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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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Vatican official: No room for Catholics supporting death penalty

October 4th, 2011 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church’s position on capital punishment has evolved considerably over the centuries.

And as a result, “it is not a message that is immediately understood — that there is no room for supporting the death penalty in today’s world,” said a Vatican’s expert on capital punishment and arms control.

Because the church has only in the past few decades begun closing the window — if not shutting it completely — on the permissibility of the death penalty, people who give just a partial reading of the church’s teachings may still think the death penalty is acceptable today, said Tommaso Di Ruzza, desk officer at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
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In centuries-old buildings, some Vatican workers have techie paradise

September 30th, 2011 Posted in Vatican News

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VATICAN LETTER

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Looking at the centuries-old buildings and palaces, not many people would know that the Vatican has become a techie paradise, a wonderland of modern equipment and know-how.

For instance, the Vatican Library is using NASA technology to digitize its treasures, according to some of the latest facts listed in the “The Activity of the Holy See: 2010,” a yearbook published by the Vatican in September.
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US cardinal helped finalize pope’s visit with Vietnam’s president

September 30th, 2011 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — U.S. Cardinal Bernard F. Law helped finalize plans for the first ever meeting of a president of communist Vietnam with a pope, according to a U.S. government cable appearing on the WikiLeaks website.

Cardinal Law, archpriest of Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major, visited Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, in 2009 to meet with government officials and discuss bilateral relations between the Vatican and Vietnam, the cable said.

“It took a visit to Vietnam last week by American Cardinal Bernard Law to finalize arrangements to allow the visit (of Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet) to go forward,” said the cable dated Dec. 4, 2009. The cable was released on the WikiLeaks website Aug. 30, 2011.
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US group gives Vatican ways to put social encyclical into action

September 30th, 2011 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A group of U.S. Catholic Latino business leaders presented Vatican officials detailed reflections on how laypeople can fulfill Pope Benedict XVI’s call to make today’s societies and economies more just.

Four members of the San Antonio-based Catholic Association of Latino Leaders and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez presented a written reflection, “Caritas in Veritate — Charity in Truth: Our Response in Faith,” to a number of Vatican dicasteries Sept. 22-23.
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Pope changes responsibility of worship congregation, tribunal

September 30th, 2011 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has transferred responsibility for two very precise administrative procedures from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments to the Roman Rota, a church court.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published the papal directive Sept. 27 giving the Rota responsibility for handling procedures involving a marriage that was celebrated validly but not consummated and for cases involving the nullity of an ordination.

Pope Benedict said he made the change so that the congregation for worship could “dedicate itself principally to giving a new impulse to the promotion of the sacred liturgy in the church, according to the renewal willed by the Second Vatican Council.”
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