Archive of March 12, 2014

Bishop Morlino: Pope Francis is a 'son of the Church'

Madison, Wis., Mar 12, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison has said the public should not accept media distortions of Pope Francis, but should recognize him as “a son of the Church” trying bring people to Christ.

“The mass media are trying to create a spirit of Pope Francis, just as they created a spirit of Vatican II,” he told the Wisconsin Street Journal Feb. 27. “Many Catholics fell for that the first time. I hope they won't fall for that again.”

“When he says he’s the son of the Church, he really means it.”

According the bishop, the Pope is not changing doctrine or morals, “but there’s been so much innuendo about what he wants in the mass media, that I think many Catholic people are confused, and I feel badly about that. But that’s not his fault.”

The bishop praised the Pope’s “unbelievably uncanny knack” for “pulling people in.” Citing Cardinal Raymond Burke, he suggested the Pope is “trying to remove every obstacle from people meeting Jesus Christ.”

When asked about a statement in a previous interview about Pope Francis having made him “a stronger culture warrior,” Bishop Morlino responded that to meet Christ, one must “stand up for the whole Christ,” and that in the Diocese of Madison, he has observed that cultural issues are what need to be emphasized.

“What are the aspects of Christ and of his work that need work in that vicinity or this region? That's the judgment the bishop has to make. So I have to see kind of which aspects of the truth of Christ need work here, and when I see that, I kind of end up right back where I was. I have to speak up forcibly about these issues.”

“But I have never failed to teach also about God's mercy,” he added. “Never. It's one of my major themes. It always has been. But God's mercy is always balanced with his judgment, and we have to think that through and work that out.”

Bishop Morlino also discussed the meaning of the word “pastoral,” saying “it means patient love” and affirming that his approach as bishop has been pastoral. “There can't be anything pastoral that does not include inviting people to see the truth. To pretend the truth is not there or to water it down, that really couldn't be pastoral.”

The bishop interpreted Pope Francis’ warnings about being “obsessed” with abortion and other controversial issues such as same-sex unions in the light of the desire to help people to meet Christ.

While “there is a time and a place” to discuss such issues, he said, bringing up those subjects can at times place an obstacle to “someone meeting Jesus Christ.”

Pope Francis “wants them to meet Jesus Christ and then bring that up,” Bishop Morlino said. “Because when somebody has the mind of Christ, the whole world looks different, and someone who might think the teaching on same-sex unions is behind the times and pure folly might see it quite differently if they had met Jesus Christ risen from the dead.”

“If you’re going to bring someone to Christ, and you’re going to take them where they’re at, you can't watch every word, because then that connection won’t happen. But then, after they meet Jesus Christ, they see things differently, and then there's a time for clarification,” the bishop said.

Bishop Morlino noted that such clarification is present in the writings of Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI.

He said Pope Francis is “drawing people closer to Jesus Christ, and that’s the most important thing.”

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Cardinal Kasper's speech on marriage to be released as book

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Walter Kasper's Feb. 20 address on marriage to a group of cardinals, controversial for its comments on remarriage and Communion, is to be published as a book this week, he says.

The booklet, title “Gospel of the Family,” will be released in Italian and German, will feature the text of his speech. It's 78 pages will include two additional texts from Cardinal Kasper, and will be sold at $12.50.

In a March 10 interview with Vatican Radio, the president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said, “My main intention was not to speak about divorced and remarried people but to speak about the Gospel of the family.”

Of the five sections of his address, only the last was devoted to divorce and remarriage; earlier sections focused on the family in creation and redemption, the domestic Church, and sin in families.

“I think the majority of young people want stable relationships, want to live in a family,” he told Vatican Radio. “And therefore the Church has to help them so I wanted to build up a new, better, more deep understanding of family life.”

Cardinal Kasper, who was invited to speak at the consistory by Pope Francis, said, “I told the Pope from the very beginning that I have my opinions and the Pope encouraged me to speak about my opinions – he wanted an open discussion about an urgent problem.”

