"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
Heavenly Father and God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for He is alive and has become the Lord of life.
Pope Benedict XVI calls the church to follow Jesus' example in promoting vocations. In a message dated November 30, 2010, the Holy Father wrote:
"The 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to be celebrated on May 15, 2011, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, invites us to reflect on the theme: 'Proposing Vocations in the Local Church.' Seventy years ago, Venerable Pius XII established the Pontifical Work of Priestly Vocations. Similar bodies, led by priests and members of the lay faithful, were subsequently established by Bishops in many dioceses as a response to the call of the Good Shepherd who, 'when He saw the crowds, had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd,' and went on to say: 'The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest!' (Mt 9:36-38).
"The work of carefully encouraging and supporting vocations finds a radiant source of inspiration in those places in the Gospel where Jesus calls His disciples to follow Him and trains them with love and care. We should pay close attention to the way that Jesus called His closest associates to proclaim the Kingdom of God (cf. Lk 10:9). In the first place, it is clear that the first thing He did was to pray for them: before calling them, Jesus spent the night alone in prayer, listening to the will of the Father (cf. Lk 6:12) in a spirit of interior detachment from mundane concerns. It is Jesus' intimate conversation with the Father which results in the calling of his disciples. Vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life are first and foremost the fruit of constant contact with the living God and insistent prayer lifted up to the 'Lord of the harvest,' whether in parish communities, in Christian families, or in groups specifically devoted to prayer for vocations.
"At the beginning of His public life, the Lord called some fishermen on the shore of the Sea of Galilee: 'Follow me and I will make you fishers of men' (Mt 4:19). He revealed His messianic mission to them by the many 'signs' which showed his love for humanity and the gift of the Father's mercy. Through his words and his way of life he prepared them to carry on his saving work. Finally, knowing 'that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father' (Jn 13:1), he entrusted to them the memorial of his death and resurrection, and before ascending into heaven he sent them out to the whole world with the command: 'Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations' (Mt 28:19).
"It is a challenging and uplifting invitation that Jesus addresses to those to whom he says: 'Follow me!' He invites them to become his friends, to listen attentively to his word, and to live with him. He teaches them complete commitment to God and to the extension of his kingdom in accordance with the law of the Gospel: 'Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (Jn 12:24). He invites them to leave behind their own narrow agenda and their notions of self-fulfillment in order to immerse themselves in another will, the will of God, and to be guided by it. He gives them an experience of fraternity, one born of that total openness to God (cf. Mt 12:49-50) which becomes the hallmark of the community of Jesus: 'By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (Jn 13:35).
"Hope will not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us. At the appointed time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for us godless men. It is rare that anyone should lay down his life for a just man, though it is barely possible that for a good man someone may have the courage to die. It is precisely in this that God proves His love for us: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Now that we have been justified by His blood, it is all the more certain that we shall be saved by Him from God's wrath. For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him by the death of His Son, it is all the more certain that we who have been reconciled will be saved by His life. Not only that; we go so far as to make God our boast through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have now received reconciliation" (Rom 5:5-11).
"It is no less challenging to follow Christ today. It means learning to keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, growing close to him, listening to his word, and encountering him in the sacraments; it means learning to conform our will to his. This requires a genuine school of formation for all those who would prepare themselves for the ministerial priesthood or the consecrated life under the guidance of the competent ecclesial authorities. The Lord does not fail to call people at every stage of life to share in his mission and to serve the Church in the ordained ministry and in the consecrated life. The Church is 'called to safeguard this gift, to esteem it, and love it. She is responsible for the birth and development of priestly vocations' (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 41). Particularly in these times, when the voice of the Lord seems to be drowned out by 'other voices' and his invitation to follow him by the gift of one's own life may seem too difficult, every Christian community, every member of the Church, needs consciously to feel responsibility for promoting vocations. It is important to encourage and support those who show clear signs of a call to priestly life and religious consecration, and to enable them to feel the warmth of the whole community as they respond 'yes' to God and the Church. I encourage them, in the same words which I addressed to those who have already chosen to enter the seminary: 'You have done a good thing. Because people will always have need of God, even in an age marked by technical mastery of the world and globalization: they will always need the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the God who gathers us together in the universal Church in order to learn with him and through him life's true meaning and in order to uphold and apply the standards of true humanity' (Letter to Seminarians, October 18, 2010).
