Vatican City, Oct 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A gathering of researchers and scientists convened in Rome to discuss some of the greatest threats to humanity, identifying the tendency to view persons as less than human as a key factor.
“Human beings no longer are looked upon as persons, but as sources of raw material to help those who are the rich and the powerful,” said Dr. Jonathan Haas, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
The academy – which works to address “issues in law, in culture, in medicine, in bioethics” – met recently for their annual meeting, Haas told CNA Sept. 27.
Established by Bl. John Paul II, the group aims to promote and defend of human life, especially in the field of bioethics as it regards Christian morality.
“It's really a profound commitment to defend the dignity of the human person from the first moment of their conception,” he said.
Throughout his time in the field, Dr. Haas has observed that the most pressing life issue of modern times is “not individual specific issues, such as abortion or embryonic stem cell research, or euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.”
“It seems to me that the most pressing, broad issue is the de-humanization, the de-personalization of the human person.”
The academy's president observed the increasing culture-wide epidemic of the weak and the poor being treated as “sources of assistance for those who are…more powerful,” as a driving force behind the lack of respect for human dignity.
Citing the black market sale of organs and the freezing of embryos for research as examples, he emphasized that “it’s the rich and the powerful really taking advantage of the weak and the vulnerable for their own benefit.”
Given the extent of the degradation of human dignity, Dr. Haas explained the approach of the pontifical group, emphasizing that “we are an academy.”
This implies, he said, that they seek individuals who are themselves “from the academy; from universities, from institutes of advanced studies, people with backgrounds in law, medicine, philosophy, theology, to address these common threats to human dignity.”
Focusing on the organization’s acute expertise in varying fields, he explained that their aim is to discuss current life issues from different angles, but also from a “very high-level academic perspective,” because “those are the people who are formulating and implementing public policy around the world.”
“It’s individuals who have expertise in the background, in the field of the natural sciences, the sacred sciences, philosophy, law, who are posing the threats, so we have to come back at these threats from these similar disciplines.”
The eight members of the board of directors for the academy had a private audience with the Holy Father on Sept. 27, in which the Pope lauded them for their work, but also stressed the challenges that they face.
In reference to the encounter, Dr. Haas said “it was wonderful, it was beautiful. His words were beautiful.”
“He told us that we were going to have to struggle against the current. Everything you do, he said, is against the current, and it will be for the rest of your lives.”
Dr. Haas noted that the Pope urged them to keep in mind that “every step that you take forward in the protection of life, the other side, the culture of death, are taking steps forward as well.”
One of the qualities which stood out specifically to the academy president “was his gravity.”
“You see pictures of him all the time, and he’s grinning, he’s smiling. But he was very somber, and he looked down, and told us we were going to have to anticipate a lifetime of struggle in addressing these issues.”
Having the “support and approbation of the Vicar of Christ, the Successor to St. Peter,” who is “the highest moral authority on the planet,” the Academy president said, was a “significant encouragement” to them in their work.
On a personal note, Dr. Haas shared that during the audience, he took out a photo of his nine children and twenty-four grandchildren, which he showed to the Pope, who placed his hand over the picture to give the family his official blessing.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 3, 2013 (CNA) - Father Francisco Baigorria, pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola parish in Buenos Aires, has expressed sadness and concern over the Sept. 25 desecration of his church, reportedly by students from a near-by high school.
“This has caused tremendous spiritual and moral harm, because they committed sacrilege,” Fr. Baigorria told AICA news agency that day.
The students destroyed numerous artifacts in the parish, among the oldest in Buenos Aires. They set fire to a row of pews and the celebrant's chair and painted anti-Catholic graffiti on the walls and floor. One of the messages said, “The only church that enlightens is that which burns.”
Upon discovering the vandalism, Fr. Baigorria notified the police, and worked most of the morning cleaning up the parish so as to say Mass that afternoon on one of the side altars. Mass may not be said on the desecrated main altar. Archbishop Mario Poli of Buenos Aires determines when and how the main altar will be re-consecrated.
Officials determined that the desecration was the work of five students from the Buenos Aires National High School, as the “only way” the church could have been accessed was through the passageways that connect the two buildings.
