"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
The Mentally Ill Need Christ And Humanity
World Youth Day Focuses On God's Word
IN DEFENSE OF LIFE: The Ultimate Issue
Scientists' Work Leads Them To Touch "The Hand of God"
Church In Sudan Witnesses For Christ
Pray The News
The 14th World Day of the Sick focused on the needs of the mentally ill and was held on February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Cardinal Javier Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, represented Pope Benedict XVI at celebrations of the Day in Australia. His homily at the Mass for this day follows:
". . .Mental illness is alas growing very fast in the world. It is reported that there are about 500 million people with mental disturbances.
"There are many and varied causes at the origin of the illness: among the most important we find the negation of God and ethical-religious relativism, the crisis of reference values, hedonism and materialism, the technological culture closed in on itself, the exasperation of desires produced by this culture, the pursuit of the impossible, the religious and cultural conflict, and the magic ritualism of several religious sects.
"As major risk situations, one notes the precarious means of subsistence, work, formation, and education, the lack of help networks, alienation of human rights, exclusion and marginalization, terrorism and wars, lack of the education of sentimental life, the process of alienation of reality, the negative conditions of the environmental, lack of social protection, corruption, inequality between the male and female roles, absence of parents, separation and divorce, loss of the value of the marriage institution, lack of communication and time to stay together in the family, immaturity of the father and mother figures, the undue delegation of parents' responsibility to third persons or institutes, the weakness of the life project, the inadequate preparation for married life, conflicts between parents and their children and the aggressive and violent behavior.
"According to the indications of the Holy Father . . ., we must in our approaches underline the inviolable dignity of the mentally-ill people and do everything possible to protect it at the cultural, institutional, family, and individual levels.
" At the cultural level, protecting the inviolable dignity of the mentally ill means going to the root of the problem. It means attending to the system of values. Since mental illness is a disequilibrium, any distortion in the system of values that sustain a person generates personal disequilibrium.
"In a simple paradigm of reference assumed by contemporary Global Ethics, which is produced by mere consensus of the majority, we cannot arrive at the desired equilibrium. The reason is that this paradigm must always change according to the mutability of the majority consensus. It is well-known that this consensus easily changes and is often manipulated by the mass media.
"Instead, we need a firm and balanced system founded on an objective ethics. This ethics must be rooted in the satisfaction of the person's true necessities and not determined by the whim of desires. This objective ethics is in the heart of each person and leads one to insert himself in a vital and creative order that improves it day by day.
"Since due to the disorderly presentation of the fundamental drives this order is sometimes not very clear in the heart, there is need for a further enlightenment that helps to lead the personality towards a true satisfaction of one's necessities. We Christians know that this enlightenment is the divine Revelation, which we receive gratuitously from God.
"The Holy Father exhorts the leaders of different religions in the world to protect the mentally-ill people. One profound way of doing this is by strengthening the above-mentioned system of values, especially in front of the present growing secularization. As we said already, in this secularization the only remaining support for a personal life is the changing ethical paradigm, whose instability is determined by the frequently manipulated consensus of the majority.
"Mental-health professionals have an important role to play here. Above all, something they must take as fundamental to the exercise of their profession is having the best possible psychic equilibrium, and therefore they must be firmly anchored in an objective system of values. Mental illness in a particular way involves the whole person, and in a large proportion its cure does not depend on drugs alone, but on the personal relationship between the patient and the healer.
"The dependence of the mentally-ill person on the health professional is particularly strong; therefore, any disequilibrium affecting the health professional disqualifies him as such, because his profession is directed to achieve the equilibrium of the patient.
"The Holy Father also recommended that I exhort government leaders to protect the dignity of the mentally-ill people. We hope that we have now exceeded the dehumanizing practices used in the past in the treatment of mentally-sick persons. They were cruel methods that absolutely ignored the dignity of the mentally ill, who were often treated as if they were not human beings.
