Tuesday, April 19, 2011



VATICAN CITY, 16 APR 2011 (VIS REPORT) - Benedict XVI, who celebrates his 84th birthday today, received in audience Maria Jesus Figa Lopez-Palop, the first woman to serve as Spain's Ambassador to the Holy See. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)

At the beginning of his address, the Pope recalled his visit to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona this past November where, he said, "I saw many demonstrations of the vitality of the Catholic faith of those lands that have seen the births of so many saints and which are sown with cathedrals, centers of assistance and culture, which are inspired by the fertile tradition and faithfulness of its inhabitants to their religious beliefs. This also entails the responsibility of diplomatic relations between Spain and the Holy See that always endeavor to promote, with mutual respect and collaboration, within each one's legitimate autonomy in their respective areas, everything that promotes the good of persons and the authentic development of their rights and freedoms, which include the expression of their faith and conscience, both in the public as well as in the private sphere".

The Holy Father highlighted that "the Church, in carrying out her mission, seeks the whole good of each nation and its citizens, acting in the area of her competency and fully respecting the autonomy of civil authorities. She seeks the good of those who are dear to her and those who ask God to serve Him in society with generosity, honor, skill, and justice. This goal, in which the Church's mission and the function of the state meet, moreover has given expression to bilateral accords between Spain and the Holy See".

Referring afterwards to the difficult economic situation today, with its resultant unemployment "that provokes discouragement and frustration, especially in the youth and less-privileged families", the Pope assured his prayers that God "will enlighten those with public responsibilities, that they will tirelessly seek a path of recovery that is beneficial to all of society". In this regard he emphasized the praiseworthy work that the Catholic institutions are carrying out to swiftly assist those most in need".

"The Church", he continued, "offers something inherent to her, which benefits persons and nations: She offers Christ, the hope that encourages and strengthens, like an antidote to the deception offered by other fleeting proposals or to the hearts lacking in values that wind up hardening to the point of not being able to perceive the genuine emotion of life and the reason of things. This hope gives birth to confidence and collaboration, thus changing the bleak present into the spirit's effort to face the future with hope, both as a person as well as a family and a society".

Benedict XVI lamented that "in place of living and organizing society in such a way that favors openness and excellence, there are ways of living, often even having a certain sophistication, that are hostile to faith. ... There are certain environments that tend to consider religion as a socially insignificant factor that seek to offend it. This does not excuse the marginalization of religion, that at times takes place through denigration, ridicule, discrimination, and even indifference in the face of clear profanation. Such is a violation of the fundamental right to religious freedom inherent to the dignity of the human person, the "true weapon of peace because it can change and better the world".

"The Church", he said, "Keeps watch over fundamental human rights. ... She keeps watch over the right to human life from its conception to its natural end because life is sacred and nobody can dispose of it arbitrarily. She keeps watch over the protection of and assistance to the family, defending the economic, social, and juridical means by which men and women contract marriage and form a family so that it has the support necessary to fulfill its vocation and to be the sanctuary of love and life. She also champions education that integrates moral and religious values according to parents' convictions as their right and as is beneficial to the complete development of youth. For that same reason this is included, as is the provision of teaching the Catholic religion in all centers for those who choose it, in the Church's own legal ordinances.

Before concluding, the Pope expressed the desire that the next World Youth Day that will take place in Madrid in August, "will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the youth and for Spain. I also note the availability, cooperation, and generous assistance that the [Spanish] government as well as autonomous and local authorities are extending for the success of an initiative that will attract the attention of the entire world and will demonstrate once more the greatness of the hearts and souls of the Spanish people".

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VATICAN CITY, 16 APR 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

- Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

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VATICAN CITY, 17 APR 2011 (VIS) - Benedict XVI presided over the thousands of persons who filled St. Peter's Square for the Eucharistic celebration of Palm Sunday and the Lord's Passion and the day that celebrates, at a diocesan level, the XXVI World Youth Day on the theme "Rooted and Built in Christ: Firm in the Faith" (cf. Col 2:7).