“It has been confirmed (that the kids did it) because the only way they could enter at night is through the tunnel” linking the church with the high school, Fr. Baigorria said.
When the vandalism occurred, the school was occupied by students protesting a curricular reform. The occupation ended Sept. 27 after 10 days. Juan Manuel Cuello, president of the student body, said that “naturally we are worn out after ten days sleeping in the school without taking classes. We reached a consensus to end the takeover but educational reform is ongoing and must still be halted.”
On Sept. 25, Cuello had denounced the profanation of St. Ignatius parish and said a delegation from the school would be sent to apologize and to offer to pay for the repairs.
He added that the students who were involved in the vandalism incident have “acknowledged their mistake, and we repudiate this act and we ask that the appropriate investigations be carried out.”
Fr. Baigorria has said he met with officials of the high school, who said they were saddened by the incident and pledged to punish those responsible for profaning the church.
“They need to determine what they are going to do, but first they need to find out who was responsible and then what steps they will take.”
The vandalism was denounced by a number of Argentine groups, including DAIA, which represents the country's Jewish community.
“DAIA, committed to combatting all forms of discrimination … extends expressions of solidarity to our Catholic brethren over such grievances,” the group stated.
Naples, Fla., Oct 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Citing a desire to ease financial pressures on parents and students, Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla., has announced that it will reduce its annual undergraduate tuition for new students by $5,000 next year.
“I think that all Catholic colleges and universities should do soul-searching these days about what they’re charging,” Jim Towey, president of Ave Maria University, told CNA Oct. 1.
“The fact is, it’s impoverishing a lot of families to have a high debt-load. The parents are finding themselves having to mortgage their lives. Students are graduating with their future so heavily burdened by high debt that we all have to ask whether this is just and sustainable.”
Beginning in fall 2014, the Catholic university in southern rural Florida will reduce its tuition from $23,000 to $17,940, a cut of $5,060 for new students. Returning students will pay the same amount that they are paying this year, after scholarships.
The university says that its average student pays less than an attendee at nearly all private colleges and universities in Florida and at other U.S. Catholic universities.
“People in this country are demanding high quality, reasonable cost education,” Towey said. “We believe that part of our founder’s vision here at Ave Maria was a tuition price in reach of as many families as possible.”
The university will continue to provide scholarships, which means many students will pay less than the advertised tuition.
Towey said the tuition cut will not compromise classroom size and student-to-faculty ratios.
“We’re excited we’re in a financial position to be able to do this,” he noted.
Low administrative overhead, as well as an expectation of “continued strong support” from donors and growing enrollment will make the tuition decrease possible, Towey explained. He credited the young age of the university, which was founded in 2003, as a factor that made the decision easier.
The university president also cited concerns that higher education is an overpriced economic “bubble.”
“I think the schools that get out in front of this quickly will be in a better position to stay strong,” he said, suggesting that other schools could look at their overhead costs or draw on their endowments to reduce tuition.
“Some of these schools with huge endowments that are charging these incredibly high tuition and fees, you wonder what the endowment is there for to begin with,” he said.
He characterized Ave Maria University as “a classic liberal arts education at an affordable price.”
The university emphasizes Catholic social teaching through various programs, including outreach efforts to local farm worker communities.
The school’s students, Towey explained, will “become pro-life and pro-poor, and they’ll go out and put their education and their faith in the service of humanity. That’s all a Catholic university can aspire to do, I think.”
He voiced hopes that the young university will be “a little mustard seed” that will grow through its faithfulness.
Ave Maria University currently has almost 1,000 enrolled students and hopes to enroll 1,500 by fall 2016.
Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Francis’ papacy has been marked by a distinct emphasis on the poor and a unique ability to convey God’s tenderness, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said Oct. 1 at the seminary of his archdiocese.
“Anyone hoping for - or worried about - a break by Pope Francis from Catholic teaching on matters of substance is going to be mistaken,” the archbishop said at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.
“At the same time, the tone of this pontificate will certainly be distinct from anything in the past century.”
His address was part of the Philadelphia archdiocese's Year of Faith lecture series.
