Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy See has announced the dates for the eighth World Meeting of Families, officially confirming that the event will be held in Philadelphia Sept. 22-27, 2015.
“The more we encourage and support the integrity of families, the healthier society becomes,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.
In a Feb. 25 announcement from the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed that the next World Meeting of Families will be held in Philadelphia and set the official dates for the 2015 gathering, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of participants from across the globe.
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which organizes the meeting, promised support throughout the coming months of planning for the international event.
Started in 1994 by Pope John Paul II, the World Meeting of Families takes place every three years and seeks to support and strengthen families throughout the world.
The event was last hosted in Milan, Italy in 2012. More than one million people gathered for Mass with the Holy Father, and 153 nations were represented.
The Philadelphia meeting will mark the first time that the event will be held in the United States.
“The World Meeting of Families is meant to be a gift not just to Catholics in Philadelphia, but to every person of good will in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and surrounding areas,” Archbishop Chaput said at a Feb. 25 press conference.
He explained that such events “become moments of grace,” with the ability “to transform, in deeply positive ways, not just the spirit of Catholic life in our region, but the whole public community.”
The archbishop thanked Pope Benedict for choosing Philadelphia, while acknowledging that the Holy Father did not explain his reason for picking the city to host the international gathering.
“But it's helpful to remember that Philadelphia is uniquely rich in America’s history,” he explained, calling to mind the important political principles of human rights, freedom and dignity connected with the nation’s birth.
Pope Benedict has spoken about these issues, particularly religious liberty, he observed, adding that the Holy Father has “always seen the strength of the family as a guarantee of human maturity and freedom.”
Philadelphia is also important for the American Church, he continued, pointing to Saints Katharine Drexel and Bishop John Neumann, as well as to the legacy of service that continues to this day through Catholic education and aid to immigrants, minorities and those in need.
“The Church in Philadelphia is also a community in need of healing and renewal,” Archbishop Chaput acknowledged. “We have a very serious duty to help persons who have been hurt in the past to heal, and to better protect children and young people moving forward.”
However, he continued, beyond this critical duty is the Church’s foundational “obligation to preach Jesus Christ” and to aid people in finding God and living out “their faith with joy and conviction.”
Faithful Catholics realize that, the archbishop explained, and they long for an opportunity “to show their love of God and his Church to the world, to deepen God’s presence in their own families, and to share Jesus Christ with a world that urgently needs him.”
The logo for the eighth World Meeting of Families was also unveiled on Feb. 25 – a bell with a cross and five distinct figures, designed to reflect “family unity, the city itself and also, the city’s role as the birthplace of religious freedom in the United States,” according to a statement by the archdiocese.
Archbishop Chaput also announced that Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett and Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter will serve as honorary co-chairs of the 2015 gathering.
“Philadelphia is the birthplace of religious freedom,” said Governor Corbett, “and our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples are places of both personal faith and civic freedom.”
“But it is our families that grow up in these institutions that are the foundation of that freedom.”
The governor – who is Catholic – quoted Pope John Paul II, saying, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
He noted that faithful families have “played a profound role in building not only Philadelphia but the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” which today is a state that is “enriched by our diversity of faiths.”
“This special event is not only an opportunity to welcome families from around the world but an opportunity to celebrate our distinctive religious heritage as a state and a nation,” he said.
Mayor Nutter said that he was “delighted and honored” that Philadelphia had been chosen to host the World Meeting of Families.
“Family is the cornerstone of society and strengthening it serves all of our people in Philadelphia – Catholic and non-Catholic alike,” he stressed.
Vatican City, Feb 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican Secretary of State has written to the world’s nuns and monks to ask for their prayers for the conclave to elect his successor
“The Holy Father is certain that you, in your monasteries and convents throughout the world, will provide the precious resource of that prayerful faith which down the centuries has accompanied and sustained the Church along her pilgrim path,” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s Feb. 21 letter says.
“The coming conclave,” Cardinal Bertone emphasizes, “will thus depend in a special way on the transparent purity of your prayer and worship.”
As secretary of state, Cardinal Bertone will serve as the “Camerlengo.” He will be in charge of seeing that the daily administrative tasks of running the Church are taken care of, as well as the one who oversees the conclave.