Before Mass the Pope blessed the palms and olive branches at the obelisk of the square, then he moved in the Popemobile to the altar.

In the homily the Holy Father, reflecting on the meaning of Jesus' pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, explained that "he knew that ... he himself would take the place of the sacrificial lambs by offering himself on the cross. ... The ultimate goal of his pilgrimage was the heights of God himself; to those heights he wanted to lift every human being".

"But", he asked, "how can we keep pace with this ascent? Isn't it beyond our ability? Certainly, it is beyond our own possibilities. From the beginning men and women have been filled - and this is as true today as ever - with a desire to 'be like God', to attain the heights of God ... And yet the force of gravity which draws us down is powerful. With the increase of our abilities there has been an increase not only of good. Our possibilities for evil have increased and appear like menacing storms above history. Our limitations have also remained: we need but think of the disasters which have caused so much suffering for humanity in recent months".

Benedict XVI highlighted that "man finds himself betwixt this twofold gravitational force; everything depends on our escaping the gravitational field of evil and becoming free to be attracted completely by the gravitational force of God, which makes us authentic, elevates us, and grants us true freedom".

"God himself must draw us up, and this is what Christ began to do on the cross. He descended to the depths of our human existence in order to draw us up to himself, to the living God. ... Only in this way could our pride be vanquished: God's humility is the extreme form of his love, and this humble love draws us upwards".

The Pope placed special emphasis on the need we have of God. "he draws us upwards; letting ourselves be upheld by his hands - by faith, in other words - sets us aright and gives us the inner strength that raises us on high. We need the humility of a faith which seeks the face of God and trusts in the truth of his love. The question of how man can attain the heights, becoming completely himself and completely like God, has always engaged mankind".

"We are on pilgrimage with the Lord to the heights. We are striving for pure hearts and clean hands, we are seeking truth, we are seeking the face of God. Let us show the Lord that we desire to be righteous, and let us ask him: Draw us upwards! Make us pure!" He concluded, "grant that the words which we sang in the processional psalm may also hold true for us; grant that we may be part of the generation which seeks God, 'which seeks your face, O God of Jacob'"

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VATICAN CITY, 17 APR 2011 (VIS) - At the end of the celebration of the solemnity of Palm Sunday and the Lord's Passion, the Holy Father prayed the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. Before the Marian prayer the Pope addressed those present in various languages, exhorting them above all, "to live the celebration of the Lord's Passion and Glorification in order to achieve the fullness of what these feasts mean and hold".

"I am particularly speaking to you, beloved youth" he continued in Spanish, "that you accompany me at the World Youth Day that will take place in Madrid this coming August, with the theme of "Rooted and Built in Christ: Firm in the Faith".

"Today I am also thinking of Colombia", he continued, "where the Day of Prayer for victims of violence will be held this coming Good Friday. I am spiritually near to this initiative and earnestly urge Colombians to participate in it, at the same time I ask God for those in this beloved nation who have been appallingly stripped of their lives and their possessions. I renew my urgent call to conversion, repentance, and reconciliation. No more violence in Colombia, that peace there reign!"

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VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2011 (VIS) - Following is the program of Benedict XVI's apostolic trip to Croatia - scheduled for 4 - 5 June - for the National Day of Croatian Families.

The Pope will leave at 9:30am on Saturday, 4 June, from Rome's Fiumicino Airport and will land at Pleso International Airport in Zagreb at 11:00am. After the welcoming ceremony, a courtesy visit will be made to Ivo Josipovic, the President of the Republic, at the presidential palace, following which the Pope will meet with Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor at the apostolic nunciature at 1:50pm. At 6:15pm, in the National Croatian Theater of Zagreb, he will meet with representatives of civil society, the political, academic, cultural, and business world, the diplomatic corps, and religious figures. At 7:30pm, in Josip Jelacic Square, he will preside over a prayer vigil with the Croatian youth.