"It is essential that every local Church become more sensitive and attentive to the pastoral care of vocations, helping children and young people in particular at every level of family, parish, and associations – as Jesus did with his disciples - to grow into a genuine and affectionate friendship with the Lord, cultivated through personal and liturgical prayer; to grow in familiarity with the sacred Scriptures and thus to listen attentively and fruitfully to the word of God; to understand that entering into God's will does not crush or destroy a person, but instead leads to the discovery of the deepest truth about ourselves; and finally to be generous and fraternal in relationships with others, since it is only in being open to the love of God that we discover true joy and the fulfillment of our aspirations. 'Proposing Vocations in the Local Church' means having the courage, through an attentive and suitable concern for vocations, to point out this challenging way of following Christ which, because it is so rich in meaning, is capable of engaging the whole of one's life.
"I address a particular word to you, my dear brother Bishops. To ensure the continuity and growth of your saving mission in Christ, you should 'foster priestly and religious vocations as much as possible, and should take a special interest in missionary vocations' (Christus Dominus, 15). The Lord needs you to cooperate with him in ensuring that his call reaches the hearts of those whom he has chosen. Choose carefully those who work in the Diocesan Vocations Office, that valuable means for the promotion and organization of the pastoral care of vocations and the prayer which sustains it and guarantees its effectiveness. I would also remind you, dear brother Bishops, of the concern of the universal Church for an equitable distribution of priests in the world. Your openness to the needs of dioceses experiencing a dearth of vocations will become a blessing from God for your communities and a sign to the faithful of a priestly service that generously considers the needs of the entire Church.
"The Second Vatican Council explicitly reminded us that 'the duty of fostering vocations pertains to the whole Christian community, which should exercise it above all by a fully Christian life' (Optatam Totius, 2). I wish, then, to say a special word of acknowledgment and encouragement to those who work closely in various ways with the priests in their parishes. In particular, I turn to those who can offer a specific contribution to the pastoral care of vocations: to priests, families, catechists, and leaders of parish groups. I ask priests to testify to their communion with their bishop and their fellow priests, and thus to provide a rich soil for the seeds of a priestly vocation. May families be 'animated by the spirit of faith and love and by the sense of duty' (Optatam Totius, 2) which is capable of helping children to welcome generously the call to priesthood and to religious life. May catechists and leaders of Catholic groups and ecclesial movements, convinced of their educational mission, seek to 'guide the young people entrusted to them so that these will recognize and freely accept a divine vocation' (ibid.).
"Dear brothers and sisters, your commitment to the promotion and care of vocations becomes most significant and pastorally effective when carried out in the unity of the Church and in the service of communion. For this reason, every moment in the life of the Church community – catechesis, formation meetings, liturgical prayer, pilgrimages – can be a precious opportunity for awakening in the People of God, and in particular in children and young people, a sense of belonging to the Church and of responsibility for answering the call to priesthood and to religious life by a free and informed decision.
"The ability to foster vocations is a hallmark of the vitality of a local Church. With trust and perseverance let us invoke the aid of the Virgin Mary, that by the example of her own acceptance of God's saving plan and her powerful intercession, every community will be more and more open to saying 'yes' to the Lord who is constantly calling new laborers to his harvest . . ."
The theme for the 45th World Day of Social Communications on June 5 is "Truth, Proclamation, and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age." In his message for the Day, dated January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of the Catholic press, Pope Benedict XVI indicated that on the occasion of this day, "I would like to share some reflections that are motivated by a phenomenon characteristic of our age: the emergence of the internet as a network for communication. It is an ever more commonly held opinion that, just as the Industrial Revolution in its day brought about a profound transformation in society by the modifications it introduced into the cycles of production and the lives of workers, so today the radical changes taking place in communications are guiding significant cultural and social developments. The new technologies are not only changing the way we communicate, but communication itself, so much so that it could be said that we are living through a period of vast cultural transformation. This means of spreading information and knowledge is giving birth to a new way of learning and thinking, with unprecedented opportunities for establishing relationships and building fellowship.
