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Vatican: Gadhafi’s death ends harsh regime

October 21st, 2011 Posted in Featured, International News, Vatican News Tags: , , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATCAN CITY — The Vatican said the death of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi marked the end of a “harsh and oppressive regime” that was based on power instead of human dignity.

It expressed hope that the bloodshed would end in the North African country, and that the new Libyan government would open a rebuilding phase based on “a spirit of inclusion” and social justice.

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Pope changes format for meetings with bishops

October 21st, 2011 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , , ,

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By John Thavis

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In a quiet modification of a traditional format, the Vatican has dropped most of the individual private meetings between Pope Benedict XVI and bishops making their “ad limina” visits to Rome.

The unannounced change was instituted earlier this year, apparently in an effort to reduce the scheduling burden on the 84-year-old pope and to help cut through the backlog of “ad limina” visits, which are supposed to be made every five years by heads of dioceses.

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Vatican to address global financial reform

October 19th, 2011 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has prepared a document on reform of the global financial system and the potential role of a public regulatory authority.

The document, prepared by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was to be released Oct. 24 in four languages, and presented the same day at a Vatican news conference by Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the council.

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Pope announces ‘Year of Faith’

October 17th, 2011 Posted in Featured, Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

Pope Benedict XVI announced a special “Year of Faith” to help Catholics appreciate the gift of faith, deepen their relationship with God and strengthen their commitment to sharing faith with others.

Celebrating Mass Oct. 16 with participants in a Vatican conference on new evangelization, the pope said the Year of Faith would give “renewed energy to the mission of the whole church to lead men and women out of the desert they often are in and toward the place of life: friendship with Christ who gives us fullness of life.”

Pope Benedict XVI announced a Year of Faith starting next October. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope said the observance would begin Oct. 11, 2012 — the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council — and conclude Nov. 24, 2013 — the feast of Christ the King.

“It will be a moment of grace and commitment to an ever fuller conversion to God, to reinforce our faith in him and to proclaim him with joy to the people of our time,” the pope said in his homily.

Pope Benedict explained his intention more fully in “Porta Fidei” (“The Door of Faith”), an apostolic letter released Oct. 17 to formally announce the special year.

“Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy,” the pope wrote.

He said the Catechism of the Catholic Church, first published in 1992, should serve as the handbook for helping Catholics rediscover the truths of faith and deepen their understanding of church teaching.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he said, will publish a “note” to help people live the year “in the most effective and appropriate ways at the service of belief and evangelization.”

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters the document would be published by the end of the year; its tone will be pastoral, rather than doctrinal, giving bishops and Catholic faithful ideas for implementing the pope’s call to deeper faith and greater missionary commitment.

In his apostolic letter, the pope said the year’s focus will be on Jesus Christ because “in him, all the anguish and all the longing of the human heart finds fulfillment.”

Pope Benedict said that in addition to studying the catechism and gaining a greater understanding of the creed, the Year of Faith also must be accompanied with more acts of charity.

Faith helps people recognize the face of Christ in those who are suffering, and “it is his love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbor along the journey of life,” the pope wrote.

Pope Benedict said Catholics cannot “grow lazy in the faith.”

“What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end,” he wrote.

The papal Mass and announcement of the Year of Faith followed a daylong conference Oct. 15 sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

The morning session brought together representatives of 33 bishops’ conferences and 115 new movements, organizations, charismatic groups, parish renewal programs and study groups.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, head of the council, told the representatives that their presence and activity is proof that “the new evangelization isn’t something new introduced with the pontifical council; it’s a reality already working in the church.”

Conference participants discussed how to better evangelize in the area of culture, among immigrants, in Catholics’ political involvement, through the use of media, in families, through the liturgy and in active, lively parishes.

The main points were illustrated by leaders from Communion and Liberation, the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Brazilian media group Cancao Nova, the Neo-Catechumenal Way, the Emmanuel Community, the charismatic renewal and an Italian parish renewal program.

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington told the gathering that catechesis is essential for any program of new evangelization. “When a person is well-grounded catechetically — that means each one of us renewing our faith — that person has the confidence to be able to express it” and “to invite others into the experience of faith,” he said.

“We have spoken a great deal today about this very secular world in which we live,” he said, “but we also need to recognize that among many, many of our young people there is an enormous openness to hearing about Christ. Many of them are seekers.”

