POPE’S 85th BIRTHDAY
Bavarian bishops, the minister-president of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, and a 150-person regional government delegation visited Benedict XVI today in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.
They were accompanied by a small Bavarian band, three female singers and 10 children who danced the skirt-swirling, shoe-stomping, thigh-slapping Schuhplattler before the pontiff. The Pope’s 88-year-old brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, also attended the festivities as did representatives from the Lutheran Church and the Jewish community in Bavaria.
The delegation presented the Pope with gifts of a wooden crucifix sculpted by a well-known 18th-century Bavarian woodcarver, Ignaz Gunther, and a large Easter basket filled with traditional cakes, dark bread, ham and painted eggs.
Among the guests were all seven of Bavaria’s Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising and his predecessor, Cardinal Friedrich Wetter.
At the end of the celebration, everyone, including Pope Benedict, sang the Bavarian state anthem.
Earlier in the day, the Pope celebrated a private Mass in the Pauline Chapel with his Bavarian guests and Vatican officials.
“PRAYER IS NEEDED DURING CRISIS”
When a community is faced with crisis, persecution and trouble, it should come together in prayer for strength from God, not formulate strategic plans to defend itself from difficulties, Benedict XVI said during his weekly general audience.
Thousands of pilgrims sang “Happy Birthday” when a Bavarian band struck up the tune, and smaller groups of the 22,000 people present sang or shouted “Happy Birthday” in their native languages.
“I ask that you always support me with your prayers so that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I may persevere in my service to Christ and the Church,” the Pope said.
During his main audience talk, Pope Benedict continued his cycle of talks on prayer and looked at how the early Christian community prayed when the apostles Peter and John were released after being arrested for teaching in the name of Jesus.
VATICAN ANNOUNCES REFORMS OF US SISTERS’ GROUP
Citing “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life,” the Vatican announced a major reform of an association of women’s religious congregations in the U.S. to ensure their fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle will provide “review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Vatican announced. The archbishop will be assisted by Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, and Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., and draw on the advice of fellow bishops, women religious and other experts.
The announcement from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith came in an eight-page “doctrinal assessment,” based on an investigation that Bishop Blair began on behalf of the Vatican in April 2008. That investigation led the doctrinal congregation to conclude, in January 2011, that “the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern, also given the influence the LCWR exercises on religious congregations in other parts of the world.”
The LCWR was founded in 1956 as the Conference of Major Superiors of Women after the Vatican’s Congregation for Religious asked U.S. sisters to form a national conference. The organization changed its name in 1971 to the Leadership Conference for Women Religious.
“CATHOLIC COMMUNICATORS MUST OBEY CHURCH TEACHING”
Church communicators have an important and serious duty to obey Church teaching and defend the Church’s mission of saving souls and safeguarding truth, U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court, said.
Cardinal Raymond L. Burke was one of dozens of speakers at a biennial seminar for people who work in the field of media and communications for dioceses, religious institutions and other Church organizations. Sponsored by Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, the April 16-18 seminar focused on ways the Church could better portray the essence and vitality of the Christian faith.
Cardinal Burke, who is a canon lawyer, focused his talk on the importance of canon law in protecting the integrity of the Church’s mission and its members.
“HOLY SPIRIT INSPIRES CHURCH’S INTERPRETATION OF BIBLE”
The Catholic Church’s understanding of the Bible grows over time, thanks to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and to reflection, study, prayer and preaching, the Pope said in a message to members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, an international group of scholars who advise the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The commission met at the Vatican April 16-20 to continue its discussion and study of “inspiration and truth in the Bible.”
While the act of revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle, Pope Benedict said, “the revealed word continues to be proclaimed and interpreted by the living tradition of the Church. For this reason, the word of God fixed in the sacred texts is not an immobile deposit within the Church, but becomes the supreme rule of its faith.”
POPE ASKS U.S. DONORS TO PRAY FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Meeting a group of major U.S. donors to Catholic charitable works, Benedict XVI asked them to pray “for the freedom of Christians to proclaim the Gospel and bring its light to the urgent moral issues of our time.”
The pontiff met with about 80 members of the Papal Foundation, who presented him with an $8.5-million donation that will be used to fund scholarships and 105 Catholic projects in close to 50 countries.
