On June 9th, the Path to Peace Award 2009 will be given to mgr. Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean bishop of Mosul who was abducted on February 29th 2008 and found dead two weeks later. It was announced by mgr. Celestino Migliore, apostolic nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and president of the Path to Peace Foundation, a body working to accomplish projects in support of the activities of the Holy See to the United Nations. According to the Baghdadhope website, the award will be given during a gala dinner at the United Nations headquarters in New York on June 9th 2009. Paulos Faraj Rahho was born in Mosul, Iraq, in 1942. After his priestly ordination on June 10th 1965, he was sent to the Church of Saint Isaiah in Mosul. He founded the Church of the Sacred Heart in Tel Keppe, a new district of Mosul, and an orphanage for disabled children. On February 16th 2001, he was ordained Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, where he was in charge of about 20,000 Catholics in ten parishes. Mgr. Rahho had always said he was concerned about the moves that tended to increase the weight of the law of the Sharia on the Iraqi Constitution but had always worked for tolerance between all the components of the Iraqi population.
This trend - bishop Koch explained - makes one uninterested in what someone thinks or says. A judgment has already been passed on this person, as soon as it can be allocated to a given formal category: conservative or liberal, extremist or radical, reactionary or reformer. The formal allocation of a person to a current of thought makes confrontation with other peoples thought not just useless but impossible. The bishop spoke of the risk of creating a state of siege even within the Church, between parties that no longer speak to each other and do not even pray together any longer. One decides - mgr. Koch goes on - that one cannot speak with allegedly liberal groups or groups who love this sort of labels. And on the other side just the fact that doctrinal positions come from the magisterium of the Church is enough for them to be rejected and denied even without reading or discussing them. This state of siege - Koch said - can only be overcome if the doors that are closed from the inside can be opened from the inside as well.
Peace be with you!: with these reconciliatory words, mgr. Kurt Koch, president of the Swiss Bishops Conference, spoke to the many devotees that attended, in the Marian sanctuary of Einsieldeln on Monday 1st July, the National Pilgrimage for the unity of the Catholic Church in Switzerland and with Pope Benedict XVI. The pilgrimage - as stated in a release from the Bishops Conference - had been launched by the Swiss Bishops at the time the Holy See spoke of the decision to remove the excommunication of the bishops of the fraternity of Saint Pius X. A decision that caused fierce discussions in the country on the meaning of the unity of the Church, the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council, and the attitude of the Church to a deep polarisation. To strengthen the unity of the Church in Switzerland, the Bishops launched this national pilgrimage in Einsiedeln, which then opened the ordinary meeting of the Bishops Conference (which ended today). In taking the floor, mgr. Koch invited the pilgrims not to be tempted to close the doors and part from each other. And he added that a specific form of withdrawing from others is also a widespread formalism.
On Sunday 7th June, the day Poland goes to the polls for the European Parliament, the local Church will celebrate the second Thanksgiving Day that the Episcopacy established in recognition of the key role played by John Paul II in the democratisation of Central-Eastern Europe. This year is also the thirtieth anniversary of Pope Wojtylas pilgrimage in Poland (2-10 June 1979) and the 20th anniversary of the first free election in Poland and all over Eastern Europe (4 June 1989). Anniversaries that should not be underestimated in the run-up to the election,which several bishops have urged to go to in large numbers. Those who do not vote are always wrong, states mgr. Henryk Muszynski, archbishop of Gniezno. Poles should choose representatives who are capable of bringing the best of the national culture to Europe. The Poles religiosity is alive and kicking, and it can be an inspiration for other nations; in addition, family ties in Poland are much stronger than those of the West. A similar appeal has also been made by mgr. Wiktor Skworc, bishop of Tarnow: a high turnout at the election and choosing people who are capable of sharing the magisterium of the Gospel on such issues as the defence of life, of marriage and the family, give the Polish believers a real chance to bring the values of the Gospel amidst the European peoples, thus helping create a moral order.
Volunteering has a huge potential for the social and economic development of Europe. In presenting the idea of the Year of Volunteering, Barrosos Commission outlines a profile of this area and states that the Special Year will help the member states as well as the regional and local communities and society to pursue several goals: working to establish favourable conditions for volunteering in the 27-EU; giving the associations the tools to act and improve their quality; appreciate and reward volunteer work; raise public awareness of the value and helpfulness of such service. The EU Commission is sure the initiative will help strengthen volunteering, making its added value perceived both locally and across the EU. After all, The Special Year would like to enable volunteers and their organisations at the four corners of the continent to take stock of this area and promote the exchange of good practices across the member states. For the twelve months of the campaign in support of volunteering, the EU Executive intends to invest 6 million euros plus 2 million euros for the preparatory work that will begin in early 2010.
