Thursday, March 29, 2012

New seminary reflects hope, challenges for Cuban vocations

Havana, Cuba, Mar 29, 2012 / 01:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For the people of Cuba, the recent visit of Pope Benedict XVI is both a sign of hope and a call to spiritual renewal.

On March 28, the Pope encouraged the nation to "look again to the faith of your elders" as a source of "strength to build a better future."

After facing numerous challenges in recent years, the Catholic Church in Cuba is continuing to overcome obstacles as it proceeds on its journey of faith.

Both its turbulent past and hope for the future are illustrated by the new San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary, which sits on archdiocesan land on the outskirts of Havana.

When the seminary facility was inaugurated in Nov. 2010, it became the most prominent new religious building in the country in over half a decade since Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

The new location provides more space and a quiet, more p! eaceful atmosphere than the historical seminary, which was built by Jesuits in the mid-18th century and is located in the tourist center of Old Havana.

Both the Knights of Columbus and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops helped to fund the construction of the new facility, which includes classrooms, dormitories, offices and a chapel, as well as a dining room, a library and recreation space.

At almost 6,000 square meters in area, the building can house up to 100 seminarians.

However, it is currently home to just over 50, illustrating the shortage in vocations that the country is currently experiencing.

Cuba is home to about 6.7 million Catholics, making up just over 60 percent of the country's population of 11 million.

However, the nation has only about 350 priests and 650 religious to serve the people.

While recent years have seen low levels of new vocations in many countries, the Church in Cuba has faced particular chall! enges, including repression under an atheist state.

The! Church is now in a period of recovery in the twenty years since the state ceased its official support of atheism.

When Pope John Paul II visited the island country in 1998, he blessed the cornerstone of the seminary, emphasizing its importance for the future of the local Church.

The former Pope's historic visit also helped to promote better relations between the Church and state in Cuba. The Catholic Church played a significant role in working to obtain the freedom of 52 Cuban political prisoners in 2010.

Now, the country is turning to the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI, who visited the island country on March 26-28.

At a welcoming ceremony shortly after he descended from the papal plane, Pope Benedict acknowledged the impact of his predecessor's 1998 visit to Cuba.

He said that Pope John Paul II brought "a gentle breath of fresh air" that strengthened the country and "left an indelible mark on the soul of all Cubans."
Continuing the message of the previous Pope, the Holy Father encouraged the people of Cuba to return to the rich faith that shaped the nation's history in order to achieve a "rebirth of society."

In doing so, he emphasized the need to embrace and live out the "spiritual and moral values which fashioned the nation's true identity."

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

'We opened our hearts to hope,' Cuban dissident says after papal visit

Havana, Cuba, Mar 29, 2012 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- Oswaldo Paya, a peaceful dissident and global director of the Christian Liberation Movement, said Cubans have "opened our hearts to hope" after attending the Mass Pope Benedict XVI celebrated in Havana.

In a statement posted on his website on March 28, Paya said that despite harassment and widespread surveillance by government agents, he was able to attend the Mass in Havana, "where the People of God heard the words of the Holy Father."

Paya also denounced the recent arrests made by the Castro government to prevent dissidents from participating in Pope Benedict XVI's historic March 26-28 visit to the country.

"Our first words are for hundreds of our fellow dissidents who were not able to be here because of the wave of fear. There was a great absence of precisely those of us who defend human rights," he said.

"I speak of the! m and in the name of those who have no voice and have only suffered scorn and repression, and we must remember."

"But we prayed with the Holy Father, we opened our hearts to hope," Paya emphasized. "As John Paul II said: we have to be the protagonists of our history."

"Liberation is a task for the Cuban people – now with greater hope because we are definitely on the verge, on the threshold of truth and liberation. That is our hope," he said.

Although CNA has interviewed Paya on multiple occasions, the agency was unable to contact Paya via phone this week as the local operator claimed the number was incorrect. 

Carlos Paya, who represents the Christian Liberation Movement from Spain, said Oswaldo Paya's number in Cuba "is being blocked" and that he does not have access to internet.

Carlos Paya said information about the CLM has to be published out of Spain because of the restrictions that exist in Cuba.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Conscience concerns could prove decisive in health care ruling

Washington D.C., Mar 29, 2012 / 04:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Inadequate conscience protections may lead the Supreme Court to reject the 2010 health care law, a Jesuit priest and legal scholar predicted after three days of arguments in the historic case.

"I think there are sufficient problems with the bill, as passed, that the justices could say: 'This is unconstitutional,'" Father Robert J. Araujo, S.J., told CNA on March 29.

"There are certainly those problems that have been in the news, and I think there are some other ones. For example – the question of conscience, and conscience protection."

"This is a very complicated law, and the more we examine it, we see more problems and concerns," noted Fr. Araujo, who holds the John Courtney Murray Professorship at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

"I tend to think that's on the minds of the lawyers and the justices:! 'Are we going to see more litigation, if we don't resolve these conscience-protection and other issues?'"

"That's why I see an opportunity for the court to say: 'Look, there are some serious problems with this legislation. Congress has done a lot of work, (but) it's their responsibility to write a law that will pass constitutional muster and judicial review."

The court's March 26-28 period of questioning focused on the law's "individual mandate," which requires virtually all citizens to obtain health insurance.

Most observers believe the law's fate will hinge upon whether the requirement is judged to be a means of regulating interstate commerce – as the Obama administration maintains – or an unconstitutional overtaking of states' power by the federal government.

Fr. Araujo thinks the law is unlikely to be upheld either fully or in part.

"Having followed the arguments and the questions, I don't think the likelihood of a com! plete vindication is very strong," the Loyola University pro! fessor predicted on March 29.

He also has doubts about the law being upheld with some portions removed – because legislators did not include a "severability" provision that would allow some parts to stand if others, such as the individual mandate, were struck down.

Although the main issue before the court is the individual insurance mandate, the Jesuit professor thinks other aspects of the law will factor into the court's decision as well – including the widely-criticized contraception and sterilization mandate, a federal rule made as part of the health care law's implementation.

The Supreme Court justices, he said, realize that there are constitutional concerns surrounding "who exactly is going to be paying for what" under the law, and "how that might affect their own moral concerns, which are constitutionally protected."

If the law is upheld, the justices could reasonably expect challenges to continue on different constitutional! grounds – including the free exercise of religion, a factor in eight states' current lawsuits  against the law's contraception mandate.

The result could be "a repetition of what we've seen so far," with various lawsuits advancing in federal court seeking "review of the legality of certain provisions" in the health care law.

"There are lots of concerns with this legislation," Fr. Araujo said. "Do we want to have another 'go-around' in the not-too-distant future, on other elements?"

Health care, the priest and professor noted, is a pressing issue that seriously affects millions of people.

But the Obama administration, he suggested, should not have attempted to solve it in a manner that was both constitutionally questionable and morally provocative.

Although the Church regards health care as a right that should be secured for all members of society, opinions differ as to how this should be achieved in practice. The ! Catholic notion of "subsidiarity" requires that problems be solved ! by the lowest level of competent authority.

Some Catholic critics of the health care law have invoked this concept as a criticism of the federal health care reform, which they say could have been better handled by the individual states.

"I think in its own way, the U.S. Constitution – under the Tenth Amendment – in part addresses this important concept of subsidiarity," Fr. Araujo said, citing the provision by which the powers not given to the federal government by the constitution "are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

"What might be proper for Florida may not work in California," the Loyola University professor noted. "The states do have a proper, lawful role in determining what is good and what is not for their citizenry. That's how I see the subsidiarity rule playing out in the U.S. Constitution."

"The program Massachusetts legislated a few years ago is not without its problems or faults," Fr. ! Araujo observed, recalling legislation signed by then-Governor Mitt Romney. "But the state was addressing the issue of health care for its citizens."

CNA also spoke on March 29 with Professor Michael Scaperlanda, who teaches at the University of Oklahoma and contributes to the Catholic law blog "Mirror of Justice."

Scaperlanda has criticized the federal government's individual insurance mandate as unconstitutional. On Thursday, however, he held off from making any predictions as to whether the health care law would be upheld in part or in full by the Supreme Court.

But he noted that there were good reasons for Catholics to prefer state-level solutions to the problem of securing health care for all.

At the state level, he noted, a requirement for individuals to purchase insurance could be squared with both the Constitution and Catholic social teaching.

If the federal health care law is overturned, Scaperlanda is hopeful that solu! tions for the uninsured, and those with preexisting conditions, can be ! found at a lower level of authority.

"One reason would be, that our state legislators are much more accessible to us than our federal legislators," he explained.

"I'm Facebook friends with several of my state legislators; I can have conversations with them. They're much more in tune to the values of people in the community than people in Washington."

Similarly, individual states would have greater freedom to experiment to see which policies best solve the complex problems of health care reform. Other states could adopt policies that are shown to work, and more local control would make it easier to change those that do not achieve results.

