IMPRISONED CLERGY “‘DAMAGING FOR CHINA’”
In an interview published by AsiaNews, a Rome-based missionary news agency, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, called on Beijing to release nine arrested Catholic bishops and priests, saying their continued detention “damages China’s international image.”
“We need to pray for these bishops and priests … but we must also appeal to those who are holding” them, Archbishop Hon said, endorsing a public campaign recently launched by AsiaNews.
The government’s refusal to acknowledge the Church leaders’ detention shows that the priests and bishops “disappeared for religious reasons,” Archbishop Hon said. “If these people have done something wrong, please send them to court, not to prison or isolation.”
ON CHRISTIAN DIVISIONS
Divisions among Christians, including on moral issues, weakens their credibility and their ability to respond to the spiritual yearning of many men and women today, Benedict XVI said at his weekly general audience.
During his audience talk, Pope Benedict did not mention specific practical or moral issues dividing Christians today, but he has defined as obstacles to unity practices such as the ordination of women and different approaches to moral issues such as homosexuality.
The Second Vatican Council placed the search for Christian unity “at the center of the life and work of the Church,” the Pope said, and it did so because it was Christ’s desire for his followers and because, practically speaking, it is essential for the full credibility of Christians.
The key to Christian unity isn’t simply to have members of different denominations be nice to one another and work together occasionally, he said.
“It requires that we reinforce our faith in God, the God of Jesus Christ, who spoke to us and became one of us. It requires entering into a new life in Christ, who is our true and definitive victory. It means opening ourselves to each other, welcoming all the elements of unity that God has preserved for us and gives us constantly. It means feeling the urgency of witnessing to the men and women of our time the living God who has made himself known in Christ,” Pope Benedict said.
“AGREEMENT AMONG CHRISTIANS ON ETHICAL QUESTIONS”
In a meeting with an ecumenical group of Catholic and Lutheran leaders from Finland, Benedict XVI said Christians of all denominations should come to agreement on ethical matters, especially regarding human life, family and sexuality.
He urged coming together to reach “a profound agreement” on anthropological questions so that society and policy-makers could be guided in their decisions regarding the important areas of human behavior, the role of the family and sexuality.
An ecumenical delegation sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland comes to Rome each year on the feast of St. Henrik, the patron saint of Finland.
The Pope said the annual visit was a testament to “the growth of communion among Christian traditions represented in your country” and that he hoped for deepening relations between Lutherans and Catholics in Finland.
“SILENCE IS KEY INGREDIENT TO MEANINGFUL COMMUNICATION”
“Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God,” Benedict XVI said in his message for the 2012 celebration of World Communications Day.
“In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives,” he said.
The theme of this year’s World Communications Day — marked in most dioceses the Sunday before Pentecost, this year May 20 — is “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization.” The papal message was released on the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers, Jan. 24.
VATICAN SIGNS TREATIES AGAINST DRUG TRADE, ORGANIZED CRIME, TERRORISM
The Vatican has signed three international treaties supporting the fight against the illegal drug trade, financing terrorism and organized crime.
The Vatican “confirms its intention as well as its effective and practical commitment to collaborate with the international community in a manner consistent with its nature and mission, with a view to guaranteeing international peace and justice,” wrote Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican secretary for relations with states.
“CHRISTIANITY, RELIGION RISK OBLIVION IN MANY PARTS OF WORLD”
“Across vast areas of the earth, faith runs the danger of extinguishing like a flame that runs out of fuel,” the Pope said.
Benedict XVI said the renewal of faith has to be a priority for all members of the Church and said he hoped the upcoming Year of Faith, starting in October, would further such effort.
The pontiff made this remark during a meeting with about 70 officials, members and consultants of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office he led for more than 20 years before being elected Pope.
“It would be important to talk about these issues with only one voice, drawing on the foundation in Scripture and in the Church’s living tradition” so as to discover God’s logic and plan for creation, he said.
By defending the foundational values of the faith and Church tradition, “we defend man, we defend creation,” the Pope said.
POPE PRAYS FOR PEACE AND….
“Mamma mia,” Benedict XVI said as a dove flew over his head and back into his apartment after he and two Italian school children released the bird as a symbol of peace.
The Pope and representatives of the Italian Catholic Action children’s section release doves during the Sunday Angelus address in late January each year.
Some 2,000 children between the ages of 4 and 14 walked in procession down the boulevard leading to St. Peter’s Square carrying homemade banners calling for peace in the world and peace within their families and schools.
During his Angelus address, Pope Benedict also marked World Leprosy Day and the international day of prayer for peace in the Holy Land.