The cardinal described the whole Church as “anxiously” following the final days of “the luminous pontificate” of Benedict XVI.
He noted that Pope Benedict “has asked all the faithful to accompany him with their prayers … and to await with trust the arrival of the new Pope.”
“In a particularly urgent way,” he added, “this appeal is addressed to those chosen members of the Church who are contemplatives.” And Cardinal Bertone advised contemplatives to look to the Pope’s example of devoting “himself above all to prayer, contemplation and reflection.”
The Secretary of State finished his letter by saying that Pope Benedict, “with whom I shared the contents of this letter, was deeply appreciative, and asked me to thank you and to assure you of his immense love and esteem.”
Edinburgh, Scotland, Feb 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI has accepted Cardinal Keith P. O’Brien’s resignation, and the cardinal has announced he will not attend the conclave.
"Approaching the age of seventy-five and at times in indifferent health, I tendered my resignation as Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh to Pope Benedict XVI some months ago. I was happy to know that he accepted my resignation ‘nunc pro tunc’ – (now – but to take effect later) on 13 November 2012,” Cardinal O’Brien said in a Feb. 25 statement.
The Pope decided on Feb. 18 that he would accept his resignation effective Feb. 25.
The cardinal recently became the focus of allegations by three priests and a former clergyman who say they received inappropriate sexual advances from him during the 1980s.
The leader of the Saint Andrews and Edinburgh Archdiocese also announced that he will not be attending the conclave to elect the next Pope.
“I also ask God’s blessing on my brother Cardinals who will soon gather in Rome to elect his successor. I will not join them for this Conclave in person,” he said.
“I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me – but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his Successor,” the Scottish cardinal added.
Pope Benedict will appoint an apostolic administrator to oversee the archdiocese until the next Pope chooses his replacement.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Throughout the past century, God has blessed the Church with exceptional Popes, including Benedict XVI, said Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Cordoba, Spain.
“Almost all of the Popes that the Church has had in the last century are canonized or on their way to being so,” said Bishop Fernandez in a letter sent to CNA on Feb. 22.
“St. Pius X, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II. The Church has never had a better list of Popes of this caliber,” he explained. “And Benedict XVI joins this list.”
In all of these Popes, “the call to holiness that the Second Vatican Council said was for all has been fulfilled,” the bishop continued.
“Holiness does not consist merely of personal qualities nor is it primarily human effort. Holiness is above all a grace,” he said.
“And therefore, God has been great to us, giving us this line of Popes that fill the best pages of the history of humanity with their holiness of life (…) and have confronted the grave problems of humanity in our times with the ever renewed vitality of the Gospel.”
Bishop Fernandez invited the faithful to “think about what the primacy of the Apostle Peter means for the whole of the Church and for all of humanity,” since “Jesus Christ founded his Church upon the foundation of the apostles, and he put one of them – Peter – at the head of that newborn community.”
“For this reason, the successor to St. Peter leads the entire Church,” he said, adding that Jesus entrusted to Peter “the beautiful task of tending his sheep, those Christ rescued with his precious blood.”
The bishop encouraged Catholics to thank God for the pontificate of Benedict XVI and to pray “that He grant us a new pastor with a heart like His, who will tend us all with the love of Christ.”
“The circumstances we are experiencing should lead us to ask if we truly love the Pope, if we are paying attention to what he is teaching us, if we are obeying what he tells us,” he said. “To separate oneself from communion with the Successor of Peter would be to separate oneself from the true Church of the Lord.”
“Our prayer in these days should put us in an atmosphere of faith, so that we can understand what apostolic succession means,” Bishop Fernandez stressed, because “only in a climate of prayer will we be prepared to live in communion with the Successor of Peter, the Pope that God wants to give to His Church today.”
Vatican City, Feb 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI has changed Church law allowing cardinals to vote earlier for the new Pope, provided that they are all in Rome.
“Pope Benedict XVI allows for the College of Cardinals to begin the Conclave before fifteen days have passed from the beginning of the sede vacante, providing that all voting cardinals are present,” said Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata Feb. 25 at the Holy See’s press office.
The Pope’s Feb. 25 “motu proprio,” a decree written on his own initiative, means that the cardinals will no longer have to wait 15 days to elect the new head of the Church.