"New horizons are now open that were until recently unimaginable; they stir our wonder at the possibilities offered by these new media and, at the same time, urgently demand a serious reflection on the significance of communication in the digital age. This is particularly evident when we are confronted with the extraordinary potential of the internet and the complexity of its uses. As with every other fruit of human ingenuity, the new communications technologies must be placed at the service of the integral good of the individual and of the whole of humanity. If used wisely, they can contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth, and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each human being.
"In the digital world, transmitting information increasingly means making it known within a social network where knowledge is shared in the context of personal exchanges. The clear distinction between the producer and consumer of information is relativized and communication appears not only as an exchange of data, but also as a form of sharing. This dynamic has contributed to a new appreciation of communication itself, which is seen first of all as dialogue, exchange, solidarity, and the creation of positive relations. On the other hand, this is contrasted with the limits typical of digital communication: the one-sidedness of the interaction, the tendency to communicate only some parts of one's interior world, the risk of constructing a false image of oneself, which can become a form of self-indulgence.
"Young people in particular are experiencing this change in communication, with all the anxieties, challenges, and creativity typical of those open with enthusiasm and curiosity to new experiences in life. Their ever greater involvement in the public digital forum, created by the so-called social networks, helps to establish new forms of interpersonal relations, influences self-awareness, and therefore inevitably poses questions not only of how to act properly, but also about the authenticity of one's own being. Entering cyberspace can be a sign of an authentic search for personal encounters with others, provided that attention is paid to avoiding dangers such as enclosing oneself in a sort of parallel existence, or excessive exposure to the virtual world. In the search for sharing, for 'friends,' there is the challenge to be authentic and faithful, and not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself.
"The new technologies allow people to meet each other beyond the confines of space and of their own culture, creating in this way an entirely new world of potential friendships. This is a great opportunity, but it also requires greater attention to and awareness of possible risks. Who is my 'neighbor' in this new world? Does the danger exist that we may be less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life? Is there is a risk of being more distracted because our attention is fragmented and absorbed in a world 'other' than the one in which we live? Do we have time to reflect critically on our choices and to foster human relationships which are truly deep and lasting? It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives.
"In the digital age too, everyone is confronted by the need for authenticity and reflection. Besides, the dynamic inherent in the social networks demonstrates that a person is always involved in what he or she communicates. When people exchange information, they are already sharing themselves, their view of the world, their hopes, their ideals. It follows that there exists a Christian way of being present in the digital world: this takes the form of a communication which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others. To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one's own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preferences, and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically. Furthermore, it is also true in the digital world that a message cannot be proclaimed without a consistent witness on the part of the one who proclaims it. In these new circumstances and with these new forms of expression, Christians are once again called to offer a response to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is within them (cf. 1 Pt 3:15).
"The task of witnessing to the Gospel in the digital era calls for everyone to be particularly attentive to the aspects of that message which can challenge some of the ways of thinking typical of the web. First of all, we must be aware that the truth which we long to share does not derive its worth from its 'popularity' or from the amount of attention it receives. We must make it known in its integrity, instead of seeking to make it acceptable or diluting it. It must become daily nourishment and not a fleeting attraction. The truth of the Gospel is not something to be consumed or used superficially; rather it is a gift that calls for a free response. Even when it is proclaimed in the virtual space of the web, the Gospel demands to be incarnated in the real world and linked to the real faces of our brothers and sisters, those with whom we share our daily lives. Direct human relations always remain fundamental for the transmission of the faith!
"I would like then to invite Christians, confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible. This is not simply to satisfy the desire to be present, but because this network is an integral part of human life. The web is contributing to the development of new and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons, new forms of shared awareness. In this field too we are called to proclaim our faith that Christ is God, the Savior of humanity and of history, the one in whom all things find their fulfillment (cf. Eph 1:10). The proclamation of the Gospel requires a communication which is at once respectful and sensitive, which stimulates the heart and moves the conscience; one which reflects the example of the risen Jesus when he joined the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35). By his approach to them, his dialogue with them, his way of gently drawing forth what was in their heart, they were led gradually to an understanding of the mystery.