Archbishop Chaput particularly noted how the Pope has attracted the attention of so many people.
“The reason the world has paused for Pope Francis – if only for a little while – is that so many people sense in him something more than himself; not just God’s truth and God’s justice, but God’s tenderness.”
He said that Pope Francis is shaped by “the global south” and by “the poor who inhabit it.”
“God will guide his Church. And God will fill this holy man who is our Pope with the wisdom to lead us well.”
Archbishop Chaput examined the goals of the Year of Faith, which lasts from Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013. He explained that the observance is intended to help encourage Christians to profess their faith “more fully and with conviction,” to deepen their encounter with Jesus Christ in the liturgy and the Eucharist, and to witness to the faith through the example of their lives.
He warned against treating Christianity as only habit and appearance, saying, “the words and habits of religion are easy. We can sometimes use them to fool ourselves. We need to drill down below the counterfeit Christianity so many of us prefer into the substance of who we are and what we really treasure.”
Catholics, he said, “need to let God transform us from the inside out,” adding that this conversion requires “humility, patience and love.”
“It requires letting go of the desire to vindicate ourselves at the expense of others. So much of modern life, even in the Church, is laced with a spirit of anger. And anger is an addiction as intense and as toxic as crack,” he warned.
The archbishop admonished against identifying the “new evangelization” with techniques, technologies or programs.
Rather, its main instrument is “you and me.”
“There’s no way around those words: Repent and believe in the gospel. The world will change only when you change, when we change, because hearts are won by pe rsonal witness. And we can’t share what we don’t have.”
Repentance, he said, “makes us new” by “healing the evil we’ve done.” Belief in the gospel gives Christians hope that despite their failures and sins, “the greatness of God’s love can reach down and redeem even us.”
The archbishop also discussed what Benedict XVI called the modern world’s “profound crisis of faith” and the modern world’s inability to find happiness.
“Human beings are more than a bundle of appetites. Our longings go beyond what we can see and touch and taste. We were made for God.”
Materialist answers to questions about the soul “can never be more than a narcotic,” he reflected.
“So much of the suffering in modern American life – we see it every day – can be traced to our misdirected desires, and the distractions we use to feed them. We look for joy and purpose in things that can never give us either.”
He said Catholics need to prove their beliefs through “the zeal and joy of our lives.”
Catholics need to “forgive each other, protect the weak, serve the needy, raise the young in virtue, speak with courage, and work for the truth without ceasing – always in a spirit of love.”
Archbishop Chaput said God’s love is “the heart of the matter.”
He prayed that God “turn our hearts to him, and make us a 'fire upon the earth' – a fire that lifts up his creation in love.”
Washington D.C., Oct 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Upon hearing the official date for John Paul II’s canonization, the Washington, D.C., shrine dedicated to the former Pope is preparing to celebrate his sainthood and continuing “legacy of love.”
“We want millions of people to come here to learn about their faith, and particularly John Paul II,” Patrick Kelly, executive director of the Blessed John Paul II Shrine, explained to CNA Oct. 2.
“He is a saint and we can emulate that – that gift of self – in all walks of life.”
On Sept. 30, the Vatican announced that Pope John XIII and Pope John Paul II will be canonized together on April 27, 2014, the second Sunday of Easter, which is also Divine Mercy Sunday.
Kelly explained that the date of the canonization on Divine Mercy Sunday “was very appropriate.”
John Paul II “was known as the Pope of Divine Mercy” because of his writings on mercy and his instrumental role “in the (canonization) cause of St. Faustina,” Kelly said, as well as the Pope's passing away on the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.
John Paul II had instituted that feast of Divine Mercy in 2000.
Kelly also noted the significance of the Pope's canonization alongside John XIII, who opened the Second Vatican Council. There was a great continuity between the two Popes, who “were both committed to evangelization and to bringing Christ to the modern world in a profound way,” he said.
In celebration of the canonization, the D.C. shrine will hold a youth event and vigil, featuring a movie about the life of John Paul II, a Mass said at midnight, Eucharistic adoration, and veneration of a relic containing a fragment of the Pope's blood-stained cassock from the 1981 attempt on his life.