"We also hope that the practice in some countries of classifying those with a different political opinion as insane, is something of the past. In order to institutionally protect the dignity of the mentally-sick people, according to the development and proven achievements of psychiatric medicine, it is necessary that appropriate legislation be promoted and applied all over the world, especially regarding the hospitalization of mentally-sick people.
"Since one of the prime causes of psychological imbalance is the family disequilibrium, the protection of the dignity of the mentally-sick person should have its cradle in the family itself. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world we observe today the disintegration of the family. We must insist on a program for the stability of the family, which ought to proceed from a serious, adequate, and profound preparation for marriage. We have to strengthen the family. There is need to achieve in the family a serene, realistic, joyful, and loving understanding between spouses, their children, relatives, and the extended family, and the community in which they live. Consolidating a total and indissoluble stability of the marriage will provide the right equilibrium that will be the best prevention for mental illness of a family member.
"For us Christians, it is obvious that the true sense of life is only Christ, dead and risen, and at the center of the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love, Who led Christ through the redemptive death, and with Christ leads all of us to our Heavenly Father.
"In this World Day of the Sick we have the opportunity to proclaim that at the center of prevention and care of the mentally-ill person there is Love. Only with the loving understanding of the Holy Spirit that 'heals who is sick,' can we prevent any mental disequilibrium and heal it when it presents itself. It is truly a crucified love, because it makes us identify with the disequilibrium in order to balance it.
"With the Holy Spirit we reach the equilibrium of the Cross of Christ. It is very painful, but it is the only way to the Resurrection. It is only with this kind of Love that we can come out of the obscure tunnel of mental illness.
"In this regard Pope Benedict XVI, in his first Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est, says that: 'The Spirit, in fact, is that interior power which harmonizes (the hearts of the believers) with Christ's heart and moves them to love their brethren as Christ loved them, when He bent down to wash the feet of the disciples (cf. Jn 13:1-13) and above all when He gave His life for us (cf. Jn 13:1,15:13). The Spirit is also the energy which transforms the heart of the Ecclesial Community, so that it becomes a witness before the world to the love of the Father, Who wishes to make humanity a single family in His Son' (n. 19).
"In fact, 'individuals who care for those in need must first be professionally competent: they should be properly trained in what to do and how to do it, and committed to continuing care. Yet, while professional competence is a primary, fundamental requirement, it is not of itself sufficient. We are dealing with human beings, and human beings always need something more than technically proper care. They need humanity. They need heartfelt concern. Those who work for the Church's charitable organizations must be distinguished by the fact that they do not merely meet the needs of the moment, but they dedicate themselves to others with heartfelt concern, enabling them to experience the richness of their humanity. Consequently, in addition to their necessary professional training, these charity workers need a "formation of the heart": they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others. As a result, love of neighbor will no longer be for them a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love (cf. Gal 5:6)' (ibid., n. 31).
"Today, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, health of the sick. When a mentally-sick person feels the affectionate maternal hand of Our Lady that helps and protects him, the world ceases to be hostile for him, he feels himself sure and full of happiness.
"Today, we implore Our Mother Mary, health of the sick, to place all mentally-ill people in the world under her maternal protection, so that she may console them, enliven them, give them confidence and trust, strength and happiness. May she confirm us in an outstanding fraternal solidarity with our afflicted brothers and sisters who unite with the suffering Christ in the depth of their souls.
"Finally, it is my pleasure to assure all of you of the Blessing of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, who, though in the Vatican, is spiritually present, united in prayer with us in this beautiful Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier, of the Archdiocese of Adelaide in Australia, and in this wonderful continent of Oceania."