The day’s focus on new evangelization continued in the evening in the Vatican audience hall where an atmosphere similar to a tent revival reigned. The speakers — the Spanish founder of a thriving new religious community of women, a journalist, an astrophysicist and a Colombian bishop — gave personal testimonies. The crowd of about 8,000 people, mainly from new Catholic movements, erupted in applause anytime one of the speakers spoke about the basic tenet of Catholic faith: belief in Jesus as savior.

The astrophysicist, Marco Bersanelli, used his own experience of wonder and awe before the cosmos as a lesson on the error of assuming that scientists cannot be faithful Christians and evangelizers.

The evening event, which featured a mini-concert by tenor Andrea Bocelli and a speech by Pope Benedict, also marked the official announcement of a new internet project supported by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and established by Jesus Colina, who recently resigned as head of the Legionaries of Christ’s Zenit news service.

The new platform, Aleteia.org, is designed to be a multimedia “community” where people can ask questions about Catholic faith and practices and receive answers they can be sure are in line with official church teaching.

“The internet is where people go for answers today, even about God, religion and faith,” Colina told the assembly, announcing that the website would be launched Oct. 19.

 

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Freedom from hunger essential, pope says

October 17th, 2011 Posted in International News, Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI appealed for immediate and long-term relief for the world’s hungry, saying the right to adequate nourishment is a fundamental part of the right to life.

The hunger crisis that affects millions of people today is a sign of the deep gulf between the haves and the have-nots of the world and calls for changes in lifestyle and in global economic mechanisms, the pope said in a message marking World Food Day Oct. 16. The text was addressed to Jacques Diouf, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

Citing the famine and refugee crisis in the Horn of Africa, the pope said the “painful images” of starving people underline the need for both emergency aid and long-term intervention to support agricultural production and distribution.

“Freedom from the yoke of hunger is the first concrete manifestation of that right to life which, although solemnly proclaimed, often remains far from being effectively implemented,” he said.

The theme of this year’s World Food Day focused on food prices, and the pope said current pricing volatility reflected the tendency toward speculation on food commodities. He said a new global attitude is needed.

“There are clear signs of the profound division between those who lack daily sustenance and those who have huge resources at their disposal,” he said. Given the dramatic nature of the problem, reflection and analysis are not enough — action must be taken, he said.

The pope said it was easy but mistaken to “reduce every consideration to the food demands of a growing population.” Demographic experts have predicted that the earth’s population will reach 7 billion by Oct. 31.

The real solution to food imbalances, the pope said, lies in modifying behavior and changing structures so that “every person, today and not tomorrow, has access to the necessary food resources” and so that agricultural production has stability.

He said the major challenges include lifestyle changes to promote moderation in consumption and the protection of natural resources, as well as new investments in agricultural infrastructure.

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Pope: Silence, solitude needed

October 13th, 2011 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Endless news, noise and crowds have made people afraid of silence and solitude, which are essential for finding God’s love and love for others, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Progress in communications and transportation has made life more comfortable, as well as more “agitated, sometimes frantic,” he said, especially in cities, where there is a constant din, even all night.

Young people seem to want to fill every moment with music and video, and there is a growing risk that people are more immersed in a virtual world rather than in reality because of the constant stream of “audiovisual messages that accompany their lives from morning to night,” he said during a visit to an Italian monastery Oct. 9.

“Some people are no longer able to bear silence and solitude for very long,” he said during a vespers service at a Carthusian monastery in Serra San Bruno in Calabria.

Monasteries remind people of the need for silent reflection, which lets people delve into the apparent emptiness of solitude and experience real fullness, that is, God’s presence and true reality, he said.

By spending time alone in quiet prayer, people find life’s essentials and unity with others, he said.

The pope spent one day in the Diocese of Lamezia Terme in southwest Italy — a region still struggling with organized crime, corruption and high unemployment.

During an outdoor Mass, the pope called the region a “seismic territory, not just from a geological point of view” but also because of the upheaval caused by negative social and behavioral patterns.

“It’s a land where unemployment is worrisome, where often ferocious criminality tears the social fabric, (a) land in which there is a constant feeling of being in a state of emergency,” he said in his homily.

