Thursday, April 30, 2009

Nigeria: Archbishop Tells Off Pope's Critics On Condom Use
30 April 2009
Abuja — The Catholic archbishop of Abuja, John Onaiyekan, has come out in strong defence of Pope Benedict's remarks on his visit to Africa last month that distribution of condoms cannot contain the spread of HIV, the virus that can cause Aids.

"As an archbishop dealing on a daily basis with people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, I know that the pope is speaking the truth," Archbishop Onaiyekan wrote in letter published by ZENIT news agency.

"I suspect that those who were so vociferous in condemning the pope have never touched an HIV infected person, let alone rendered any care and attention. It is so much easier to distribute gadgets, especially at other people's expense. What reduces infections is less casual sex, not more condoms. That is the truth."

Those accusing the pope of being unrealistic, that young people will have sex anyway, have no respect for the young people, the archbishop said. When they are given true orientation, young people freely respond with far greater sexual responsibility that the armchair social experts can ever imagine.

"As an African Archbishop, it is my nephews and nieces that are in danger of dying of HIV/AIDS. Let no one ever suggest that they are more concerned about them than I am. The condom distributors should listen to the truth coming not only from the pope and bishops, but even from impartial and serious scientific research."

Archbishop Onaiyekan said that to ignore scientific facts "is the greatest disservice anyone can do to the future of Africa. The struggle continues, and we are overcoming!"

Copyright © 2009 Catholic Information Service for Africa. All rights reserved.
Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

We Can Learn to See With New Eyes

People can learn to see God in world, in others, pope says at audience
By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

People can get a glimpse of God in the world and in other people, but they must learn how to recognize it, Pope Benedict XVI said."There is a certain visibility of God in the church and in the world, and we must learn how to see it," the pope said April 29 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

"God created humankind in his image, but this image is covered with so much dirt from sin that it is almost impossible to see," the pope said.

Pope Benedict's reflection on images of God in the world flowed from his main audience talk about the writings of St. Germanus, an 8th-century patriarch of Constantinople.

While Emperor Leo III was leading a campaign against the use of icons and other sacred images out of fear that devotion was turning into idolatry, St. Germanus defended their use in popular piety.

The pope said St. Germanus was known for his insistence that everything involved in the liturgy be beautiful, the pope said.

For the saint, the pope said, the beauty of the words used for preaching, and especially for prayers, "is as important in the liturgy as the beauty of the sacred building in which it takes place."

"The beauty of words and language, the beauty of the building and of the music must all match," the pope said.

While St. Germanus lived more than 1,200 years ago, the pope said that Christians today still could learn from him.

His first lesson, the pope said, is that "in Christ, the true image of God, we can contemplate the face of God and we can learn to be truly human images of God. Christ calls us to imitate him, to be like him so that in every person the face of God would shine through again.

"Pope Benedict said it is true that "against idolatry and all the temptations of paganism, in the Ten Commandments God forbade the making of images of him. However, in Christ he became visible, in all the saints his face appears, and sacred images teach us to see God in the face of Christ, in the face of the saints (and) in the faces of all people.

"The second thing St. Germanus taught was the importance of "celebrating the liturgy with an awareness of the presence of God, with beauty and dignity, that helps people see the splendor of God," the pope said.

The third lesson is "to love the church," he said."

Perhaps we human beings see mostly the sins and the negative, but with the assistance of faith, which can help us see well, even today we can rediscover divine beauty in the church because it is in the church that God makes himself present (and) offers himself to us," the pope said.

"In the holy Eucharist he remains present for adoration; in the church God speaks to us, he walks with us as St. Germanus said; in the church we receive the forgiveness of God and learn to forgive," Pope Benedict said.