The shrine will also host a simulcast of the canonization in the early hours of the morning, and a large Mass on that Sunday morning for local pilgrims from surrounding dioceses. In addition, it will unveil a new “Saint John Paul II Shrine” sign outside of the building and allow pilgrims to visit an interim exhibit offering a “spiritual journey through JP II’s life.”
Following the Pope's canonization, Kelly said, the shrine will open a new 16,000 square foot “world-class” permanent exhibit dedicated to the life and teachings of the saint, which “will really make John Paul II come alive.”
Kelly added that his hope for the shrine is that it will help visitors to “see the Christian witness of John Paul II and be inspired by it.”
He described the upcoming canonization as “huge,” especially for young people, explaining that the late Pope was “very committed to young people and young adults,” starting the practice of World Youth Day and “inspiring” young people around the globe.
“Young people saw in him an authenticity and a love,” Kelly explained. “Young people have a sense for 'the real thing,' and I think they saw that in him and responded to it.”
“He loved young people too,” Kelly continued, “because of their exuberance, and I think it was an electricity he liked to be around.”
The love of youth was one of “many different legacies that John Paul leaves,” he added, along with messages of “continuing conversion,” “human dignity,” and a challenge for Christians to “be not afraid.”
However, “his greatest legacy is a legacy of love,” Kelly said.
“It was love that motivated him to do the extraordinary things he did in his life: love for God, first and foremost, and then love for man.”
“He is such an extraordinary example of a man who conforms his life to Christ and then takes action on that.”
Madrid, Spain, Oct 3, 2013 (CNA) - A small bomb exploded on Oct. 2 in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, Spain. Police said no one was injured in the blast.
According to Europa Press, the basilica was immediately evacuated after the explosion and police set up an exterior perimeter.
The small bomb, consisting of a gas cylinder with gun powder, was placed in the central nave of the basilica.
Left-wing anarchists have been blamed for the attack, according to the Efe news agency.
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza is one of the most important Marian shrines in the world. The devotion to Our Lady of the Pillar dates back to the Apostle St. James in the year 40 A.D. St. James and his followers built the first adobe chapel in honor of the devotion on the banks of the Ebro River.
Vatican City, Oct 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In their final day of meetings with Pope Francis, the group of eight cardinals defined concrete steps in curial reform and specified that the role of the laity will be a significant area of focus in the future.
The council of cardinals – formed by the Pope to advise him in areas of reform and governance within the Church – began their first set of meetings Oct. 1, and finished on Thursday.
In an Oct. 3 press briefing, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi revealed that Curial reform and the attribution of a more inclusive role of the laity were among the principle topics discussed in yesterday’s council meetings.
Pope Francis attended the evening session yesterday which was held from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m., when the Holy Father went to pray. However he was not present in this morning’s session due to his audience with the participants in a meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Fr. Lombardi said that despite the absence of the Pope, the cardinals dedicated their work primarily to the reform of the Curia, whose work implies “a new constitution with significant new aspects.”
The intention of the cardinals, said the Vatican spokesman, is to emphasize the nature of service on the part the curia, as well as the universal and local church “in terms of subsidiarity, rather than the exercise of centralized power.”
“The intended direction would be to put this into practice in the service of the Church in all her dimensions.”
Fr. Lombardi was clear to specify that the work of the council in the reform of the curia “would not indicate an updating” of Blessed John Paul II's 1998 apostolic Constitution “Pastor Bonus.”
Rather, their work is directed to creating “a new constitution with significant new aspects...The cardinals have made it clear that they do not intend to make cosmetic retouches or minor modifications to 'Pastor bonus.'”
Another question which merited “significant attention” in the council’s meetings, was that of the laity, as the cardinal members had received numerous suggestions and questions on this topic from many in their various areas.
“When dealing with the reform of the curia and its institutions, the council also plans to give more specific attention to issues relating to the laity, so that this dimension of the life of the Church is properly and effectively recognized and followed by the governance of the Church,” Fr. Lombardi said.
“Now there is a Pontifical Council for the Laity, but it is still possible to think of ways of strengthening this aspect.”