Vaticanista Sandro Magister wrote March 11 in his blog "Settimo Cielo" that the cardinal's speech generated "a very animated discussion, with numerous cardinals of the first order intervening against the thesis presented by Kasper."

In December, Cardinal Kasper had said in an interview with German weekly Die Zeit that the divorced and remarried will soon be able to receive the sacraments.

He told Vatican Radio that he wanted to “find a way” between rigorism and laxity: “I think this can be the only approach of the Church today,” adding that he wants “a realistic application of doctrine to the current situation of the great majority of people.”

He added that there is “an abyss” between Church teaching and the convictions of many Christians: “we have to listen to people living family life,” he said.

“I maintain the full teaching of the Church but the teaching has to be applied to concrete situations,” he said in the interview. “The Church must explain in a new way what are family and matrimony in order to help people and at the same time remain faithful to the Gospel.”

Roberto de Mattei, an Italian historian had critiqued the cardinal's Feb. 20 address when it was published in Italian daily Il Foglio, calling it “a shocking example of a cultural revolution proposed in the name of praxis.”

“'Doctrine does not change, the novelty regards only pastoral praxis.' This is the slogan that has been repeated for a year now,” de Mattei wrote, introducing his commentary on Cardinal Kasper's speech.

“On the one hand it pacifies those conservatives who measure everything in terms of doctrinal statements, and on the other hand it encourages those progressives who attribute little value to doctrine and confide everything in the primacy of praxis.”

“Immediately after stating the need to remain faithful to Tradition, Cardinal Kasper advances two devastating proposals to avoid the perennial Magisterium of the Church in matters of the family and marriage,” de Mattei wrote.

Citing the cardinal’s concern for the “abyss” between Church teaching and the conviction of many Christians about marriage, de Mattei said that “The Cardinal, however, neglects to formulate a negative judgment on these 'convictions' antithetic to the Christian Faith.”

“In Kasper’s view,” according to de Mattei, the method to deal with the crisis of divorce is to “change the doctrine, without showing that it has been modified.”

The historian said this would be to open the doors to “the systematic violation, on the level of praxis, of that dogmatic tradition where the words affirm it legally binding.”

“The position of the Church is unequivocal,” de Mattei concluded.

“Communion to remarried divorcees is denied because matrimony is indissoluble and none of the reasons adopted by Cardinal Kasper allows for the celebration of a new matrimony or the blessing of a pseudo-matrimonial union.”

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Secularism too fragile a basis for society, English bishop says

London, England, Mar 12, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - During an address at his alma mater last week, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth discussed the rise of secularism in Britain and how Christianity in contrast enables greater human flourishing.

“Secularism is too fragile a basis for a free society…the Gospel alone can offer an authentic humanism able to transform human living,” Bishop Egan said March 6 at King's College London, where he studied in the 1970s.

He was invited to give his lecture by Fr. Joe Evans, the university's Catholic chaplain; it was attended by students and staff of the school, as well as members of the Catholic Society and the Anglican chaplain and his assistants.

Bishop Egan's three topics were secularism and the demise of Christianity in Britain; a discussion of three of Benedict XVI's writings on secularism; and the Church's role in strengthening the Christian patrimony of the country.

He began by noting the increasing clashes between Christianity and present-day secularism, saying that “perhaps surprisingly, secularism…is a deconstructed version of Christian morality” and “a form of post-Christian ethics that thrives because its values continue to derive their vitality from the Christian patrimony still embedded in British culture.”

Secularism indeed “has its own theological terms such as equality, diversity, freedom, respect, tolerance, non-discrimination, multiculturalism, social cohesion, ethnic communities, inclusivity, quality of life, sustainable development and environmentalism,” he stated.

“All these values are derived from fundamental Christian values. Thus, the secular concern for tolerance comes from the biblical 'love of neighbor' but, disconnected from Christian practice and belief, it has become a soft value, free-wheeling, expanded with new meaning, now permitting what formerly was unlawful.”