The pope ended his audience by praying that God "would teach us to see, to see his presence and beauty in the church, to see his presence in the world and to help us be transparent" so his light can shine through.- - -

Editor's Note: The text of the pope's audience remarks in English will be posted online at:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A comment from QMJ that I think is important to post here
as a follow-up to the post below

It is important to affirm that the Pope is not a political figure. Yes, there are political implications to what he says because we cannot separate the various spheres of human life, but he is not a president, prime minister, governor, congressman, member of parliament, or any other such thing. He is the spiritual head of the Catholic Church. He also does not just have a responsibility to Catholics, but to all people. This is why it is good for him to also visit these other areas in the Holy Land. If he were to exclude either Jews or Palestinians/Arabs during his visit then that indeed could be construed as political. But no, this is not the case; he is a spiritual leader visiting people on both sides of the fence, not for political gain, but for their welfare.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The isn't political; this is what is right

Pope’s Peace Preaching Plans Turn Political

Next month's visit to Israel by Pope Benedict XVI is becoming more political with the announcement by the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem that he will preach at an Arab village of descendants of former Arab Israelis. The pope’s message at the Al–Aida village near Bethlehem will symbolize the Arab claim of the “right of return,” according to the patriarch, Fuad Twal.

Israel already has told the Vatican that it does not want any pictures of the pope touring the separation barrier, which many foreign media refer to as the “Apartheid Wall.” Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov also has protested to the Vatican's plan for the pope to visit the Galilee city of Sakhnin, whose mayor led anti-Israel demonstrations during the Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist campaign earlier this year.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Jordanian prince sees pope's visit offering hope to Arab people
By Doreen Abi Raad
Catholic News Service
AMMAN, Jordan --

Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit to the Middle East can serve as an opportunity to build hope among Arabs while broadening interreligious understanding, said Jordan's Prince El Hassan bin Talal.Speaking with Catholic News Service, the prince said the May 8-11 papal visit "should not be seen as a passing, calming serene visit that is transient or just another visit to the region, but should rather focus in our minds that we can revive the heritage of trust and good faith" that Catholics and Muslims share.

In an extensive interview in advance of Pope Benedict's visit, Prince Hassan said he has high hopes for the trip."There is a sort of combination of hope, expectation and nostalgia for a golden age -- for a Camelot, if you will -- which I think invites Arabs to hope for a better future when such a visit takes place, as with many other visits the pope has made to other parts of the world," the prince told CNS.

Pope Benedict's visit to Jordan will be part of an eight-day trek to the Middle East that includes several days in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The trip comes against the backdrop of wide separations along ethnic, sectarian and class lines among people in the region, as well as a rapidly mounting exodus of upper middle-class Palestinians because of violence and strict laws governing their movement. The outward migration is taking much-needed skills and talent from the region, Prince Hassan said.

The prince expressed a desire that people would begin to move from a position of "war against ... something" such as intolerance, racial hatred, anti-Semitism or fear of Islam to "a struggle for something."

"In that sense, I have the greatest hope that the visit of the pope, His Holiness, could be a major step in visualizing a struggle for a law of peace," Prince Hassan said.

He said he also would like to see the visit focus on the religious impact of culture. The prince said culture is not sustainable without recognizing its religious roots and how it influences the defense of peace, social justice, human rights and global concerns.

"My fear is that culture and religion remain an afterthought to security and the economy," he said. "Security is not worth the name if it's not built on human beings. Because it is human beings who are the prime movers of security or insecurity.

"Whatever label we carry -- Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist -- at the end of the day we are human beings."

Pope Benedict and Prince Hassan have met several times. The prince met then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who at the time was the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in 1993. The future pope gave the prince an edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church at that encounter.

"In subsequent conversations," Prince Hassan recalled, "we spoke of values, ethics and morals."Both were among the co-founders in 1999 of the Geneva-based Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue.The prince -- who won the 2008 Niwano prize for religious contributions to peace -- has long been a leading proponent of interfaith dialogue. The 62-year-old brother of Jordan's late King Hussein is founder of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies based in Amman and president emeritus of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, an international organization that promotes peace through cooperation and dialogue. He also has authored nine books, including "Christianity in the Arab World" and "To Be a Muslim: Islam, Peace and Democracy."