"Multiple heads are better than one," Scaperlanda said.

"Having different proposals and solutions, and watching to see what works, leads to a better solution than having a small group of policy experts tell us what's going to work and then hoping for the best."

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Vatican confirms condemnation of breakaway Ukrainian clergy

Vatican City, Mar 29, 2012 / 06:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican's doctrinal office has confirmed the excommunication of four priests expelled from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who asserted themselves as rivals to its bishops.

"These priests continue to challenge ecclesiastical authority, causing moral and spiritual damage, not only to the Basilian Order of St. Josaphat and the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church, but also to this Apostolic See and the Catholic Church as a whole," the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said March 29.

"All this provokes division and bewilderment among the faithful," the Vatican's highest doctrinal office observed. The comments were made in a March 29 notification intended "to inform the faithful, especially in the countries of origin of the so-called 'bishops,' about their current canonical status."

"This Congregation … formally ! declares that it does not recognize the validity of their episcopal ordinations, or of any and all ordinations that have derived, or will derive therefrom. Moreover, the canonical status of the four so-called 'bishops' is that of excommunication."

Fr. Elias Dohnal, Fr. Markian Hitiuk, Fr. Metodej Spirik, and Fr. Robert Oberhauser are ex-members of the Basilian Order, a society of priests within the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Ukraine's Eastern Catholics make up one of the largest eastern churches in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

In 2008, the four priests were declared excommunicated by the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which follows its own procedures of canon law. They claimed to have been ordained as bishops, in rites that Ukraine's Eastern Catholic hierarchy regarded as both illegitimate and invalid.

According to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the priests insisted on the validity of their ordinations, and sought to be rec! ognized by state authorities as leaders of the "Ukrainian Or! thodox Greek-Catholic Church."

"The Holy See, concerned to protect the unity and peace of Christ's flock, had hoped in the repentance and subsequent return of the aforementioned priests to full communion with the Catholic Church," the doctrinal congregation's head Cardinal William J. Levada and secretary Archbishop Luis Ferrer said.

"Unfortunately the most recent developments - such as the unsuccessful attempt to acquire State registration … demonstrate their continuing disobedience."

Catholics are instructed "not to adhere to the aforementioned group as, to all canonical effects, it is outside ecclesiastical communion. The faithful are invited to pray for the members of the group, that they may repent and return to full communion with the Catholic Church."

"Furthermore, the use of the name 'Catholic' by groups which are not recognized by the competent ecclesiastical authority is to be considered as illegitimate," the prefect! and secretary noted.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vietnam refuses entry to Cardinal Van Thuan beatification group

Rome, Italy, Mar 28, 2012 / 02:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A delegation of Catholic clerics has been blocked from entering Vietnam to investigate the possible beatification of Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan.
"This is very disappointing news but it proves again how very difficult is to deal with communist authorities as they are so untruthful in their dealings," Vietnamese-born Bishop Dominic Luong of Orange County said to CNA on March 28.

The Diocese of Rome officially opened the cardinal's cause for beatification in October 2010, and as part of its investigation, a delegation was planning to visit Vietnam from March 23 to April 9 to hear testimonies from people who knew Cardinal Van Thuan, who died in 2002. The group also wanted to speak to two women – a nun and a lay woman – who claim they were miraculously cured through his heavenly intercession.

On March 28 the Vat! ican Press Office confirmed for CNA that the group's tourist visas were revoked by the Vietnamese authorities. They stressed, however, that the delegation was not traveling in any official capacity for the Vatican and that the group did not use the Holy See's diplomatic channels in planning their visit.

While the press office would not confirm the identities of the group's members, it also denied media speculation that Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was part of the delegation.
Cardinal Van Thuan was named the Archbishop of Saigon just seven days before the fall of South Vietnam to the communist North in 1975. He was then imprisoned for 13 years, nine of which were spent in solitary confinement. He was released in 1998, only to be placed under house arrest until 1991, when he was forced to leave his homeland.

He spent his exile in Rome where Pope John Paul II appointed him President of the! Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 1998. He was elev! ated to the Sacred College of Cardinals in 2001. He died a year later after a long battle with cancer.

At the opening of Cardinal Van Thuan's cause for beatification in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI praised "the shining witness of faith which this heroic Pastor bequeathed to us."
Father Peter Nguyen Huu Giai, a priest in the Vietnamese Diocese of Hue, told UCA News that he and several others had been ready to give evidence to the delegation early next week.

"I have prepared documents in English and French to present the delegation, but it is regretted that I could not meet them," he said March 26.

Fr. Nguyen said he believed the refusal to grant visas is a result of the Vietnamese government's sensitivity surrounding any possible beatification.

"I look forward with optimism about the Cardinal's beatification process because the Holy See has the right to beatify him (regardless of) the government."

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Pope leaves Cuba with call to renew faith, build up society

Havana, Cuba, Mar 28, 2012 / 04:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As he concluded his historic trip to Cuba, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the people of the island nation to "look again to the faith of your elders" and to "draw from that faith the strength to build a better future."

By allowing the "most noble values" of the Cuban soul to blossom, the country can create "the basis for building a society of broad vision, renewed and reconciled," he said as he prepared to leave for Rome.

During a March 28 farewell ceremony at José Martí International Airport, the Pope urged the nation to "trust in the Lord's promises" and be open to the Gospel "so as to authentically renew your personal and social life."

Looking to the future, the Holy Father noted the need to "reject immovable positions and unilateral viewpoints which tend to make understanding more difficult and efforts at ! cooperation ineffective."

In a reference to the political situation in Cuba, the Pope said respect for basic freedoms is "essential in order to respond adequately to the fundamental demands" of human dignity and to "build up a society in which all are indispensable actors in the future of their life, their family and their country."

He also alluded to the continued embargo against Cuba, saying that "restrictive economic measures, imposed from outside the country, unfairly burden its people" and worsen problems of material need.

The Pope's farewell comments echoed themes that he highlighted during much of his March 26-28 trip to Cuba.

Throughout his visit, he repeatedly emphasized the need for a renewal of faith, in order to bring about peaceful change in society.

He also stressed the importance of freedom – particularly religious freedom – in allowing the Church to help build up society.

In a March 27 meeting! with Cuban President Raúl Castro, the Pope presented humanit! arian requests and discussed the continued plight of Cuban dissidents, especially those in prison.

He also asked Castro to declare Good Friday a national holiday due to its importance in the Catholic calendar.

As his pilgrimage came to an end, the Holy Father promised to "continue praying fervently" that Cuba may progress in its journey of "authentic development" in Christ.

He urged the nation to hold tight to Christ, explaining that "wherever he is present, discouragement yields to hope, goodness dispels uncertainties and a powerful force opens up the horizon to beneficial and unexpected possibilities."

Pope Benedict finished his farewell by entrusting the Cuban people to Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, asking her to continue to "sustain them in the midst of their trials and to obtain from Almighty God the grace that they most desire."

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Pope's message in Cuba touches hearts of Latin Americans

Havana, Cuba, Mar 28, 2012 / 06:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The words of hope delivered by Pope Benedict XVI to the people of Cuba at a March 28 Mass are inspiring Latin Americans from countries across the region.

Nadia Martínez de Pimentel told CNA that the Mass was an "overwhelming experience."

Originally from the Dominican Republic, she said that she was deeply touched to see the "resilience of the people of Cuba" and the faith they have exhibited despite numerous challenges.

"I think that just to be part of it is a very humbling experience," she said.

Officials predicted a turnout of more than half a million people at the Papal Mass in Revolutionary Square in Havana, Cuba on March 28, which came on the final day of the Pope's visit to the country.

During his homily, Pope Benedict applauded steps that have been taken in Cuba "to enable the Church to carry out he! r essential mission of expressing her faith openly and publicly."

He urged the nation to "continue forwards" and encouraged the government to "strengthen what has already been achieved."

The Pope told the people of Cuba that the "path to a true social transformation" requires the formation of "virtuous men and women" who can help to "forge a worthy and free nation." 

"Cuba and the world need change, but this will occur only if each one is in a position to seek the truth and chooses the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity," he explained.

The Pope's message made an impression not only on Cubans, but on members of other Latin American nations as well.

Pilgrims from countries including Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic flocked to Cuba to participate in the papal events that took place March 26-28.

Diana, age 20, said that she came to Havana from Mexico because she wanted to! "hear the message of faith" that the pontiff was bringing! to Cuba.

Although the Pope just concluded a visit to her home country of Mexico, she followed him to Cuba in order to immerse herself even further in his words to Latin America.

Diana called it "amazing" that she was able to see and listen to the "representative of God on earth."

"You get to know another country through this experience," she observed, adding that she believes her participation in the papal events "will bring me closer to Christ."

For pilgrim Ramon Tallaj, the Pope's message "is clear."

Tallaj, a Latino who lives in the United States, explained that "the Holy Father came to tell the people about hope."