“Don’t ever give in to the temptation of pessimism and turning inward,” he said, urging those gathered to use their faith in God to foster collaboration, help others and promote the common good.

Monasteries are indispensable for society because they remind people of the need to put God and the common good before self-interest, he said after the Mass.

Today’s societies are not healthy; the air “is polluted by a mentality that is un-Christian and inhumane because it is dominated by economic interests, concerned only with earthly things and lacking a spiritual dimension,” the pope said.

Not only is there no room for God, but other people and the common good no longer have a place in society, he said.

“Rather, the monastery is a model of a society that puts God and fraternal relations at the center,” something “we really need in our day, too,” he said.

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Official seeks focus on child refugees

October 13th, 2011 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Where “public opinion and political expediency” have led to harsher treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, people still have an obligation to make special efforts to assist child refugees, a Vatican official said.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative to U.N agencies in Geneva, focused on the mistreatment of asylum seekers, and especially the unaccompanied minors among them, in an address Oct. 4 to members of the executive committee of the Office of the U.N High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva.

In 2008, he said, 11,292 applications for asylum were lodged by unaccompanied minors in 22 member states of the European Union. With the violence across North Africa and the Arab world this year, “hundreds of unauthorized lone boys from the Middle East and other places are making their way across Europe.”

The archbishop said there are instances in which minors arrive “under false pretences as forerunners to trigger family reunions or as victims of smuggling and trafficking,” which means special attention must be paid to the possibility they are being exploited by adults.

“In this context, processing children’s applications for asylum should be given a greater priority,” he said.

“Unaccompanied minors must be treated first and foremost as children and their best interest must be a primary consideration independently of the reason for their flight,” he said.

“The increased visibility acquired by unaccompanied minors claiming asylum in developed countries calls for a renewed attention to their need of protection and to the development of practical measures to help them adjust to the new environment,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Tomasi said unaccompanied child refugees should not be placed with adults in detention facilities, and he cited research that showed minors who seek spiritual guidance find an important source of motivation and support in religion.

The U.N High Commissioner for Refugees defines unaccompanied minors as those under 18 years of age or under a country’s legal age of majority, who are “separated from both parents, and are not with and being cared for by a guardian or other adult who by law or custom is responsible for them.”

Archbishop Tomasi said, “Creative compassion becomes possible if there is a genuine sense of solidarity and responsibility toward the needier members of our human family. Refugees are not anonymous numbers but people, men, women and children with individual stories, with talents to offer and aspirations to be met.”

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Pope, at audience, condemns attack on Christians in Egypt

October 13th, 2011 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Condemning an attack on unarmed Christians in Egypt, Pope Benedict XVI said that during the country’s transition to democracy, all of its citizens and institutions must work to guarantee the rights of minorities.

At the end of his weekly general audience Oct. 12, Pope Benedict said he was “profoundly saddened” by the deaths Oct. 9 of at least 26 people, mostly Christians, after peaceful protesters were attacked by gangs, and then a speeding military vehicle ran into them and officers fired on the crowd. Hundreds of people were injured.

The pope said Egypt, which has been transitioning to democracy since the February ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, has been “lacerated by attempts to undermine peaceful coexistence among its communities.”

Safeguarding harmony and cooperation is essential for a future of true democracy, he said.

The pope asked Catholics to pray that Egypt would “enjoy true peace based on justice and respect for the freedom and dignity of every citizen.”

“In addition, I support the efforts of Egyptian civil and religious authorities in favor of a society in which the human rights of all — especially minorities — are respected to the benefit of national unity,” the pope said.

Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population; 90 percent of its 82 million inhabitants are Muslim.

Bishop Camillo Ballin, apostolic vicar of Northern Arabia and outgoing general secretary of the conference of Latin-rite bishops in Arab countries, told the Vatican newspaper that the bishops are worried about the shifting tone of the changes occurring in countries throughout the region.

“Christians are afraid. In Egypt, like in other countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen, people live under an atmosphere of continuous tension. Our people are exposed to violence and see a lack of protection,” said the bishop, who attended the pope’s general audience.

Bishop Adel Zaky, apostolic vicar of Alexandria, Egypt, was also present. He told the newspaper that Egyptians need prayers and the encouragement of the international community to respect human rights and protect minorities.