Prince Hassan's experience in interfaith affairs has helped him see the value of dialogue and understanding between people of different faiths. He said he hopes people of the Middle East will seek stronger understanding through the numerous areas in which faiths converge rather than resort to violence over their differences.

The prince called for "a law of peace" to replace "a law of war" in the world. He suggested that a "courageous step" for peace could be taken by the world's religious leaders if they would meet in Jerusalem.

"I think there is a feeling among the majority of people in this part of the world that the hatred industry is winning, and this causes a lot of discomfort and a lot of anxiety," Prince Hassan said. "The visit, such as that of His Holiness the pope, is reassuring. We have to believe in a compassionate God, a wise God. This is what I would hope that the compassionate and wise symbol of our times -- His Holiness the pope -- can bring to the region," he said

Thoughts on Benedict

William Oddie, author of John Paul the Great, the Maker of the Post Conciliar Church

"Everyone supposed that Pope Benedict would be very like the hardline Panzer Kardinal we were supposed to have at the CDF. He never was that but it was his job to say no so that John Paul II could say yes.

As soon as he became Pope his first encyclical was all about love, everyone was bowled over by it and supposed, because he was talking about the love of God, that he must have become liberal like them. But he was always the same Ratzinger, and was always going to emerge as the defender of Roman Catholic tradition that all Popes are supposed to be.

The secular press imagine on a story like condoms in Africa for example that that what the Pope says represents his personal views. But Popes don’t have personal views. So when the Pope said that condoms were not going to solve the AIDS crisis he was simply taking the Catholic view that the real root of the problem was promiscuity. (Some completely secular authorities have supported the Pope’s analysis)

The view of George Weigel (the official biographer of John Paul II) is that what Benedict needs is a Roman Revolution in the Curia. Incompetents who land him in it again and again surround Pope Benedict. It is really not the Pope’s job to scan the internet to google people like Bishop Williamson.

What he needs [in his press office] is a rapid reaction unit — like that Clinton had — to deal with misaphrehensions in the secular press. It should be ready to deal with inaccurate distorted reporting of off the cuff remarks made about by the Pope in the Church, and issue rebuttals on day one, not two or three weeks later.

However despite this, Pope Benedict XVI will go down as one of the great Popes in history. He’s safeguarded what he inherited from John Paul II, the recovery of a general understanding of the objective character of Roman Catholic truth. What is required now is for a whole generation of bishops to die and to be replaced by faithful and orthodox pastors.

He has established the principle of what he calls the hermeneutic of continuity and has shown that there is no serious conflict between the present and the tradition of the Church before Vatican II. That is his great achievement."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Is Benedict XVI a disastrous pope?
The Indian media aped the anti-clerical and anti-Catholic media of the West in its analysis of the pope's assessment of the efficacy of condom in stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
By George Plathottam

The recent reports in the media under the headline ‘Pope a Disaster: Vatican Insiders’ has shocked the catholic community which hold the pope in great esteem. That the media chose to write such an unsubstantiated and prejudiced report on an important person like the pope who is considered as the spiritual head of more than one billion Catholics across the world, was shocking. Would any newspaper or television channel carry similar stories on the Dalai Lama or other spiritual leaders of Hinduism?

Though the story first originated in a section of the highly anti-clerical Western media, the Indian media lapped it up and gave it wide publicity. Some reports which appeared in the Indian media were based on a story put out by the Press Trust of India (PTI), a news agency considered to be respected and reputed in the country. But what was intriguing is the boldness with which a headline like ‘Pope a Disaster: Vatican Insiders’ could be flashed on the newspapers and television channels in the country and elsewhere. More so because the headline itself boldly announced a bias and the story itself is from a journalistic point of view, an unverified, unsubstantiated one at that. Any journalist or editor worth his or her salt knows that a news report should be based on a reliable source and that the identity and the credibility of the source are integral to the quality of the news that is reported. Thus the sourcing of the news as unidentified ‘Vatican insiders’ not only violates journalistic ethics but smacks of prejudice.

