Pope Calls on U.N. Leaders to Resist Culture of Death

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Aware of the U.N.’s contrary positions on many life issues, Pope Francis today challenged 29 heads of U.N. agencies to resist the “throwaway culture” and the “culture of death” which, he said, “nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted.”

It is one of the few times – if not the first – that Francis has used the term “culture of death” which was first coined by St. John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae. John Paul defined the term as the “war of the powerful against the weak”, characterized by a society that lacks solidarity, and fostered by “powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency.” He included within this culture many current social evils such as procured abortion, modern slaveries such as pornography and drug addiction, disdain for the poor, and euthanasia.

In today’s private audience at the Vatican with the United Nations Chief Executives Board and Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, the Pope said that “an awareness of the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters whose life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death must lead us to share with complete freedom the goods which God’s providence has placed in our hands.”

As in his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, the Holy Father also underlined the “indispensable” cooperation of the private sector in working alongside state initiatives for the common good.

Quoting St. John Paul II’s encyclicals Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, Centesimus Annus, and Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate, he stressed that “equitable economic and social progress can only be attained by joining scientific and technical abilities with an unfailing commitment to solidarity accompanied by a generous and disinterested spirit of gratuitousness at every level.

“A contribution to this equitable development will also be made both by international activity aimed at the integral human development of all the world’s peoples and by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society,” he added.

He closed by urging the UN leaders to “work together in promoting a true, worldwide ethical mobilization which, beyond all differences of religious or political convictions, will spread and put into practice a shared ideal of fraternity and solidarity, especially with regard to the poorest and those most excluded.”

Here below is his speech in full:

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Mr Secretary General,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you, Mr Secretary-General and the leading executive officers of the Agencies, Funds and Programmes of the United Nations and specialized Organizations, as you gather in Rome for the biannual meeting for strategic coordination of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board.

It is significant that today’s meeting takes place shortly after the solemn canonization of my predecessors, Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. The new saints inspire us by their passionate concern for integral human development and for understanding between peoples. This concern was concretely expressed by the numerous visits of John Paul II to the Organizations headquartered in Rome and by his travels to New York, Geneva, Vienna, Nairobi and The Hague.

I thank you, Mr Secretary-General, for your cordial words of introduction. I thank all of you, who are primarily responsible for the international system, for the great efforts being made to ensure world peace, respect for human dignity, the protection of persons, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, and harmonious economic and social development.

The results of the Millennium Development Goals, especially in terms of education and the decrease in extreme poverty, confirm the value of the work of coordination carried out by this Chief Executives Board. At the same time, it must be kept in mind that the world’s peoples deserve and expect even greater results.

An essential principle of management is the refusal to be satisfied with current results and to press forward, in the conviction that those gains are only consolidated by working to achieve even more. In the case of global political and economic organization, much more needs to be achieved, since an important part of humanity does not share in the benefits of progress and is in fact relegated to the status of second-class citizens. Future Sustainable Development Goals must therefore be formulated and carried out with generosity and courage, so that they can have a real impact on the structural causes of poverty and hunger, attain more substantial results in protecting the environment, ensure dignified and productive labor for all, and provide appropriate protection for the family, which is an essential element in sustainable human and social development. Specifically, this involves challenging all forms of injustice and resisting the “economy of exclusion”, the “throwaway culture” and the “culture of death” which nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted.

With this in mind, I would like to remind you, as representatives of the chief agencies of global cooperation, of an incident which took place two thousand years ago and is recounted in the Gospel of Saint Luke (19:1-10). It is the encounter between Jesus Christ and the rich tax collector Zacchaeus, as a result of which Zacchaeus made a radical decision of sharing and justice, because his conscience had been awakened by the gaze of Jesus. This same spirit should be at the beginning and end of all political and economic activity. The gaze, often silent, of that part of the human family which is cast off, left behind, ought to awaken the conscience of political and economic agents and lead them to generous and courageous decisions with immediate results, like the decision of Zacchaeus. Does this spirit of solidarity and sharing guide all our thoughts and actions?

Today, in concrete terms, an awareness of the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters whose life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death must lead us to share with complete freedom the goods which God’s providence has placed in our hands, material goods but also intellectual and spiritual ones, and to give back generously and lavishly whatever we may have earlier unjustly refused to others.

The account of Jesus and Zacchaeus teaches us that above and beyond economic and social systems and theories, there will always be a need to promote generous, effective and practical openness to the needs of others. Jesus does not ask Zacchaeus to change jobs nor does he condemn his financial activity; he simply inspires him to put everything, freely yet immediately and indisputably, at the service of others. Consequently, I do not hesitate to state, as did my predecessors (cf. JOHN PAUL II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 42-43; Centesimus Annus, 43; BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 6; 24-40), that equitable economic and social progress can only be attained by joining scientific and technical abilities with an unfailing commitment to solidarity accompanied by a generous and disinterested spirit of gratuitousness at every level. A contribution to this equitable development will also be made both by international activity aimed at the integral human development of all the world’s peoples and by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society.

Consequently, while encouraging you in your continuing efforts to coordinate the activity of the international agencies, which represents a service to all humanity, I urge you to work together in promoting a true, worldwide ethical mobilization which, beyond all differences of religious or political convictions, will spread and put into practice a shared ideal of fraternity and solidarity, especially with regard to the poorest and those most excluded.

Invoking divine guidance on the work of your Board, I also implore God’s special blessing for you, Mr Secretary-General, for the Presidents, Directors and Secretaries General present among us, and for all the personnel of the United Nations and the other international Agencies and Bodies, and their respective families.