Secular ethics, based in relativism rather than truth, gives rise to “the spectre of dictatorship” when values are divorced from truth and goodness, and thus “what has happened in the modern European context is that a loss of faith has dissolved the foundations of ethics.”

Contrasting how Britain's constitution and legal system were molded over a long period of time by Christianity and the natural law with the present situation, dominated by “pressure-groups and media, business and commercial interests.”

“Shorn from its moorings, the law is thus increasingly adrift,” Bishop Egan lamented. “It expresses the will of the legislator, the will of the loudest and most powerful, the will of a policy unit or the will of the majority, and this relativism is State-enforced.”

Turning to the thought of Benedict XVI, the bishop cited the emeritus Pope's discussion of the appropriate relationship between faith and reason, which ensures Christianity a place in the public square, even in a pluralistic society.

He quoted Benedict's 2010 address at Westminster Hall, where the said the “world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization.”

Bishop Egan also referred to Benedict's 2006 Regensburg address, and a 2011 talk on the “foundations of law” to the German legislature, in which he reiterated the importance of natural law as a point of contact between reason and faith.

In the final section of his address, Bishop Egan noted the Church's missionary mandate, which is engaged immediately with the individual person, but the ultimate goal of which “is to evangelize culture and its sectors, so that the Gospel of Christ might leaven the totality of human endeavor.”

“The Church must engaged in a salvific, critical conversation with contemporary culture,” the bishop stressed. “Secularism is too flimsy a basis for British culture. It cannot guarantee human flourishing nor sustain long term the advances the British people have achieved, the great value placed on freedom of speech…respect for the rule of law, with a strong sense of the individual’s rights and duties and of the equality of all citizens before the law.”

Secularism, he said, “is producing a society without foundations, one that develops randomly on the hoof through pressure-groups, legal precedent and political expediency.”

Given that secularism is given to a relativism that victimizes the weak, “its proven inability to support stable marriages and family life,” and “its innate tendency towards greater surveillance and state-control,” Bishop Egan stated “the Church has a crucial and therapeutic 'anthropological mission' within 21C British society.”

The Church is called to “demonstrate how Christianity, not secularism, can offer…a transformation of meaning and value that leads to human flourishing. In a word, Christianity proposes an authentic humanism, able to ground a free, democratic and pluralist society.”

Outlining the task of the new evangelization, Bishop Egan said the first task is “to demonstrate that spirituality and religion will never go away; the question of God lies naturally within man's horizon and is raised spontaneously by human consciousness.”

Secondly, he said, Christians must “help people encounter God” and through “intellectual, moral and spiritual conversion…enable them to become intentional disciples of Jesus Christ.” Key to this, he added, is the personal holiness of Christians.

Another task identified by Bishop Egan is to develop “effective Catholic apologetics” which can “rebut popular myths about science, so that schoolchildren especially can appreciate the interaction of faith and reason” and “the complementarity of religion and science.”

The most important aspect of the new evangelization, according to Bishop Egan, “will be to identify, retrieve and promote Britain's Christian patrimony, its history, art and architecture, its music and literature, its liturgy, theology and ethics.”

“This includes taking the theological buzz-words of secularism and driving them back to their foundational values in the Bible and the Christian Tradition…tracing the soft-values of secularism back to their Christian roots and exposing the ideologies that subvert those values.”

Concluding, Bishop Egan said that “of course, given the enormous challenge of the Church’s mission in Britain, it might be tempting to yield to despondency.”

“Yet Christ it he Way, the Truth and the Life and even at this moment, the Holy Spirit is at work in people’s hearts wooing them towards His Church. It is my own conviction that it is not the 'product' that is defective but rather, the ability of people in a busy, secular consumer-culture to hear its call.”

“That is why today…if we are to communicate imaginatively the Person of Jesus Christ to the peoples of our lands and thus enable them to reach that true, genuine, lasting human happiness and fulfillment for which they long, we need to pray for great creativity.”