In 2006, World Youth Day will be celebrated on Palm Sunday, April 9. Pope Benedict XV's message for the day was issued on February 22, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. His message follows:
"It is with great joy that I greet you as you prepare for the 21st World Youth Day, and I relive the memory of those enriching experiences we had in August last year in Germany. World Youth Day this year will be celebrated in the local Churches, and it will be a good opportunity to rekindle the flame of enthusiasm that was awakened in Cologne and which many of you have brought to your families, parishes, associations, and movements. At the same time, it will be a wonderful chance to invite many of your friends to join the young generation's spiritual pilgrimage towards Christ.
"The theme that I suggest to you is a verse from Psalm 119 : 'Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path' (v. 105). Our dearly loved John Paul II commented on that verse of the psalm as follows: 'The one who prays pours out his thanks for the Law of God that he adopts as a lamp for his steps in the often dark path of Life' (General Audience, Wednesday, November 14, 2001). God reveals Himself in history. He speaks to humankind, and the word He speaks has creative power. The Hebrew concept 'dabar,' usually translated as 'word,' really conveys both the meaning of word and act. God says what He does and does what He says. The Old Testament announces to the Children of Israel the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of a 'new' covenant; in the Word made flesh He fulfills His promise. This is clearly specified in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: 'Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father's one, perfect, and unsurpassable Word. In Him He has said everything; there will be no other word than this one' (n. 65). The Holy Spirit Who has led the chosen people by inspiring the authors of the Sacred Scriptures, opens the hearts of believers to understand their meaning. This same Spirit is actively present in the Eucharistic celebration when the priest, 'in persona Christi,' says the words of consecration, changing the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, for the spiritual nourishment of the faithful. In order to progress on our earthly pilgrimage towards the heavenly Kingdom, we all need to be nourished by the word and the bread of eternal Life, and these are inseparable from one another!
"The Apostles received the word of salvation and passed it on to their successors as a precious gem kept safely in the jewel box of the Church: without the Church, this pearl runs the risk of being lost or destroyed. My dear young friends, love the word of God and love the Church, and this will give you access to a treasure of very great value and will teach you how to appreciate its richness. Love and follow the Church, for it has received from its Founder the mission of showing people the way to true happiness. It is not easy to recognize and find authentic happiness in this world in which we live, where people are often held captive by the current ways of thinking. They may think they are 'free,' but they are being led astray and become lost amid the errors or illusions of aberrant ideologies. 'Freedom itself needs to be set free' (cf the encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 86), and the darkness in which humankind is groping needs to be illuminated. Jesus taught us how this can be done: 'If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free' (Jn 8:31-32). The incarnate Word, Word of Truth, makes us free and directs our freedom towards the good. My dear young friends, meditate often on the word of God, and allow the Holy Spirit to be your teacher. You will then discover that God's way of thinking is not the same as that of humankind's. You will find yourselves led to contemplate the real God and to read the events of history through His eyes. You will savor in fullness the joy that is born of truth. On life's journey, which is neither easy nor free of deceptions, you will meet difficulties and suffering and at times you will be tempted to exclaim with the psalmist: 'I am severely afflicted' (Ps 119 . v. 107). Do not forget to add as the psalmist did: 'give me life, O Lord, according to Your word. . .I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget Your law' (ibid. vv. 107; 109). The loving presence of God, through His word, is the lamp that dispels the darkness of fear and lights up the path even when times are most difficult.
"The author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote: 'Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart' (4:12). It is necessary to take seriously the injunction to consider the word of God to be an indispensable 'weapon' in the spiritual struggle. This will be effective and show results if we learn to listen to it and then to obey it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: 'To obey (from the Latin ob-audire, to "hear or listen to") in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself' (n. 144). While Abraham exemplifies this way of listening which is obedience, Solomon in his turn shows himself to be a passionate explorer of the wisdom contained in the Word. When God said to him: 'Ask what I should give you,' the wise king replied: 'Give Your servant therefore an understanding heart' (1 Kings 3:5,9). The secret of acquiring 'an understanding heart' is to train your heart to listen. This is obtained by persistently meditating on the word of God and by remaining firmly rooted in it through the commitment to persevere in getting to know it better.