Egypt also needs to hold elections, he said. Balloting for the lower house of parliament has been promised for late November as a first step toward ending military rule. “One cannot rule with an iron fist,” Bishop Zaky said. “For too long there has been a climate of violence, which has led to the burning of churches, to maltreatment, but especially to the death of many innocent people.”

Comboni Father Luciano Verdoscia, a missionary in Egypt, said that over the past 40 years successive governments have exploited differences between Christians and Muslims in the country, and tensions were increased by money and influence from Islamic groups outside the country.

But Father Verdoscia said Western countries also share some of the blame. “I fear that Western governments are interested in preserving their economic interests at the expense of individual rights. They do not have the ethical strength to denounce discrimination against minorities in Middle Eastern countries,” he told Fides, the Vatican’s missionary news agency.

Father Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt, told Vatican Radio a lack of government activity is partly to blame for the rise in violence.

“It all stems from the government’s failure to enact a law that regulates the building of places of worship, be they churches or mosques, which they promised to do months ago,” Father Greiche said. The Christian protesters had been rallying to call for an end to attempts to burn down churches that some critics say are being built illegally.

Father Greiche said, “At the time of the old regime of Mubarak, there were also churches being burned and it was the security forces that always used to take care of us. Now even the government does not give a damn about what is happening.”

In his main audience talk to about 14,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict spoke about the joy and gratitude reflected in Psalm 126 and how Christians have an obligation to recognize the gifts God have given them and to offer thanks.

“In our prayer we must look more often at how, in the events of our lives, the Lord has protected us, guided us and helped us and we must praise him for what he has done and still does for us. We must be more attentive to the good things the Lord does; we always notice the problems and difficulties — it’s almost like we don’t want to see there are good things that come from the Lord,” the pope said.

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Supporting missions improves lives

October 13th, 2011 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Supporting the church’s work in missionary lands with their prayers and their financial contributions, Catholics also improve the lives of the poor and promote dialogue, said the new prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

“Evangelization always promotes the development of peoples,” Archbishop Fernando Filoni told L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Oct. 2.

“The proclamation of the Gospel brings and creates solidarity,” said the archbishop, who was appointed in May to head the Vatican congregation responsible for the church in mission territories.

The Vatican newspaper interviewed him about the importance of the church’s observation of October as a month dedicated to the missions. World Mission Sunday is Oct. 23.

Archbishop Filoni said all of the baptized have a responsibility for mission; besides being a command of Jesus, being blessed with the gift of faith naturally should lead people to want to share it.

Sharing the good news of God’s love and of salvation offered through Jesus, he said, helps people live with greater dignity and instills in them the values they need to improve their societies.

“In defending the principles of the Gospel, one must speak of justice,” which many of the countries in the mission lands need, he said.

While the first obligation of Christians is to tell others about Jesus, reaching out to them also includes concretely recognizing their human dignity by supporting education, health care and government and social networks that protect their human rights, he said.

“Evangelization also promotes ecology, helping make known and increasing respect for the environment both on the part of the local population as well as on our own,” the archbishop said.

Archbishop Filoni, who served in the Vatican diplomatic corps in Iraq, Jordan and the Philippines, said the church’s activity in mission lands also can promote dialogue with members of other religions.

“If the church is esteemed, it’s clear that it always will be able to have a role anywhere, including in the Islamic world. I lived for a long time in the Muslim world and saw how our schools, for example, were very often frequented by Muslim students, which is a sign that their families valued and appreciated our service. Often,” he said, “they asked that their children be formed in our principles of justice, truth and good.

“Esteem allows for dialogue, and with dialogue it is possible to coexist with all,” the archbishop said.

While financial support for the missions is very important, he said, “we hope the generosity of Christians always will be accompanied by a great love for the missions and by fervent daily prayer in support of missionaries and the proclamation of the Gospel.”

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Vatican official says Japan nuclear crisis signals global problem

October 4th, 2011 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican official told members of the International Atomic Energy Agency that this year’s nuclear disaster in Japan has raised new concerns about the safety of nuclear plants around the world.

In a speech at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna Sept. 20, Msgr. Michael Banach questioned whether nuclear power plants should be built and operated in areas prone to earthquakes and whether plants that already exist in such areas should be shut down.
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