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Personal notes underscore John Paul II's Marian devotion

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In private letters of Bl. John Paul II which have been published by his former secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the pontiff reflects on the three theological virtues, emphasizing that Mary is the highest example of each.

“Nothing can be dangerous for us; neither Satan nor the world, nor sin – if there is in us the power of Christ in the Marian way,” Bl. John Paul II wrote in one of his personal notes.

Entitled “I am so much in God’s hands: Personal records 1962-2003,” the book containing the Pope’s letters was published by Krakow-based publisher Znak on Feb. 12, and contains 639 pages of meditations and some photos and scans of the pages from two of his notebooks, one beginning in 1962 and the other in 1985, which were both published in Italy by the Archdiocese of Milan.

Reflecting on the virtues of faith, hope and love, the blessed expressed his thoughts regarding their nature, observing how each is brought to full fruition in the life and example of the Mother of God.

On the virtue of faith, the pontiff highlights three separate dimensions, referring to them as “the faith of Mary,” her “availability to receive the God’s Word and to fulfill it,” and that she is “a model of faith for all for the pastors of the Church.”

The faith of Mary is the “legacy of the faith of Israel, which in Mary has been ‘exceeded,’” he wrote, observing that in listening only to God’s word, “she conceived the Word – the Son, first spiritually, then physically.”

Her availability goes hand in hand “with being ‘poor in spirit’” noted the blessed, adding that in her “persistent faith” she “never wavered,” and that she is truly a “Virgo fortis,” or “Brave Virgin.”

As a model for pastors, the pontiff expressed that “the point is that the faith would be a truly dominant characteristic in our lives, no matter how full it might be of human affairs and worldly tasks.”

Looking to the virtue of hope, Bl. John Paul II spoke of how St. Paul is a strong model, but that he was still a citizen of Rome, and because Mary had “no human connections, no human points of reference,” her hope “is more wonderful.”

“At the cross and especially later: with her hope she was holding the initial Church. And Her hope is deposited in the holy Church.”

Questioning to what extend we actively participate in Mary’s hope, the blessed asked in his letter “Do we base ourselves fundamentally and exclusively on the grace of God? How do people feel after meeting us?”

Drawing attention to Mary’s optimism, he prayed “’Give me, Mother, your hope, ply my heart to permeate with Your hope.’”

Reflecting on the virtue of love in a shorter meditation, Bl. John Paul II highlighted that “it must be universal,” and that “it cannot be particularistic and cannot create divisions…it must be serving.”

“A servant’s nature perhaps points to love in the strongest way,” he observed, adding that it must also “be forgiving,” and that “all of this should be learned in the Heart of Jesus through the Heart of Mary.”

In another meditation the soon-to-be saint spoke on holiness, stating that “In Christ the absolute holiness of God is hypostatically united with the holiness of Man” as love of God and hatred of evil, “but especially as love of goodness in everything, even in one who is bad.”

“Every kind of goodness (the total sum of values) other than God, has its prototype in God Himself. God loves one in another – herein lies His Holiness.”

“God restores the value of everything in Man, who is personally united with Him,” the pontiff continued, adding that “for Christ – Redemptor (Redeemer): the holiness of a Man consists of undertaking this Goodness which God loves,” and that “in this way Christ is a model of holiness.”

“In Him this holiness identifies in a way with Redemption (Redemptio). In us it should mean 1st a conversion to God, and 2nd a restoration of everything according to the value that everything has in God and which the Lord Jesus Christ pointed out.”

The meditations included in this piece were translated from the original Polish by Anna Artymiak, Polish correspondent to the Vatican, reporting from Rome.

[This article is the second in a two-part series providing excerpts of personal notes written by Bl. John Paul II dating between July 1962 when he was auxiliary bishop of Krakow, to March 2003, two years before his death and in the 25th year of his service as Roman Pontiff.]