"My dear young friends, I urge you to become familiar with the Bible, and to have it at hand so that it can be your compass pointing out the road to follow. By reading it, you will learn to know Christ. Note what Saint Jerome said in this regard: 'Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ' (PL 24,17; cf Dei Verbum, 25). A time-honored way to study and savor the word of God is lectio divina which constitutes a real and veritable spiritual journey marked out in stages. After the lectio, which consists of reading and rereading a passage from Sacred Scripture and taking in the main elements, we proceed to meditatio. This is a moment of interior reflection in which the soul turns to God and tries to understand what His word is saying to us today. Then comes oratio in which we linger to talk with God directly. Finally we come to contemplatio. This helps us to keep our hearts attentive to the presence of Christ Whose word is 'a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts' (2 Pt 1:19). Reading, study, and meditation of the Word should then flow into a life of consistent fidelity to Christ and His teachings.
"Saint James tells us: 'Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act - they will be blessed in their doing' (1:22-25). Those who listen to the word of God and refer to it always, are constructing their existence on solid foundations. 'Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and acts on them,' Jesus said, 'will be like a wise man who built his house on rock' (Mt 7:24). It will not collapse when bad weather comes.
"To build your life on Christ, to accept the word with joy and put its teachings into practice: this, young people of the third millennium, should be your program! There is an urgent need for the emergence of a new generation of apostles anchored firmly in the word of Christ, capable of responding to the challenges of our times and prepared to spread the Gospel far and wide. It is this that the Lord asks of you, it is to this that the Church invites you, and it is this that the world – even though it may not be aware of it – expects of you! If Jesus calls you, do not be afraid to respond to Him with generosity, especially when He asks you to follow Him in the consecrated life or in the priesthood. Do not be afraid; trust in Him and you will not be disappointed.
"Dear friends, at the 21st World Youth Day that we will celebrate on April 9. . .Palm Sunday, we will set out, in our hearts, on a pilgrimage towards the world encounter with young people that will take place in Sydney in July 2008. We will prepare for that great appointment reflecting together on the theme The Holy Spirit and the mission in successive stages. This year our attention will focus on the Holy Spirit, Spirit of Truth, Who reveals Christ to us, the Word made flesh, opening the heart of each one to the Word of salvation that leads to the fullness of Truth. Next year, 2007, we will meditate on a verse from the Gospel of John: 'Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another' (13:34). We will discover more about the Holy Spirit, Spirit of Love, Who infuses divine charity within us and makes us aware of the material and spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters. We will finally reach the world meeting of 2008 and its theme will be: 'You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be My witnesses' (Acts 1:8).
"From this moment onwards, my dear young friends, in a climate of constant listening to the word of God, call on the Holy Spirit, Spirit of fortitude and witness, that you may be able to proclaim the Gospel without fear even to the ends of the earth. Our Lady was present in the cenacle with the Apostles as they waited for Pentecost. May she be your mother and guide. May she teach you to receive the word of God, to treasure it and to ponder on it in your heart (cf Lk 2:19) as she did throughout her life. May she encourage you to declare your 'yes' to the Lord as you live 'the obedience of faith.' May she help you to remain strong in the faith, constant in hope, persevering in charity, always attentive to the word of God. I am together with you in prayer, and I bless each one of you with all my heart."
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
As the 2006 elections heat up, there is one issue which keeps demanding a significant amount of attention in all federal and state elections: Abortion. It's been over 33 years since Roe vs. Wade, where the Supreme Court decided "once and for all" that the intentional destruction of unborn children was now a "constitutional right," an act which even state legislators and Congress cannot now prohibit as a hideous crime.
The congressional hearings on the nominations of Judge Roberts and Judge Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court clearly demonstrated how this issue has divided our nation.
What kind of people we will decide to be, what kind of nation we will have, depends, in part, on who is placed in positions of leadership in our federal, state, and local governments. Christians, who have received the faith in Jesus, have the moral obligation to participate in the electoral process, and to base their vote on the Judeo-Christian principle of the sanctity of all human life.