On Sunday, 5 June, at 10:00am, he will celebrate Holy Mass on the National Day of Croatian Families in the Zagreb Hippodrome. At 2:00pm he will have lunch at the new offices of the Secretary of the Croatian Bishops' Council with the Croatian and other invited bishops. At 5:00pm he will presided over vespers with the bishops, priests, religious, and seminarians and will pray at the tomb of Blessed Aloysius Viktor Stepinac at Zagreb's Cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and to St. Stephen. When finished there he will meet with Cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb, at his residence, and at 7:15pm will travel to Pleso Airport where, at 7:45pm he will make the return flight to Rome. The flight is scheduled to land at Rome's Ciampino Airport at 9:15pm.

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VATICAN CITY, 18 APR 2011 (VIS) - Today, the Holy Father named:

- Fr. Jose Arturo Cepeda of the clergy of the archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas as auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan (area 10,106, population 4,556,000, Catholics 1,515,000, priests 641, religious 1,552, permanent deacons 191), USA. The bishop-elect was born in 1969 in San Luis de Potosi, Mexico, was ordained to the priesthood in 1996, and, to date, was Rector of the Assumption Seminary of San Antonio, Texas.

- Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA) as his special envoy to the bicentennial celebration of the birth of St. John Nepomuceno Neumann that will take place in Prachatitz, Czech Republic on 18 June 2011.

On Saturday, 16 April, the Holy Father appointed Bishop Beniamino Pizziol, auxiliary bishop of Venice, as bishop of Vicenza (area 2,200, population 855,608, Catholics 790,848, priests 732, permanent deacons 38, religious 2,086), Italy.


CNA REPORT: The Franciscan University of Steubenville has announced that its chancellor and past president Father Michael Scanlan will be retiring on June 30, 2011. Dr. Alan Schreck, a professor of theology at the school described how the 79-year-old priest took a leap of faith to renew the school's Catholic identity.

“He saw his appointment as an opportunity to step out in faith, and do something radical – because a radical solution was needed,” Schreck told CNA. In 1974, the school was a “typical Catholic college,” suffering from cultural and financial upheavals. But the Franciscan priest set out to “make Jesus Christ the Lord of the campus in every aspect.”

“Fr. Michael said we had to establish a clearer Catholic identity, both in the campus life and in our academic offerings,” explained Schreck, who has taught at the school since 1978. In this way, the school took a different path from many other Catholic institutions of its day. “They began hiring people who were solidly Catholic and believed in faithfulness to the magisterium.”

“The rest is history,” said Schreck. Fr. Scanlan was president for 26 years, and has now been chancellor for 11 years.

The school's history began in 1946, when the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular founded the College of Steubenville. But the college might not have survived, if not for the radical decision of a young Harvard law school graduate.

Michael Scanlan had been engaged to be married, and held a position in the legal department of the Air Force. “But one day, at some point, he went out into the woods for a day – just to pray and ask God to reveal his will,” Schreck recalled. “He really wanted to dedicate his life to God, but didn't know how.”

“At the end of the day, he came out convinced that God was calling him to become a priest.”

After entering the Franciscans of the Third Order Regular in 1957, and being ordained a priest seven years later, he eventually became rector of St. Francis Seminary in Pennsylvania. Early in 1974, he met Alan Schreck – a recent college graduate – on the campus of Notre Dame.

“There was an international conference that I was helping to organize at Notre Dame, and Fr. Mike came out to be one of the speakers at the conference. We decided to go out for a little jog around the campus – and as we were going, he requested my prayers.”

“He said he had a big decision to make. He was being considered for the presidency of this small, struggling Catholic college called the College of Steubenville.”

At that time, Schreck said, the College of Steubenville was a “typical Catholic college,” where faith was “part of the campus life,” but not emphasized. “It wasn't fervently religious in any sense. There wasn't anything distinctive about its identity that would have set it apart in that area.”

The college had other problems as well. The school “was never bankrupt, but it was at the point of serious financial difficulties. This was not unusual, because it was the early 70s – when many, many Catholic colleges around the country were closing up, due to low enrollment.”