Also discussed by the council was the nature and function of the Secretariat of State, which “should be the secretariat of the Pope; the word State should not give rise to doubt. This body serves the Pope in the governance of the universal Church,” expressed the spokesman.
Fr. Lombardi stressed that discussion on the duties of the Secretary of State are of special importance since the newly appointed Archbishop Pietro Parolin will assume this role on Oct. 15.
During the briefing, Fr. Lombardi took a moment to express the words and sentiments of Pope Francis at the end of his audience with the participants of a special meeting held in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of John XXIII's encyclical, “Pacem in Terris,” in which he called to mind to the 90 victims of an Oct. 3 shipwreck near the Italian island of Lampedusa.
“In the light of this new tragedy,” he said, “we understand more clearly the value and meaning of the first trip of Francis' pontificate.”
Vatican City, Oct 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bl. Pope John XXIII’s encyclical on peace should remind everyone of the need to “build peace on the example of Jesus Christ,” Pope Francis said Oct. 3.
The failure to work for justice means “there can be no real peace and harmony,” the Pope said, according to Vatican Radio.
Everyone should promote and practice “justice with truth and love” while contributing to “integral human development,” he added. This means an end to “egotism, individualism, and group interests at every level.”
The Pope reflected on the relevance of the 1963 encyclical “Pacem in Terris” – or “Peace on Earth – written by Bl. John XXIII, who will be canonized next spring.
Although the encyclical was written near the height of Cold War tensions between the United States and Russia, it remains “extremely contemporary,” Pope Francis said.
Despite “the fall of walls and barriers, the world continues to need peace,” he told participants in a three-day Vatican conference marking the encyclical’s 50th anniversary.
The conference drew participants from the U.N., the Council of Europe, the African Union, the Organization of American States, and Catholic universities and institutions, Vatican Radio reports.
Pope Francis said the encyclical reminds Christians that peacemaking is based in mankind’s “divine origin.” This common origin means every human being shares a common dignity that they must “promote, respect and safeguard always.”
He urged more efforts to provide access to food, water, shelter, health care and education. He also emphasized the need for everyone to have the possibility “to form and support a family.”
“On this depends an enduring peace for everyone,” Pope Francis said.
He also noted that during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Pope John XXIII called for peace, attempting to orient the international debate towards the virtues of “dialogue, listening, patience, respect of the other, sincerity and even an openness to reconsidering one’s own opinion.”
Pope Francis encouraged his audience to reflect on “Pacem in Terris” as they respond to challenges to peace today, including those in the realms of education, lack of access to resources, ethical problems in biological research, arms races, and the mass media’s “impact on consciences.”
The current economic crisis is “inhuman” and “a grave symptom of the disrespect for man and for (the) truth with which governments and citizens make decisions,” he added.
The Holy Father briefly mentioned current events, voicing his sorrow for the hundreds of African refugees dead or missing after the recent sinking of a refugee-laden boat off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.
“It is a shame!” he said. “Let us pray together to God for those who have lost their lives: men, women, children, for the families and for all the refugees.”
Washington D.C., Oct 3, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - U.S. President Barack Obama said that he admires Pope Francis for his spiritual leadership, and in particular for his love, humility and empathy for the poor.
Asked by CNBC on Oct. 2 what he thinks about Pope Francis’ comments in recent interviews, Obama said that he has been “hugely impressed with the Pope’s pronouncements,” although “not because of any particular issue.”
Rather, he said the witness of the Pope’s life has drawn his admiration.
“First of all, he seems somebody who lives out the teachings of Christ. Incredible humility, an incredible sense of empathy to the least of these, to the poor,” Obama said, lauding the Holy Father as “someone who is first and foremost thinking about how to embrace people as opposed to push them away.”
“That spirit, that sense of love and unity, seems to manifest itself not just in what he says, but in what he does,” the president continued.
“For any religious leader, that's a quality I admire, and I would argue, for any leader period, that's a quality I admire.”
Obama has also praised Pope Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI.
Upon the announcement of Benedict’s resignation in February 2013, the president issued a statement of “appreciation and prayers,” saying that he had “appreciated our work together over these last four years” and acknowledging that the Catholic Church “plays a critical role in the United States and the world.”