Journalists in the past strictly adhered to the principle that news should be differentiated from views. One of the often-repeated journalistic maxim is: ‘Facts are sacred, but comment is free.’ One of the greatest strengths of the Indian press, considered more objective in comparison to the press in many of our neighbouring South Asian countries or Middle East, was its ability to maintain that hallowed distinction between news and views. Today with television channels and internet providing news round the clock, newspapers tend to adhere less to this time-honoured tradition of separating news and opinion.

The experienced and critical readers will distinguish the difference, but the non-discerning and casual readers are likely to be misled into thinking that opinion is news and vice versa. That category of readers and viewers being numerous, it does not behove well for the media to throw to the winds the maxim of maintaining judiciously the distinction between news and views.

The shift from this distinction to today’s increasing mix of views and news has come partly due to the weakening of the figure of the editor, as well as due to increasing bias and to some extend vested interests of individual reporters and corporate bodies that own the media. No doubt, it is unhealthy for media to have journalists, media persons as well as media organisations casting their shadow on the coverage as is increasingly being seen today.

Recently I was rather disconcerted to see a widely read and much respected newspaper whose main story on the front page was about its success as the largest circulated vernacular daily. Readers who subscribe to newspapers have to not only wade through heaps of ads but also endure a lot of self-promotion materials before they can put their finger on the important events of the day. With such narcissist tendencies becoming rampant in the media today, one is reminded of what a wag said: ‘News is what is written at the back of the advertisement.’

Now coming back to the issue of the report on the pope, it became obvious to any careful reader or viewer of the news that the media chose to throw to the winds this valued maxim of keeping news and views at arms length from each other. By doing so the media has sullied the profession of journalism by letting some people’s views masquerade as news.

In any reputed media it is not easy for cub reporters to come up with a story with a vague attribution to someone who cannot be identified, or the public at large. ‘Reliable sources’ , ‘highly placed officials’, ‘party insiders’, ‘sources close to the authorities’ – thus goes the list of vague attributions which journalists frequently use. But they hold no water. They litter our daily news reports, and readers, even the unhappy ones, tend to take them on their stride. But to authenticate a story, to get substantial, convincing, identifiable sources for it are the burden of the reporter.

The veracity of a news item filed by a reporter is normally put through rigorous tests by several persons who exercise the role of gate-keeping functions in the media system such as sub editors and editors. One wonders whether such a process was applied in the case of the report concerning the pope.

Even if that process has been adhered to, there is hardly anything on the ground to prove that Pope Benedict XVI is a ‘disaster.’ Media reports have indicated elsewhere about his successful visits to Africa, where he drew crowds to the tune of one million. He has given to the people of the African continent reeling under various natural and human-made disasters, a new lease of life and hope. Pope Benedict chose to travel across to parts of this continent to speak of peace, development and solidarity. That he was cordially received and that his message was accepted by large sections of the people of Africa, albeit falsifications regarding his reference to AIDS and condom use, were evident in much of the footage that people across the world watched. His journeys, though much less than his predecessor, John Paul II’s, have been pilgrimages to confirm the faith of the people whose spiritual head he is, and to offer them a sense of being in communion with the universal church.

Then what is behind a report that tends to tarnish the good name of the pope and challenge his moral and spiritual leadership? One cannot deny the fact that a section of people in the West have strong liberal views on issues like gay marriage, divorce, abortion, use of condom. A new wave of atheism and godlessness is now sweeping Europe and America. Anti-clericalism is gaining a new momentum in sections of the society and the media. The traditional teachings of the church rooted on respect for life, family, and sacredness of marital unions are non-negotiable and the pope cannot dilute these perennial teachings of the church to suit popular feelings and sentiments.