If a candidate agreed with you on every issue, but supported the legalization of slavery or the legalization of child abuse, while arguing he was personally opposed, but he would not impose his morality on others, would you vote for him? Would he disqualify himself from your support and vote regardless of the office he was seeking?
Abortion is the ultimate child abuse. The issue of abortion is the disqualifying issue of our times.
In the U.S., the responsibility for the continuation of abortion on demand rests, in the final analysis, with the voters, especially those to whom God has bestowed the Christian faith and the clear consistent teaching of the Catholic Church. It is on us that the survival of our nation depends. As Pope John Paul II warned:
"This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival – yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn."
Abortion, contraception, human cloning and experimentation, euthanasia, assisted suicide, infanticide, sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., adultery, homosexuality, etc.), are all condemned as intrinsically evil. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sections 2270-2275, 2276-2279, 2292-2295, and 2370.) They are never, under any circumstances, morally permissible.
There are other issues and concerns which Christians need to address, but which are not intrinsically evil. Reasonable minds can differ on how to approach those issues and concerns.
For example, capital punishment, properly administered by the state, is not intrinsically evil. "…The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty…" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 2267-1997, revised edition). Reasonable Christian minds can differ on whether capital punishment should be used by the state, for what serious crimes, and under what safeguards.
Indifference to others, war, the environment, immigration, drugs, and poverty are all issues which need to be concerns of Christians, but Christians can reasonably differ on the approaches to address these issues, the role of government, and the role of Church in relationship to these issues.
Archbishop William J. Levada of San Francisco states: "Catholic social teaching covers a broad range of important issues. But among these the teaching on abortion holds a unique place. …There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war or applying the death penalty, but not with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
Refusing to Defend the Innocent
The unwillingness to draw a clear distinction between core human life issues, which are morally and intrinsically evil, and issues and concerns about which Christians can reasonably and morally differ, is simply a pro-abortion ploy to undercut the Church's opposition to the killing of unborn children by abortion, and is shamefully used by pro-abortion politicians to deceive and confuse.
"The upshot of trying to put abortion, capital punishment, and war in one package, is that it makes chaos of Catholic morals and can lead one to misinterpret God's law so that, at least by omission, he will do what is objectively evil: namely, refuse to defend the innocent," teaches Fr. Richard R. Roach, S.J., Professor of Moral Theology at Marquette University.
While not advocating capital punishment or indifference to other issues, it is important to repudiate the false homogenization of the true core life issues (abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, cloning, human experimentation, and all attacks upon innocent human life) on the one hand, with other issues on which reasonable Christian minds can differ.
Catholic Answers (www.catholic.com) teaches in its publication, "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics": "On most issues that come before voters or legislators, a Catholic can take one side or the other and not act contrary to his faith. Most matters do not have a 'Catholic position.'"
This pamphlet sets forth this simple but critical (and undeniable) distinction between issues which are intrinsically evil and those upon which Catholics may reasonably differ, explaining that there are "five non-negotiable issues," and that "citizens vote in favor of these evils if they vote in favor of candidates who propose to advance them": (1) abortion, (2) euthanasia, (3) fetal (embryonic) stem cell research, (4) human cloning, and (5) homosexual "marriage."
"Candidates who endorse or promote any of the five non-negotiables should be considered to have disqualified themselves from holding public office, and you should not vote for them. You should make your choice from among the remaining candidates."
Pope Benedict XVI addressed members of the 12th General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy For Life on February 27. He reiterated the absolute value of all human life.
The Pope said: ". . . Indeed, the study topic chosen for your Assembly, 'The human embryo in the pre-implantation phase,' that is, in the very first days subsequent to conception, is an extremely important issue today, both because of the obvious repercussions on philosophical-anthropological and ethical thought, and also because of the prospects applicable in the context of the biomedical and juridical sciences.