Schreck recalled that Fr. Scanlan's experiences with the “charismatic renewal” in the late-1960s, along with his own Franciscan identity, provided him with a vision for reviving the College of Steubenville.

“Fr. Mike is a priest to the core, and a Franciscan to the core. He brought a spirit of joy, and a certain simplicity and poverty of spirit. Even though Fr. Michael is a very intelligent man, and a very astute lawyer, he has a certain joy and exuberance. A lot of that is a reflection of St. Francis' spirituality.

“The charismatic dimension became important,” Schreck added, “and it was very much compatible with his Franciscan identity. Because of some of the same graces – openness to God, joy, and simplicity – the charisms of this movement and his Franciscan vocation really complimented each other.”

“He really wanted to focus on the clear teaching of the Catholic faith, and a powerful proclamation of the Gospel.”

Soon, he began making significant changes to the school's academics and culture. Although the college offered a few required theology classes during the early 1970s, it did not offer a degree in the subject.

“He said, if we're going to be truly Catholic, we have to recognize theology as central to our identity. Theology became a major, and they began hiring people who were solidly Catholic and believed in faithfulness to the magisterium.”

“The second thing was in campus ministry,” Schreck explained. At the time Fr. Scanlan became president, the most popular Mass for students was held at midnight. “A lot of students would go out and party, then they'd sort of drift into that Mass so they could sleep in all day the next day.”

“Fr. Michael said he wanted to take over the 10 o'clock Mass on Sunday morning, and it wasn't going to be shortened – it was going to be long, because he would be preaching. He personally said, 'I want this to be the focal point Mass.' It gradually became that, because people were attracted to his preaching of the Gospel.”

He also wanted to develop a stronger sense of community, having read studies that showed college freshmen were at risk for depression and suicide. His solution, which remains a distinctive feature of life at Steubenville today, came from the charismatic movement.

“In various charismatic communities, they had established what they called 'households,' which were small groups in which people would support each other,” said Schreck. For several years, all Steubenville students were required to join one of the households, a bold decision that Shreck said was surprisingly successful.

In 1975, Fr. Scanlan also began holding summer conferences on the campus. “He had conferences for priests, deacons, religious sisters, and the big one was for high-school-age youth.” The annual Franciscan University Youth Conferences now host more than 35,000 young people at 18 locations in the United States and Canada.

Along the way, Schreck said Fr. Scanlan never sacrificed the school's academic quality in the service of its dymanic spiritual life. “They were both necessary,” he observed.

The College of Steubenville gained university status in 1980, and became the Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1986. At that point, Schreck recalled, “it seemed that the corner had been turned,” and Fr. Scanlan's experiment had clearly exceeded expectations.

Today, in addition to its expanded summer conferences, the university also offers distance learning, 42 undergraduate majors, and seven graduate programs. Schreck said that he expects the university to continue building according to Fr. Scanlan's blueprint after his retirement to a more private ministry.

“Because we put Christ first, at the center of our campus, I'm very hopeful about the future of the university,” Schreck said.


IND. CATH. NEWS REPORT: The well known ecumenist and co-founder of the Irish School of Ecumenics (ISE), Michael Hurley SJ, died on Friday 15 April, at 7am in St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin. He was 87 years old.
Leading ecumenist Michael Hurley SJ  has died | Michael Hurley SJ

Michael Hurley SJ

Fr Michael was Director of the ISE from 1970 until 1980. In 1981, whilst on retreat in India he had the vision of an ecumenical community of Catholics and Protestants living together somewhere in Northern Ireland. He made that vision a reality in 1983 when he co-founded the Columbanus Community of Reconciliation in the Antrim Rd, North Belfast in 1983. He lived and worked there for ten years.