Pope Benedict has simply reiterated the cardinal teachings of the church. He has frequently spoken against ethical relativism, moral laxity and godlessness. He has challenged the conscience of the world to rise above a narrow view of life steeped in consumerism and economic self sufficiency, to reach out to the people who reel under poverty and suffering. He has frequently called for responding to the many global challenges the world today faces by expressing greater solidarity and concern for the less fortunate. He has called for ending arms race, wars and conflicts in different parts of the world. It is not an understatement to say that the pope’s voice has been listened to by hundreds and thousands of people wherever he has spoken. In the St. Peter’s Square in Vatican, huge crowds come to listen to his teachings. Events like the World Youth Day in Sydney last year have shown the kind of esteem and love he enjoys among the young people.

Benedict’s predecessor John Paul II was a great globetrotter and crowd puller. He enjoyed great popular support and wide media coverage. He became the Time magazine’s Man of the Year twice during his pontificate spanning a quarter of a century, during which he led the church. John Paul II went down in history as the most photographed person and one who had the single largest live audience in human history. Soon after such a successful pontificate of John Paul II there were widespread doubts that the next pope would not enjoy that kind of acceptance and popularity. But history has shown that within a short period of time Benedict XVI has been listened to by millions of people across the world, and that his writings, his teachings and speeches have received raving reviews. Some commentators who compared the papacy of John Paul II and Benedict XVI say that thousands came to see John Paul II, but today thousands come to hear Pope Benedict.

Pope Benedict continues to be a voice that is listened to. And his is a voice that reassures to the one billion Catholics all over the world as well as to millions of others the need to live a life rooted in God. His voice is a call to adhere to the perennial values of respect for life, option for the poor, charity towards the less privileged. If the pope calls the world to give up ethical relativism and moral laxity in their personal and social life, he is simply being the voice of Christ’s gospel. After all, another name by which the pope is known is ‘the Vicar of Christ.’

No doubt such a message can be uncomfortable for people who seek to live their lives on their own terms in the name of freedom. It is a teaching that is hard to follow, and so, it maybe considered convenient to forsake it, throw it to the winds, and blame the one who continuously harps on the need to live a life rooted in ethical, moral values. Those who are disconcerted and disturbed by that message would find it easy to throw the baby out with the bathe water, to paint the pope as a disaster because his teachings and writings disturb the conscience of the world, because it is too hard a teaching to follow.

Reactions against the report that tried to diminish the moral stature of the pope by calling him a disaster has been coming from different parts of the world. Catholics as well as many religious and political leaders have reaffirmed their faith and confidence in the leadership of Pope Benedict. Last May, I had the privilege of being in the Vatican and listening to him during an audience he gave to the representatives of Catholic media faculties from across the world. His warmth and cordiality, the timelines and relevance of his message, his conviction that came through his speech, were clear indications that Pope Benedict has a vision for the world in our times. The learned professors and scholars from more than 50 universities did not find anything that could suggest signs of disaster in him. They had no hesitation in discerning the voice of a man who knows well the church he leads and the needs of the world today.

When confronted by moral and ethical relativism, the teaching office of the pope, called the Magisterium, has been a sure source of anchor for many people. Often the pope, like other renowned world leaders such as the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, have been considered the moral conscience keepers of the world, urging world leaders and the masses to look beyond what is immediate, to seek the things that can bring about lasting peace and harmony in the world. Their voices are being listened to even to liberate the world from issues like poverty and war and even the current financial crisis that is plaguing the world.

A Norwegian friend of mine, a great scholar with a doctorate in linguistics and a person with a well-grounded knowledge of the Bible, a Lutheran by faith, chose to embrace the Catholic faith. He has been reading and studying much on the Catholic church and it took two years of preparation before he finally embraced Catholic faith and was formally admitted into it. When asked what drew him to the Catholic faith, he told me that he was deeply impressed by the teaching authority of the church in the Magisterium of the Catholic church headed by the pope. He admitted that he was quite uncomfortable with the idea of interpreting the teachings of the Bible by oneself, but felt assured that there is a consistent, continuous and authoritative teaching authority in the Catholic church.

