Category Archives: National News

Synod Members Propose Ways to Promote Evangelization

by Catholic News Service

(CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Synod of Bishops recommended the Vatican establish a commission to monitor religious freedom, develop guidelines for training evangelizers and ensure there is a church in every diocese where confession is always available. At the end of the three-week world Synod of Bishops on new evangelization, members of the gathering approved 58 propositions to give to the pope. The propositions were designed as recommendations for the pope to use in a post-synodal apostolic exhortation. Many of the propositions described current challenges the church faces in sharing the Gospel, strengthening the faith and reaching out to lapsed Catholics. Other propositions asked Pope Benedict or bishops to consider undertaking projects, including: establishing a Vatican commission to monitor religious freedom, denounce attacks on religious freedom and promote a broader understanding of its importance as a basic human right; developing a “pastoral plan of initial proclamation” that would outline steps to help ensure that once people hear the Gospel, they are led to conversion and faith and are educated in church teaching. It also should describe the “qualities and guidelines for the formation of Catholic evangelizers today”; and asking every diocese to establish a parish or shrine dedicated “in a permanent way” to the sacrament of penance, ensuring “priests are always present, allowing God’s mercy to be experienced by all the faithful.”

Pope Presents Vatican II Messages for Laypeople

Pope Benedict XVI gives a message to Robert Prybyla (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — At the end of the Mass in St. Peter’s Square marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II and the start of the Year of Faith, the pope gave out texts of the special messages that Pope Paul VI had composed for seven categories of the faithful; Pope Benedict chose contemporary representatives of those groups to receive the messages Oct. 11. The symbolic gesture was meant not just to recall and commemorate an event, but to “enter more deeply into the spiritual movement, which characterized Vatican II, to make it ours and to develop it according to its true meaning,” the pope said in his homily. The seven messages, initially presented by Pope Paul on Dec. 8, 1965, address the concerns and responsibilities of: political leaders, scientists and cultural figures, artists, women, workers, the poor, sick and suffering and young people. Pope Benedict gave the “Message to Politicians” to some members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, including ambassadors to the Vatican from each continent. The message said that the only thing the Church asks of politicians is freedom — “the liberty to believe and to preach her faith, the freedom to love her God and serve him, the freedom to live and to bring to men her message of life. Do not fear her.”

Catholic Leaders: Nobel Prize for Medicine a Triumph for Ethics

Kyoto University, Professor Shinya Yamanaka of Japan & John Gurdon of Britain in London.

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) — Catholic leaders in Europe hailed the decision to give a Nobel Prize to two pioneers of adult stem-cell research as a triumph for ethics. A statement from the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, known as COMECE, said that awarding the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine to John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka represented an “important milestone” in recognizing the superior potential of adult stem-cell research over destructive experimentation on human embryonic stem cells. The Anscombe Bioethics Centre, an institute serving the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom and Ireland, also described the award as an “achievement of great ethical significance.” Said David Jones, director of the Anscombe center in Oxford, England: “This technique offers hope of progress in stem-cell research without relying on the unethical destruction of human embryos. The past attempts to clone human embryos and the bizarre experiments to create mixed human-nonhuman embryos have delivered nothing. In contrast, the transformation of adult cells into stem cells is making great progress,” he continued. “This is science at its best: both beautiful and ethical.” The Nobel committee said England’s Gurdon and Yamanaka of Japan had “revolutionized” science through their work. “These discoveries have also provided new tools for scientists around the world and led to remarkable progress in many areas of medicine,” the committee said.

Pope Urges Interfaith Dialogue in Mideast, Defends Religious Freedom

Photo: Pope Benedict XVI signs the apostolic exhortation on the church’s concerns in the Middle East during his visit to the Melkite Catholic Basilica of St. Paul in Harissa, Lebanon, Sept. 14. Standing next to the pope is Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

by Francis X. Rocca, CNS

BEIRUT (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI signed a major document calling on Catholics in the Middle East to engage in dialogue with Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim neighbors, but also to affirm and defend their right to live freely in the region where Christianity was born.

In a ceremony at the Melkite Catholic Basilica of St. Paul in Harissa Sept. 14, Pope Benedict signed the 90-page document of his reflections on the 2010 special Synod of Bishops, which was dedicated to Christians in the Middle East. He formally presented the document Sept. 16 at an outdoor Mass in Beirut.

A section dedicated to interreligious dialogue encouraged Christians to “esteem” the region’s dominant religion, Islam, lamenting that “both sides have used doctrinal differences as a pretext for justifying, in the name of religion, acts of intolerance, discrimination, marginalization and even of persecution.”

Yet in a reflection of the precarious position of Christians in most of the region today, where they frequently experience negative legal and social discrimination, the pope called for Arab societies to “move beyond tolerance to religious freedom.”