Please see below for the full text of the meditations provided in this article:

Medit (III) The Dimension of the Faith of Mary
“Blessed are you who believed.” Perseverant faith – never wavered, a true “Virgo fortis” (Brave Virgin).

a) The Faith of Mary: the legacy of the faith of Israel, which in Mary has been “exceeded.” Listening only to God’s Word, she conceived the Word – the Son, first spiritually, then physically. Speak Lord, Your Servant is listening.
b) Availability to receive God’s Word and to fulfill It: This availability goes together with being “poor in spirit.” It goes together with Her virginity. Persistent faith – she never wavered, a truly “Virgo fortis” (mulier fortis [brave Virgin]).
c) A model of faith for the pastors of the Church: the point is that the faith would be a truly dominant characteristic in our lives, no matter how full it might be of human affairs and worldly tasks. Faith as readiness to accept the Magisterium of the Church /exp: mgr Fitzgerald: infallibility/

The Conference
St. Paul as a model of Christian hope, but he was still a Roman citizen. Differently, “Ancilla” (handmaid) (Virgo Marya [the Virgin Mary]), [had] no human connections, no human points of reference. This is why Her hope is more wonderful. In every step of Her life. At the cross and especially later: with her hope she was holding the initial Church. And Her hope is deposited in the holy Church. In what measure do we participate in the Hope of Mary? The Church in Poland is in the situation of “ancilla,” that is, of a slave. The Lord God allows this to enhance our hope.
Stabat Mater – stabat episcopus sub Cruce Christi [Standing Mother – a bishop standing under the Cross of Christ]. Do we live this hope?

Do we base ourselves fundamentally and exclusively on the grace of God? How do people feel after meeting us? If they remain standing, infected with the Bishops’ optimism, we have fulfilled the service of hope. – “Give me, Mother, your hope, ply my heart to permeate with Your hope” (nostra conversatio in coelis est [our being is in the heaven]). Nothing can be dangerous for us; neither Satan nor the world, nor sin – if there is in us the power of Christ in the Marian way. – And God’s love, the Holy Spirit itself, spreads in our hearts through these sciences, according to Mary’s model.

On the subject of love: it must be universal, it cannot be particularistic and cannot create divisions. Furthermore: it must be serving; a servant’s nature perhaps points to love in the strongest way. Finally: it must be forgiving. – All of this should be learned in the Heart of Jesus through the Heart of Mary.  

“copiosa apud Eum Redemptio” (“abundant Redemption in Him):” holiness is the source. In Christ the absolute holiness of God is hypostatically united with the holiness of Man. The holiness of God (as love of goodness and hatred of evil), but especially as love of goodness in everything, even in one who is bad (per accidens [accidentally]). Every kind of goodness (the total sum of values) other than God, has its prototype in God Himself. God loves one in another – herein lies His Holiness. That holiness is a basis of Redemption – understood also as a “restoration” of everything: God restores the value of everything in Man, who is personally united with Him. For Christ – Redemptor [Redeemer]: the holiness of a Man consists of undertaking this Goodness which God loves – in this way Christ is a model of holiness. In Him this holiness identifies in a way with Redemption (Redemptio). In us it should mean 1st a conversion to God, and 2nd a restoration of everything according to the value that everything has in God and which the Lord Jesus Christ pointed out.

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Bishops laud Pope’s humility, care for poor on anniversary

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a statement released on the occasion of the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ pontificate, US bishops praised the pontiff for his example, and encouraged the faithful to offer continued prayers on his behalf.

“The members of the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have noted with thanksgiving the first anniversary of the election of His Holiness Pope Francis as the 266th successor of the Apostle Peter,” the bishops expressed in their March 11 statement.

Currently gathered in Washington D.C. for their annual March meeting, the USCCB observed how during his first year “Pope Francis has consistently called upon Catholics to look again at the fundamental values of the Gospel.”

“He has encouraged us to be a Church of the poor and for the poor, reaching out to the marginalized and being present to those on the periphery of society.”