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Remarks by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon:

Your Holiness Pope Francis I,

Thank you.  Muchas gracias.

On behalf of the United Nations family, I would like to express our utmost gratitude to you for honouring us with this audience.

It is wonderful to be with you once again.

Twice a year, I invite the United Nations most senior executives to discuss our global mission to promote peace, human rights and sustainable development.

We represent the family of the United Nations – and we meet at a time of test for the human family.

Inequality is growing.  Injustice is prevalent.

There is too much intolerance among peoples and faiths.  All of these aggravate insecurity.

The Central African Republic is the scene of horrific fighting between Christians and Muslims.

South Sudan is in crisis.

The Syrian conflict is in its fourth year, and continues to worsen.

Tensions over Ukraine remain high.

Around the globe, the impacts of climate change are being felt already and will affect generations to come.

I am convening a Climate Summit in September to mobilize action and solutions.

Over the past two days here in Rome, we have been discussing these challenges – and looking for ways to strengthen our work and seize today’s opportunities.

We are accelerating efforts to realize the Millennium Development Goals and, at the same time, working hard to define a post-2015 development framework.
Your Holiness,

Across the UN agenda, I see the need for calm, compassion, cooperation and courage.

Your Papacy embodies these principles and has inspired people in all regions and from all backgrounds.

We deeply appreciate your personal commitment to eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable development.

I count on the Catholic Church, under your leadership, to continue to work closely with the United Nations to promote a life of dignity for all.

Our meeting today will send a very strong message of solidarity in our common cause.

Your Holiness,

It is my honour once again to invite you to grace us with your presence at United Nations Headquarters in New York at your earliest convenience.

That would continue a tradition of papal visits – and be an opportunity for you to speak of your vision for our common future.

Finally I understand that you are going to visit the Republic of Korea and my home town, Eumsong, in August.

I sincerely hope that you can bring a message of healing and reconciliation to the people of the Korean Peninsula.

I thank you again for your support.

We wish you continued good health and success.

Thank you.  Grazie mille.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/pope-calls-on-u.n.-leaders-to-resist-culture-of-death#ixzz31GCyxgER

Pro-Abortion Ideology on Display as U.N. Committee Grills Holy See

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GENEVA — The Holy See’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva is hoping for a “sense of moderation and respect” in the final conclusions of a U.N. committee after it questioned the Holy See May 5-6 on clerical sex abuse in the context of torture.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told the Register May 7 that the U.N. Committee on the Convention Against Torture hearing in Geneva was “a bit better” than the previous round in January, when the U.N.’s Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child went so far as to call on the Church to change its teaching on homosexuality, abortion and contraception.

“The chairperson of the committee made an effort to keep a sense of balance, to highlight some of the positive contributions of the Catholic Church to human rights in general and the fight against pedophilia,” he said.

But he stressed that some members of the committee tried to “link the Convention Against Torture with anything pertaining to sexual abuse and to make the crime of sexual abuse of minors some kind of torture.”

Although he said the Holy See accepts that sexual abuse of minors “is a legitimate question to be raised” under Article 16 of the convention that speaks of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” Archbishop Tomasi said the Holy See delegation made it “very clear” that the definition of torture in Article 1 of the convention is “quite precise and involves state officials in activity that is degrading and humiliating for other people.”

From the outset of the hearing, the Holy See stressed that it signed up to the Convention on grounds that it would apply only to the territory of Vatican City State, not the wider Church. “The Holy See has no jurisdiction over every member of the Catholic Church,” Archbishop Tomasi said in his opening remarks. While the Holy See can be a moral force, the “agent of justice” for crimes committed by Catholics was the local state where the crime was committed, he stressed.

 

Ideological Attacks

But this wasn’t understood or welcomed by the committee’s chief rapporteur, Felice Gaer of the United States, who told the Vatican delegation that its position “seems to reflect an intention for a significant portion of the actions and omissions of Holy See officials to be excluded from consideration by this committee, and this troubles us.”

Gaer and another panel member presented dozens of questions from non-governmental organizations that are ideologically opposed to the Church, with many of these questions falling outside the scope of the treaty.

In a May 6 press release, Catholic Voices USA accused Gaer and the committee’s chairman, Claudio Grossman of Chile, of holding overt pro-abortion biases that are “impugning the credibility and reputation of the committee.”

Catholic Voices noted that Grossman previously has written academic texts promoting “reproductive rights” at the local, national and international levels and said that Gaer’s questioning “clearly demonstrates her hostility toward the Catholic Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life.”

“It is outrageous that the U.N. Committee Against Torture would challenge the Catholic Church’s religious commitment to the sanctity of life at every stage,” commented Ashley McGuire, Catholic Voices USA advisory board member. “Throughout these hearings, Ms. Gaer has sent a strong signal that she considers a strong pro-life belief to be a pro-torture position. Given that most of the world’s religions hold similar views on abortion, were the committee to adopt such a twisted official position, it would be nothing more than a direct attack on religious freedom and undermine the very credibility of the committee and its mission.”

 

Explaining Church Actions

Despite the sometimes hostile questioning, Archbishop Tomasi nevertheless took the opportunity to explain that the Church “makes every effort” to conduct ecclesiastical proceedings against clerics credibly accused of the sexual abuse of minors. He also pointed out that Pope Francis has established a Commission for the Protection of Children as a further effort to safeguard minors in the Church.

Requested by a member of the committee to give statistics, the archbishop said that “credible accusations” had been made against 3,420 priests from 2004-2013. In the majority of cases, he said, the abuse was alleged to have occurred between 1950 and 1989. Many of those priests are or have been jailed by civil courts for their crimes, he said.