"In the final analysis, the truth of Christ is the full and authentic response to that human desire for relationship, communion, and meaning which is reflected in the immense popularity of social networks. Believers who bear witness to their most profound convictions greatly help prevent the web from becoming an instrument which depersonalizes people, attempts to manipulate them emotionally, or allows those who are powerful to monopolize the opinions of others. On the contrary, believers encourage everyone to keep alive the eternal human questions which testify to our desire for transcendence and our longing for authentic forms of life, truly worthy of being lived. It is precisely this uniquely human spiritual yearning which inspires our quest for truth and for communion and which impels us to communicate with integrity and honesty.
"I invite young people above all to make good use of their presence in the digital world. I repeat my invitation to them for the next World Youth Day in Madrid, where the new technologies are contributing greatly to the preparations. Through the intercession of their patron Saint Francis de Sales, I pray that God may grant communications workers the capacity always to carry out their work conscientiously and professionally. To all, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing."
Fred H. Summe is Vice President of Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington, Kentucky 41012
"Ending taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood is a non-negotiable," explains Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. "Pro-life America demands that our leaders in the Senate step up and take on this fight and that the House leadership holds its ground. Americans have spoken, and the time to defund Planned Parenthood, a habitual and unapologetic ally of those who deal in the exploitation of minors, is now. This is a black and white issue, and we will accept nothing less than the total defunding of Planned Parenthood in the Continuing Resolution."
As indicated in the 2010 elections, most Americans supported the election of those who favored a reduction in public spending. The U.S. House of Representatives, now under the control of the Republicans and under the leadership of John Boehner (R-OH), passed a bill cutting $61 billion from last year's all-time high federal budget, resulting in this year's projected deficit of $1.6 trillion being reduced less than 4%. The federal government spending money it doesn't have, passing on a burden to future generations so that this generation can have all that it desires, has many Americans concerned about the future of the country itself.
With most of the freshmen House Republicans being strongly pro-life, the House was able to pass the amendment to the budget defunding Planned Parenthood.
"By banning federal funding to Planned Parenthood, Congress has taken a stand for millions of Americans who believe their tax dollars should not be used to subsidize the largest abortion provider in America," states Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), who introduced the amendment to defund Planned Parenthood, which passed in the House by a vote of 240 to 185.
This bill not only bars all Planned Parenthood affiliates from receiving government funds, but also reestablishes the Mexican City Policy, which barred foreign aid funds from going to international organizations that perform or promote abortion, and also eliminates funding of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which an investigation under the Bush administration revealed forced abortion and sterilization. Obama had reversed the Mexican City Policy and had restored $50 million in annual aid to UNFPA, reports lifesitenews.com.
Even though defunding Planned Parenthood of the $350 million it was to receive this year is a small effort towards balancing the budget, it will be a step toward saving our nation from self-destruction.
In his farewell address, concluding his 1987 visit to the United States, Pope John Paul II warned Americans:
" All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person. …all this will succeed only if respect for life and its protection by the law is granted to every human being from conception until natural death.
"If we accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other
people not to kill each other?
. . . Abortion is the greatest destroyer of peace today."
"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."
These words are from a man who experienced the horror of totalitarian governments, Nazism and Communism, who understood how countries can lose their freedoms and people be enslaved, and who understood that if a people did not consider all other individuals to be a unique and precious gift from God, then they would soon not recognize anyone as having inalienable rights of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness.
From a man whose teachings were always clear and accurate, void of all euphemisms and catchy clichés, his warning was that the condition for our survival depended on how and when Americans stop allowing the killing of God's precious infants.
At the time of the writing of this article, the Senate had rejected the budget, passed by the House, and the House had sent twice to the Senate a Continuing Resolution, allowing the government to be funded for a few weeks, while the Congress finagles over next year's budget, unable to conclude anything. Unfortunately, the Congress continues the death funding. Serious pro-life congressmen are upset; so should be their constituents!
Of course, President Obama has threatened to veto this bill.
Nineteen Democrats wrote that they would oppose any efforts to deny Planned Parenthood funds. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expressed his opposition to an amendment defunding Planned Parenthood in the proposed budget as "Hell, no!"
Some Republicans, including potential presidential candidates like Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Sen. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, expressed opinions that "social issues" (read, the killing of unborn babies) first must be pushed to the back to address the economic problems of our nation. Will the pro-abortion Democrats, who are willing to fall on their swords, again watch the Republicans abandon their principles, out of some news media-created fear that the electorate would not stand for shutting down the government?