Continuing, they also highlighted how the Pope “has set an example by choosing a personal simplicity of life, by washing the feet of prisoners, and by taking into his hands and kissing the badly disfigured.”

Referring to the ongoing process of reform within the Church, the bishops emphasized how the pontiff has also “set in motion a process that will lead to the reshaping of the Roman Curia in a way that will enhance the effectiveness of his ministry and better serve the needs of the Church in our present day.”

“In this way the Holy Father has brought to light new dimensions of the Petrine Ministry and added new life to the office he holds,” they observed.

“His constant outreach to the alienated, his emphasis on mercy and his sheer humanity have served as an inspiration not only to Catholics but also to other Christians and people of good will around the globe.”

Bringing their letter to a close, the bishops invited “the prayers of all the faithful” for the Pope in light of his anniversary, encouraging them to ask “that Christ our Lord will bless Pope Francis and grant him many years of fruitful ministry as Bishop of Rome” and “as the Servant of the Servants of God.”

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Archbishop Nienstedt cleared of accusation, glad to return

St. Paul, Minn., Mar 12, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis is happy to resume public ministry, after he recused himself during an investigation which did not end in charges over accusations he inappropriately touched a youth.

“I look forward to returning to public ministry during this Lenten season, especially during Holy Week and the great feast of Easter,” Archbishop Nienstedt said in a March 11 statement.

He had been accused of touching a male minor's buttocks during a group photo following a May 5, 2009 confirmation.

On Tuesday, the criminal division director of the Ramsey County Attorney, Richard Dusterhoft, wrote that “this case could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and should not be charged.”

It “seems unlikely that the Archbishop … would pick that moment to sexually touch a random boy openly in front of another clergy member, a deacon, and numerous other confirmands while the confirmands’ family members were preparing to document the moment in photographs,” Dusterhoft stated.

“It appears from the photograph that the Archbishop would have to bend to reach the male’s buttocks and that any such action would have likely been witnessed by others present.”

The boy had told his mother about the alleged incident, but also said he didn’t feel violated, nor did he think it was significant.

The archdiocese announced that it “appreciates today’s announcement by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office that they have declined to file charges against Archbishop Nienstedt. As a result of today’s announcement, the archbishop will now resume all of his public ministry duties.”

The archbishop had removed himself from ministry during the investigation, which began Dec. 17.

Archbishop Nienstedt continued his own statement, saying, “I am thankful to the Saint Paul Police for their thorough investigation, as well as to the Ramsey County Attorney’s office for their professional work regarding this matter.”

“While I look forward to my return to public ministry, I remain committed to the ongoing work needed to provide safe environments for all children and youth.”

“I continue to offer my prayers for all victims, their families and their communities, as well as to all who have been harmed by clergy sexual abuse. I once again offer my apology to all who have been affected by these terrible offenses.”

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Cardinal Bertone: Pope Francis uses prayer as a diplomatic tool

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was Vatican secretary of state from 2006 to 2013, has shared his views on papal diplomacy, emphasizing Pope Francis’ use of prayer in relations with states.

“Pope Francis has underscored, and put a special emphasis on, prayer as a diplomatic tool,” Cardinal Bertone told CNA March 7.

This stress was proven by Pope Francis’ call for a day of prayer and fasting Sep. 7 to address the “very serious issues of Syria,” he said. He also remembered “how many times -- now also for Ukraine, for Venezuela, for many countries in grave difficulty -- Pope Francis has convened a great prayer movement.”

Cardinal Bertone said Pope Francis thus “appreciates prayer as a diplomatic tool very much, and he has much confidence in it, because it is the Lord of history who is involved, through the intercession of the People of God, to guide the destiny of humanity, especially in the most crucial moments of the life of mankind.”

The cardinal, who retired as secretary of state Oct. 15, added that Pope Francis “values in a special way the role of papal representatives,” noting his June 21 address to participants in the papal representatives’ days.