The ceremony for the 228 victims of flight AF 447 and their families will also be attended by card. André Vingt-Trois, the Grand Rabbi Haim Korsia, the airport chaplain for the Jews, Mohammed Moussaoui, President of the French Council of Muslim Cult, the Metropolitan Bishop Emmanuel, president of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France, and pastor Claude Baty, president of the Protestant Federation of France. The ceremony will be attended by the Catholic, Protestant and Muslim chaplains of the Paris-Roissy airport. The ceremony, as stated in a release from the archdiocese of Paris, has been prepared in cooperation with Air France. It will be a time of meditation and prayer for the victims families and relatives, in a spirit of closeness among all peoples and all religions. Readings will be in French, English and Brazilian. The prayer will be accompanied by the choirs of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris and Air France. At the beginning of the celebration, Archbishop Vingt-Trois will offer up for the victims families 228 candles that will be lit in front of the altar. They stand for the missing people. The families will be invited to take back the candles at the end of the celebration.
Millions of children all over the world fail to achieve their full potential because of the great differences and injustice that exist in health care. The alarm is given by mgr. Zygmunt Zimoski, president of the Papal Council for the Pastoral of Health, who was sent a few days ago to Geneva as an Observer to the 62nd World Health Assembly. We cannot let these helpless children, their parents and the other adults of the poorest communities in the world become more and more vulnerable because of the global economic crisis, which is widely fuelled by selfishness and greed. Hence the urgent appeal of the Holy See to the governments to develop and achieve objectives and strategies that tend to improve public health, with a special focus on injustice in health care. The economic burden that increasingly weighs on the governments coffers because of the current financial crisis - this is mgr. Zimonskis opinion - is even more deeply felt by the institutions that are supported by the Church. Another ghost that the crisis has brought to life is the eradication of or dramatic reduction in external aids programs, especially in the developing countries, which, according to the Vatican exponent, will dramatically jeopardise their health-care systems that are already on the brink of collapse.
Also on a liturgical plane, Rabanus Maurus tried to understand and explain to others the theological meanings hidden in the rites, by drawing on the Bible and the tradition of the Fathers, using the patristic sources with freedom and careful wisdom. Since an integral part of the liturgical celebration is Gods Word - Benedict XVI explained -, Rabanus Maurus devotes himself to this with the greatest commitment all through his life, producing appropriate exegetic explanations of virtually all the biblical books of the Old and New Testament, with a clearly pastoral intention. Finally, his marked pastoral sensitivity led him to tackle one of the problems that were most deeply felt by the devotees and holy ministers of his time: that of penance, by drawing up penitential books, which, according to the sensitivity of the time, listed the sins and the matching punishments, explaining them as far as possible on the basis of the Bible, the decisions of the Councils and the Popes decretals. Even the Carolingians used such texts, in their attempt at reforming the Church and society. Finally, Rabanus even produced works in which, drawing mostly on Augustine, he explained the fundamental elements of Christian faith to simple people and to the clergy of his diocese.
An example of how one can be at the same time at the disposal of others, without depriving oneself of reasonable time for reflection. This is how the Pope defined Rabanus Maurus, the focus of todays general audience, whose extraordinary culture soon drew him to the attention of the great men of his time, of whom he became the counsellor. The monk of Carolingian times, recalled Benedict XVI as he described his biography, committed himself to ensuring the unity of the Empire and on a wider cultural level never refused to give those who questioned him a well-though answer, which he preferably drew from the Bible and from the texts of the Holy Fathers. First appointed Abbot of the famous Fulda monastery and then archbishop of his native city, Mainz, he did not stop continuing his studies as an exegete, a philosopher, a poet, a pastor and a man of God, worshipped as a saint or blessed man by the dioceses of Fulda, Mainz, Limbourg and Wrocław. Rabanus first theological job came in the form of poetry, that he conceived - the Holy Father explained - so that it not only proposed conceptual contents but also more quintessentially artistic stimuli, using both the poetic form and the pictorial form within the same manuscript codex. (continued)
Faith is not just thought, it touches us in all of our life. This was explained by the Pope who, as he gave relevance - off the cuff - to the figure of Rabanus Maurus, defined him somehow as a sort of forerunning of what we would now call the multimedia method. God entered the sensitive world, the Pope recalled, also off the cuff. This means that, in all the dimensions of life, we must look for and touch God, so the reality of God will penetrate our life and change it. In the monk Rabanus Maurus - who also wrote one of the most beautiful and most widely known hymns of the Latin Church, Veni Creator Spiritus -, there was an extraordinary awareness of the need to involve in the experience of faith not only the mind and the heart, but also the senses through those other aspects of aesthetic taste and human sensitivity that make man enjoy the truth with all himself, spirit, mind and body. An intuition, this one, that, according to the Pope, is extraordinarily relevant today. In addition, in his interest in the liturgical celebration, Rabanus Maurus did not deal with the poetic art as an end in itself, but plied art and any other kind of knowledge to the exploration of Gods Word: hence his commitment to introducing his contemporaries to the understanding of the deeply theological and spiritual meaning of all the elements of the liturgical celebration.