"If that's the case, then shut it down," espouses Fr. Frank Pavone, Priests for Life. "When a government funds massive child-killing, it has betrayed its very purpose anyway. Maybe a shutdown will give our government officials a chance to reflect on what government should be doing in the first place – serving life, not helping to destroy it."
Documenting Planned Parenthood's willingness to assist in the covering up of sexual abuse of minor children as young as 13 years, are 16 videos produced by Live Action (LiveAction.org). "Even before the human trafficking footage, we released videos of 10 clinics that revealed the sexual abuse cover-up of minors as young as 13. In these 10 clinics, we had actors posing as the underage girls, self-reporting abuse and asking for help. In every case, Planned Parenthood worked to cover up the abuse of the underage girls and did not comply with the mandatory reporting laws for sexual abuse," reports Lila Rose, president of Live Action.
The national news media apologists for Planned Parenthood create the bogus argument that federal funds are not used by Planned Parenthood to perform abortions. How ludicrous is such an argument. If Planned Parenthood uses the funds to pay rent, utilities, salaries, advertisement, etc., enabling it to do abortions, isn't it in fact using the funds to do abortions?
"Deception No. 1: Taxpayer funds don't go to pay for abortions. This defies common sense and basic logic; of course taxpayer money helps to finance abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics. …As clinic director, I saw how money received by Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics all went into one pot at the end of the day – it isn't divvied up and directed to specific services," states Abby Johnson, former clinic director of a Planned Parenthood "clinic" in Texas, and author of unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line.
"Planned Parenthood's abortion business is very, very lucrative. The organization does a billion dollars worth of 'business' each year. Abortions alone account for over a third of this revenue … Another third comes from you and me in the form of government grants and contracts. …the organization has built up nearly one billion in assets, making it one of the wealthiest 'nonprofits' in American history, even as it has made the rest of us poorer by eliminating millions of people from our population," states Steve Mosher, president of Population Research Institute.
There has been little coverage in the pro-abortion national news media, and, sadly, also in the diocesan-owned Catholic newspapers, even though EWTN, The Wanderer, Catholic World Report, Voices, and other orthodox Catholic publications, not owned by the Church itself, have provided much coverage. For more information, visit lifesitenews.com, the source from which this author obtained some of the above information.
It is sad that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has yet to issue a statement about defunding Planned Parenthood, again failing in its leadership role.
It's simple. Right now, before other things consume your time or energy, write, call, or email your two U.S. senators, your representative in the U.S. House, and President Obama, and demand an immediate defunding of the blood-thirsty industry of baby killing, reminding them, in the words of Marjorie Dannenfelser, "Ending taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood is a non-negotiable."
If we don't speak up for the unborn child, who will?
The Italian and German first editions of Pope Benedict XVI's second volume of Jesus of Nazareth were sold out in one day. The U.S. edition was half sold out in a week. At this writing, it is climbing the New York Times top ten.
At Reading Pope Benedict (readingbenedictxvi.blogspot), his new book is described as a challenge to look at the evidence fairly for Jesus' claim of divinity. After looking at the life and teachings of Jesus in Part One, he addresses the most important evidence, Jesus' passion and resurrection.
Jeff Mirus at Catholic Culture (catholicculture.org) emphasizes "Ratzinger's gift," rejoining the traditional lectio divina, "reading Scripture prayerfully to seek the joy and nourishment of God's presence in His word" with "attention to the original languages, a study of what other great commentators have written, and the deliberate unraveling of obscure and possibly even disputed themes."
At Amazon it has a five out of five stars rating. Shanon Grice, for example, writes, "I'm not even Catholic, I guess you would say I'm charismatic or Pentecostal, and I've found myself just loving the Pope's books, and have encountered Jesus and the Holy Spirit afresh. Now I have such a fresh and new appreciation for the ancient Catholic faith also which is part of our Christian roots, just like our Jewish roots are part of our faith. I highly recommend this book to everyone."
Geza Vermes of the guardian explains, "The critics took exception to the book's rejection of the principal finding of the historical-critical school: the distinction between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith.
In his own words, Pope Benedict identifies his intention as "to understand the figure of Jesus, His word and His actions." He understands well enough.