Today more and more people are tending to look for a sure voice that they can rely on, a firm, convincing moral and ethical guide that can show the way. For the one billion Catholics in almost every part of the world as well as a much wider populace, the voice of the pope is a sane, sure, reliable voice one can trust. Macaulay, the renowned historian, in a review on Ranke’s Ecclesiastical and political History of the Popes published in 1840 wrote these memorable words on the enduring nature of the Church and the papacy:

“There is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic church. The history of that church joins together the two great ages of human civilisation. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when came lopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre.

The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour.

The Catholic church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustine, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching.

She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's.”

George Plathottam is a writer based in India who writes on media matters. This article is adapted from Indian Currents.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pope to make historic visit to Britain
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent Last Updated: 10:18PM GMT 14 Mar 2009

Pope Benedict XVI will visit Britain next year, according to senior Vatican sources.

The German pontiff will make the first Papal visit to this country in nearly three decades.

It is understood that the historic event is being timed to coincide with the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, who is on the path to becoming the first British saint for 40 years.

Details of the visit, which will attract crowds of hundreds of thousands of people, are still under discussion, but cities being considered include London, Birmingham, Oxford, Edinburgh, Armagh and Dublin.

A senior cardinal is due to make a private trip to Britain in the summer to make preparations for the Pope's visit, which could be announced by the end of this year.

The Catholic Church in England and Wales will hope that such an event will capture the imagination of the country's four million Catholics, of whom only a quarter now regularly attend Mass.

It could also provide a boost to Gordon Brown with a general election in the same year.

At the same time, the Government has embarked on a major diplomatic mission in an attempt to change the long-standing law banning Catholics from succeeding to the throne.

Sources close to Gordon Brown said that controversial plans to reform the 1701 Act of Settlement are "very much alive" - despite official statements to the contrary.
Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, is overseeing an attempt to secure the backing of all 53 Commonwealth countries, which would be needed before any legislation could be be enacted.
If support can be secured, a plan for change could be agreed at the November meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) in Trinidad and Tobago, to be attended by the Queen, and the pledge could be included in Labour's next general election manifesto.

There has been heightened speculation over the possibility of a Papal visit following extensive lobbying by the Government in recent years.
Gordon Brown and Tony Blair have each extended two invitations since 2007.
Prince Charles is expected to add further momentum to Britain's bid to secure what would be only the second visit by a Pope since Henry VIII broke with Rome to establish the Church of England in 1534.

Relations between the Catholic Church and the Government have been strained following clashes over the introduction of laws enforcing homosexual equality and the Embryo Bill, which paved the way for the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos.

However, secret talks began between the Catholic Church in England and Wales and the Vatican shortly after Pope Benedict's election in 2005, long before Gordon Brown's private audience last month.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, wrote to the Pope in 2006, suggesting that he should come to Britain in 2007 to mark the 25th anniversary of the visit by the late Pope John Paul II.

He proposed that a tour should include a lecture at Oxford University as well as an address to the Houses of Parliament.
The Cardinal was in Rome last week, where he met with Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, and it is likely they discussed plans for a Papal visit.

It has yet to be decided whether the Pope would travel to Britain solely for a service of beatification for Cardinal Newman or whether it would be turned into a tour of the British Isles.
A senior source in Rome revealed that bishops in England are divided over whether the service would be conducted in Birmingham, where his remains are venerated, or in London at Westminster Cathedral or Wembley stadium.

The Pope has privately expressed an interest in travelling to Oxford, having previously only visited Cambridge, and would also be likely to visit Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In a message released last week, he strongly condemned the attacks in Northern Ireland that left two British soldiers and a policeman dead as "abominable acts of terrorism".

"Apart from desecrating human life, [they] seriously endanger the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland and risk destroying the great hopes generated by this process in the region and throughout the world," he said.