Even in the most oppressing circumstances, people need not lose hope if they can turn to their faith, he said, because ultimately "that is what matters."

Tallaj believes that apart from politics, faith and religion are "important for the human being." Although religion can be ! a force for social change, he added, any movement must begin with a profound renewal of faith.

Ultimately, Tallaj thinks Pope's visit will have a long-lasting effect in bringing about true change for the people of Cuba. "Now it is confirmed," he said. "This truly is a revolution square."

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Church in Cuba helps elderly make ends meet

Havana, Cuba, Mar 27, 2012 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- With 18 percent of its 11 million people over the age of 60, Cuba is the country in Latin America with the second largest concentration of elderly people.
That is due in part to the country's health care system and longer life expectancies, low birth rates, and a good amount of emigration without the counterbalancing immigration. In other words, while plenty of people leave Cuba, most of them are younger, and there isn't a lot of immigration into the country to take their place. Meanwhile, the population is getting older and living longer.
For more than 20 years, Caritas Cubana has made it a priority to help care for Cuba's elderly, who tend to be poor and marginalized. Some 7,000 volunteers throughout the country's 11 dioceses work together to make life a little easier for older people, many of whom live alone and struggle to make en! ds meet on the small pensions they receive.
Caritas supported groups—there are about 400 around the island—run soup kitchens (sometimes in the homes of volunteers if no church facility exists) and provide laundry services for the elderly. Some have recently even created informal salons where men can get a shave and women can get their hair done. Workshops help senior citizens learn to sew or make crafts, which they in turn sell to raise money to throw a party or take a day trip.
"Meeting their basic needs is one thing but we also try to create spaces where they can share with other people of the same age and similar interests," said Maritza Sanchez, Caritas Cubana director. "We want them to get involved, that's what changes their lifestyle and helps them discover their potential."
Martiza sent me out yesterday to meet with a group of elderly people who eat lunch at her parish church, San Agustin. There, I met Juana Martin! ez, an 87-year-old woman who has eaten lunch at San Agustin th! ree days a week for the last 12 years. Juana's daughter immigrated to Spain about two years ago. Juana now lives by herself and rents out her garage as a parking space for a little extra change to supplement her monthly pension.
Juana worked for 15 years washing dishes at a Methodist school. When it closed, she went to work for the state's sports facility. After nearly 30 years there, she retired with a monthly pension of about $8. It's hardly enough to cover her basic expenses but Juana sees life as a struggle. "It's the struggle that makes life beautiful," she said.
Lunch at San Agustin and the other church activities she attends are what keep her going.
"I love to dance and when I come into the church, I come in dancing," she said.
The church family is equally important to Mercedes Hernandez Valdez, 68, the Caritas volunteer who runs the soup kitchen.
Mercedes' daughters also left Cuba mor! e than 25 years ago (she saw them two years ago for the first time in 19 years) and her husband recently died.
These days, Mercedes spends every waking moment at San Agustin. She not only knows every person who eats at San Agustin by name, she knows where they live, how they get there, and what they need. And she takes it upon herself to get them shoes when she can, a little bar of soap (which was dropped from the state rations a year ago), or a blanket.
Robyn Fieser is CRS' Regional Information Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean. She is in Cuba this week for the papal visit.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Vestments for Pope's Mass in Cuba arrive with love from Peru

Lima, Peru, Mar 27, 2012 / 04:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The cassocks and stoles used by over 150 priests and deacons during Mass presided by Pope Benedict in Santiago, Cuba on March 26 were crafted and sent from Peru "full of prayers."

The vestments were created by Talleres San José (St. Joseph's Workshop) in Lima, Perú upon the request of the Archbishop of Santiago, Dionisio García Ibáñez.

Verónica Lozada, a consecrated laywoman from the Marian Community of Reconciliation which oversaw the project, told CNA that they had encouraged artisans "to offer up their work for the Pope's intentions so that the cassocks be full of prayers."

"It was a very special order," she said. "We are serving the Church. It's the reason for our existence." 

The work of Talleres San José, which includes crafting a variety of liturgical instruments, is headed by the Marian com! munity, a part of the Society of Apostolic Life in the Sodalit Family. The community is present in nine countries of North and South America, Europe and Australia.

Claudia Gómez, a community member known as a "Fraterna" who lives in the Dominican Republic, recalled meeting Archbishop Dionisio when he traveled to the country at the end of January.

She said the the local community used the trip "as an opportunity to show him the design of the first cassock."

"He tried it on, and was very happy with the work and quality. That's when he gave the ok to the cassock's design, and so began the work in Lima."

In all, Taller San José sent 80 embroidered cassocks, 180 stoles for priests and 20 stoles for deacons to Cuba for the Santiago Mass during the Pope's historic March 26-28 visit to the country.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

In message to youth, Pope asks for ‘missionaries of joy’

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2012 / 05:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict XVI will challenge young Catholics to be "missionaries of joy" in his message for this Sunday's World Youth Day.

"Be enthusiastic witnesses of the new evangelization! Go to those who are suffering and those who are searching, and give them the joy that Jesus wants to bestow," says the Pope in his address, the text of which was issued to the media on March 27.

"Bring it to your families, your schools and universities, and your workplaces and your friends, wherever you live. You will see how it is contagious."

The Pope's letter marks the Church's 27th World Youth Day, which will be celebrated in 2012 at the diocesan level. The theme for this year is taken from Saint Paul's exhortation to the Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord always."

"Joy is at the heart of Christian experience," writes t! he Pope, "in a world of sorrow and anxiety, joy is an important witness to the beauty and reliability of the Christian faith."

He then explains how young people can find joy, experience it more deeply and transmit it to others.

The Pope points out that "a yearning for joy lurks within the heart of every man and woman" and that this is more than just "immediate and fleeting feelings of satisfaction" but a longing for "a perfect, full and lasting joy capable of giving 'flavor' to our existence."

This instinct is particularly true during youth, a time that Pope Benedict characterizes as one of "continuous discovery of life, of the world, of others and of ourselves." It is a stage in life when "we are moved by high ideals and make great plans."

But to find what gives "real and lasting joy" people must seek God, the Pope says, explaining that this is because God is "a communion of eternal love" and his infinite j! oy "does not remain closed in on itself, but expands to embr! ace all whom God loves and who love him."

For this reason, God wants each young person to "share in his own divine and eternal joy" since the "deepest meaning and value" of their lives lies in "being accepted, welcomed and loved by him."

And God's unconditional love allows young people to say "I am loved; I have a place in the world and in history; I am personally loved by God. If God accepts me and loves me and I am sure of this, then I know clearly and with certainty that it is a good thing that I am alive."

Pope Benedict then cites the Incarnation, Jesus visiting Zacchaeus' house, and the Resurrection as times when people encountered Jesus and experienced "immense inner joy."

These instances, he says, should reminds us that "evil does not have the final word in our lives" and that "faith in Christ the Savior tells us that God's love is victorious."

The Pope goes on to urge young people to respond to! "spiritual joy" by not being afraid to risk their lives and by making "space for Jesus Christ and his Gospel."

This is particularly true, he says, if Christ is "calling you to the religious, monastic or missionary life or to the priesthood," since Jesus "fills with joy all those who respond to his invitation to leave everything to be with him" and "devote themselves with undivided heart to the service of others."

After experiencing the joy Jesus brings, everyone is called to love others, the Pope says.
"Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls; God loves a cheerful giver. Whoever gives with joy gives more," he writes, quoting Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

For a young person, this love should inform all aspects of their life so that they learn how love "means to be steadfast, reliable and faithful in commitments" particularly in work, study and friendships.

"Our friends expect us to be sincere, loyal and! faithful because true love perseveres even in times of difficulty," ! he notes..

The Pope also prays that young people will lead lives "guided by a spirit of service and not by the pursuit of power, material success and money."

The temptation away from this is a present-day culture which often "pressures us to seek immediate goals, achievements and pleasures," fostering "fickleness more than perseverance, hard work and fidelity to commitments." This, he says, is nothing more than the promise of "false happiness."

"How many people are surrounded by material possessions yet their lives are filled with despair, sadness and emptiness! To have lasting joy we need to live in love and truth. We need to live in God."

This higher path, he warns, will not be without its occasional falls as "the experience of sin, which is a refusal to follow God and an affront to his friendship, brings gloom into our hearts."

Yet God in his mercy "never abandons us" and always offers the possibility of ! "being reconciled with him and experiencing the joy of his love which forgives and welcomes us back."

"Dear young people, have frequent recourse to the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation! It is the sacrament of joy rediscovered," the Pope says.

He brings his message to the youth to a close by offering some models of youthful holiness for them to emulate. First among them is the early 20th-century Italian student Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.  Despite experiencing "many trials during his short life, including a romantic experience that left him deeply hurt," explains the Pope, Pier Giorgio always found the Christian life a joy, "even when it involves pain."

This experience of joy and pain is why it's an unfair and untrue to depict Christianity as "a way of life that stifles our freedom and goes against our desires for happiness and joy," Pope Benedict states.