In the first chapter, "The entrance into Jerusalem," he begins bringing out the "failure to recognize Jesus through a combination of indifference and fear." The Pharisees recognized His authority and feared it, while people like Nathaniel dismissed Him as not what they expected as the Messiah.
The Pope takes us through Jesus' discourse on the last days, His words and actions at the Last Supper, at the garden, trial, and crucifixion. In answering "Who exactly were Jesus' accusers?" he notes John clearly identifies the Temple authorities with a few exceptions like Nicodemus. He analyzes the Greek word ochlos translated as "masses" or "mob" as meaning the organized supporters of Barabbas while the numerous "followers of Jesus remained hidden out of fear."
"The pope displays courage for a Christian leader of his disposition," Vermes writes, "and correctly concedes that what Matthew reports is not a 'historical fact': the whole Jewish people, he argues, could not have foregathered outside Pilate's residence. The exoneration of the Jews from the crime of deicide thus receives papal approval: the guilt lies."
Finally in chapter nine he guides the reader to "the Resurrection is the crucial point. Whether Jesus merely was or whether He also is — this depends on the Resurrection [his emphasis].
He calls Jesus' Resurrection "an entirely new form of life," "a life that is no longer subject to the law of dying and becoming but lies beyond it — a life that opens up a new dimension of human existence," "a dimension that affects us all, creating for all of us a new space of life, a new space of being in union with God." It is not something that should be feared or ignored.
His analysis in this chapter goes so far as to dissecting the punctuation in Acts 1:3-4 in the Jerusalem Bible. He makes the case that there should be a comma, not a period, in "He had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God, when He had been at table with them."
The literal meaning of the word used by Luke is "eating salt" which points to preservation, covenant-making, and so the new covenant and the Eucharist.
There is also a surprising addition to the book, since its subtitle is Holy Week from the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. That is the epilogue on Jesus' Ascension and present life as King of kings.
He uses non-scholarly explanation as well in making his point that Christian faith leads to the Christian's hope. "The Lord is 'on the mountain' of the Father. Therefore he sees us. Therefore he can get into the boat of our life at any moment. Therefore we can always call on Him."
He even occasionally gets personal, as when he explains how we are now living between Jesus' first and second coming.
"The Lord comes," he writes, "through His word; He comes in the sacraments, especially in the most Holy Eucharist"; and using "me" rather than the more usual "we" to add, "He comes into my life through words and events."
(Editor's note: L'Osservatore Romano English edition of 3/30/11 quoted a press release from Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press, a publisher of the book. Brumley stated: "We're delighted that Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week is an instant New York Times best seller. It means that many people across the country are discovering Pope Benedict's insights into the life of Jesus Christ." And, he continued, "in this way, more and more people will encounter the real Jesus, which was the Holy Father's goal in writing the book.")
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, addressed the United Nations' Human Rights Council on Religious Freedom March 2 in Geneva, Switzerland. His talk follows:
"At the heart of fundamental human rights is freedom of religion, conscience, and belief: it affects personal identity and basic choices and it makes possible the enjoyment of other human rights. As the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Religious Discrimination recognizes, the spiritual dimension of life is a vital part of human existence. But an increased proliferation of episodes of discrimination and acts of violence against persons and communities of faith and places of worship in several different geographical regions of the world denies in practice the principle proclaimed in law. Religious strife is a danger to social, political, and economic development. Religious conflict polarizes society, breaking the bonds necessary for social life and commerce to flourish. It produces violence, which robs people of the most fundamental right of all, the right to life. And it sows seeds of distrust and bitterness that can be passed down through the generations. Often impunity and media neglect follow such tragedies. A recent survey shows that out of 100 people killed because of religious hatred, 75 are Christian. That concentration of religious discrimination should cause concern to all of us. But the Holy See's purpose in this intervention is to reaffirm the importance of the right to freedom of religion for all individuals, for all communities of faith, and for every society, in all parts of the world.