The “pinnacle of all other freedoms,” religious freedom is a “sacred and inalienable right,” which includes the “freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be true and to manifest one’s beliefs in public,” the pope wrote.

It is a civil crime in some Muslim countries for Muslims to convert to another faith and, in Saudi Arabia, Catholic priests have been arrested for celebrating Mass, even in private.

The papal document, called an apostolic exhortation, denounced “religious fundamentalism” as the opposite extreme of the secularization that Pope Benedict has often criticized in the context of contemporary Western society.

Fundamentalism, which “afflicts all religious communities,” thrives on “economic and political instability, a readiness on the part of some to manipulate others, and a defective understanding of religion,” the pope wrote. “It wants to gain power, at times violently, over individual consciences, and over religion itself, for political reasons.”

Pope Benedict XVI walks to the altar for the start of Mass on the waterfront in Beirut Sept. 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Many Christians in the Middle East have expressed growing alarm at the rise of Islamist extremism, especially since the so-called Arab Spring democracy movement has toppled or threatened secular regimes that guaranteed religious minorities the freedom to practice their faith.
The apostolic exhortation criticized another aspect of social reality in the Middle East by denouncing the “wide variety of forms of discrimination” against women in the region.

While the pope signed the document in an atmosphere of interreligious harmony, with Orthodox, Muslim and Druze leaders in the attendance at the basilica, the same day brought an outburst of religiously inspired violence to Lebanon.

During a protest against the American-made anti-Muslim film that prompted demonstrations in Libya, Egypt and Yemen earlier in the week, a group attempted to storm a Lebanese government building in the northern city of Tripoli. The resulting clashes left one person dead and 25 wounded, local media reported. According to Voice of Lebanon radio, Lebanese army troops were deployed to Tripoli to prevent further violence.
Mohammad Samak, the Muslim secretary-general of Lebanon’s Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue, told Catholic News Service that the violence had nothing to do with the pope’s visit.

“All Muslim leaders and Muslim organizations — political and religious — they are all welcoming the Holy Father and welcoming his visit,” Samak said. “I hope his visit will give more credibility to what we have affirmed as the message of Lebanon — a country of conviviality between Christians and Muslims who are living peacefully and in harmony together for hundreds of years now.”

The State of Giving

Southern states rank among the top for charitable giving

The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s much heralded “How America Gives” project highlighting charitable donations on a state-by-state basis has been completed, and their exclusive study shows that every state within our region appears in the top 25% of charitable giving among our nation’s 50 separate states.

Which state is number one for support of charitable causes?  Why, our super tithing Mormon sisters and brothers in Utah lead the way with a whopping 10.6% of household discretionary income directed toward charitable giving. The state which stands at number two may surprise you… our eastern neighbor Mississippi which despite a 3.4% drop from giving titan Utah, still provides 7.2% of household income to charity.  Two hops over to the east and Alabama lands in third place by this study data, with residents there providing 7.1% of their valuable income to non-profit organizations.  Just to the north, Tennessee residents see fit to provide 6.6% of their discretionary income to charitable causes, good for number four in the study.  Just above us, Arkansas tallies a seventh place finish with charitable giving claiming 6.3% of a family’s total annual directed income.

Where is Louisiana?  We finished a very respectable 12th in The Chronicle’s study, with people in our state donating 5.3% of discretionary income to charitable needs. Oh, and by the way, Texas was right behind us at lucky number thirteen with a 5.1% rate of charitable support from the family budget.

As many of our Catholic Connection readers may know, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops divides our nation into regions for administrative and sectional purposes.  Louisiana is a resident of Region V of the USCCB Conference and below are the states that join us in Region V and their ranking in The Chronicle’s study: Mississippi, #2; Alabama, #3; Tennessee, #4; Louisiana, #12; Kentucky #15.

The results of the study obviously say very good things about the level of social capital and charitable giving in the Deep South.  Donative intent and the empathetic capacity to give still dominate the psyche of the people of the Sun Belt, regardless of their chosen faith tradition. With the exception of Idaho and Utah, there is not a single state above the Mason-Dixon Line that is above number 20 in the Chronicle’s study and those facts just ain’t whistln’ Dixie!

by John Mark Willcox, Director of Development

Pope Appoints Synod Members

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles and 35 other cardinals, bishops and priests to serve as full members of the Synod of Bishop (CNS photo/Paul Haring).

by Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles and 35 other cardinals, bishops and priests to serve as full members of the Synod of Bishops. The papal appointees, whose names were announced Sept. 18, will join more than 200 other synod members who were elected by their national bishops’ conference, serve as the head of a Vatican office or were elected by the Union of Superiors General, the organization for the heads of men’s religious orders. The synod is scheduled for Oct. 7-28 at the Vatican to explore the theme, “New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” Twelve cardinals, including Australian Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, and diocesan bishops from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe also were named synod members by the pope. The prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, and the president of the Communion and Liberation movement, Father Julian Carron, were among the papal appointees, as were the superiors general of three religious orders of men: the Camillians, the Schonstatt Fathers and the Carmelites. According to Vatican rules, only priests, bishops and cardinals can serve as full voting members of the synod, but the popes always have appointed laymen and laywomen to be among the synod’s experts and auditors.

