13 statement.
“By bringing this legal dispute to an end, we pray that this will help to initiate a process of healing,” the statement said.
No financial transactions were part of the resolution, which was announced Feb. 13.
The north St. Louis church of St. Stanislaus Kostka was first founded by Polish immigrants. It was governed under an 1891 agreement in which a lay trustee board controlled parish finances and owned the St. Stanislaus Parish corporation, while the archbishop had the authority to appoint board members and the pastor.
In 2003 the archdiocese tried to persuade the board to transfer property ownership to the archdiocese to bring it into agreement with canon law. Then-Archbishop Raymond Burke played a large role in these efforts when he took over the archdiocese in January 2004.
Some of the parishioners were concerned that the archdiocese intended to close the church or seize its funds. The corporation bylaws were rewritten in 2001 and 2004 to eliminate the archbishop’s authority.
The archdiocese made continued efforts to reconcile with the church. It also filed suit against the parish corporation on the grounds that it revised its bylaws in conflict with the original articles of agreement.
The corporation’s original mission was to unite Polish Roman Catholics in a church congregation, to maintain a Polish Roman Catholic Church, and to encourage attendance at Roman Catholic religious services. Some former parishioners joined in the suit.
In March 2012, St. Louis Circuit Judge Bryan Hettenbach sided with the St. Stanislaus Parish Corporation. At the time of the decision, the archdiocese said it planned to appeal.
The parish was declared schismatic in December 2005 after it appointed its own pastor, the Poland-born Fr. Marek Bozek. Its pastor and the corporation board’s six directors were declared excommunicated, though some board members have since reconciled with the Catholic Church and four former board members joined the archdiocese’s lawsuit against the corporation.
Bozek had left his previous position without the permission of his bishop and is known for his support of ordaining women to the priesthood. In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI dismissed him from the clerical state. The former priest said last year that parish membership has doubled to 550 members since 2005, the Associated Press reported.
In 2012 Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis said the archdiocese intended to provide St. Stanislaus Kostka parishioners “a way to return to full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.”
New York City, N.Y., Feb 20, 2013 (CNA) - Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York highlighted President Barack Obama's “call for sensible steps on gun control,” noting that it is an area of agreement for the two leaders.
“I found myself nodding in agreement when the President said, '...Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the Second Amendment – have come together around common-sense reform, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun,'” the cardinal said.
In a Feb. 15 post on his blog, “The Gospel in the Digital Age,” he explained that he was “very much in favor” of legislation passed by New York last month that constituted “the most comprehensive gun control bill in the country.”
The cardinal’s statement came in response to Obama's comments in his State of the Union address on Feb. 12.
“Gun control has been much on my mind since the Newtown killings,” wrote the cardinal, referencing the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which a 20-year-old man shot and killed 27 people, including himself and numerous young children.
Calls for stricter gun control laws have increased since the tragedy, and such legislation has been discussed at both the state and federal level in recent weeks.
However, advocating for gun control is “not something new” to the Church, Cardinal Dolan said.
“The Holy See has continuously been a strong voice in opposition to international arms trading, the world’s version of gun control,” he noted.
In addition, he pointed out that the U.S. bishops have “for decades supported measures to get handguns off the streets, and to ban assault weapons.”
He reminded his readers that he is no expert on the particulars of gun control legislation, but he maintained that “there can be no denying that, in the wake of Newtown, Aurora, Blacksburg, Tucson, Columbine, and almost countless other horrific and senseless deaths by guns, that something must be done.”
Gun control is “part of building a Culture of Life,” the cardinal explained, “of doing what we can to protect and defend human life.”
He said easy access to guns “has contributed towards a Culture of Death, where human life and dignity are cheapened by the threat of violence.”
While acknowledging that no system would be foolproof, he added that “we must do what we can to minimize the opportunities” for gun violence. In addition to limiting easy access to firearms, he pointed to an increase of funding for programs helping those suffering from mental illnesses.
“I have a long list of things to pray for this Lent,” Cardinal Dolan said. “Asking God’s help that our elected representatives in Washington and in state houses across the country have the courage and the wisdom to pass meaningful and effective gun control bills, will certainly have a prominent place in those prayers.”
Rome, Italy, Feb 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The streets of Rome are beginning to fill with pilgrims coming to see Benedict XVI for one last time, bringing to mind the crowds that flocked to his predecessor and raising the question of how the crowds of the current Pope compare with those.
Father Christopher Kieran from the Pontifical Household told CNA Feb. 19 that the number of people attending audiences and Angelus prayers with Pope Benedict has been “very good.”