In this address, Cardinal Bertone said the Pope “outlined the function of the papal representatives  both, so to speak, within the Church, and their extra-ecclesial function.” Pope Francis also recommend to them “being on familiar terms with Jesus Christ in prayer” as their “daily nourishment.”

For these reasons, Cardinal Bertone maintained that Pope Francis “has continued to value traditional methods of papal diplomacy, as well as putting a special emphasis on prayer.”

Noting the traditional methods of Papal diplomacy – appeals during Angelus addresses and messages and meetings with heads of state – Cardinal Bertone said Pope Francis, “who has a very popular, immediate, and concrete style, has continued along this path, because he highly values the traditional methods of papal diplomacy.”

Having served as Benedict XVI’s secretary of state for most of his papacy, Cardinal Bertone also reflected on Benedict’s style of diplomacy.

“Benedict XVI placed precisely the full implementation of Vatican II at the center of the projects of his own pontificate – so he placed an emphasis on the dialogue between the Church and the world, and relationships between the Church and states.”

“The second section of the Secretariat of State incarnated this project of the Pope … bringing it concretely into relationships with heads of state, into actions and concrete interventions, into the works of mediation and of reconciliation,” Cardinal Bertone recounted.

Under Benedict XVI, Cardinal Bertone said, the Secretariat of State “incarnated” the Roman Pontiff’s indications regarding the natural law as a basis for dialogue with states and societies

“He set the foundations for … the prospects of legislation in accordance with an anthropology that takes into account human nature: respect for the human dignity of every man, of every woman, in the entirety of their existence and in every situation,” Cardinal Bertone concluded.

Editor's Note: This is the second of three articles to be published featuring material from CNA's March 7 interview with Cardinal Bertone. To see the first, please click here; for the third, here.

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Pope to hold first official audience with the blind, deaf

Vatican City, Mar 12, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - As the first pontiff to meet with those who are blind and deaf in an exclusive audience, Pope Francis will hold the gathering later this month – an encounter participants are highly anticipating.

“I am pleased that the Pope is making the whole world aware of our world by having an audience with us for the first time” Jakob Badde told CNA on March 10, “we have a great deficiency and most people do not know why and what it means to us.”

Badde hails from Germany – the son of Vatican journalist Paul Badde, former Rome correspondent for the German newspaper Die Welt – and is one of the members of the deaf community who will participate in the encounter with the Pope.

Scheduled on the calendar of the Holy See press office to take place on March 29 in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Badde explained that after investigation “there has never been an official audience for the deaf.”

“There have probably always been deaf at (events of) other popes on the side. But a Pope has never invited us on the basis of being deaf.” Pope Francis, Badde said, has “invited us for the audience in Rome in the center of the Church and we are looking forward to it.”

On the importance of such an encounter for the deaf and blind communities, Badde emphasized that “we all do live a full life with joy and sorrow and we constantly communicate with each other. That is why the meeting with the Pope is of utmost importance.”

Speaking of his personal expectations, Badde expressed his hope that “we can develop a personal relationship with the Successor of the Apostle Peter through this encounter.”

“When I was little and went with my father to Fulda to see Pope John Paul II, he blessed me and kissed me on both ears” he recalled, adding that “It would be nice if Pope Francis could change the lives of all of us who are deaf for the better.”

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Spanish bishop affirms Church's commitment to women, unborn

Rome, Italy, Mar 12, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - As controversy surrounds reform of Spain's abortion law, the newly-elected president of the local bishops' conference says Catholics must both oppose the procedure and support pregnant women.

“We need to understand that it is very difficult for many pregnant women – for reasons we can all come to understand – to carry their babies to term,” said Archbishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid.

“We need to be close to them and help them, not simply say 'no to abortion,' which we should always say, but also say to them, 'Let’s see, what can we do, how can we help,'” he told CNA during his ad limina visit to Rome with the Spanish bishops.

“I am happy that there are institutions of the Church that serve these women. Several institutions in my diocese come to mind that are doing immense good,” he said, reaching out to women who are suffering so that “they will not have even more suffering later if they suppress the life of their child.”