On the contrary, Christians are "men and women who ar! e truly happy because they know they are not alone" because God is "! always holding them in his hand."

"It is up to you, young followers of Christ, to show the world that faith brings happiness and a joy which is true, full and enduring."

To read Pope Benedict's full message for World Youth Day 2012, please visit:

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Pope Benedict XVI interceded for dissidents, Fr. Lombardi reveals

Havana, Cuba, Mar 27, 2012 / 08:53 pm (CNA).- During a press conference held in the (Hotel Nacional) National Hotel of Havana, Fr. Federico Lombardi, Director of Holy See's Press Office, pointed out the situation of Cuban dissidents, especially those in prison, was discussed by Pope Benedict XVI in his meeting with Raúl Castro.

"The outline of requests, which were humanitarian in nature and which were received by the Holy See (from Cuban dissidents), was discussed (during the meeting).  But, I have no details about it brought up," said Fr. Lombardi.

"I confirm that the topic was discussed during the personal encounter (with Raúl Castro), but I don't have information on the specifics," responded the Vatican's spokesman.  He was responding to a question about whether the Holy See had presented a list of prisoner dissidents, and specifically if the list contained the name of the American, Alan Ross.

Ross, an American who tried to help the Jewish community on the island giving them independent means of technology to access the internet, is in prison having been condemned of spying.

Fr. Lombardi also recalled that the Holy See's delegation had interceded for the dissident who yelled "freedom" during the Mass presided by the Pontiff in Santiago, Cuba on Monday.  But, he said that could not offer any further details on the subject.  "Our interest for the person and for his status exists," he added.

The clamor of dissidents, explained the Vatican's spokesman, "is certainly present in the Holy Father's heart." He explained that it was impossible to concretize a meeting with dissidents, such as the "Damas en Blanco" (Women in White) because of the time constraints of the trip.

"Let's remember that the Pope on this trip hasn't even met with specifically Catholic groups: there hasn't been a meeting with seminarians, with priests, with religious, or with committed lay people.  Another group, whether it is inside or outside of the Church, simply couldn't be fit in the visit."

However, Fr. Lombardi highlighted that "when the Pope speaks, he has present the suffering of these people. It's no coincidence that the Pope speaks of the expectations of all Cubans, in their varied and specific circumstances.  If you listen to the discourses, you will see for yourselves how the Pope receives the messages he's received (from dissidents), and how he responds to these perspectives.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Benedict XVI asks Raúl Castro to declare Good Friday a Holiday in Cuba

Havana, Cuba, Mar 27, 2012 / 08:56 pm (CNA).- During a personal meeting that lasted over 40 minutes, Pope Benedict XVI asked Cuban President Raúl Castro to recognized Good Friday as a holiday in Cuba because of its importance in the Catholic calendar.

During the conversation, "a particular topic was touched upon: the Pope brought to the attention (of President Castro) the importance of Good Friday, asking for the possibility of its recognition as holiday," said Fr. Lombardi.

The Vatican's spokesman recalled a similar request made Blessed John Paul II made to Fidel Castro about Christmas.  As a consequence of that request, the Cuban government re-established December 25 as a national holiday.  Christmas had been suspended from the calendar with the triumph of the revolution.

"Of course, this is a matter for the Cuban authorities, and we hope for a response in the not too distant future," said Fr. Lombardi.

During the meeting with Raúl Castro, the President gave to the Pope "a beautiful wooden sculpture of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre. The Pope also gave the President a gift, a facsimile copy of an ancient volume from the Vatican library, the Latin translation of Ptolemy's Geography.  It includes a map from 1400 and the latest update includes a world map from 1530 in which the American continent appears, and which points out the location of Cuba."

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Benedict XVI met his “spiritual Godmother” in Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba, Mar 27, 2012 / 08:59 pm (CNA).- Upon initiating his day on Tuesday with a private Mass in Santiago de Cuba, Pope Benedict XVI personally met a religious from India who has been his "spiritual Godmother" for 20 years.
The Holy Father celebrated the private Mass before departing for the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre. At the Mass, there participated 10 religious from the contemplative branch of the Missionaries of Charity, which was founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
Upon concluding the Eucharistic celebration, the Archbishop of Cuba, Dionisio García, presented the woman religious, Teresa Kereketa, from India to the Holy Father.  Following the practice of her order, 20 years before, she had received the task of praying daily for a specific priest, thus becoming his "spiritual Godmother."  The priest whom she received under this task was C! ardinal Josef Ratzinger.
During the emotional encounter, and following Indian tradition, the woman religious presented a crown of flowers to the Holy Father.  "The Pope was quite moved meeting her," explained the Holy See's spokesman, Fr. Federeico Lombardi, during a press conference

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Monday, March 26, 2012

Vatican hosts first cultural summit of African ambassadors

Rome, Italy, Mar 26, 2012 / 02:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The first cultural summit for African ambassadors to the Holy See is being hailed as a success by its organizers.

"It went much better than we had expected, with everybody involved very keen to do it again but perhaps over two or three days next time," Father Theodore Mascarenhas of the Pontifical Council for Culture told CNA on March 26.

The one-day event involved over 40 diplomats from 23 embassies, many of whom flew in from across Europe for the occasion.

The group spent the first half of the morning at the pontifical council's offices near the Vatican, where they heard a presentation by the council's president, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, before taking part in a discussion moderated by Fr. Mascarenhas.

Cardinal Ravasi stressed the need for "inter-culturality," which he described as a "respectful" form o! f intercultural dialogue that avoids the twin perils of "syncretism and fundamentalism."
Later in the morning the delegates moved on to the ancient surroundings of Rome's Temple of Hadrian. where the city's Chamber of Commerce hosted a debate and discussion on social and economic history.
"The relationship with the ambassadors is crucial as they are the ones who can link in with government, culture and academic institutions in their own countries, with a view towards future collaboration with the Holy See," explained Fr. Mascarenhas.

He said that today's meeting was something of "a get to know each other session" and that the next gathering would be aimed at more substantial matters.

The template for the meetings follows two similar summits held last year with Asian ambassadors. At the last meeting, the Asian diplomats discussed the ethics of the global economy.
"I think this meeting is very importan! t," said Henri Lopes, Congo's Ambassador to the Holy See, ! in comments to CNA.

He was particularly struck by a comment by the Secretary to the Pontifical Council, Bishop Barthélemy Adoukonou, who hails from the West African state of Benin. "He pointed to something very important; that culture is not just one dimension of the policy of the Holy See but it is fundamental, the substance of all the actions of the Holy See," Ambassador Lopes recalled.
The African ambassador's finished their day with a guided tour of Rome's cultural center, the Parco della Musica.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Pope says ‘adios’ to Mexico, heads to Cuba

Leon, Mexico, Mar 26, 2012 / 02:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict said farewell to Mexico with the promise that this "is not the end of my affection and my closeness to a country so very dear to me."

The Pope bid farewell to the thousands of Mexicans gathered at Guanajuato International Airport by using the traditional Spanish expression "Adios."

"Dear Mexican friends, I say to you "Adios!" in the traditional sense of this fine Hispanic expression: remain with God! Yes, "Adios!"; for ever in the love of Christ, in which we meet each other and will again meet with one another. May the Lord bless you and may Mary Most Holy protect you!"

"My brief but intense visit to Mexico is now coming to an end. Yet this is not the end of my affection and my closeness to a country so very dear to me. I leave full of unforgettable experiences, not the least of which are the in! numerable courtesies and signs of affection which I have received," the Pope said.
After thanking President Felipe Calderón for his words and "for all that the authorities have done for this memorable Journey, he also offered his gratitude to "the many people who have helped, even in the smallest details, to make the events of these days go smoothly." 

"I beg the Lord that all these efforts may not be in vain, and that with his help, they may produce abundant and long-lasting fruits in the life of faith, hope and charity of León and Guanajuato, in Mexico and the other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean," he added.

Pope Benedict also reiterated "clearly and with vigor" his plea to the Mexican people to "remain faithful to yourselves, not to let yourselves be intimidated by the powers of evil, but to be valiant and to work to ensure that the sap of your Christian roots may nourish your present and your future."
"I have also seen for myself expressions of concern f! or various aspects of the life in this beloved country, some more recent and others longstanding, which continue to cause such great distress. I take them with me as well, as I share in the joys and the suffering of my Mexican brothers and sisters, so as to place them in prayer at the foot of the Cross, in the heart of Christ, from which flow the blood and water of redemption."

The Pope strongly urged "Mexican Catholics, and all men and women of good will, not to yield to a utilitarian mentality which always leads to the sacrifice of the weakest and most defenseless." 

"I invite you to a common effort so that society can be renewed from the ground up, in order to attain a life of dignity, justice and peace for everyone. For Catholics, this contribution to the common good is also a requirement of that essential dimension of the Gospel which is human promotion and a supreme expression of charity."