"Let us search and examine our ways that we may return to the Lord! Let us reach out our hearts toward God in heaven!" (Lam 3:40-41)
"The State has the duty to defend the right to freedom of religion and it has, therefore, the responsibility to create an environment where this right can be enjoyed. As stated in the Declaration on Religious Discrimination and elsewhere, the State has to fulfill several duties in the everyday functioning of society. For example, the State must not practice religious discrimination – in its laws, in its policies, or by allowing de facto discrimination by public employees. It must promote religious tolerance and understanding throughout society, a goal that can be achieved if educational systems teach respect for all and judicial systems are impartial in the implementation of laws and reject political pressure aimed at ensuring impunity for perpetrators of human rights crimes against followers of a particular religion. The State should support all initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue and mutual respect between religious communities. It must enforce its laws that fight against religious discrimination – vigorously, and without selectivity. The State must provide physical security to religious communities under attack. It must encourage majority populations to enable religious minorities to practice their faith individually and in community without threat or hindrance. The State must have laws that require employers to make 'reasonable accommodations' for an employee's religion.
"Freedom of religion is a value for society as a whole. The State that protects this right enables society to benefit from the social consequences that come with it: peaceful coexistence, national integration in today's pluralistic situations, increased creativity as the talents of everyone are placed at the service of the common good. On the other hand, the negation of religious freedom undermines any democratic aspiration, favors oppression, and stifles the whole society that eventually explodes with tragic results. From this angle as well it is clear that freedom of religion and conviction is complementary and intrinsically linked to freedom of opinion, expression, and assembly. Besides, an environment of real freedom of religion becomes the best medicine to prevent the manipulation of religion for political purposes of power grabbing and power maintenance and for the oppression of dissenters and of different faith communities or religious minorities. In fact, religious discrimination and strife are rarely, if ever, solely the product of differences in religious opinions and practices. Below the surface are social and political problems.
"To reap the social benefits of religious freedom, specific measures need to be devised that allow the practical exercise of this right to flourish. . . . I would like to highlight some measures at the UN level. The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion could be invited regularly to include information on persecution of religious groups. It would be helpful if the Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights were to monitor the situation of governmental and societal restrictions on religious freedom and report annually to the Human Rights Council. Article 20 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which pertains to advocacy of religious hatred that incites religious discrimination, raises important questions, such as the relation between various rights, and about the best ways to achieve legitimate aims. Blasphemy laws are a case in point. The workshops mandated to study Article 20, and to propose good practices, are a step in the right direction.
"I will conclude . . . by calling attention to three false perceptions surrounding freedom of religion and belief. In the first place, the right to express or practice one's religion is not limited to acts of worship. It also includes the right to express one's faith through acts of charitable and social service. For example, providing health and education through religious institutions are important ways for people to live their faith. Second, faith communities have their own rules for qualifications for religious office, and for serving in religious institutions, including charitable facilities. These religious institutions are part of civil society, and not branches of the state. Consequently, the limits that international human rights law places on States regarding qualifications on state office holding and public service do not apply automatically to non-state actors. As acknowledged by the Declaration on Religious Discrimination, freedom of religion entails the right of a religious community to set its own qualifications. Religious tolerance includes respecting differences of opinions in these matters, and respecting the difference between a state and a religious institution. And finally, there is a fear that respecting the freedom to choose and practice another religion, different from one's own, is based on a premise that all truth is relative and that one's religion is no longer absolutely valid. That is a misunderstanding. The right to adopt, and to change, a religion is based on respect for human dignity: the State must allow each person to freely search for the truth.
". . . the State has an ethical and legal obligation to uphold and make applicable the right to freedom of religion or conviction both because it is a fundamental human right, and because it is its duty to defend the rights of its citizens and to seek the welfare of society. As His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI stated in addressing the diplomatic corps, religious freedom is 'the fundamental path to peace. Peace is built and preserved only when human beings can freely seek and serve God in their hearts, in their lives, and in their relationships with others.' "
WASHINGTON, D.C. —As the U.S. and other nations take military action to protect the people of Libya from their own government, the U.S. bishops asked the Obama administration to stay focused on this limited goal and mission, as well as the wellbeing of the civilian population.
"Important questions include: How is the use of force protecting the civilian population of Libya? Is the force employed proportionate to the goal of protecting civilians?" wrote Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, New York, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in a March 24 letter to National Security Advisor Thomas E. Donilon. The bishop also urged that the use of force be continually evaluated in light of these questions: "Is it producing evils graver than the evil it hopes to address?" and "What are the implications of the use of force for the future welfare of the Libyan people and the stability of the region?"