He has written extensively on the subject of ecumenism and his publications include Towards Christian Unity (CTS1961), Church and Eucharist (Ed., Gill 1966), Reconciliation in Religion and Society (Ed., Institute of Irish Studies, Belfast 1994), Healing and Hope: Memories of an Irish Ecumenist ( Columba, 2003) and Christian Unity: An Ecumenical Second Spring?(Veritas)- the fruit of some forty years of ecumenical experience in both theory and practice. The book carries prefaces from the leaders of the four main Churches in Ireland who pay generous tribute to the author's work- work which was once seen as quite controversial. Michael Hurley was born in Ardmore, Co Waterford and joined the Jesuits on 10 September, 1940. He was educated in University College Dublin and Eegenhoven-Louvain, before completing his doctorate in theology in the Gregorian University in Rome. He received an honorary doctorate (LLD) from Queen's University Belfast in 1993, and from Trinity College Dublin in 1995.

He lived with the Jesuit community in Milltown Park from 1993 until the present. He was Province Co-ordinator for Ecumenism from 1995-2004 and writer and Director of the Spiritual Excercises of St Ignatius form 2004- 2011.

Victor Edwin SJ & Ms Pat Coyle Manager, Jesuit Communication Centre, Dublin


ASIA NEWS REPORT: Forced out of their usual premises, members of the Shouwang Protestant Church held a public prayer meeting last week. Police arrested 50 of them yesterday. The authorities want to crush all nongovernment-controlled religious activities fearing a convergence with human rights activists.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Police yesterday arrested the leaders of the Shouwang Protestant Church in Beijing. They also detained about 50 members of the congregation in order to prevent them from holding Sunday services in public after they were expelled from their usual premises a week earlier. This has raised fears that Chinese authorities might be tightening the screw on house churches ahead of Easter. Analysts see the crackdown on hundreds of dissidents and human rights activists starting in February as caused by fears over a possible Chinese-styled Jasmine Revolution.

The Shouwang Protestant Church in Beijing is one of the largest house churches on the mainland with nearly 1,000 members. Recently, police evicted them from their usual premises. Yesterday, large numbers of police were deployed near the building in the Zhongguancun area where the Shouwang church planned to worship.

As soon as worshippers began arriving, police shoved them into buses and took them to different police stations for interrogation. Most were still in custody late into the night.

The same happened a week ago when after police detained 169 worshippers of the same Church, and held them overnight.

Last Saturday night, Rev Jin Tianming was taken away by police and interrogated for nearly 12 hours. Rev Li Xiaobai and his wife were also detained Saturday night and held for a few hours. Rev Zhang Xiaofeng was also briefly taken into custody. Both Revs Li and Jin are now under house arrest.

Jin said that his Church bought a 1,500-square-metre office space in a commercial building for 27 million yuan, but the property's management was pressured by the authorities not to hand it over, even though the church had paid in full.

The Church had applied for recognition in 2006 but has not yet received an answer.

“We are accused of gathering illegally,” a member of the congregation said. However, ““This won’t stop until we have an indoor site for congregation,” another member said.

It is not yet clear whether those in detention will be released. Last Sunday, those who had been arrested were forced to sign a statement pledging not to pray in public again.

In the past, the Shouwang Church had already been thrown out of its premises, forcing its members to pray in parks and other public places. However, no one was ever arrested for that.

Also on Saturday night, police detained Rev Zhang Guangxia, who heads another Shouwang congregation in Zuozhuang, Shandong. Similary, Rev Zhang Qingan and three members of his congregation were arrested yesterday for handing out religious brochures.

China’s counts tens of millions of Protestants, mostly affiliated with unregistered house churches.

The authorities demand they all join the Three Autonomies Movement, a Protestant organisation controlled by the Communist Party; however, only about 20 million have done so. Another 50 (some say 100) million have preferred to join underground churches.

Given the fact that the Shouwang Church is one of the largest and better known of the underground churches, many fear that the persecution against smaller churches is probably even more intense.

Likewise, experts note that since many Christians are also human rights activists or supporters, the authorities have made a great effort to prevent any convergence between religious faith and human rights protection.