Even in the time of work, with its fast pace, and in the time of holiday, we have to leave our lives for God, open our lives up to God, with a thought, a meditation, a little prayer. With these words, spoken off the cuff at the end of todays catechesis, before about 17 thousand devotees, the Pope gave relevance to the figure of Rabanus Maurus, a monk defined as a truly extraordinary Western character, an exegete, a philosopher, a poet, a pastor and a man of God, as well as a counsellor to princes, who was born in Mainz around 780 and lived right in the midst of the Carolingian age. We must not forget the liturgy - Benedict XVI went on, also off the cuff - on Sunday, which is the Day of the Lord, so as to perceive, in the beauty of our churches, the beauty of God, to let Him into our being. And thats the only way for our life to become great, to become a true life.
The archdiocese of Sydney is getting ready to celebrate the Diocesan Congress for the New Evangelisation in July, to coincide with the first anniversary of Benedict XVIs journey in Australia for the World Youth Day of 2008. The Congress, which will take place from July 18th to 26th, will bring together families, associations and movements, parishes, catechists, teachers, priests and lay people, individuals and communities, to experience the call of the Gospel again and show to everyone the abundance of gifts that Christ gave the Church. The Congress, organised by the Diocesan Office for Evangelisation, will include moments of prayer, speeches and reflections, testimonies focussed on evangelisation. In addition, during the week, the city will host a special mission for the people, named Christ in the city, with initiatives mostly carried out by the young, to involve and evangelise the local community. The Congress will be an opportunity for the Catholic Church of Sydney to gather and focus its attention on what John Paul II and Benedict XVI defined as the new evangelisation: a renewed Christian announcement and a search for new ways of proclaiming Christs message in the contemporary age, the promoters explain. Guests from all over the world will give speeches at the Congress.
On Sunday, June 21st, the Cerro de los Angeles at Getafe, Spain, will host the renewal of Spains consecration to the Holy Heart of Jesus on its 90th anniversary, celebrated by the president of the Spanish Bishops Conference, the archbishop of Madrid, card. Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, with dozens of bishops and thousands of devotees from the Spanish dioceses. Very early on Sunday, a vigil of prayer will be celebrated with thousands of young people coming from all over Spain, organised by the Youth for the Kingdom of Christ movement, with the support of the Youth Department of the Bishops Conference. The anniversary will also be celebrated with a Week of reflection and prayer on the spirituality of the Heart of Jesus, which will have its highlight in the Eucharistic co-celebration and the renewal of Spains consecration to the Heart of Jesus, on June 21st. On Saturday 20th, a vigil of prayer will be held for young people, starting at midnight and going through all night, officiated by mgr. José Ignacio Munilla, bishop of Palencia and director of the Youth Department of the Spanish Bishops Conference.
A powerful appeal to go to the polls for the European election tomorrow was made by the Catholic Bishops Conferences of England and Wales and Scotland. Not voting means not serving ourselves, our neighbours and our children. Voting is an effective way of accomplishing the challenge of the Gospel to serve our neighbours, reads a release from the Irish Bishops. An invitation taken up by mgr. William Kenney, auxiliary bishop of Birmingham and spokesman of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales for Europe, who highlighted that, in a proportional election system, every vote helps. According to Keith OBrien, leader of the Scottish Bishops, the time has come to consider our personal contribution to the political life of our nation and Europe, and whether we can give a greater contribution to the renewal of politics, thus reversing the loss of Christian influence that enabled Europe to grow and thrive. The areas pointed out by the two Bishops Conferences in which the MEPs will play a major role are also similar: economy, immigration, the environment and bioethics, the defence of the right to practice ones religion, by acknowledging the contribution made by Christianity to the building and the values of the European Union.