"We know these are difficult questions to which there are few easy answers, but it is our moral responsibility as a nation to rigorously examine the use of military force in light of the need to protect human life and dignity," said Bishop Hubbard.
Bishop Hubbard said the purpose articulated in UN Security Council Resolution 1973 to demand "a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians" appears to meet the traditional criterion of "just cause," but said the U.S. bishops joined Pope Benedict XVI in following the military action in Libya with "great apprehension."
The letter is available online: www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/callafrica/2011-03-24BishopHubbardtoNationalSecurityAdvisor.pdf
(source: USCCB press release)
washington, D.C. — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) stressed the importance of a responsible transition of the leadership of Afghanistan to the Afghan people and expressed concern over the U.S. partnership with Pakistan in an April 6 letter from Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, New York, to National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon.
"A responsible transition will require a strengthened civilian commitment by the United States and the international community to improve citizen participation, civil society capacity, accountability, and good stewardship to promote development and good governance in Afghanistan and Pakistan," wrote Bishop Hubbard, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.
"While the military drawdown will significantly reduce U.S. costs in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a comprehensive commitment to continued development is critical to long-term success," he added.
Bishop Hubbard emphasized the importance of civil society participation and accountability in development and noted the need to factor in the structure of Afghan society in planning.
"The success and sustainability of the military drawdown will hinge upon a successful transition to Afghan leadership, much of which must be exercised at the local level given the decentralized nature of Afghan society."
In the same letter, Bishop Hubbard expressed deep concern about religious freedom in Pakistan and urged the Administration to make it a major priority in U.S. policy.
"The failure to protect the religious freedom of all, especially minorities, and to build a pluralistic tolerant society emboldens fundamentalist terror groups," he said.
The full text of Bishop Hubbard's letter can be found online at http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/index.shtml.
(source: USCCB press release)
WASHINGTON, D.C. —Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has written to urge all members of the U.S. House of Representatives to support a bipartisan bill protecting conscience rights in health insurance. Introduced by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Dan Boren (D-OK), the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011 (HR 1179) "will help ensure that the new health care reform act is not misused to violate the religious freedom and rights of conscience of those who offer and purchase health insurance coverage in our nation," Cardinal DiNardo wrote.
"Federal law, until now, has never prevented the issuers and purchasers of health coverage from negotiating a health plan that is consistent with their moral and religious convictions," Cardinal DiNardo explained. "This could change, however, with implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) as now written." He noted that the law "establishes a new list of 'essential health benefits' that will be mandatory for most health plans throughout the United States," and also "requires all group and individual plans to cover general 'preventive services,' as well as additional preventive services specifically for women."
"For months," Cardinal DiNardo wrote, "Planned Parenthood and other groups have been urging that mandated 'preventive services for women' include all drugs and devices approved by the FDA for contraception — including those that can prevent the implantation and survival of a newly conceived human being, and hence are seen as abortifacient by the Catholic Church and many others."
"Mandated inclusion of contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs in health plans poses an obvious potential conflict with rights of conscience," Cardinal DiNardo wrote. "Such conflicts would also arise if HHS mandates inclusion of some fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization, treatments using material from deliberately killed unborn children, or other procedures specifically rejected by the teachings of some religions."
PPACA "arbitrarily and inexplicably does not protect the many religious denominations – including those providing the backbone of the nonprofit health care system in this country – whose moral teaching rejects specific procedures," Cardinal DiNardo said. "If religious and other stakeholders are driven out of the health insurance marketplace by this aspect of PPACA, legislation whose purpose was to expand health coverage could have the opposite effect."
The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act "is modest and well-crafted legislation . . . it only prevents PPACA itself from being misused to deny Americans' existing freedom to seek health care coverage that meets their medical needs and respects their deepest convictions," he wrote. "I am sure that most members of Congress voting for PPACA did not intend that it should deny or take away this freedom. Therefore I hope and expect that Representatives who supported PPACA as well as those who opposed it will join in co-sponsoring the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act and in helping to ensure its enactment."
The full text of the letter may be read at: www.usccb.org/conscienceprotection/DiNardo-ltr-HR1179.pdf.
(source: USCCB press release)
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Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com