He explained that "the Church exhorts all! her faithful to be good citizens, conscious of their responsibility to be concerned for the good of all, both in their personal lives and throughout society.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Pope calls for shift in Cuban 'cultural and moral direction'

Santiago de Cuba, Mar 26, 2012 / 03:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Shortly after arriving in Cuba, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the nation to embrace moral values that will contribute to building "a better future."

During his opening speech, the Pope urged the country to work towards "real progress," that requires "an ethics which focuses on the human person and takes account of the most profound human needs, especially man's spiritual and religious dimension."

After concluding his 3-day trip to Mexico, Pope Benedict arrived at the Antonio Maceo International Airport in Santiago de Cuba on the afternoon of March 26.

In a welcoming ceremony, he greeted President Raúl Castro, government authorities, and the local bishops, and then expressed his "heartfelt affection" for the local Church and all Cubans. 

"You are always present in my heart and prayers, especially in t! he days preceding the much anticipated moment of my visit to you," he said.

The Pope recalled Blessed John Paul II's "historic visit" to Cuba in 1998, saying that it "left an indelible mark on the soul of all Cubans."

He observed that many Cubans, including non-Catholics, saw his predecessor as "a luminous guide for their personal lives and their public activity in the service of the common good of the nation."

"His visit to this island was like a gentle breath of fresh air which gave new strength to the Church in Cuba," Pope Benedict said.

The Holy Father welcomed the "new spirit of cooperation and trust" between Church and State in Cuba that was ushered in by John Paul II's visit.

At the same time, he acknowledged a need for growth, especially in the "indispensable public contribution that religion is called to make in the life of society."

The Pope said that he shares in the country's joy in cele! brating the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the! statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, whom he called "the true mother of the Cuban people."

Devotion to Our Lady has sustained many people in their faith and inspired them to work for the promotion of "all that gives dignity to the human condition and its fundamental rights," he observed.

The Pope said that he looks forward to following in the footsteps of countless pilgrims throughout the centuries who have knelt in front of the statue in El Cobre.

He explained that he will thank Our Lady for her concern for her Cuban children and ask her "to guide the future of this beloved nation in the ways of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation."

"I come to Cuba as a pilgrim of charity, to confirm my brothers and sisters in the faith and strengthen them in the hope which is born of the presence of God's love in our lives," he said.

Pope Benedict observed that many parts of the world are experiencing economic difficulti! es that can be regarded "as part of a profound spiritual and moral crisis."

Lacking values, humanity has been left "defenseless before the ambition and selfishness of certain powers which take little account of the true good of individuals and families," he said.

"We can no longer continue in the same cultural and moral direction which has caused the painful situation that many suffer," the Pope warned. 

Many are realizing that "the rebirth of society demands upright men and women of firm moral convictions," he said, observing the need for "noble and strong values" that will resist manipulation, as well as a strong respect for "the unchanging and transcendent nature of the human person."

The Pope emphasized that the Catholic Church remains committed to serving Cubans "at this moment of particular importance in its history."

Through her pastoral mission and the cultivation of "the fine patrimony of spirit! ual and moral values which fashioned the nation's true identity," t! he Church can aid Cuba in its efforts "to renew and broaden its horizons," he said.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Havana holy sites attract pilgrims prior to papal visit

Havana, Cuba, Mar 26, 2012 / 05:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the days leading up to Pope Benedict XVI's historic visit to Cuba, pilgrims to the country are gaining glimpses into the Church's joys and sufferings through visits to holy sites in the capital city of Havana.

After first traveling to the city of Santiago de Cuba, the Pope will arrive in Havana on March 27.

In recent days, groups of pilgrims from countries including the United States, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic have participated in Masses at the Havana Cathedral, which is the seat of Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino.

The cathedral is known for its baroque facade and European-style art and the inside walls are adorned with paintings, frescoes and statues of saints.

Built by Jesuits in the middle of the 1700s, the cathedral is located in the former swampland area known as the Plaza de La Ciénaga.

It! s history and architectural beauty are attracting the admiration of numerous groups of pilgrims, many of whom are visiting the country for the first time. 

Not far from the Plaza de la Revolución, where the Pope will celebrate Mass on March 28, sits the Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón.

Named after Christopher Columbus, the cemetery has also received an influx of visitors in the days leading up to the Holy Father's arrival in the city.

The 140-acre cemetery – among the most prominent in Latin America – houses numerous elaborate graves and ornate monuments.

Built in the 1870s, the cemetery is constructed with marble from around the world and features an ornate triple arch at its entrance. 

The brilliant white marble is well maintained, standing in stark contrast to the disrepair that characterizes much of the city.

More than 1 million people have been buried in the cemetery, including Cardinal Manuel Arteaga y Bet! ancourt of Havana, Cuban president José Miguel Gómez and U.S! . Congressman Harrison E. Havens.

An important part of Christian tradition, the cemetery stands in the center of the city, a reminder of the Cuban people's suffering.

Pope Benedict's visit will reach out to a nation that is no stranger to suffering, subject to both political repression under an authoritarian regime and economic sanctions from members of the international community. 

Vatican press director Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J. has called the pontiff's visit a "journey of hope" for a people that may be on the verge of "a new epoch" in their history.

On the papal plane on March 23, Pope Benedict cautioned that "Marxist ideology as it had been conceived no longer responds to reality."

He called for patience and dialogue in developing "new models" for the country and emphasized that the Catholic Church is "not a political power" but "a moral power" in the pursuit for justice.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Pope urges Cubans to follow Mary in patient faith

Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Mar 26, 2012 / 06:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the people of Cuba to imitate Mary in having an "active and fruitful" faith which leads to authentic freedom by embracing God's will despite hardships.

"It is worth the effort," the Pope said, "to devote your entire life to Christ, to grow in his friendship each day and to feel called to proclaim the beauty and the goodness of his life to every person."

In honor of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, Pope Benedict celebrated Mass in Antonio Maceo Revolution Square on the evening of March 26.

He said that his first Mass in Cuba takes on a "special luster" because it falls not only in the Jubilee Year commemorating the statue's discovery, but also on the feast of the Annunciation, celebrated by the universal Church.

He! explained that he was "deeply touched" to hear of the Cuban people's fervent and dedicated preparation for the Marian jubilee.

Mary is "central" to the mystery of the Incarnation, he said in his homily.

The Pope observed that when believers look at Mary, they are "filled with wonder, gratitude and love at seeing how our God, coming into the world, wished to depend upon the free consent of one of his creatures."

"It is touching to see how God not only respects human freedom: he almost seems to require it," he said.

The "yes" of both Mary and Christ reveals that it is only through faithful obedience to God's will that we arrive at "true liberty" and "authentic redemption," finding "our genuine identity" as the fruit of God's infinite love, he explained.

Mary is "the exemplar and model of the Church," which is also called to bring Christ's saving presence to the world, the Pope said.

Wit! h the Incarnation of Jesus, God has taken on "our human real! ity in most concrete and tangible way," he said, adding that "when God is put aside, the world becomes an inhospitable place for man, and frustrates creation's true vocation to be a space for the covenant."

Pope Benedict encouraged the Cuban faithful to continue in their bold, sacrificial efforts to present the Church's "true face as a place in which God draws near and encounters humanity" in the concrete circumstances in which they live.

As Easter approaches, he said, Christ's disciples must follow him "without fear or doubts on his journey to the Cross."

He urged the people to accept opposition and affliction "with patience and faith," knowing that the Resurrection has overcome evil and the Lord will not fail to bless generous commitment to him with "abundant fruits."

The Incarnation also "shows us the incomparable dignity of every human life" and highlights the importance of family, the Holy Father said, expl! aining that from the very beginning, God's plan called the family – founded on matrimony – is "the fundamental cell of society and an authentic domestic church."

He called on married couples in Cuba to be "a real and visible sign of the love of Christ for the Church."

"Cuba needs the witness of your fidelity, your unity, your capacity to welcome human life, especially that of the weakest and most needy," he said.

Pope Benedict appealed to the Cuban people to reinvigorate their faith so that they "may live in Christ and for Christ."

He encouraged them to "strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God."

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Popes have worked for 'truth and transparency,' Fr. Lombardi affirms

Leon, Mexico, Mar 25, 2012 / 12:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict XVI has followed his predecessor Blessed John Paul II in working for "truth and transparency" on priestly abuse and other topics, the Holy See Press Office director said on March 24.

Pope Benedict XVI "has truly done much to fight against these problems and put fundamental measures in place," Fr. Federico Lombardi told journalists during a press conference at the Hotsson Hotel in León, where he has been briefing journalists during the Pope's visit to Mexico.

"It's unjust to consider Pope Benedict XVI as someone who has worked against truth and transparency," he said during the evening press conference.

Fr. Lombardi's comments came in response to a journalist's question about the possibility of a Papal meeting with victims of organized crime, a possibility that was neither confirmed nor denied. It was asked ! why the Pope might choose to meet with them rather than with victims of sexual abuse.