Within the same period, he said the Holy See had dismissed 848 priests from the priesthood as a result of the allegations being found to be true. In another 2,572 cases — mainly involving priests of an advanced age — the men were ordered to have no contact with children and were ordered to retreat to a life of prayer and penance.

Archbishop Tomasi also made clear to the committee that “significant steps and improvements” have been made to Vatican City State legislation, in compliance with the convention, that further reinforce the Holy See’s commitment to respecting the Convention Against Torture.

He further pointed out that, thanks to the Holy See’s multilingual media services, the Holy See is “arguably one of the most effective moral voices in the world for human rights, including the position against torture and other cruel and inhuman punishments.”

 

‘A Difficult Battle’

In comments to the Register, the Italian Church diplomat said the issue must be kept in perspective, and sexual abuse of minors is far more prevalent outside of the Church.

“Millions of cases” of exploitation and sexual exploitation of minors are documented each year, Archbishop Tomasi said, adding that the World Health Organization estimates the total number may be around 40 million.

But he observed that it’s difficult to convey to the media that the percentage is much higher than among Catholic clergy, “because when you put together sex and religion, it becomes a selling point for newspapers.” He also said the Church and the UN committee are coming from two different philosophical positions which are also not easy to explain in soundbites. “We are fighting a difficult battle,” he said.

However, the force of the Gospel “has been effective in changing cultures and civilizations before,” he said, “and I think it’s still alive and effective today.”

The UN Committee on the Convention Against Torture is expected to issue its concluding report on the this week’s hearings on May 23.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Register staff contributed to this report.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pro-abortion-ideology-on-display-as-u.n.-committee-grills-holy-see#ixzz31GABzdtB

Synod Secretary General Wants Change in Church’s Teaching on Marriage

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Edward PentinIn a development likely to cause more unease about the upcoming synod on the family, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops has given an interview in which he says he wants a change in Church teaching on marriage.
According to the Belgian newspaper De Standaard, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri says it is time to update Church marriage doctrine, for example in connection with divorce, the situation of divorcees and people who are in civil partnerships. His comments will appear in an exclusive interview with the Christian weekly magazine Tertio, published on Wednesday.”The Church is not timeless, she lives amidst the vicissitudes of history and the Gospel must be known and experienced by people today,” Cardinal Baldisseri says.

“It is in the present that the message should be, with all respect for the integrity from whom the message has been received. We now have two synods to treat this complex theme of the family and I believe that these dynamics in two movements will allow a more adequate response to the expectations of the people”, says the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops.

The Italian cardinal also notes that “Familiaris Consortio” of John Paul II, the last great ecclesiastical document on this subject, is 33 years old.

Cardinal Baldisseri, 73, confirmed in the interview that Pope Francis wishes local bishops to be seriously involved in the global governance of the Church and for there to be a new balance between centralization and local autonomy.

As secretary general, Cardinal Baldisseri’s role is primarily administrative and involves assisting in preparing the apostolic exhortation which the Pope will publish on the basis of the recommendations of the synod.

A Vatican diplomat, the cardinal holds a license in dogmatic theology, and a doctorate in canon law.

This is clearly a report of a report which inferred the cardinal advocates a “change” in the Church’s teaching, so the actual contents of the interview may vary from what has been reported so far. Check back here soon when I hope to have the full text of the interview.

H/T Chris Gillibrand

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/sec.-general-of-synod-wants-change-in-churchs-teaching-on-marriage#ixzz31G9TuMRF

Holy Land Christians Look Forward to Pope Francis’ Visit

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Latin Patriarchate of JerusalemROME — Archbishop Maroun Lahham has been taking a leading role in preparations for Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land, May 24-26.

The Palestinian archbishop, vicar in Jordan for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, said, “We’re looking forward to him talking to us about our faith. We expect some words of faith, affirming us in our faith.”

In this April 29 interview during a break at a conference given by the Acton Institute on religious and economic freedom, the Jordanian prelate tells the Register about his hopes for the papal visit as well as concerns over persecution of Christians and rapid emigration of Christian communities from the Middle East.

 

What are your hopes for the Pope’s visit to the Holy Land?

In Jordan, we’re looking forward to him talking to us about our faith. You know, we’re 3% of the population and have the psychology of the minority. When you’re the minority, you seek protection — this is the psychology of every minority. So when we have a big thing like the Pope visiting, we expect some words of faith, affirming us in our faith.

Meanwhile, in Palestine and in Israel, we’re expecting him to offer some words of peace and justice. He will also visit a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem.

 

Does his friendship, good relations and reputation among both Jews and Palestinians put him in a strong position to help bring about peace?

John Paul II also had this, but I think there’s no critical goodwill on the part of our political leaders to make peace. What is lacking is not a solution. It’s clear that, after 64 or 65 years of conflict, everyone says the only solution is to have two states for two peoples.

In Palestine, there’s a place, geographically speaking, which all the Christians and all the Palestinians of the world and all the Jews of the world can recognize, but there is no place in the heart for others. So there’s no political goodwill. The Pope will come for one day in Jordan, one day in Palestine and one day in Israel. He will not work miracles; the politicians are hardheaded.

 

Is the organization of the trip going well?

Oh yes, we have meetings every hour. We have a committee to prepare his visit to Jordan. We’ll have three key moments: He’ll visit the king [Abdullah II] at the palace, he’ll celebrate a Mass in the stadium, and then he’ll have an encounter with refugees, orphans and disabled people at Christ’s baptism site in Jordan.

 

Many speak about the dangers of persecution and how it is increasing. How much is this a growing concern in the Middle East?