“The modification also provides that the conclave must begin no more than 20 days after the beginning of the sede vacante, even if all the electors are not present,” Archbishop Celata added.
But the exact date when the voting will begin remains unknown until the cardinals hold their initial general meetings, according to the Holy See’s press office director, Father Federico Lombardi.
Fr. Lombardi also said that the cardinals may not announce the date of the conclave until after they meet a second time.
Pope Benedict’s declaration modified Bl. John Paul II’s “Universi Dominici Gregis,” a 1996 Apostolic Constitution amendment by John Paul II which also modified rules on the conclave.
Benedict XVI’s new regulations are not his first adjustments to the conclave rules. In 2007 he changed the law so that a two-thirds majority instead of simple majority would be required for electing a new Pope.
Another change says that the oath of secrecy is extended to other people, which include two “trustworthy technicians.”
These technicians “have the task of assisting the competent officers of the College (of Cardinals) in assuring that no audio-visual equipment for recording or transmitting has been installed by anyone in the areas mentioned, and particularly in the Sistine Chapel itself, where the acts of election are carried out.”
Cardinals can now also choose to either walk or be driven from St. Martha House, where they will be sleeping, to the Sistine Chapel, where they will vote.
A third major change is the punishment for whoever breaches the oath of secrecy.
“The punishment for any violation of the oath of secrecy is to be excommunication,” Archbishop Celata said.
The previous law said the penalty was determined by the Pope who was elected.
Washington D.C., Feb 25, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict’s eight years of service to the Church should leave the faithful filled with gratitude and renewed in both faith and love, said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C.
“We are able to recognize that our Holy Father’s action speaks to us of his greatness and his ability to recognize the needs of the Church Universal today,” the cardinal said at a Feb. 24 Mass of Thanksgiving for the service of Pope Benedict XVI.
Around 3,000 people gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the Mass.
In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl voiced gratitude to the Holy Father for his leadership and loving care.
He explained that “our hearts are filled with both faith and love” as we recognize Christ’s “continuing presence” in the “teaching office symbolized by the Chair of Peter” and experience “hearts filled with love for the person who for nearly eight years has sat in that chair – Pope Benedict XVI.”
On Feb. 11, Pope Benedict shocked the world by announcing that he would be retiring at the end of the month due to advanced age and declining strength.
“Now that some of the dust has settled,” Cardinal Wuerl said, “we are able clearly to see the courage, humility and honesty of our Holy Father” in choosing to step down.
Implicit in the Pope’s announcement, he explained, was the humble recognition “that it would be better that someone with more energy serve as Chief Shepherd of the Church at this time.”
The cardinal went on to say that this occasion also provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the role of the Pope.
Recalling that Christ promised to build his Church on the foundation of Peter, he noted that the “Petrine Office is exercised today in an age of instantaneous communication, where social media dominate how we relate to one another, and how, therefore, the voice of Peter must be articulated to be heard.”
“Papal service in our day, more than ever, includes a ministry of presence,” he said. “It often involves extensive travel around the world to visit and pray with the faithful.”
Cardinal Wuerl also commented on the legacy that the Holy Father will leave behind.
“The task of the New Evangelization will always bear the mark of this Pope,” he said. “In a way, he made it the hallmark of his Pontificate.”
Pope Benedict defined the New Evangelization as “the re-proposing of the Gospel to the people of our age and culture,” he continued.
But beyond simply defining it, he said, the Pope also “told us it consists of the ordinary ongoing catechesis that is the formation of every believer, the outreach to those who have never heard of Christ, and the special effort to touch those who have been baptized and have fallen away from the practice of the faith.”
Benedict XVI also challenged the faithful “to renew our own faith so that we would find renewed confidence in the truth of God’s Word and then be able to share it with others,” the cardinal explained.
He added that he also believes the Holy Father will be remembered “for his enduring commitment to the compatibility and complementarity of faith and reason as we make our way through life, blessed with both the gift of our intellect and a capability to hear also the revelation of God.”
“While he will step aside from that chair, while he may leave his Petrine office, he will never leave our hearts which are filled with respect, admiration and love for him,” Cardinal Wuerl said.
“So we say today, as we celebrate the ministry of Saint Peter the Apostle, thank you Pope Benedict for your guidance, for your leadership, for your pastoral love.”