The projects include the construction of five schools in Egypt, where Christian leaders and human rights activists have been concerned about ensuring religious freedom as the country transitions to a democratic government.
Pope Benedict also paid tribute to the “historic role played by women in building up the Church in America,” as exemplified by Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha and Blessed Marianne Cope, two North Americans who will be canonized in October.
Pope Benedict thanked members of the Papal Foundation for their support for the Church’s work in evangelization, education and development.
POPE NAMES CARDINALS TO VATICAN CONGREGATIONS, COUNCILS
Benedict XVI named:
— Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington as a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Fait;
—U.S. Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, which supports the pastoral and educational work of the Church in the Holy Land, was named to the congregations for Eastern Churches and for Catholic Education, as well as to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable giving;
— Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who was tapped by the Pope to lead the College of Cardinals in a daylong discussion of the new evangelization Feb. 17, was named a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, as well as being named a member of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications;
— Cardinal Thomas C. Collins of Toronto was named a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education, which supports and guides the work of Catholic schools, universities and seminaries. He was also named a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
“PREPARE KIDS FOR FIRST COMMUNION WITH ZEAL, MODERATION”
The Pope urged “priests, parents and catechists to prepare for this feast of faith well, with great fervor but also with sobriety.”
“For many of the faithful, this day continues to be memorable as the moment when, even if in a rudimentary way, they first came to understand the importance of a personal encounter with Jesus,” Benedict XVI said, quoting from his 2007 document on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis (“The Sacrament of Charity”).
The pontiff stressed the importance of First Communion and prayed that Mary would help everyone listen to God’s word with greater attention and “take part worthily” in Communion in order to become “witnesses of the new humanity.”
“CHARITY, SOCIAL JUSTICE MUST BE COUPLED WITH PRAYER”
Without contemplating and internalizing God’s word daily, one risks being suffocated by too heavy a workload and one’s heart risks hardening to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, he said.
“Charity and justice are not just social action but are spiritual action realized in the light of the Holy Spirit,” he said during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square. It was attended by more than 20,000 pilgrims from all over the world, including members of the U.S. Catholic Health Association and the Ascension Health Alliance.
Continuing a series of talks on Christian prayer, the Pope highlighted Chapter 6 of the Acts of the Apostles, which recounts how the early Christian community decided to call forth “seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom” to be dedicated to charitable action so the apostles could continue to dedicate themselves to prayer and proclaiming the word of God.
Greeting families of road-accident victims, the Pope said his prayers are with “all those who have lost their lives on the road,” and he said people have “the duty to always drive prudently and responsibly.”
A delegation from the U.S. Catholic Health Association, led by its president and CEO, Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan, was in Rome along with members of Ascension Health, a St. Louis-based alliance of Catholic health care systems.
“DON’T LET FEAR, SEARCH FOR THE SUPERFICIAL DEAFEN GOD’S CALL”
“Let us pray that all young people pay attention to the voice of God, who speaks to their hearts and calls them to detach themselves from everything in order to serve him,” Benedict XVI said April 29 — the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
Before praying the Regina Coeli with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said, “The Lord is always calling us, but very often we don’t listen.”
“We are distracted by many things, by other voices that are more superficial and because we are afraid to listen to the Lord’s voice because we think that it can take away our freedom.” he said.
Earlier in the day, Pope Benedict ordained nine new priests in St. Peter’s Basilica; one of the priests will serve the diocese of Bui Chu in Vietnam, while the others — who come from Italy, the Ivory Coast and Colombia — will serve in the diocese of Rome.
“QUEST FOR PEACE MUST ALSO BE QUEST FOR TRUTH”
The quest for justice and peace will bear fruit only if it’s also a quest for the truth about the human person, created by God and “endowed with intelligence and freedom, capable of knowing and loving,” Benedict XVI said in a message to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
Academy members were meeting at the Vatican April 27-May 1 to discuss progress in the global search for peace and justice in view of the 50th anniversary of Blessed John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical, Pacem in Terris.
Pope Benedict said that while the world has changed significantly in the past 50 years, “Pope John’s encyclical was and is a powerful summons to engage in that creative dialogue between the Church and the world, between believers and nonbelievers, which the Second Vatican Council set out to promote.”