"It is certainly a fascinating topic, however difficult and demanding it may be, given the delicate nature of the subject under examination and the complexity of the epistemological problems that concern the relationship between the revelation of facts at the level of the experimental sciences and the consequent, necessary anthropological reflection on values.
"As it is easy to see, neither Sacred Scripture nor the oldest Christian Tradition can contain any explicit treatment of your theme. St. Luke, nevertheless, testifies to the active, though hidden, presence of the two infants.
"He recounts the meeting of the Mother of Jesus, who had conceived Him in her virginal womb only a few days earlier, with the mother of John the Baptist, who was already in the sixth month of her pregnancy: 'When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leapt in her womb' (Lk 1:41).
"St. Ambrose comments: Elizabeth 'perceived the arrival of Mary, he (John) perceived the arrival of the Lord; the woman, the arrival of the Woman, the child, the arrival of the Child' (Comm. in Luc. 2:19, 22-26).
"Even in the absence of explicit teaching on the very first days of life of the unborn child, it is possible to find valuable information in Sacred Scripture that elicits sentiments of admiration and respect for the newly conceived human being, especially in those who, like you, are proposing to study the mystery of human procreation.
"The sacred books, in fact, set out to show God's love for every human being even before he has been formed in his mother's womb.
"'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you' (Jer 1:5), God said to the Prophet Jeremiah. And the Psalmist recognizes with gratitude: 'You did form my inward parts, you did knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for you are fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are your works! You know me right well' (Ps 139:13-14).
"These words acquire their full, rich meaning when one thinks that God intervenes directly in the creation of the soul of every new human being.
"God's love does not differentiate between the newly conceived infant still in his or her mother's womb and the child or young person, or the adult and the elderly person. God does not distinguish between them because He sees an impression of His own image and likeness (Gn 1:26) in each one.
"He makes no distinctions because He perceives in all of them a reflection of the face of His only-begotten Son, Whom 'He chose. . .before the foundation of the world. . .He destined us in love to be His sons . . . according to the purpose of His will' (Eph 1:4-6).
"This boundless and almost incomprehensible love of God for the human being reveals the degree to which the human person deserves to be loved in himself, independently of any other consideration – intelligence, beauty, health, youth, integrity, and so forth. In short, human life is always a good, for it 'is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of His presence, a trace of His glory' (Evangelium Vitae, n. 34).
"Indeed, the human person has been endowed with a very exalted dignity, which is rooted in the intimate bond that unites him with his Creator: a reflection of God's own reality shines out in the human person, in every person, whatever the stage or condition of his life.
"Therefore, the Magisterium of the Church has constantly proclaimed the sacred and inviolable character of every human life from its conception until its natural end (cf. ibid., n. 57). This moral judgment also applies to the origins of the life of an embryo even before it is implanted in the mother's womb, which will protect and nourish it for nine months until the moment of birth: 'Human life is sacred and inviolable at every moment of existence, including the initial phase which precedes birth' (ibid., n. 61).
"I know well, dear scholars, with what sentiments of wonder and profound respect for the human being you carry out your demanding and fruitful work of research precisely on the origin of human life itself it is a mystery on whose significance science will be increasingly able to shed light, even if it will be difficult to decipher it completely.
"Indeed, as soon as reason succeeds in overcoming a limit deemed insurmountable, it will be challenged by other limits as yet unknown. Man will always remain a deep and impenetrable enigma.
"In the fourth century, St. Cyril of Jerusalem already offered the following reflection to the catechumens who were preparing to receive Baptism: 'Who prepared the cavity of the womb for the procreation of children? Who breathed life into the inanimate fetus within it? Who knit us together with bones and sinews and clothed us with skin and flesh (cf. Jb 10:11), and as soon as the child is born, causes the breast to produce an abundance of milk? How is it that the child, in growing, becomes an adolescent, and from an adolescent is transformed into a young man, then an adult and finally an old man, without anyone being able to identify the precise day on which the change occurred?'