CATH NEWS REPORT: More than 800 people attended lectures and workshops on over 40 topics related to marriage and family life last weekend in the Third National Catholic Family Gathering in Melbourne, the Archdiocese of Melbourne said in a media release.

"For it is only when the couple together open their hearts to love," he said "a love that always opens it arms in forgiveness, the unfailing forgiveness which we recall on this Passion Sunday, that they open themselves to receive all of the richness offered to them in the sacrament of marriage."The Secretary to the Pontifical Council for the family, Bishop Jean Laffitte, who delivered the closing address on April 17, encouraged those gathered to take the love of Christ in all its dimensions, as the only sure foundation and hope for the family.

"It is clear too" he said "that it is only amid this love, open as it is to the creative, life giving power of God, that the families on which a society depends, can flourish."

Pope Benedict XVI had also sent a video message offering his blessing to the delegates and assuring them of his prayers.

Matthew MacDonald from the Melbourne Archdiocese Life, Marriage and Family Office which was responsible for coordinating the event said: "As Christians, we can at times feel isolated by a culture which does not always provide the fertile soil in which families might flourish.

"But in allowing ourselves to be moulded by Christ's love, trusting in his faithfulness and with the encouragement of so many like-minded sisters and brothers here with us, how could we have anything but great hope for the future?" he concluded.


AGENZIA FIDES REPORT: "At the end of the celebration of the Holy Mass, I found about ten Muslim Libyan women at the back of the church . This is the first time in 40 years of celebrations in Libya. They came crying into the sacristy. Many of them knew some Catholic nuns " said Archbishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, Vicar Apostolic of Tripoli to Fides.
"These women continually repeated, 'Father, please, stop with war, with bombs. They have destroyed our family, and social life, children no longer go to school. We are devastated”. Then they told me what is happening in Misurata ". They told me continues Bishop Martinelli-that women are raped and mutilated, families are trapped in homes. "You have no idea what is happening there”, said these women .
"I reported these facts to a workshop via phone organized by the European External Action Service where other people participated, some Libyans living in Europe and Egypt. There was some discussion as how to bring humanitarian aid to Libya after the end of the conflict. I repeated that we must first find a way to end the war”, says the Vicar Apostolic of Tripoli.
Archbishop Martinelli adds that "as we wrote in the document of the Christian communities in Libya (see Fides 13/04/2011), we should exploit tribal relations. Gheddafi has had the merit of having reunified the various libyan tribes . In our statement we suggest involving the "elders" (the wise men, the elderly) to find the path of dialogue between the different components of the libyan society”.
" A form of diplomacy that respects the reality of Libya is needed. In this sense, I appreciated the position of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, that re
jected, in the last meeting, the use of force and reaffirmed the need for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Libya). It seems very wise because it gives priority to diplomatic action on the use of force " concludes Bishop Martinelli.


St. Apollonius the Apologist


Feast: April 18

Martyr whose Apologia or defense of the faith, is called one of the most priceless documents of the early Church. Apollonius was a Roman senator who was denounced as a Christian by one of his slaves. The Praetorian prefect, Sextus Tigidius Perenis, arrested him, also putting the slave to death as an informer. Perennis demanded that Apollonius denounce the faith, and when he refused, the case was remanded to the Roman senate. There a debate took place between Perennis and Apollonius that clearly outlines the beauty and the value of Christianity. Despite his eloquent defense, Apollonius was condemned and beheaded.



St. Apollonius the Apologist


Feast: April 18

Martyr whose Apologia or defense of the faith, is called one of the most priceless documents of the early Church. Apollonius was a Roman senator who was denounced as a Christian by one of his slaves. The Praetorian prefect, Sextus Tigidius Perenis, arrested him, also putting the slave to death as an informer. Perennis demanded that Apollonius denounce the faith, and when he refused, the case was remanded to the Roman senate. There a debate took place between Perennis and Apollonius that clearly outlines the beauty and the value of Christianity. Despite his eloquent defense, Apollonius was condemned and beheaded.


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