The archbishop's remarks come as a new bill in Spain aims to re-establish limits on abortion and assert the state's right to protect unborn children. It seeks to address what many have seen as an overreach by a 2010 law passed by the Socialists.

The 2010 law allowed for abortion up to 22 weeks of pregnancy if there was a “serious risk to the life or health of the mother or the fetus.” However, critics have argued that the law was unregulated, in practice creating a situation where abortion-on-demand was allowed for any reason during this time.

The proposed bill would tighten these regulations. It would continue to allow for abortion at different stages throughout pregnancy, but only for certain reasons, including rape, terminal deformity and the physical or mental well-being of the mother, confirmed by medical professionals. The bill also reinforces a state interest in protecting unborn life, as well as doctors’ conscience rights to refuse to participate in an abortion.

Archbishop Blazquez said society needs to be reminded that “neither the mother, nor the father, and neither doctors nor those in authority have the authority to suppress the life of a human being.”

“As Christians we want to defend life and we defend it from the mother’s womb…As human beings we are always on a journey, and nobody has the authority to suppress the life of a human being, a human being that is moreover defenseless and is absolutely dependent on others in everything in order to survive.”  

“We must care for them!” he said.

In addition, “science clearly and unanimously tells us that from the moment of conception, a unique being exists, who is a human being.”

Archbishop Blazquez was elected as president of the Spanish bishops on March 12 for the three year term of 2014-2017. He succeeds Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid, who led the bishops for twelve years. The archbishop had been vice president of the conference for the previous three terms.  He was first elected on March 4, 2008, and was reelected on March 1, 2011.

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Group of 200 Catholic employers sues to block HHS mandate

Washington D.C., Mar 12, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) - In one of the largest collective lawsuits against the federal HHS mandate, the Catholic Benefit Association, representing more than 200 Catholic employers and more than 19,000 employees nationwide, has filed a suit on the grounds that the measure compels the violation of Catholic teachings.

The association's employers are “united and committed in their defense of their first amendment right to give witness to their Catholic faith through their ministries and businesses by providing life-affirming employee health care coverage that is consistent with Catholic teaching,” the Archdiocese of Baltimore said March 12.

The benefit association's employers include Catholic dioceses, around 1,000 parishes, non-profits and Catholic-owned for-profit businesses. Its membership is open to Catholic religious congregations, Catholic medical facilities, and Catholic universities.

The association formed the Catholic Insurance Company to allow Catholic employers to exercise their faith in what health care coverage they provide to their employees. The association also arranges health provider networks to help Catholic employers provide comprehensive health care that is consistent with Catholic ethics.

The March 12 lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, asks that the court protect the association’s member employers by allowing them to opt out of the mandated coverage.

Baltimore Archbishop William L. Lori, the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City have also joined the lawsuit.

“We as Catholics – regardless of the corporate structure within which we work – cannot in good conscience provide employees with insurance that covers contraception, abortifacients and sterilization, which undermine the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life and also jeopardize the physical and mental health of those who use them in untold ways,” Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City said.

“It is my prayer that the courts will recognize that the federal government has no clear and compelling public interest that justifies burdening our free exercise of religion by requiring us to pay for conscience-violating drugs and procedures.”
The mandate, implemented through 2010 health care legislation known as the Affordable Care Act, requires employers to provide employees free coverage of sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortions. Catholic teaching rejects the drugs and procedures as immoral and rejects cooperation in their provision.

Other plaintiffs to the lawsuit include the Catholic Insurance Company, Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma’s All Saints’ Catholic School, The Cathedral Foundation in Baltimore, Villa St. Francis Catholic Care Center in Kansas City, Kan. and Good Will Publishers in North Carolina.

Before Monday, there were 93 lawsuits challenging mandate. These lawsuits represent over 300 Catholic and non-Catholic plaintiffs with objections to providing the coverage.

More information about the Catholic Benefits Association is available at the website

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