Sacred Duty: Saints Show Church is Holy

A statue of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Catholic devotion to the saints appears to be alive and well, and Pope Benedict XVI continues to proclaim new saints at a regular pace. The official calendar of saints’ feast days will grow in October when the pope canonizes seven men and women, including Mother Marianne Cope of Molokai and three laypeople: the Native American Kateri Tekakwitha, the Filipino Peter Calungsod and the German Anna Schaffer. The canonization Mass Oct. 21 will be one of the first big events of Pope Benedict’s Year of Faith, which is designed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and to launch a strengthened commitment to the new evangelization. According to Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the appeal of the saints and their concrete examples of holiness give them “an undeniably positive role to play in this time of new evangelization,” since they are living proof that the church is holy. In a new book, currently available only in Italian, Cardinal Amato writes that it’s easy to understand how people can question the church’s holiness when they see the sinful behavior of some of its members. But the good, loving and charitable activities of other members are the best evidence that the church truly is the holy body of Christ, he says.

Majority of Catholics Share Religious Liberty Concerns

by Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A majority of Catholics say they share the U.S. bishops’ concerns about the federal contraceptive mandate and other government restrictions on religious liberty, and the percentage of Catholics who say they are satisfied with the bishops’ leadership has increased sharply in the past 10 years. Catholics who attend Mass more frequently are more likely to agree with bishops’ concerns on social issues, and those who attend less frequently show less support for their views on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Those opinions, made public Aug. 1, were among the results in a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The survey showed that 64 percent of Catholics have heard about the bishops’ objections to the HHS contraceptive mandate. Among Catholics who are aware of the bishops’ concerns on this issue, 56 percent agree with the bishops and 36 percent disagree. In the American population at large, 41 percent agree with the bishops and 47 percent disagree. The survey results also gave high marks to Catholic leadership. Eighty-three percent of Catholics expressed satisfaction with women religious; 82 percent, with their own parish priests, 74 percent, with their diocesan bishop and the pope; and 70 percent, with U.S. bishops in general.

Pope prays for disaster victims in Philippines, China, Iran

Rescuers search for victims in the earthquake-stricken village of Varzaqan, near Ahar, Iran, Aug. 12. (CNS photo/Arash Khamooshi, ISNA via Reuters )

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI asked Catholics around the world to pray and offer material assistance to flood victims in the Philippines and China and to people affected by an earthquake in northwestern Iran. The natural disasters have caused death and injury and left thousands of people homeless, the pope said Aug. 12 after reciting the Angelus in the courtyard of the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo. “I ask you to join me in prayer for those who lost their lives and for all the people so harshly tried by such devastating calamities. May these brothers and sisters of ours not lack our solidarity and support,” the pope said. Flooding caused by days of torrential rains forced more than a quarter million people from their homes in parts of Manila and provinces surrounding the Philippine capital. The government said Aug. 7 that at least 50 percent of metropolitan Manila was under water, displacing an estimated 270,000 people. News reports Aug. 13 said more than 90 people had lost their lives and more rain was expected. In China, Typhoon Haikui brought heavy rains and flooding to Jiangxi province in the eastern part of the country. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced. In Iran, two strong earthquakes struck Aug. 11, leaving at least 300 people dead and 2,000 injured. The quakes destroyed entire villages in the northwest. In his main Angelus address, Pope Benedict spoke about the Sunday Gospel reading in which Jesus tells the people, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”

Pope to Visit Lebanon in September

Pope Benedict XVI (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI will present a papal document addressing the church’s concerns in the Middle East, meet with representatives of local Christian and Muslim communities, and address political and cultural leaders on a three-day visit to Lebanon Sept. 14-16. Pope Benedict’s primary task on the trip will be to present a document, called an apostolic exhortation, based on the deliberations of a special synod of bishops held at the Vatican in 2009. That two-week meeting, which was attended by 185 bishops, focused on the precarious circumstances of 5.7 million Catholics in 16 Middle Eastern countries. A document released by participants at the end of the synod called for “religious freedom and freedom of conscience” in Muslim lands, a theme Pope Benedict is likely to address on his visit.