“PRIESTS MUST LIVE HOLY LIVES TO BE EFFECTIVE MINISTERS”
In its annual letter to priests for 2012, the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy focused on Blessed John Paul II’s 2002 Holy Thursday letter to clergy, in which the late pontiff responded to the growing revelations and scandal of sexual abuse of minors by priests.
The Congregation’s letter also gave priests a guideline for examining their consciences concerning everything from how they celebrate Mass to how well they are living a pure, humble and generous life detached from consumerism.
Signed by the Congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, and secretary, Archbishop Celso Morga Iruzubieta, the letter was dated March 26 and was recently published on the Congregation’s website.
The letter marks the annual World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, celebrated in many dioceses June 15 — the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In addition to the letter, the Congregation for Clergy also published Scripture passages and reflections from Popes, saints and theologians, and St. Faustina Kowalska’s “Prayer for the Holy Church and for Priests,” which asks God to protect clergy “from the devil’s traps and snares.”
POPE’S DONATION TO ORDINARIATE IN ENGLAND, WALES
Benedict XVI donated $250,000 to the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham to help support its clergy and work.
The gift “is a clear sign of (the Pope’s) personal commitment to the work of Christian unity and the special place the ordinariate holds in his heart,” said Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Vatican nuncio to Great Britain.
Pope Benedict established the ordinariate to welcome former Anglicans into the Catholic Church. The structure provided a way for entire Anglican parishes or groups to become Catholic while retaining some of their Anglican heritage and liturgical practice.
Our Lady of Walsingham was the first ordinariate to be created after the Pope issued his apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus in 2009.
U.S. BISHOPS OFFER PRAYERS FOR WORKERS, FAMILIES
A group of U.S. bishops began their ad limina visits to Rome praying for workers and for families.
The bishops of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming concelebrated Mass in the Basilica of St. Mary Major May 1, marking the beginning of the month traditionally devoted to Mary, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker and the Workers’ Day public holiday in Italy and many other countries.
Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, New Mexico, the main celebrant and homilist at the Mass, said that on the holiday, “our thoughts turn to workers everywhere. We should pray for workers today, especially those who are having a difficult time in their job, for those who are not paid a just wage or a living wage, for those single moms who try to raise their children” by working both outside and inside the home.
“CLOSENESS TO GOD GIVES STRENGTH TO WITHSTAND EVERYTHING”
St. Stephen, who was accused of blasphemy and stoned to death, upheld the faith and gave witness to Christ as the righteous one proclaimed by the prophets, the Pope said during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Continuing his catechesis on Christian prayer, Benedict XVI focused on St. Stephen, who was “accused of saying that Jesus would destroy the temple and the customs handed down by Moses.”
VATICAN STRENGTHENS OVERSIGHT OF CARITAS INTERNATIONALIS
A Vatican decree established new statutes and norms for Caritas Internationalis, giving Vatican offices, including the secretariat of state, greater authority over the work of the Vatican-based umbrella group of Catholic aid agencies.
The decree strengthens the roles Vatican offices and the Pope play in working with the charity confederation, including naming and approving new board members and approving its texts, contracts with foreign governments and financial transactions.
It also creates a special “support commission” of legal, technical and organizational experts named by the Pope to help the organization follow the new norms as well as canon law and the laws of Vatican City State concerning the procurement and distribution of aid and employment of workers. At least three members of Caritas’ board will be papal appointees, and Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Bernard Hebda of Gaylord, Michigan, as one of them.
“WORK SHOULD HELP, NOT HINDER, FAMILY LIFE”
Work should not be an obstacle to the family, the Pope said, “but rather should support and unite it, help it to open itself to life” and interact with society and the Church.
Pope Benedict also expressed his hope that Sundays would be respected by employers as “a day of rest and an occasion to reinforce family ties.” In his main audience talk, the pontiff looked at prayer in the biblical letters of St. Paul. The New Testament letters, he said, include prayers of thanksgiving, praise, petition and intercession, demonstrating how prayer is appropriate for every occasion in life.
At the end of his weekly general audience, Pope Benedict noted how the United Nations chose “family and work” as the focus of the 2012 International Day of Families, which was celebrated May 15.