"And he concluded: 'O Man, you are seeing the Craftsman; you are seeing the wise Creator' (Catechesi Battesimale, 9, 15-16).
"At the beginning of the third millennium these considerations still apply. They are addressed not so much to the physical or physiological phenomenon as rather to its anthropological and metaphysical significance. We have made enormous headway in our knowledge and have defined more clearly the limits of our ignorance, but it always seems too arduous for human intelligence to realize that in looking at creation, we encounter the impression of the Creator.
"In fact, those who love the truth, like you, dear scholars, should perceive that research on such profound topics places us in the condition of seeing and, as it were, touching the hand of God. Beyond the limits of experimental methods, beyond the boundaries of the sphere which some call meta-analysis, wherever the perception of the senses no longer suffices or where neither the perception of the senses alone nor scientific verification is possible, begins the adventure of transcendence, the commitment to 'go beyond' them.
"Dear researchers and experts, I hope you will be more and more successful, not only in examining the reality that is the subject of your endeavor, but also in contemplating it in such a way that, together with your discoveries, questions will arise that lead to discovering in the beauty of creatures a reflection of the Creator.
"In this context, I am eager to express my appreciation and gratitude to the Pontifical Academy for Life for its valuable work of 'study, formation, and information' which benefits the Dicasteries of the Holy See, the local Churches, and scholars attentive to what the Church proposes on their terrain of scientific research and on human life in its relations with ethics and law.
"Because of the urgency and importance of these problems, I consider the foundation of this Institution by my venerable Predecessor, John Paul II, providential. I therefore desire to express with sincere cordiality to all of you, the personnel and the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, my closeness and support. . ."
Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, traveled to Sudan in February and expressed the solidarity of the Pope and the Church with the Church in Sudan. Sudan has for decades been faced with civil war, religious strife, disease, poverty, and other serious problems.
On February 18, Cardinal Sepe addressed the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference. His address follows:
"Together with my cordial regards, I would like, once again, to express my gratitude for the invitation to visit this country and the Church in Sudan. On behalf of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, I am here among you to show his solidarity with you and the Church's concern for the deplorable situation you have encountered in your pastoral ministry. I extend to you his greetings and his special Apostolic Blessing.
"Moreover, I want to assure you that the Holy Father is following with particular attention all that is happening and continues to pray for your country which has suffered a serious regression in the various aspects of life because of hatred, war, and religious extremism. Yes, the whole Church is with you and supports you in faith and in charity.
"In actual fact, I have always been impressed by your pastoral zeal and readiness to continue the evangelizing mission, despite the situation of unrest, insecurity, and socio-political difficulties that for more than two decades have characterized your country.
"I must admit that there are many encouraging signs of the activity of the Church, which I have seen not only in the Quinquennial reports you sent in view of the visit ad limina Apostolorum in 2003, but also in the various reports and information our offices have been receiving from you.
"I thank you for the pastoral, apostolic, and social activities you are carrying out in order to make the Church in the Sudan a real instrument of salvation to the people who benefit from her services. The involvement of the Church in the social realm of life has been a positive response to the call of Pope John Paul II, as expressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa: '. . .to proclaim Jesus Christ is therefore to reveal to the people their inalienable dignity,' and it makes them understand that 'endowed with this extraordinary dignity, people should not live in sub-human social, economic, cultural, and political conditions.' Such a duty, as affirmed by the Pope, is 'for the defense of personal dignity, for justice and social peace, for the promotion, liberation, and integral human development of all people and every individual' (n. 69).
"In your Reports and Pastoral Letters you have delineated for your Church and for yourselves very concrete obligations that are designed to defeat the evils within your society which developed as a result of the long-standing civil war.