I don’t think it’s right to make “persecution of Christians in the Middle East” into a big headline. It depends on the countries. For instance, in the Middle East, there’s Jordan, Syria before these current events [internal conflict], Palestine, Israel — there’s been no persecution of Christians [in these countries]. In Jordan, we live very freely. In Syria, they used to live freely, without any persecution. Lebanon is half Christian, half Muslim. In Iraq, there’s no persecution, literally speaking, but there is political instability, which means Christians, Muslims, Iraqis suffer. Perhaps the only place where you can talk of persecution, but with a small p, is Egypt, despite them having the largest number of Christians in the Arab world. One out of two Christians in the Arab world is Egyptian. Out of 15-20 million Arab Christians, about 10 million are Egyptians.

 

Some argue that Egyptian Christians are more discriminated against than persecuted. Would you agree with that?

It is discrimination, yes, more than persecution. But here is some persecution, now, in Syria, where Islamic fundamentalism is taking over. They cut heads off, and say, “You all become Muslim or we kill you” — that’s all persecution.

 

Has Pope Francis and the Church in general been strong enough in speaking up in defense of persecuted Christians in such places as Syria?

The Pope, yes. I think he spoke more than once about Syria, and he was very clear on that. In his Easter message, he said “our beloved Syria.” But you know, all popes always speak against war and call for peace. I remember what St. John Paul II said during the Iraq War: He begged them to make peace. But you know politicians only have their own plans, their own choices, so you can pray, ask and beg them, but if they want war … Remember, that, with Bush and Saddam, the day before the war, the Pope phoned both of them. It’s important to say that there are places where people are more persecuted than others in the Arab world; in Saudi Arabia, for example.

 

There is talk of having a prayer for persecuted Christians said at the end of every Sunday Mass. Would you agree with this?

Yes, but not for the persecuted; I would not use that word. I would say for the suffering Christians, because you can be suffering from something that is not literally persecution, and I don’t like this psychology of victimization: “They’re killing us — please help.” There are some instances. In Syria, we saw on YouTube how they cut off heads and played football with them. This really is persecution, but this is one case out of a million.

 

Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako of Baghdad said recently that Iraq’s dwindling Christian community faces “disaster,” and if no action is taken, they will number just a few thousand in a decade. He said the daily migration of Christians from Iraq was “terrifying.” How much is this a concern of yours?

It’s not the case in Jordan, but the exodus of Christians depends very much on the political situation. If there’s an exodus, it’s not because of religious persecution. In Palestine — I’m a Palestinian, by the way — Christians are leaving, but they’re not persecuted for being Christian. Muslims aren’t leaving because they’re Muslims; Jews aren’t leaving because they’re Jews. It’s because of political instability, and they prefer to leave in order to have a better life for their children. So when there is political stability, there is still emigration, but in normal proportions. In Jordan, it’s not a problem.

 

But you have lots of refugees?

Yes, that’s a problem. Lately, I heard that Jordan used to have 6.5 million inhabitants. Now it’s 9 million. Three million are not Jordanians, but Iraqis, Syrians, Egyptians. This is another question, politically, socially, morally, economically. It’s a big issue.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/holy-land-christians-look-forward-to-pope-francis-visit#ixzz31G8qBe1g

U.N. Committee’s Unjust Grilling of the Holy See

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The Holy See was grilled by the U.N. committee on torture today and, as expected, it came in for some harsh and extrinsic criticism for the Church’s handling of clerical sex abuse cases.

In the two-hour hearing in Geneva, the Committee Against Torture launched a barrage of questions to the Vatican delegation, asking about past policy decisions, the juridical distinction between the Holy See and Vatican City, and information on specific cases, according to Reuters.

But many of the questions went beyond the boundaries of the U.N. Convention against Torture. The Holy See also signed up to the Convention on grounds that it would apply only to the territory of Vatican City, not the wider Church.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the U.N. in Geneva, said while the Holy See can be a moral force, the “agent of justice” for crimes committed by Catholics was the local state where the crime was committed. “It should be stressed, particularly in light of much confusion, that the Holy See has no jurisdiction … over every member of the Catholic Church,” he said in opening remarks.

But as this committee is heavily influenced by NGOs ideologically opposed to the Church’s teaching, this important caveat was brushed aside by some members of the panel. The committee’s chief rapporteur, Felice Gaer of the United States, told the Vatican delegation that its position “seems to reflect an intention for a significant portion of the actions and omissions of Holy See officials be excluded from consideration by this committee, and this troubles us.”

Gaer and another panel member presented dozens of questions from ideologically opposed NGOs, many if not all of them falling outside the scope of the Convention. You can get an idea of the kind of questions they asked by looking at ‘shadow reports’ here (click on CAT – Convention against Torture and Other… and then ‘Reporting Cycle’). Particularly antagonistic NGOs include the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Three NGOs have submitted shadow reports defending the Church. A particularly strong one has been written by Catholic Voices here, while the Atlanta-based Solidarity Center for Law and Justice effectively warns the CAT to steer clear of criticising the Holy See.

Archbishop Tomasi gave the following comments to Vatican Radio this afternoon, further explaining the Holy See’s position:

“The delegation of the Holy See presented its point of view and emphasized first of all that the Convention has been signed and ratified by the Holy See on behalf – and only on behalf – of the Vatican City State. In this way, the implementation of the Convention under the responsibility of the Holy See, applies to the territory of Vatican City State.

Obviously, some people don’t agree with this statement because they feel that the authority of the Holy See extends to the institutions and the persons of the Catholic Church at large. But from a juridical point of view, this is not accurate and there is an important distinction to be kept in mind between a juridical responsibility and a moral, spiritual, pastoral responsibility.