Regarding the topic of abuse by priests, the Vatican spokesman said that Pope Benedict and Bl. John Paul II "never covered up these topics." Rather, he said, "the opposite is true." 

The director of the Holy See Press Office denied that Bl. John Paul II had any knowledge about the crimes of Marcial Maciel, the Mexican priest who founded the Legionaries of Christ.

He noted that the topic was investigated during Pope John Paul II's beatification process, and said there was a "solemn declaration" from Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, declaring that the Pope "did not know of Maciel's secret life."

In regard to Pope Benedict's current visit to Mexico, Fr. Lombardi explained why there was no plan for a visit with abuse victims.

Such a meeting, he said, requires the involvement of the Church! hierarchy in situations where a process of reconciliation is ! already underway. A request for such a meeting must also be made in a private and reserved way – which has not been the case in Mexico.

"The central aim of the Pope's visit to Mexico is his encounter with the Mexican people who desired to see him, and in order to do that, there is a limited amount of time," the Vatican spokesman said.

There is "no premise for a meeting," in cases where aggressive demands are made by those who "do not want to initiate a profound dialogue."

Pope Benedict's concern for children, he said, had been demonstrated consistently in his words and actions – most recently by his call, during that evening's speech at the Plaza de Paz, for all Mexicans to care for children and protect them.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Poor Clare Sisters make ‘habit’ out of Nun Run

Tempe, Ariz., Mar 25, 2012 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- The Poor Clare Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, who live in temporary facilities on monastery property in Tonopah, Ariz., have added another "habit" to their spiritual regimen: the Nun Run.

The sisters hosted their third annual Nun Run March 10 at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, Ariz. It brought 1,135 runners and walkers — ages 4 to 78 — to the park in support of the sisters plus another 268 "shadow" runners worldwide.

Funds from registration fees, online donations and on-site merchandise sales supported the sisters' quest to build a 28-cell permanent monastery and place of retreat west of the Valley. Once built, the contemplative sisters can finally enjoy full enclosure. That's been lacking since they moved to Arizona in 2005.

This marked the first Nun Run directly benefiting the monastery. Past runs supported the 9,000-square-foot chapel, which formally opened last May.

"We're very pleased with the spirit of everyone coming together," Sr. John-Mark Maria told The Catholic Sun.

She was among 160 athletes from as far away as New Jersey and Maine who ran the 10k on-site. The run was equally split with 85 women and 81 men.

Sr. John-Mark Maria finished in a little over an hour. She started training after Thanksgiving.

Some athletes had attended every race while others joined for the first time. More than 280 women ran or walked the 5k with 175 men, including six priests and a deacon.

Fr. Paul Sullivan, vocations director for the diocese of Phoenix, initiated a "Chaplains Challenge" for this year's run. The two-fold challenge was between chaplains at the diocese's Newman Centers serving Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University.

Fr. John Muir, assistant director at ASU's All Saints Newman Center in Tempe, and Fr. Matt Lowry, chaplain at NAU's Holy Trinity Newman Center, tried to outnumber each other in registration and outrun each other on the course. Fr. Muir and ASU barely won both challenges and a traveling trophy.

"I heard they were drinking Gatorade out of it," Sr. John-Mark quipped.

The chaplains finished 10 seconds apart. ASU reportedly outnumbered NAU by three runners. Sr. John-Mark said the University of Arizona is looking to get involved next year. The sisters also plan to open a high school division of the "Chaplain's Challenge."

Other Catholic groups who supported this year's Nun Run include St. Joan of Arc Parish, Boy Scout Troop 204 from Sacred Heart Parish in Phoenix and the Knights of Columbus from St. Paul Parish, also in Phoenix. Catholics showed up with their family and friends too.

Marjorie Veitukus was one of them. The St. Henry parishioner from Buckeye, Ariz. brought her three children and her son's friend to the Nun Run.

"We've always watched EWTN," Veitukus said, noting the network founded by Mother Angelica, a Poor Clare sister.

When the Poor Clares moved to the diocese, it became even more important that Veitukus support their mission. She said a Catholic place of prayer and retreat is sorely needed in the West Valley.

Andee Williams also thought highly of the Poor Clares' perpetual prayers on behalf of intentions worldwide. The Sacred Heart parishioner traveled from Prescott, Ariz. and walked the one-mile course in a complete white angel costume in support of the Poor Clares.

Shadow participants from six other countries including Australia and a Franciscan high school in Zambia. The racecourse took students directly to a nearby priory for priests.

Posted with permission from The Catholic Sun, newspaper for the Diocese of Phoenix, Ariz.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

NY Catholic conference opposes 'chemical digestion' of human remains

New York City, N.Y., Mar 25, 2012 / 04:14 pm (CNA).- A bill that redefines cremation, to include the "chemical digestion" of human remains into liquid waste, has met with rejection from the New York State Catholic Conference.

"The Church's reverence for the sacredness of the human body and its dignity arises out of concern for both the body's natural and supernatural properties," the conference said in a March 19 memorandum on a bill under consideration in the state legislature.

"It is therefore essential that the body of a deceased person be treated with respect and reverence.  Processes involving chemical digestion of human remains do not sufficiently respect this dignity."

The proposed change to New York's nonprofit corporation law would revise its definition of "cremation." Along with its conventional meaning, "cremation" could include "any chemical process! " that breaks down a human body.

One such procedure, the conference noted in its memo to the legislature, is "alkaline hydrolysis." The rarely-used process has been publicized in recent years as a "green" alternative to conventional cremation, which involves the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Alkaline hydrolysis involves using lye to dissolve bodies into a liquid substance, which proponents say can be safely poured down a drain. It is also referred to as "bio-cremation."

Along with its concern for the dignity of the human body, New York's Catholic conference is also worried that the bill could also lead to some individuals being "bio-cremated" against their will.

If the legal definition of cremation changes, the conference noted, individuals who request to be cremated after death – in the traditional sense – could inadvertently have their bodies dissolved into a waste product, due to a misunderstanding of ! their expressed wishes.

The conference warned that the! bill "contains no safeguards to prevent this from occurring."

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

At Mexican monument, Pope hails Jesus' kingship of love

Guanajuato, Mexico, Mar 25, 2012 / 06:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As he celebrated Mass for 600,000 people at Guanajuato's Mount Cubilete on March 25, Pope Benedict XVI urged them to discover the true kingship of Christ, who rules the world with love.

"His crowns, one of a sovereign, the other of thorns, indicate that his royal status does not correspond to how it has been or is understood by many," the Pope told worshipers gathered in the Bicentennial Park, near the monumental statue of Christ the King.

"His kingdom does not stand on the power of his armies subduing others through force or violence. It rests on a higher power that wins over hearts: the love of God that he brought into the world with his sacrifice and the truth to which he bore witness."

God's power, he said, "is the power of goodness, the power of love".

"This is his sovereignty which no one can take from him and which no one should forget," the Pope stressed, asking that Christ would "reign in our hearts, making them pure, docile, filled with hope and courageous in humility."

As the faithful prepare for Holy Week, Pope Benedict urged them to attend to the words of Psalm 50: "A pure heart, create for me, O God."

"This exclamation shows us how profoundly we must prepare to celebrate next week the great mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord," he said.

"It also helps us to look deeply into the human heart, especially in times of sorrow as well as hope, as are the present times for the people of Mexico and of Latin America."

A pure heart, the Pope reflected, "is one which recognizes that, of itself, it is impotent and places itself in God's hands so as to continue hoping in his promises."

This need for self-examination is evident throughout salvation history, particularly in the Biblical history of Israel. Times of crisis taught God's people not to trust in their own strength, but in the Lord.

"The history of Israel relates some great events and battles," the Pope noted, "but when faced with its more authentic existence, its decisive destiny, its salvation, it places its hope not in its own efforts, but in God who can create a new heart, not insensitive or proud."

This pattern in salvation history "should remind each one of us and our peoples that, when addressing the deeper dimension of personal and community life, human strategies will not suffice to save us."

God alone, he said, can save humanity. "We must have recourse to the one who alone can give life in its fullness, because he is the essence of life and its author; he has made us sharers in the same (life) through his Son, Jesus Christ."

As he celebrated his first public Papal Mass in a Spanish-speaking Latin American country, Pope Benedict evoked the memory of his predecessor Blessed John Paul II – who visited Mexico five times, but never made it to Guanajuato, though he "ardently desired to do so."

"I am sure that in heaven he is happy that the Lord has granted me the grace to be here with you and that he has blessed the millions of Mexicans who have venerated his relics in every corner of the country."

He also recalled the Latin American bishops' 2007 Aparecida document, which declared a "Continental Mission" of renewal and evangelization.

This task, Pope Benedict said, would require deep attentiveness to God's word – allowing it "to challenge us every day, meditating upon it in our hearts after the example of Mary."