"I ask the Lord that no one will again give in to the horrendous temptation of violence."
The Pope would be likely to visit Dublin as well as Omagh or Belfast, the senior source said, adding that there has been a notable shift in dialogue on the issue.

"There have been a number of invitations before, but the language was different from the past. It is no longer a case of paying lip service, but of looking for a time in the diary that works."

The timing of Pope Benedict's visit is likely to depend on the process to beatify Cardinal Newman – one of Britain's most famous Anglican converts to Catholicism.

While the Vatican department responsible for examining the causes of saints is yet to attribute a miracle to the Cardinal Newman, the Pope is understood to have taken a personal interest in his cause.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the head of the department, has already said that would like the Cardinal's beatification – the step before canonisation – to take place very soon.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor has previously said that the British public would be "delighted" if the Pope were to agree to visit.

On John Paul II's tour in 1982, crowds turned out in the thousands to welcome him around the country.
Plans to allow Catholics to succeed to the throne have been backed by senior Labour figures including Jim Murphy, the Scotland Secretary, who has said: "It's wrong to have a settled constitutional position that discriminates."

Any change will be controversial. A petition lodged on the 10 Downing Street website has demanded that the government "keep the monarchy Protestant" rather than allowing Catholics to succeed.

In response a Number 10 spokesman said: "The government has no plans to change the constitutional position of the monarchy, which continues to personify both our national and Commonwealth unity as well as embodying the community cohesion and diversity of which the British people are rightly proud."

This led campaigners against change to conclude they had won a victory. However, a source close to Mr Brown said: "This plan is still very much alive.

"The reason for the [No 10] statement is that that is the current position. The problem in getting a change like this is that you can't just review it and then announce plans to legislate.

"You have to get every Commonwealth country to agree as well. That is obviously an exhaustive process."

A spokesman for the catholic bishops' conference said: "The Catholic community in this country would greatly welcome a visit from the Holy Father.

"There is an awareness that there are a number of invitations that have to be considered and it will depend on the Papal diary."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Holy Father's Easter Message


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world,

From the depths of my heart, I wish all of you a blessed Easter. To quote Saint Augustine, “Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra – the resurrection of the Lord is our hope” (Sermon 261:1). With these words, the great Bishop explained to the faithful that Jesus rose again so that we, though destined to die, should not despair, worrying that with death life is completely finished; Christ is risen to give us hope (cf. ibid.).

Indeed, one of the questions that most preoccupies men and women is this: what is there after death? To this mystery today’s solemnity allows us to respond that death does not have the last word, because Life will be victorious at the end. This certainty of ours is based not on simple human reasoning, but on a historical fact of faith: Jesus Christ, crucified and buried, is risen with his glorified body. Jesus is risen so that we too, believing in him, may have eternal life. This proclamation is at the heart of the Gospel message. As Saint Paul vigorously declares: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” He goes on to say: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:14,19). Ever since the dawn of Easter a new Spring of hope has filled the world; from that day forward our resurrection has begun, because Easter does not simply signal a moment in history, but the beginning of a new condition: Jesus is risen not because his memory remains alive in the hearts of his disciples, but because he himself lives in us, and in him we can already savour the joy of eternal life.

The resurrection, then, is not a theory, but a historical reality revealed by the man Jesus Christ by means of his “Passover”, his “passage”, that has opened a “new way” between heaven and earth (cf. Heb 10:20). It is neither a myth nor a dream, it is not a vision or a utopia, it is not a fairy tale, but it is a singular and unrepeatable event: Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, who at dusk on Friday was taken down from the Cross and buried, has victoriously left the tomb. In fact, at dawn on the first day after the Sabbath, Peter and John found the tomb empty. Mary Magdalene and the other women encountered the risen Jesus. On the way to Emmaus the two disciples recognized him at the breaking of the bread. The Risen One appeared to the Apostles that evening in the Upper Room and then to many other disciples in Galilee.