Then, the members of the Committee raised a series of questions that deal with specific cases that happened in different countries of the world for which they would like to have explanations and accurate information. Mostly, (these are) cases of sexual abuse of minors on the part of personnel working for the Church and the assumption it seems at work in this situation (is) that the Holy See is directly responsible for the behavior of every priest and of every employee of any Church institution in the world which of course is not the case.

And then, I must underline the fact that the Chairman of the Committee has tried to be very fair, pointing out the good actions and measures – legal and pastoral I would say – undertaken by the Church in the last few years. And at the same time, he also posed some questions that need to be answered.

At the moment we are reflecting and preparing the conclusions to be presented tomorrow, giving as much information as we can so that the objective of this exercise, the protection of people from abusive and humiliating behavior, may be realized. So from this point of view, the Holy See is happy to collaborate with the Committee but at the same time, it will probably not accept that the Committee goes beyond its boundaries into areas that belong to other committees like the Committee of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and at the same time, maintain a civilized climate of dialogue with every member of this Committee.”

For more background on the Committee hearings, whose final report will be published on May 23, see my earlier article here.
Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/u.n.-committees-erroneous-grilling-of-the-holy-see#ixzz31G8LRTNA

Church Braces for Abuse Hearing

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As the Holy See braces itself for another grilling from another United Nations committee, some prominent pro-life leaders are arguing the Church should withdraw from relevant conventions until it receives a fair hearing.

Vatican officials are to appear before the U.N.’s Committee Against Torture Monday and Tuesday this week, during which they are expected to be quizzed over clerical sex abuse from the perspective of torture and inhuman treatment.

It follows harsh criticisms in January by the U.N. committee that monitors children’s rights.

In its concluding report, the Committee on the Rights of the Child accused the Holy See of systematically placing its own interests over those of victims, but it ignored stringent measures put in place by the Church in recent years to eradicate such crimes. The U.N. body also exceeded its remit by calling on the Church to change its teaching on homosexuality, contraception, and abortion.

The Vatican became signatory to the convention against torture in 2002, and as such, it must routinely appear before the convention’s monitoring committee. But in a long statement issued Friday, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi disputed placing clerical sex abuse of minors in the context of torture, saying it comes under the rights of the child instead.

He pointed out that “not infrequently” such U.N. committees pose questions “deriving from issues not strictly linked to the text of the convention, but rather connected to it indirectly or based on an extensive interpretation.

Lombardi partly blamed pressure from NGOs “with a strong ideological character and orientation,” saying their abuse of these committees “is clear to any unbiased observer.” He said he hoped for “a serene and objective dialogue,” otherwise these conventions “may be distorted” and the committees “risk losing authority.”

These committees, he warned, are in danger of being “reduced to tools of ideological pressure rather than a necessary stimulus toward the desired progress in promoting respect for human rights.”

In “shadow reports” submitted to the committee ahead of this week’s hearing, various NGOs with strong ideological positions against Church teaching have made their prejudices known in a bid to try and influence the committee’s conclusions.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, for instance, equates the Church’s treatment of women who have had abortions to torture, but ignores the many Church groups that help women cope with the trauma of terminating a pregnancy. Nor does it seek to understand the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life.

Vatican officials argue that organizations are playing “ideological hardball” with such arguments which, they say, far exceed the purposes of the convention. “This is a total contradiction,” one official told Newsmax on condition of anonymity. “Are they now interpreting the convention for us?”

Unusually for such hearings, some shadow reports have been submitted in support of the Church. The group ‘Catholic Voices’ has issued a strong counteroffensive against ideological attacks, saying “the age-old desire to marginalize and discredit the Church has lately taken a new and vitriolic form.”

It singles out a “new intolerance,” characterized by “ideological insatiability,” which “insidiously” tells the young that “religious faith is on the wrong side of history.” And it argues that the U.N. charter wouldn’t exist “without the universalist ideas about human rights bequeathed to humanity by Christianity itself.”

Austin Ruse, president and founder of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), said these reports are “important” but will have “absolutely no effect whatsoever on the outcome of the coming report.”

“The treaty monitoring bodies are made up of radicals and they will do exactly what they want to do, which in this case is to beat up the Church,” he said. The Holy See “will not get a fair hearing” at this committee “no matter what they do” and he urged the Vatican to have “a PR strategy worked out” ready to defend the Church around the world.

Israel is one country that refuses to attend such hearings even though it is a signatory to the convention, and some argue the Holy See should do the same.

“The Catholic Church follows a master who overturned the merchants’ and money-changers’ tables in the Temple of Jerusalem because he was offended by the blasphemous stench of their hypocrisy,” said Benjamin Harnwell, founder of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, a pro-life think tank. “If Our Blessed Lord is to be our model in all things, we should not be afraid to ‘overturn the tables’ when confronted by hypocrisy in our own time.”

He suggested to Newsmax that the Pope could consider using the opportunity this week to announce that the Holy See is “temporarily withdrawing” from the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child “until such time as it returns to its original responsibility: promoting the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and not the extreme extraneous interests that have hijacked it.

“Frankly, children deserve better than to be used as pawns in an external ideological battle,” he said.

Ruse believes withdrawal also might be necessary but over a longer period.

“My advice would be to weather this inevitable attack on the Church and, sometime in the next few years, withdraw from these U.N. treaties,” he said. “In doing so, they should make the case they are withdrawing because the treaty monitoring bodies are going far beyond their warrant, far beyond the four walls of the treaties, and in the process harming authentic human rights.”