In this way, communities can resist "the temptation of a faith that is superficial and routine, at times fragmentary and incoherent."

Instead, believers can rediscover "the joy of being Christians, of being sustained by the inner happiness of knowing Christ and belonging to his Church."

"Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to assist us in purifying our hearts, especially in view of the coming Easter celebrations," urged Pope Benedict, "that we may enter more deeply the salvific mystery of her son, as she made it known in this land."

"And let us also ask her to continue accompanying and protecting her Mexican and Latin American children, that Christ may reign in their lives and help them boldly to promote peace, harmony, justice and solidarity. Amen."

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Pope's Mass is worth the all-night wait for Guanajuato Catholics

Guanajuato, Mexico, Mar 25, 2012 / 09:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At Guanajuato's Bicentennial Park, some Mexican Catholics had been waiting all night to celebrate Mass with Pope Benedict XVI on March 25.

It was well worth the wait, they told CNA.

"Fatigue and sleepiness are nothing if it means seeing the Pope," said 36-year-old Esaúl Jíménez.

"After many hours of waiting we got in here (Bicentennial Park) at 1:00 a.m. today, Sunday," Jíménez recalled. "But we couldn't sleep because of the music and happiness."

During the early hours of the morning, a sea of people converged on the park to secure their spaces for the Pope's appearance and his celebration of Mass the next day.

Lively cheers and expressions of affection met Pope Benedict – especially as he rode around for nearly half an hour wearing a black Mexican sombrero.

Almir Gómez, from Salamanca in the state of Guanajuato, said the Pope's visit has been "an extraordinary experience for all of us; something very beautiful."

"People haven't stopped singing and dancing since last night," he said on Sunday.

Gómez hopes that all young people take Pope Benedict's message seriously – so that "after the Pope's visit we are left with the seeds for peace," needed to help Mexico during a difficult and violent time.

Approximately 600,000 people joined the Pope as he offered the Eucharistic celebration in 93-degree heat. The temperature did not lessen the enthusiasm of the crowds, who were provided with water from a number of trucks.

"I really wanted to see the Pope, and thanks be to God it came true," said Cristina Mendieta of Jalisco.

"I'm here with so many young people before the Holy Father, who I know is a person who has much to give. I'm here to get something from him."

Victoria Pantoja, 19, was among the thousands of volunteers who helped with the security of the enclosure at the park.

"I'm so excited for having seen the Pope and think it's an unforgettable experience," said Pantoja.

She and her fellow volunteers could be identified by the traditional "ayate" – a type of poncho – with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on one side and the Sanctuary of Christ the King on the other.

Jorge López, 18, came to Bicentennial Park to hear a message of "peace and hope from the Pope that is so needed by this country. I also hope that our faith grows."

"I'm excited to be here," said Paula Garza Ojeda, wife and mother of three children, who was especially happy "to see so many young people gathered here today."  

Miguel Paire Masías, who was able to see the Pope at World Youth day last August in Madrid, said he hoped Mexicans would "encounter God through the Holy Father's message."

Young people welcomed the Pope with rhyming chants on Sunday, as they did at his previous appearances during the visit to Guanajuato. One of the popular chants declared: "Se siente, se siente, el Papa está presente." ("He's coming, he's coming, the Pope is now here.")

"Benedicto, amigo, Juan Pablo está contigo," ran another – "Benedict, friend, John Paul is with you."

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Plant seeds of hope in Latin America and Carribean, Pope tells bishops

Leon, Mexico, Mar 25, 2012 / 09:48 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During a March 25 evening prayer service at the cathedral in León, Mexico, Pope Benedict XVI called on Latin American and Carribean bishops to plant the "seed of hope" through the Church's work in the regions.

"Certainly your dioceses face a number of challenges and difficulties at the present moment," the Pope acknowledged.

"Yet, in the sure knowledge that the Lord is risen, we are able to move forward confidently, in the conviction that evil does not have the last word in human history, and that God is able to open up new horizons to a hope that does not disappoint."

"You are not alone amid your trials or in your successes in the work of evangelization," the Pope told the Latin American and Carribean bishops, promising them that "all of us are one in sufferings and in consolation."

"Know that you can count on a special place in the prayers of the one who has received from Christ the charge of confirming his brethren in faith," the Pope said, referring to his role as the Successor of St. Peter.

"He now encourages you in your mission of making our Lord Jesus Christ ever better known, loved and followed in these lands, and he urges you not to let yourselves be intimidated by obstacles along the way."

In his address, delivered during the celebration of Vespers, Pope noted the historic contributions of the Church to Latin American and Carribean life, particularly due to the labors of "outstanding and self-sacrificing missionaries who proclaimed it boldly and wisely."

"They gave their all for Christ, demonstrating that in him men and women encounter the truth of their being and the strength needed both to live fully and to build a truly humane society."

Looking forward to the "Year of Faith" that begins in the fall of 2012, Pope Benedict said its initiatives "must be aimed at guiding men and women to Christ; his grace will enable them to cast off the bonds of sin and slavery, and to progress along the path of authentic and responsible freedom."

The bishops also received the Pope's charge to "show great concern for your seminarians", and remain "close to your priests," who "must never lack the understanding and encouragement of their bishop, nor, if necessary, his paternal admonition in response to improper attitudes."

He also asked them to value and accompany the diverse forms of consecrated life, and give "greater attention" to "the members of the lay faithful most engaged in the fields of catechesis, liturgical animation, charitable activity and social commitment."

"In all of this, it is particularly important for pastors to ensure that a spirit of communion reigns among priests, religious and the lay faithful, and that sterile divisions, criticism and unhealthy mistrust are avoided," he affirmed.

The Pope invited the bishops to be "vigilant in proclaiming day and night the glory of God, which is the life of mankind."

"Stand beside those who are marginalized as the result of force, power or a prosperity which is blind to the poorest of the poor," he urged them, noting that the Church "cannot separate the praise of God from service to others."

"The one God, our Father and creator, has made us brothers and sisters: to be human is to be a brother and guardian to our neighbor."

"Along this path, in union with the whole human family, the Church must relive and make present what Jesus was: the 'Good Samaritan' who came from afar, entered our human history, lifted us up and sought to heal us."

Pope Benedict acknowledged that the Church in Latin America has often shared Christ's sufferings. Now, he said, it "must continue to be a seed of hope enabling the world to see how the fruits of the resurrection have come to enrich these lands."

He asked that the Virgin Mary, invoked as "Our Lady of Light," would "dispel the darkness of our world and illumine our path."

With God's grace, the Pope said, "we can confirm the faith of the people of Latin America amid their struggles and aspirations, with integrity, valor and firm faith in the one who can do all things and loves all men and women to the fullest."

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Religious liberty group calls new mandate proposals inadequate

Washington D.C., Mar 22, 2012 / 12:48 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A legal group that works to defend religious freedom says new government recommendations on implementing the federal contraception mandate fail to address religious groups' concerns.

Hannah Smith, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told CNA on March 19 that the Obama administration is "trying to make it sound like an easy fix."

However, its claims are "simply false" and its fundamental premise "defies basic economics," she said.

On March 16, the Obama administration issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to request feedback from the public on several possible ways to implement its "preventive services" mandate.

The administration has drawn heavy criticism over the mandate, which will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and a! bortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.

Faced with a storm of protest, President Barack Obama promised on Feb. 10 an "accommodation" for religious freedom that would shift the payment of the objectionable coverage to an insurance issuer or other administrator. The newly-released recommendations are suggested means of implementing that accommodation.

However, many religious individuals and groups believe that the accommodation does not do enough to respect their religious liberty. The Becket Fund has filed lawsuits on behalf of several organizations that have voiced this objection.

A March 20 analysis by the Becket Fund responded to the proposals released for feedback by the administration.

The group's analysis said that all of the suggestions put forward are problematic because they "continue to have the religious group facilitating the access to contraception" by providing lists of employees to the i! nsurance issuer or third party administrator.

The acco! mmodation dictates that religious groups that use an outside insurance company will contract with an insurance issuer that will be required to provide separate contraception coverage to the group's employees.

According to the administration, the insurance issuers will pay for the contraceptive coverage from "the estimated savings" of eliminating the need for "services" that arise from not covering contraception.

However, the administration also acknowledged that premiums from multiple organizations are gathered into a pool, "from which the issuer pays for services."

The Becket Fund pointed out that "the practice of pooling makes it impossible to trace whether any savings are made from reduced pregnancies."

A recent survey of insurance companies indicated that the mandate will not actually cut costs.

In reality, the Becket Fund said, religious group will still end up paying for the coverage because the insurance company wi! ll "pass along the extra costs in increased premiums."

Problems for self-insured religious groups

For religious groups that self-insure – meaning that the religious group acts as its own insurance company – the government has recommended that a "third party administrator" would administer the separate contraception coverage.

The administration has offered four suggestions for funding in these cases, which are currently open for comments from the public.