The proclamation of the Lord’s Resurrection lightens up the dark regions of the world in which we live. I am referring particularly to materialism and nihilism, to a vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable, and retreats cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be the definitive destiny of human life. It is a fact that if Christ had not risen, the “emptiness” would be set to prevail. If we take away Christ and his resurrection, there is no escape for man, and every one of his hopes remains an illusion. Yet today is the day when the proclamation of the Lord’s resurrection vigorously bursts forth, and it is the answer to the recurring question of the sceptics, that we also find in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’?” (Ec 1:10). We answer, yes: on Easter morning, everything was renewed. “Mors et vita, duello conflixere mirando: dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus – Death and life have come face to face in a tremendous duel: the Lord of life was dead, but now he lives triumphant.” This is what is new! A newness that changes the lives of those who accept it, as in the case of the saints. This, for example, is what happened to Saint Paul.

Many times, in the context of the Pauline year, we have had occasion to meditate on the experience of the great Apostle. Saul of Tarsus, the relentless persecutor ofChristians, encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, and was “conquered” by him. The rest we know. In Paul there occurred what he would later write about to the Christians of Corinth: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). Let us look at this great evangelizer, who with bold enthusiasm and apostolic zeal brought the Gospel to many different peoples in the world of that time. Let his teaching and example inspire us to go in search of the Lord Jesus. Let them encourage us to trust him, because that sense of emptiness, which tends to intoxicate humanity, has been overcome by the light and the hope that emanate from the resurrection. The words of the Psalm have truly been fulfilled: “Darkness is not darkness for you, and the night is as clear as the day” (Ps 139 [138]:12). It is no longer emptiness that envelops all things, but the loving presence of God. The very reign of death has been set free, because the Word of life has even reached the “underworld”, carried by the breath of the Spirit (v. 8).

If it is true that death no longer has power over man and over the world, there still remain very many, in fact too many signs of its former dominion. Even if through Easter, Christ has destroyed the root of evil, he still wants the assistance of men and women in every time and place who help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love. This is the message which, during my recent Apostolic Visit to Cameroon and Angola, I wanted to convey to the entire African continent, where I was welcomed with such great enthusiasm and readiness to listen. Africa suffers disproportionately from the cruel and unending conflicts, often forgotten, that are causing so much bloodshed and destruction in several of her nations, and from the growing number of her sons and daughters who fall prey to hunger, poverty and disease. I shall repeat the same message emphatically in the Holy Land, to which I shall have the joy of travelling in a few weeks from now. Reconciliation – difficult, but indispensable – is a precondition for a future of overall security and peaceful coexistence, and it can only be achieved through renewed, persevering and sincere efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My thoughts move outwards from the Holy Land to neighbouring countries, to the Middle East, to the whole world. At a time of world food shortage, of financial turmoil, of old and new forms of poverty, of disturbing climate change, of violence and deprivation which force many to leave their homelands in search of a less precarious form of existence, of the ever-present threat of terrorism, of growing fears over the future, it is urgent to rediscover grounds for hope. Let no one draw back from this peaceful battle that has been launched by Christ’s Resurrection. For as I said earlier, Christ is looking for men and women who will help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love.

Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra! The resurrection of Christ is our hope! This the Church proclaims today with joy. She announces the hope that is now firm and invincible because God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. She communicates the hope that she carries in her heart and wishes to share with all people in every place, especially where Christians suffer persecution because of their faith and their commitment to justice and peace. She invokes the hope that can call forth the courage to do good, even when it costs, especially when it costs. Today the Church sings “the day that the Lord has made”, and she summons people to joy. Today the Church calls in prayer upon Mary, Star of Hope, asking her to guide humanity towards the safe haven of salvation which is the heart of Christ, the paschal Victim, the Lamb who has “redeemed the world”, the Innocent one who has “reconciled us sinners with the Father”. To him, our victorious King, to him who is crucified and risen, we sing out with joy our Alleluia!

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