The Committee Against Torture will publish its concluding observations on May 23.

Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.

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Rome Pro-Life March Grows in Participants, Significance

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Edward PentinThe fourth annual March for Life in Rome, which takes place on Sunday, will have an international character that will include a conference of pro-life groups taking place on Saturday.

Last year, Pope Francis personally greeted the estimated 40,000 participants as they arrived at the Vatican for the Holy Father’s Regina Coeli prayer and address.

To find out more about this year’s event and the march’s rapid growth and popularity, the Register spoke May 1 with the march’s founder and chief organizer, Virginia Coda Nunziante.

 

The march this year is notable for taking place on the feast of the holy Shroud of Turin — could you explain more about this and why it is significant?

Indeed, this year’s March for Life will take place on a very special day. On May 4, it is the feast of the holy Shroud, which is the sacred cloth that bears witness to both the death of Jesus Christ and his resurrection. The liturgical feast was approved in 1506 by Pope Julius II, who decided to set the day after the feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross [also known as the Invention of the True Cross].

Historical and scientific studies have now shown that the sheet in which the dead body of Jesus was wrapped is authentic. The shroud is, therefore, one of the most important relics of Christianity and is a testimony to the life that triumphs over death, the love that wins over evil and sin. In the holy shroud, symbol of pain and of eternal life, the March for Life this year will have its seal of protection.

 

What is the theme for this year, and which groups and individuals will be participating?

This year, the organizing committee has decided to give the march the slogan “For life, without compromise.” This is to reiterate what has been clear since the first edition of the event: that life is a non-negotiable value and, therefore, cannot be subject to failures and compromises.

We decided to take to the streets, really, to radically and firmly oppose any type of abortion law and other laws that threaten life. To defend the unborn is to fight for the repeal of the unjust Law 194, which, since its approval in 1978, has caused the suppression of 6 million innocent children [in Italy]. The clarity of the message we have launched has made the march a success. There are many members who have joined, not only from Italy, but from all over the world. There are also many bishops and cardinals who have given us their support and encouragement. Most of the participants are young people and families. In addition, the march is open to men and women of all political and religious beliefs.

 

How much has the march grown since it was founded in 2011?

The success of the march is incredible. Within two years, the number of participants has grown considerably. At the first event, held in 2011, in Desenzano del Garda, a small village in northern Italy, not even 1,000 took part. But in 2012, in Rome, we had a good 15,000; and, last year, the number more than doubled to 40,000. In short, if you work and propose powerful ideas, despite all odds, success is assured.

 

In your view, are we witnessing a change in public opinion on life issues in the United States and the West as a whole? If so, how much does it have to do with greater participation in events such as the March for Life?

Certainly, bioethical issues always arouse some interest, although, today, the focus of policy and public opinion seems more directed to economic issues. Of course, in Italy, we have not yet reached through the march the attention on life we want.

The March for Life in Washington has been held for over 40 years. … The defense of life and family is always increasingly strong, because the threats to non-negotiable values are becoming stronger. For this reason, we need to consolidate our efforts and continue to witness publicly, without fear and with great perseverance, what we believe.

The population decline, which is the suicide of the West, is a tragic wake-up call, which you cannot answer with abortion and “gay marriage.” People should become sensitized to these issues, and this is the main purpose of events such as the March for Life.

 

This year’s march coincides with an important conference in Rome on life issues. Can you tell us more about this and how the conference will complement the march?

To accompany the March for Life, which this year takes on a truly international character, in the St. Pius X Hall (near Via della Conciliazione, the central boulevard leading to St. Peter’s), a large conference, sponsored jointly by LifeSiteNews, Human Life International and Family Life International New Zealand, will take place on May 3. It will be attended by representatives of more than 50 pro-life organizations active in 20 countries, including the United States, France, Spain and Belgium.

In the morning, the work will take place behind closed doors: The various pro-life representatives will discuss common strategies for the defense and promotion of policies favorable to the right to life to be developed in relation to political, religious authorities and public opinion. This is very important if you really want to try to influence the decisions made by governments and international organizations in the field of life.

At 1pm, there will be a press conference, during which the decisions that emerged from shared thoughts of the morning will be communicated. The day will then be open to the public at 2:30pm. Two keynote speakers will address those present: Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke and the scholar George Weigel. The representatives of the pro-life associations will briefly present the characteristics of their organizations. As these reports will be in English, simultaneous translations will be provided. The conclusion is scheduled for 6:45pm.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/rome-pro-life-march-grows-in-participants-significance#ixzz31G6cWdFs

Pope Francis To Address Heads of U.N. Agencies

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Broke story of large UN gathering which took place at the Vatican May 9.

A Vatican source says the meetings will afford the Holy Father the opportunity to ‘address real-world problems’ with agencies that promote abortion, sterilization and contraception on a global scale.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis plans to address all the heads of United Nations agencies on May 10 in what some are viewing as a crucial opportunity to help turn the U.N.’s satellite institutions away from their radical anti-life agenda.

He is also scheduled to meet U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon next week. The meeting would be the Pope’s second with the U.N. leader since his election.

The U.N. System Chief Executives Board for Coordination — the longest-standing and highest-level coordination forum of the U.N. — will be received in private audience by the Holy Father at the end of its Rome meeting.

Chaired by Ban, the board comprises 29 executive heads of the United Nations and its specialized agencies. These include not only such institutions as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but also the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), which in 2012 declared birth control should be a “human right,” and UNICEF (U.N. Children’s Emergency Fund), which promotes abortion and population-control programs worldwide.