In response, however, the Becket Fund's analysis addressed each of these recommendations and rebuffed all four as inadequate.

The administration's first suggestion was that third party administrators could fund the coverage using revenue from drug rebates, service fees or disease management program fees.

But the Becket Fund said that it may be illegal for the third party administrator to use such funds to pay for contraceptive coverage if that money actually belongs ! to the client. 

It compared the situation to investing, ex! plaining, "It is illegal for an investment house to keep dividends and not repay them to shareholders."

The central question that would need to be answered under this proposal is whether the drug rebate money would properly belong to the third party administrator or to all the organizations that had originally supplied the money, it explained.
If the pool of money that generated the drug rebate was owned by the contributors rather than the third party administrator, the administrator would be required to pro-rate the discounts back to those who pooled the money, it said.

Under the proposal, the administrator "would potentially be taking money away from a religious employer because the religious group would not be getting the rebate anymore," since it would be going towards contraceptive coverage, it explained.

The second suggestion offered by the federal government would involve the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which is r! esponsible for contracting with certain insurers to offer multi-state plans.

In developing such plans, the administration has suggested, the office could require these insurers to offer the contraceptive coverage for self-insured entities.

The Becket Fund said that this suggestion bolsters the argument made in its lawsuit that the government does have a means of accomplishing its goal without requiring religious groups to pay for it. 

Even so, it said, this route would not entirely address the objections of religious organizations because it would still require them to provide their employees' information to the third party administrator. 

A third possibility put forth by the administration makes use of a reinsurance program through which insurance companies decrease their risk.

As part of the process of creating new exchanges with individual plans, a program will be used to offset the cost of reinsurance.

Under the ! health care plan, insurers and third party administrators will pay mone! y to a reinsurance entity, and these payments will be redistributed to those that are most at risk.

The administration has suggested that administrators that fund contraceptive coverage for religious organizations could offset this cost with a credit against their payments to the reinsurance fund.

However, the Becket Fund said that this proposal would essentially turn the reinsurance fund "into a slush fund to pay for contraceptive services." It also noted that the administration has acknowledged that the reinsurance program is a transitional measure that is only intended to operate for a few years, so it would not provide a permanent solution to the problem.

The final option suggested by the administration is that a third party administrator could receive funding through donations from a private, non-profit organization.

The Becket Fund called this option "an obvious reference to Planned Parenthood and other similar organizations" whe! re people can already receive contraception. It questioned the need for the mandate at all if such organizations already provide the controversial products and procedures for low-income individuals.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

October synod's evangelization document nears launch

Vatican City, Mar 22, 2012 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The document that will guide the deliberations of the world's bishops as they chart the re-evangelization of the West is on the verge of being released.

"Things are going well at this stage and the working document, the instrumentum laboris, is about to be published," Cardinal Francis Arinze told CNA."It is the actual one that every participant in the synod in October will have."

The former prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship is now a member of the preparatory committee for this year's Synod of Bishops. It will take place at the Vatican October 7-28 under the title of "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith."

Cardinal Arinze said the working document will outline "the necessity to revisit" those areas of the world "that have been evangelized maybe for 1000 years or ! 500 years and where the faith was once very strong" but where "now people are rather cold in the faith."

It will also stress the need for this "new freshness" and "new ardor" to be communicated using new technology, he said.

This year's Synod of Bishops will help launch Pope Benedict's Year of Faith, which also relates to the Church's New Evangelization efforts. It marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Arinze believes that life in the Western world has "many other offers to the human person" which are "attracting" or even "distracting" people away from Christianity so that "the message of Christ can sometimes be forgotten, given a second place, put as a footnote."

"So someone has to come who has the enthusiasm of an evangelizer, who has the convincing power of a witness who lives with convic! tion what that witness is preaching" and who is also "read! y to use modern methods to contact people."

This should also involve a direct appeal to "the intelligentsia" of western society, said Cardinal Arinze.

"When St Paul went to Athens he didn't avoid the men of culture, the elite, but he presented the message of Christ to them in terminology that would be suitable for that group."

Despite the focus being on the West, the 79-year-old Nigerian cleric believes that the rest world will also play its part and benefit from the New Evangelization.

"Africa can contribute because there's a type of freshness which the African countries bring to the practice of Christianity" which can "contaminate" those "who have been evangelized for more years."

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Anticipation builds as Mexican Catholics await Pope Benedict

Leon, Mexico, Mar 22, 2012 / 05:13 pm (CNA).- Just one day before Pope Benedict's arrival in Leon, Mexico, Catholics are counting down the final hours until the Pope makes his first historic visit to the country from March 23-26.

Patricia Eugenia Cruz, a local mother of two, told CNA that she awaits the Pope's arrival "with great happiness" and hopes he "brings a message of peace and hope to all Mexicans, and also especially a message of charity."

Pope Benedict will arrive at Guanajuato International Airport in the area of Silao, on Friday, March 23 at 4:30 p.m. where he will be received by the Archbishop of Leon, Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago. 

Also present for the reception of the Pope will be the Apostolic Nuncio in Mexico, Msgr. Christophe Pierre, and the Federal President of the Republic of Mexico, Felipe Calderon.

Catholic Felipe Martinez, who spoke to CNA outside ! the Cathedral of Leon, said that "with the Pope's visit, I hope that values will be renewed, that the Pope will newly give us these values so needed not only by Mexico but all of Latin America."

Among the various shows of affections that the people of Leon will present to the Pope – in addition to the presence of 3500 Catholics – there will be a traditional group of Mariachis to celebrate his arrival.

Leon resident Mrs. Leo de Tejada said she expects "many blessings," from the Pope's visit, "because we all need them here in Mexico.

According to parishioner Jose Miguelon "all Mexicans are very happy, myself and my fellow countrymen, for this event we, the people of Leon, have."

The streets and highways on the outskirts of Leon are filled with signs that announce Benedict's arrival.  Among them can be seen signs that marks the Pope Mobile's route and others that says Leon is ready to receive "the Pope and the world.! "

In the opinion of Mauricio Velasquez, a father of t! wo young children, Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Mexico will be the source of "a message of peace and hope" to everyone.

Accountant Martin Ernesto Davalos Segura pointed out that "the Pope's visit is great blessing" but even more so, given "that it was the Holy Father himself who decided to come."

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post

Brazilian World Youth Day organizers head to Vatican

Rome, Italy, Mar 22, 2012 / 06:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A delegation from the Brazilian organizing committee for World Youth Day Rio will meet in Rome with the Pontifical Council for the Laity to discuss what can be learned from the previous gathering in Madrid and to answer logistical questions.
"The meeting in Rome will be first for learning from the experience in Madrid, and second for discussions with representatives of different countries and movements. It will address very practical questions, such as visa permits, vaccinations, hospitality, and the schedule and calendar for World Youth Day," said World Youth Day Rio's general coordinator Monsignor Joel Portella Amado.

Nearly 350 representatives of numerous bishops' conferences, dioceses, communities, and movements from more than 80 countries are expected to attend the meeting, scheduled to take place March 28 to April 1.
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The delegation from Brazil will arrive in two waves.

The first group, which has already left for Rome, includes, Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta of Rio, president of the committee, Auxiliary Bishops Antonio Augusto Dias Duarte and Paulo Cezar Costa of Rio, and general coordinator Msgr. Portella. The second set of committee members will arrive in Rome for the meeting next week.
A week for sharing and reflecting

The upcoming meetings are a part of the next stage in preparing for World Youth Day arriving in Rio in 2013. In statements to the official World Youth Day Rio website, Msgr. Portella said preparations for the event include several key meetings between the organizing committee, the Brazilian bishops' conference and the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
A delegation from the pontifical council, led by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, met with local World Youth Day officials in Rio Feb. 27 – March 2 to discuss ongoing preparatio! ns.
"The meeting here showed that the way in wh! ich Rio is going to work, and how the event is going to be conceived and carried out is truly in accord with the identity and DNA of World Youth Day," Msgr. Portella said.
On Palm Sunday in Rome, the Rio delegation will attend Mass with Pope Benedict to mark World Youth Day at the diocesan level. Officials from the committee are planning to bring a replica of the famous Christ the Redeemer statue to the celebration.
After Palm Sunday, the delegation will remain in Rome for another meeting with the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, Archbishop Orani and Bishop Eduardo on April 2," Msgr. Portella said.

Decisions for Rio 2013

In response to the frequent question about where the main events for World Youth Day 2013 will take place in Rio and the schedule for the event, Msgr. Portella said no final decisions have been made.  He explained that the program for the event has already been crea! ted but requires the collective approval  of the Rio archdiocese, the bishops' conference, federal, state and local level Brazilian officials and  Vatican organizers who work closely with the Holy Father.

"The same holds for the venues under consideration," he said.
Msgr. Portella added that officials from the Holy See would be coming to Rio to make the final determination about these and other details.

Courtesy: CNA Oringinal Post