He based his assessment on “the amount of work that we do on a weekly basis.”
“We answer requests for audience tickets sent in by post and e-mail. And the response has been very high,” Fr. Kieran said.
Vatican personnel and Italian security officers are expecting a large turnout for Pope Benedict’s final general audience on Feb. 27 in St. Peter’s Square.
So far, the preparations include moving in portable toilets, re-arranging crowd barriers and deploying extra police.
While numbers are not available for the amount of people who attended all the meetings of John Paul II in his last full year as Pope, it is possible to compare general audience crowd sizes.
In 2004, John Paul II received 507,400 people at 48 general audiences that were held either in the Paul VI Hall or in St. Peter’s Square.
In 2012, Benedict XVI welcomed 447,000 to 43 general audiences in the same locations.
When the average attendance per audience is calculated, the two Popes have about the same figures. John Paul II’s last year averaged 10,570 people per audience, while Benedict XVI brought 10,395 pilgrims to each gathering.
In the bigger picture, it becomes a little easier to assess the number of people who have seen and heard them.
Since his pontificate began in 2005, Pope Benedict has received 20,544,970 pilgrims in various assemblies, both at the Vatican and at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.
When his papacy comes to an end on Feb. 28 at 8:00 p.m., Benedict XVI will have been Pope for 7.8 years.
During the last eight full years of Pope John Paul II’s reign (1997-2004), he met with 5,207,100 pilgrims in general audiences and 4,000,000 people at the World Youth Days in Paris, Rome and Toronto.
Attendance statistics for his Angelus gathering each Sunday are not available to give an exact comparison with the overall meeting numbers of Pope Benedict.
However, in 2012 Benedict XVI prayed the Angelus and offered his reflections to 1,256,000 people. Assuming that John Paul II received the same number of people at his Angelus addresses, his crowds would total 19,255,100 people as compared to Benedict’s 20,544,970 pilgrims.
When the final audience happens on Feb. 27, it will become apparent if Pope Benedict will receive one last bump in his numbers.
Vatican City, Feb 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI is considering modifying the laws that govern how a Pope is elected, given the circumstances created by his resignation.
Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, told journalists Feb. 20 that Pope Benedict is thinking about publishing a document to further clarify the conclave section of the Apostolic Constitution.
This means he would have to issue a motu proprio – a new set of legal regulations – before he steps down on Feb. 28. The Latin title “motu proprio” is a designation that means the document is personally signed by the Pope and is issued solely under his authority.
“I don’t know if he will deem it necessary or appropriate to elucidate the question of the opening date of the conclave,” said Fr. Lombardi today at the press office.
“It seems to me, for example, (it would include) the clarification of some details in order to be in complete agreement with another document regarding the conclave, that is, the Ordo Rituum,” he stated.
According to canon law, the conclave to elect a new Pope should take place between March 15 and 20.
But since the traditional nine days of mourning will not take place and the Pope has given 17 days notice, the election process could take place as soon as the cardinals are able to reach Rome.
“In any case, the question depends on the Pope’s judgment and if this document comes about it will be made known through the proper channels,” Fr. Lombardi added.
Rome, Italy, Feb 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Two leaders from one of the world’s largest pro-life groups think Pope Benedict XVI will be remembered for defending traditional marriage and his contributions to bioethics.
“He defended marriage as between a man and a woman and made statements, which later he was attacked for, because we really are in a very concerning situation where same-sex ‘marriage’ is being legalized worldwide,” said Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro, director of Human Life International’s Rome office.
“People are going to realize how the pressure to give legal status to same-sex ‘marriage’ grew in this decade, they’ll will see it as a problem, and they’ll see Pope Benedict as prophetic after having been very clear that this goes against nature,” Msgr. Barreiro told CNA Feb. 15.
Joseph Meaney, the institution’s director of international coordination, pointed out that people raised by same-sex parents are already coming forward to talk about all of the problems caused by marriage being redefined.
“It has become this sort of libertarianism gone wild, where everyone has a right to everything,” Meaney said.
He also believes secular media attacked Pope Benedict much more than Blessed John Paul II.
“One thing that made my heart really bleed for him is when he went on his first trip to Africa, and on the plane, before he even landed, they asked him about the AIDS crisis and he said that the condom is not the solution to the AIDS crisis,” Meaney recalled.
“Everyone, including public health experts, have agreed about this, but the journalists on the plane flashed out the word that Pope Benedict is against the condom and the world attacked him.”