A Vatican source said the meeting is “important, as it offers a chance for the Holy Father to address real-world problems.” He said the Pope is likely to keep stressing themes outlined in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), as well as comments he made on the economy at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.

The Pope will issue “a strong message,” the source said, but in a more general way than if he were to address an agency such as the UNFPA individually.

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), said the meeting “could be  very important” if the Holy Father “takes the opportunity to call the agency heads back to their original purposes, rather than pursuing radical agendas.”

“A saint named Jim Grant used to run UNICEF, [but] since his time, it has been run by radical feminists, for instance,” he told the Register. “The Holy See stopped donating to UNICEF almost 20 years ago because of its promotion of abortion.”

Ruse said that he wants the Holy Father to “call them back to helping children rather than advancing feminist rights,” and he hopes Francis “has a heart-to-heart with them.”

The U.N. board meets biannually, usually in New York, Washington or Geneva. About every 10 years, it convenes in Rome, the headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization and World Food Program. The last time it did so was in 2000, when the board’s members had a private audience with St. John Paul II.

 

Attacks on the Church

Next week’s meeting follows a dispute in January between the Holy See and the U.N. committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In a report, the committee made recommendations on the handling of clerical sex-abuse cases, but went far beyond its scope by harshly criticizing the Church for its stances against homosexuality, contraception and abortion.

The Holy See is also expected to be grilled in the same manner again next week, when Vatican officials make a routine appearance before a panel of experts on the U.N. Committee Against Torture.

Observers say members of the panel, many of whom have clear prejudices against the Church, may not only raise the issue of clerical sex abuse, but once more exceed their bounds and use the committee as an instrument to attack the Church.

Meanwhile, Vatican sources have said Pope Francis will visit the United Nations and address the General Assembly as part of his anticipated trip to the United States next year. The visit will coincide with the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015.

The precise dates of the Pope’s U.S. visit have not been finalized, and the trip has yet to be officially confirmed.

Edward Pentin is the Registers Rome correspondent.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-francis-will-address-heads-of-u.n.-agencies-may-10#ixzz31G5gAalx

Popes John XXIII and John Paul II Proclaimed Saints in Historic Canonization

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Newsmax cover story, April 27, 2014

VATICAN CITY — An overcast and drizzly morning gave way to bright skies at the very moment that Pope Francis proclaimed Popes John XXIII and John Paul II saints at the Vatican Sunday.

Speaking in Latin at the canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square for the two popes, Francis confirmed they were in heaven with the words: “We declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II be saints and we enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole church.”

St. Peter’s Square, filled with what the Vatican estimated were 800,000 pilgrims from all over the world — with especially large contingents from Poland (John Paul II’s birthplace) and the north of Italy (the home of John XXIII) — erupted with cheers and applause.

The two-hour mass got underway at 10 a.m., shortly after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI arrived to take his seat to a warm welcome from the crowd.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the reading of the day — the doubting of the Apostle Thomas who said he would only believe if he could touch Jesus’ wounds.

“The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith,” the Pope said. “They are essential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness.”

Saints John XXIII and John Paul II, he added, “were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side.”

“They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles,” the pope said. “These were two men of courage, filled with the parrhesia of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.”

He noted that the two popes had lived through the “tragic events” of the 20th century, “but they were not overwhelmed by them” as, for them, God, faith and the Lord’s mercy were “more powerful.” They showed the hope and joy of Easter, “forged in the crucible of self-denial, self emptying, utter identification with sinner” graces given to the earliest church fathers.
Both popes “cooperated with the Holy Spirit” in renewing and updating the church, he said. John XXIII, he stressed, showed an “exquisite openness” to the Holy Spirit and let himself be led by it.

For his part, John Paul II was the “pope of the family” and once said he wanted to be remembered as such. Francis was “particularly happy” with this fact, especially as the Catholic Church is “journeying with families” in preparation for an October synod dedicated to the family. It is surely a journey which, from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains.”

The pope closed his homily by calling on these two new saints to intercede for the church to ensure the synod is a “pastoral service to the family.

“May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves,” he said.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Raymond Flynn told Newsmax he had been to many other such occasions, but this was “the most dramatic and most moving event” he and his wife had ever attended.

“It’s almost like history coming before you when you think about all the things that I’ve lived through,” he said. “It’s like a movie but it’s real.”

He felt it signified the end of an “extraordinary chapter” in world history, and added that “when you put it all together, we’re the lucky ones able to grow up and live in this kind of history learning about two remarkable men, to witness this, and to do so in the presence of two popes and two saints.”

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said the canonization was “extraordinary,” noting it was a day of four popes including Benedict XVI. He said there was “no question” that the “core message” of both popes is that “every human being has a basic dignity and that dignity has to be respected, including the right to religious liberty.”

This message, Gingrich told Newsmax, “is at the center of the Church’s modern message to the world.”

He also said the “deliberate acceleration” of John Paul being made a saint — a process some criticized — “is really an effort to draw to the next generation to be aware of what courage can do and particularly what heroic courage can do when dedicated to bringing Christ to the world.”

Michael Reagan, son of Ronald Reagan — the former president widely credited with helping to bring down Soviet Communism along with John Paul II — also noted the weather changing at the moment of Francis’ proclamation.

“I told everyone not to worry about the forecast of rain,” he said. “When my dad was sworn in it looked like rain until he got up to speak and then the sun broke out.”

“God is good,” he said.

Pilgrims began camping out for the canonization long before midnight Saturday, and by morning St. Peter’s Square and the main boulevard leading up to St. Peter’s Basilica was filled with people.