"Here, it is enough to think of what has happened in the Darfur region, not to mention the other parts of your country, where there has been endless violence, guerrilla wars, acts of vandalism, etc., that do not spare the structures of the Church, as has happened in the majority of your dioceses. In this complex situation, your Church has and is still called upon to bear witness to Christ, by taking courageous and prophetic stands in the face of all these phenomena (cf. Redemptoris Missio, n. 43).
"Do not be afraid and be assured of the Church's presence among you, indeed, the presence of God Who is working through her and all those people of good will, who are disposed to collaborate with her to promote the Gospel of love, justice, and peace as it was affirmed by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in his Message for this year's celebration of the World Day of Peace: 'The United Nations Organization must become a more efficient instrument for promoting the values of justice, solidarity, and peace in the world. For her part, the Church, in fidelity to the mission she has received from her Founder, is committed to proclaiming everywhere "the Gospel of peace." In the firm conviction that she offers an indispensable service to all those who strive to promote peace, she reminds everyone that, if peace is to be authentic and lasting, it must be built on the bedrock of the truth about God and the truth about man. This truth alone can create a sensitivity to justice and openness to love and solidarity, while encouraging everyone to work for a truly free and harmonious human family. The foundations of authentic peace rest on the truth about God and man' (Jan 1., 2006).
"I am very pleased to read in the minutes of the Meetings of the Episcopal Conferences, as well as in the few pastoral letters we receive, to see the way you have embarked upon analyzing the social reality, followed by concrete initiatives and plans that are intended to respond to social demands.
"Your last message to the people we received last year: 'The Time is now to make everything New' of October 2004, is very indicative of your commitment to changing the society while inviting the Church in the Sudan to be the agent of needed change.
"Moreover, this concern in the social area of life should not be an end in itself; it should rather give rise and lead to the proclamation of the Good News to non-believers, as well as strengthening the faith and the missionary spirit among the Catholics and to consolidating the image and role of the Church. It is extremely important to give a solid formation to the faithful in order to protect them from the proselytism and influence of other religions, from the proliferation of sects, and from the attitude of persisting in traditions that do not conform to the Gospel.
"And here I appeal to you to take care of the image of the Christian family which is also undergoing a crisis of identity. A healthy family, that embraces Christian values and is spiritually assisted, is also a future for the Church and will give vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life.
"In this complex social and religious situation, I invite you to strengthen the spirit of communion among you, in order to face together different pastoral challenges such as developing a common project for the Catholic University and facing the problem of marriage.
"Moreover, I invite you to pay special care and attention to the life and the ministry of your priests. It is urgent to have holy priests who are convinced of their vocation and of their choice. I thank you, in a special way, for the program of 'Healing the Healers' you developed in order to help the Church's personnel, including priests who have suffered a serious trauma attributed to the civil war.
"Of no less importance is the area of the institutes of men and women religious who are ministering in your dioceses and are indispensable, given the urgent need of reconstruction and ever-consolidated evangelization in the Sudan.
"It is necessary to help them, and work closely with them as you struggle to address the challenges of this country today. Special importance should also be given to the role the lay faithful have to play in the Church of Sudan. The emphasis you put on the training of catechists has already been noted and is appreciated.
"I would like to conclude, thanking you for the pastoral duties you have until now carried out and to encourage you to continue doing the same mission so that your Church may grow in the ecclesial, missionary, and evangelical spirit. I exhort you to promote the spirit of collaboration and unity within the Conference and with all the pastoral agents who are cooperating in your pastoral ministry.
"On this point, I wish to recall the words of Pope John Paul II, when he wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa that the evangelization and credibility of the Church depended 'upon bishops and priests who followed Christ's example and could give witness of an exemplary life; upon truly faithful men and women religious, authentic witnesses by their way of living the evangelical counsels; upon a dynamic laity, with deeply believing parents, educators conscious of their responsi-bilities, and political leaders animated by a profound sense of morality' (n. 22).
"Thank you for your attention and may the good Lord bless you."
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com