Msgr. Barreiro, a bioethics expert, believes the Pope will also be remembered for his stance against freezing human embryos.
“It is a tragic situation to speak about frozen babies that are the consequences of artificial conception and are artificially outside the human body due to an immoral approach by couples who can’t conceive,” he said.
“They believe they have the right to a baby,” he explained, “so they try to conceive it outside of the body and many times they produce several babies that are either left aside for future implants or simply abandoned.”
Pope Benedict contributed to the discussion when he released “Dignitas Personae” in Sept. 2008.
“There were many people within the Church who tried to find a moral solution to that tragedy and one was to propose that women adopt those frozen babies in the womb and bring them to life,” said Msgr. Barreiro.
“But this document reached the conclusion that that solution is neither moral nor natural,” he explained.
Both Msgr. Barreiro and Meaney believe Benedict XVI’s papacy has successfully built upon and continued the work begun by his predecessor Blessed John Paul II.
CNA STAFF, Feb 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - According to Paolo Taffuri, the coordinator of Radio Maria Africa, officials in Tanzania have not yet found those responsible for the recent death of a local priest.
“When the priest was heading to Mass on Sunday, two men on a motorcycle approached him and shot him in the head, killing him instantly,” Taffuri said. “So far no arrests have been made and police are investigating the motive behind the murder.”
Father Evarist Mushi was killed on Feb. 17 in Zanzibar. Cardinal Polycarp Pengo will celebrate the funeral Mass for Fr. Mushi at the Zanzibar Cathedral.
Taffuri said that Tanzania “has always been very peaceful” and that people of different faiths living together in harmony has been a strength of the country.
But recently, he cautioned, violence has increasingly broken out in Zanzibar, which is in southern Tanzania.
“In October of last year, Muslim extremists held violent demonstrations in Dar es Salaam, which were repressed and controlled by the police,” he said.
“The violent episodes have been more frequent in Zanzibar,” he explained. “It is believed that Muslim extremists from abroad are responsible, but they do not at all represent the Muslim majority, much less the Muslim authorities.”
Taffuri also said that Father Ambrose Mkenda, another priest who was attacked the day before Christmas last year, “is still alive and remains hospitalized.”
Government officials and the police are working to control the problem of violence, he added.
“Peace will triumph in Tanzania,” he stressed. “We pray for peace and that the Virgin Mary will be with us.”
Melbourne, Australia, Feb 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Dr. Evelyn Billings, who helped develop a major method of natural fertility regulation, is being remembered after her recent death as a wonderful inspiration, said a doctor at the Natural Family Planning Center.
“That's how we feel about her, she was wonderful, she inspired us, but she didn't restrict us,” Dr. Hanna Klaus told CNA from her D.C. office on Feb. 19.
“She and John, her husband, wanted us to do everything that was within our creativity to promote the method, but it was always for the good of families.”
Billings died Feb. 16 at the age of 95 after a short illness. She was a pediatrician, and together with her husband Dr. John Billings, developed the Billings Ovulation Method of spacing births. Her work studying breastfeeding mothers and peri-menopausal women made a major contribution to the development of the method.
The Billings Method helps women identify their fertile state based on their menstrual cycle. Based on this knowledge of the fertile period, a couple can the try to either achieve or avoid a pregnancy without the use of artificial contraceptives that violate Catholic teaching.
The couple developed the method in 1953 after they had been asked to devise such a technique by the Catholic Marriage Guidance Bureau.
Evelyn Billings authored “The Billings Method” in 1980. It has been published in 22 languages and exposed natural family planning to millions of couples in some 120 countries.
She also travelled throughout the world promoting natural family planning, and a substantial drop in the abortion rate in China was attributed to her work and her husband's, after they trained thousands there how to teach their method of regulating fertility. The Billings Method is the only natural fertility method allowed by the government there.
Billings was made a Dame Commander of Saint Gregory the Great by John Paul II in 2003. She was an active member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and a member of the Order of Australia.
“She and John had this gift of relating to everyone and getting them excited about possessing the gift of fertility and sexuality and managing it in a very human way. They themselves were very happily married,” Klaus said.
“They were just a wonderful team of physicians.”
Klaus recounted how the Billings decided to adopt a child, Kathryn, after Evelyn saw her at a nursery.
“They were just wonderful, sweet, holy people,” Klaus said, explaining that Billings was a warm, kind mother.
Billings is survived by eight of her nine children, as well as 39 grandchildren and 31 great grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband John in 2007.