Max, who had traveled from from Paris, France, said he felt he knew John Paul II and so “wanted to participate. It is the first time that someone I know has been a saint,” he said. “For a Catholic, it is very important. I want to share this experience with everyone back home.”

Alix, also from Paris, said she came to Rome for the canonization because John Paul II was a “great figure” from her childhood.

“I grew up with his image in my head,” she said. “He faced communism and many historical events. For young people, he encouraged us, motivated us. He told us we did not have to be ashamed of our faith, at school or work. He is a great example of holiness.”
Fr. Miguel De La Porta, a Spaniard living in Rome, said the two popes are “models of sanctity, very beautiful.” John XXIII had a “personal approach to the Lord”; John Paul II had “evangelization – bringing others to Him.”

“The saints do not want anything for themselves,” he said. “They just want to bring people to Him. I think they will bring many people to the Lord.”

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Archbishop Lori: Grace From Canonizations Will Strengthen Church’s Mission of Evangelization

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Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore will be one of more than 5,000 priests, bishops and cardinals to take part in the canonization Mass for Popes John XXIII and John Paul II today at the Vatican.

Named to the episcopacy by John Paul II in 2001, the archbishop is the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. Prior to today’s ceremonies, Archbishop Lori discussed the canonizations, the lives and legacies of the saintly men and the way that both of them advanced the Church’s mission in contemporary America.

 

What do you think are the most important aspects of these canonizations?

Well, I think the most significant aspect is the holiness of these two pontiffs, the humility and the joy of John XXIII and, really, the contemplative mystical prayer of Pope John Paul II. I think, really, that the most fundamental thing that we are celebrating is the life and holiness of these two pontiffs and the importance of holiness for the Church’s mission of evangelization.

John XXIII was a man who remained in touch with his humble origins. I think he saw himself very much as a pilgrim soul making his way through the world. In his life of prayer, he maintained, sort of, a sense of humor with God, as a way of letting God be God. And I believe that, because of that, he reflected to the world a great joy and a great openness that everyone found to be so attractive. And so we call him the “Good Pope John” as a result of that.

As a young priest — many, many times as a young priest — I had the experience of seeing John Paul II prior to the morning Mass in his chapel, absorbed in prayer. And it is really my belief that everything he said and did as pope passed the way of contemplative prayer, and as a result, what he said and did was so very, very profound and credible.

 

What sort of graces would you like to see come from these canonizations?

John XXIII convoked the Second Vatican Council to renew and strengthen the Church’s mission. Pope John Paul II interpreted the Council for us authoritatively and focused us on the New Evangelization, and that work is being continued under Pope Francis.

What I would hope and pray is that these dual canonizations will be a great impetus, a great grace, for carrying forward the Church’s mission of evangelization, not only in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, but beyond.

 

How do you see it affecting the culture of life?

John Paul II spoke prophetically to the world about the transcendent dignity of the human person, and, when he wrote Evangelium Vitae [The Value and Inviolability of Human Life], he wrote a most beautiful and profound defense of human life, from the moment of conception until natural death.

It is impossible to think about the New Evangelization apart from the gospel of life. What we bring to our culture and to people who are looking for God is a profound sense of the sacredness of human life, its inviolability, its dignity and its openness to friendship with God. And so, the New Evangelization certainly must include prominently the gospel of life.

 

Is it important that these two popes are being canonized together?

John XXIII … convoked the Second Vatican Council, and … John Paul II contributed to it and helped us to understand it. It just seems to me that Pope Francis is holding up these two saintly pontiffs so that, once again, we will focus on the authentic renewal of the Church’s life and mission that the Council called for, including that universal call to holiness that is so prominent in Lumen Gentium [the Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church].

 

Do you think that these joint canonizations could help redress the abuses that took place after the Council and perhaps bring it back on the course, which is what perhaps John XXIII envisioned?

Yes, I think so. It seems to me that the Second Vatican Council, while not a dogmatic council, focused us very, very much on the kerygma, and it taught us how we should truly understand everything as flowing from the Incarnation, the life and teaching of Christ and his death and resurrection. I think Pope Francis is calling us back to the heart of the Gospel, so that we can once again talk to each other in the Church, understand each other and go forward on a sound basis.

 

What relevance do you think the two popes have with regard to the United States, and which teachings resonate the most with the United States?

Certainly, in the case of John XXIII, his encyclical Mater et Magistra [Christianity and Social Progress] struck resonant chords in the United States. We are used to using the language of human rights. I believe he, in a most appropriate way, appropriated that language into the Church’s social teaching. And that social encyclical of his, I think, continues to be highly influential.

In the case of John Paul II, there are so many ways that he affected the life of the Church in the United States. Clearly, his call for a “New Evangelization” is one of those. I think his renewal of priestly formation in the life of priests is of capital importance. His social encyclicals have exerted a tremendous influence.

But I think what we also remember is that he loved us. He visited us. He understood and he appreciated our culture. And I think for that reason, as well, we remember John Paul II so gratefully and lovingly.

 

Are there any other stories or anecdotes from your memories of JPII that you can share?

Well, there is one: In the year 2000, I brought my mother and father to Rome. And we went to the morning Mass, and after Mass, I had the chance to introduce my mother and father to John Paul II. And my mother just spontaneously said, “Most Holy Father, I am so happy to see you.” And the Pope smiled at my father and at me and then at my mother. And he pointed to her and he said, “Mama.” What I love about that is that he communicated in such a beautiful, human way. For all of his brilliance, for all of his mysticism, for all of his greatness, he could communicate at a very loving level, a true pastor of souls.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/archbishop-lori-grace-from-canonizations-will-strengthen-churchs-mission-of#ixzz31G4qEMov

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