In his brief remarks about World Leprosy Day, the pontiff not only prayed for those with Hansen’s disease and their caregivers, but he also called for a greater commitment “to eliminate poverty and marginalization, the true causes” of the disease’s continued spread.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER
“Only by conforming one’s own will to the divine does the human person reach his true greatness — becomes divine,” Benedict XVI said. Only by shedding one’s own interests and goals for God’s does humanity obtain what everyone wants: “to be completely free,” the Pope said.
Speaking at his weekly general audience, Pope Benedict continued his catechesis on prayer by highlighting Jesus’ intense prayer to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The pontiff asked that people grow closer to Christ day by day and follow God’s will, even if to do so entails great pain and sacrifice, so that “a little bit of God’s heaven is brought to earth.”
THE QUALITY OF RELIGIOUS LIFE
Strengthening one’s relationship with God must be the highest priority and most defining quality of religious life, Benedict XVI said, celebrating vespers with members of religious orders on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life.
In his homily during the evening service in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Benedict said the day was also an important occasion for religious to “renew your intentions and rekindle the feelings that inspire the giving of yourselves to God.”
He said he hoped the Year of Faith that starts in October would be a fruitful time for inner renewal, which is always needed, and for growing closer to God.
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, he said, will help promote and make suggestions for the special year “so that all consecrated men and women will pursue, with enthusiasm, the new evangelization.”
CONFERENCE ON CLERICAL SEXUAL ABUSE
The conference, “Toward Healing and Renewal,” launched a global initiative aimed at improving efforts to stop clerical sexual abuse and better protect children and vulnerable adults. The Feb. 6-9 symposium was held at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and is supported by the Vatican secretariat of state and several other Vatican offices.
Canada’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and ten other bishops led a solemn penitential service Feb. 7 at St. Ignatius Church in Rome to show contrition for clerical sexual abuse. At the service bishops asked forgiveness for failing to protect children and serving instead as an “instrument of evil against them.”
“LENT IS TIME TO HELP OTHERS SPIRITUALLY, MATERIALLY”
In his Lenten message, Benedict XVI called on the faithful to be concerned for one another and “not to remain isolated and indifferent” to the fate of others.
The annual Lenten message was presented during a Vatican news conference by Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the office which handles the Pope’s charitable giving, along with Msgr. Segundo Tejado Munoz, the council’s undersecretary.
The cardinal highlighted the Pope’s call for “fraternal correction” and the Church’s prophetic mission in denouncing situations of injustice and poverty in the world.
The theme of the 2012 Lenten message was taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews: “Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works.”
“GOD NEVER ABANDONS PEOPLE”
“Faced with difficult and painful situations, when God seems not to hear us, we must not be afraid to give him all of the weight we carry in our heart; we should not be afraid to cry out to him about our suffering,” Benedict XVI said.
Speaking at his weekly general audience, Pope Benedict continued his catechesis on prayer by highlighting Christ’s prayer from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
HONG KONG CARDINAL WARNS OF “SCHISM” WITHIN CHURCH IN CHINA
Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun warned that the Chinese Catholic Church is “on the verge of a schism” between communities cooperating with government structures and those who refuse to register with government authorities, and he called on the Vatican and other Catholics to shun “organisms that are not only foreign but clearly hostile to the Church” in China.
Cardinal Zen, retired bishop of Hong Kong, made his comments in an article published Feb. 8 by Asia News, a missionary news agency based in Rome.
POPE SAYS WORLD MUST HELP AFRICANS IN SAHEL
Benedict XVI urged the international community to address the problems of poverty and malnutrition in Africa’s Sahel region.
“The Sahel was seriously threatened again in recent months by a notable decrease in food resources and by famine caused by a lack of rain and the resulting increase in desertification,” the Pope told members of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel.
The Sahel is a region of semi-arid grassland and desert south of the Sahara Desert.
In 1980, following his first visit to Africa, Blessed John Paul II founded the Sahel foundation to combat desertification in Africa.
POPE CALLS ON SYRIA TO ADDRESS CITIZENS’ LEGITIMATE DEMANDS
As a sectarian conflict in Syria intensified, Benedict XVI called on all Syrians to begin a process of dialogue and reminded the government of its duty to recognize its citizens’ legitimate demands.
In St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, the Pope expressed his concern for “the dramatic and increasing episodes of violence in Syria.”
At the end of his Angelus prayer, he said he was praying for everyone who has been killed, injured and affected by a conflict that is “increasingly worrisome.”
POPE SAYS NO FUTURE WITHOUT CHILDREN
Benedict XVI called on governments and communities to help large families, saying children represent hope and the well-being of every nation.
“There is no future without children,” he said at the end of his general audience Feb. 15 in a greeting to members of an Italian association of large families.
In his catechesis, the Pope continued a series of talks on prayer by highlighting some of Jesus’ prayers during his crucifixion.