Overcoming the boundaries of space and time to create a virtual forum in which to plan, confront each other and join forces: this is, the deputy secretary general of the Council of Europe, Maud de Boeur-Buquicchio, explained yesterday as she spoke at the high-level conference that is ending in Strasbourg today, the goal of the Children Rights Platform launched during the meeting. De Boeur-Buquicchio emphasised the importance of approving guidelines for integrated strategies against the abuse of children, a draft of which has been drawn up by a team of qualified experts following a thorough survey of the situation in Italy, Norway, Romania and Portugal. According to the speaker, it is also essential to find effective measures for ensuring that Europe enforces the recommendations of the UN Secretariat General and those that were located by the recent World Congress of Rio de Janeiro about the abuse of children. Prevention, protection and participation for all children in Europe, concluded de Boeur-Buquicchio, is the motto of the CoE strategy for the three years 2009-2011, which also includes a child-friendly legal system, an authentic culture of childrens participation, and the eradication of any form of abuse of children.
An invitation to pray for the victims of the Air France airbus - that disappeared the night between May 31st and June 1st, while, with 228 passengers on board, it was flying over the Atlantic from Rio de Janeiro to Paris - and for their families: it was made from the website of the French Bishops Conference by the cardinal, president and archbishop of Paris, André Vingt-Trois. The air accident caused lots of victims - states the president of the French bishops, in a release - and casts in mourning the families of passengers of different nationalities, including many French and Brazilian people. On behalf of the Catholic Church that is in France - card. Vingt-Trois goes on -, I want to say to everybody that we share their pain, and I invite the Catholics to pray for all the victims and their families and to surround them in their sympathy and friendship. An interfaith ceremony will be officiated in Notre-Dame Paris, this afternoon at 16, for the victims families and friends. (continued)
If society is composed of independent citizens who have a more or less independent economic subsistence - the president of Ccee explains -, if democracy is not just a group of institutional forms, but involves a real possibility for citizens to proactively contribute to shaping public life, economy, culture, then the Christian participation may take those forms that were in the minds of the great Christian people who were among the founders and the builders of our European house. It is important, however, card. Erdő warns, that peoples intellectual independence and freedom be cultivated and strengthened everywhere in the world, because one of the greatest risks of democracy seems to be distraction and shallowness. If these attitudes become general attitudes, then people may lose the habit of reasoning logically, of assessing their own experiences, the plans, risks and opportunities that we have to face together in society. Hence his final exhortation to take care of and cultivate the anthropological foundation of the citizens deliberate participation in the shaping of our common future.
When the Church reminds the citizens consciences of the principles of sound reason and the Revelation, it accomplishes the mission received from Christ, card. Erdő explains. It is its duty to announce and teach the truth which is Christ and at the same time to declare and confirm, with its authority, the principles of moral order that come from the human nature itself. Of course, according to the president of Ccee, lay people committed to public life need the help of the whole Church and everybodys prayer, but they also need the authenticity of the Christian message, which is guaranteed by the Magisterium of the Church. Nowadays, Erdő points out, there are lay people who are capable of giving a clear testimony in public life, but no one can say if they will really be able to change society. Certainly, in some spheres, the Christians voice sounds too weak. In some parliamentary polls, the majority often seem not to take any notice of those values that are fundamental for Christians and that are not all revealed principles but more often than not just commonsense criteria. Thats why, the cardinal insists, the responsible and constructive attitude of Christians all over the world is a general duty, even if the ways and forms largely depend on the structure of each society. (continued)
Europe needs Christ. Transmitting human and Christian values, shaping the earthly world according to the spirit of the Gospel - this is the Catholics mission in all societies, according to the lesson of the Council, its words, compared with the Sixties, now resounding as the defence of the value of the human person and Creation, threatened by many factors. This was stated in an interview at www.agensir.it, just before the election for the European Parliament, by card. Péter Erdő, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, primate of Hungary and president of the Council of European Bishops Conferences (Ccee). During real socialism - explains Erdő -, there was no possibility to take part in political life for Catholics who could then shape the world according to the Gospel by being honest in their jobs and in everyday life, but they could not officially take part in big politics. Compared to that time, the Christians possibilities have improved. And so in Europe the commitment of responsible lay people, even in political life, does not seem useless, especially because the deep roots of Christianity can be a foundation of solidarity and understanding. (continued)