Sunday, December 31, 2006

Top Catholic Stories of 2006: A retrospective look at the year's headlines

Catholic World News

CWNews posted over 7,500 stories during the calendar year 2006: an average of over 28 new headlines (including our valuable "News Bytes") every weekday.

Among the most memorable stories of the past year were:

The Regensburg speech. (Powerful papal challenge to Islam, secularism) As CWN reported at the time, the speech was designed as a challenge both to Islam and to Western secularism, and a defense of the necessary tie between faith and reason. But many Islamic leaders took the Pope’s words as an affront while in the Western world the Pontiff’s critique of secularism was largely ignored. Ironically, these reactions-- the violent attacks of Islamic zealots and the indifference of secularists-- underlined the force of the Holy Father’s argument. CWN provided an early text of the Pope’s speech (the “uncorrected” version, which prompted the initial outrage among Muslims), and it drew more readers than any other item ever posted on the CWN site. (Pope's speech at University of Regensburg (full text))

The new Secretary of State. (New Secretary of State takes office) Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone took office in September, ending the extraordinary 16-year tenure of Cardinal Angelo Sodano as the Vatican’s #2 official. With his selection of a trusted collaborator to lead the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict made the most important in a series of changes that also included the appointments of India’s Cardinal Ivan Dias as prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization (Top Curial official headed for Naples archdiocese) and Brazil’s Cardinal Claudio Hummes as prefect of the Congregation for Clergy. (Cardinal Hummes to head Congregation for Clergy)

The trip to Turkey. (Between Two Worlds) A voyage that had been planned as an ecumenical encounter with the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I took on important new dimensions as the fallout from the Regensburg address stirred Islamic anger, and the government of Turkey pressed for Vatican support of its bid to join the European Union. Pope Benedict negotiated carefully through the minefield, continuing to stress the themes of that Regensburg address: religious freedom and the need for rational dialogue across religious lines.

Death penalty support wanes as life without parole gains public favor

By Carol Zimmermann
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As 2006 came to an end, capital punishment was making headlines for what it is not doing: overall declining use, waning support and recent challenges at the state levels about how it is conducted.

Shifting public support for capital punishment is a "ray of good news" for Frank McNeirney, co-founder of Catholics Against Capital Punishment, who said he hopes the trend continues.

Death penalty statistics in a year-end report from the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington offered reasons for optimism among opponents of capital punishment. For starters, the group noted the results of a newly released Gallup Poll showing that more Americans support alternative sentences of life without parole over the death penalty as punishment for murder.

The center also reported that U.S. death sentences are the lowest they have been in 30 years; executions have sharply declined and the number of people on death row has decreased. During 2006, 53 people were executed, down from 60 in 2005 and 98 in 1999, the report said.

McNeirney, who founded Catholics Against Capital Punishment with his wife, Ellen, 14 years ago in their Maryland home, said the change in attitude against the death penalty has been developing over recent years as more people, and jury members in particular, have become aware of the availability of life without parole sentences. Only Alaska and New Mexico currently do not have life without parole sentences, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The 2006 Gallup Poll shows that two-thirds of Americans still support the death penalty, but for the first time in two decades it found that Americans by a 1 percent margin -- 48 percent to 47 percent -- prefer life without parole over capital punishment.

The slim difference in opinion is more of a shift when compared with figures from the 2005 Gallup Poll which showed that 56 percent of Americans preferred the death penalty and only 39 percent supported life without parole.

The overall change in attitude toward capital punishment also reflects a shift that has occurred in recent years among Catholics, McNeirney told Catholic News Service Dec. 21. In 2005, a poll conducted by Zogby International for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops found Catholics almost equally divided on the issue, with 48 percent favoring it and 47 percent opposing it. The shift was a marked difference from 1994, when about 80 percent of Americans supported the death penalty, with Catholics favoring it by about the same margin.

McNeirney attributes the change in part to Pope John Paul II's clear message against the death penalty during his 1999 visit to St. Louis when he described capital punishment as "both cruel and unnecessary" and noted that "modern society has the means of protecting itself without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform."

Documents advocating the cessation of the death penalty can be found at Priests for Life and other organizations including Catholics Against Capital Punishment, the Death Penalty Information Center, and the Moratorium Campaign.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam hanged; Vatican, opposing capital punishment, calls execution "tragic"

Saddam Hussein executed before dawn
Deposed Iraqi dictator is hanged for deaths of 148 Shiites in 1982

NBC, MSNBC and news services
Updated: 2 hours, 12 minutes ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Saddam Hussein, among the world’s most brutal dictators, struggled briefly after American military guards handed him over to Iraqi executioners. But as his final moments approached, he grew calm. Dressed in a black coat and trousers, he clutched a Quran as he was led to the gallows, and in one final moment of defiance, refused to have a hood pulled over his head.

After a quarter-century of remorseless brutality that killed countless thousands and led Iraq into disastrous wars against the United States and Iran, Saddam was executed before sunrise Saturday.

CBC News

Vatican denounces Saddam's execution
Last Updated: Saturday, December 30, 2006 9:25 AM ET

A Vatican spokesman on Saturday called Saddam Hussein's execution "tragic" and said it could escalate the fighting in Iraq.

"The killing of the guilty is not the way to reconstruct justice and reconcile society," Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement. "There is rather the risk that it might fuel the spirit of vengeance and sow the seeds of new violence."

Lombardi said the Catholic Church has repeatedly and clearly expressed its opposition to capital punishment.

"A capital punishment is always tragic news, a reason for sadness, even if it deals with a person who was guilty of grave crimes," he said.

The world reponse to Hussein's execution reflects differing views on capital punishment:

Christian Today

World Reacts to Saddam Hussein Execution

Following the news that former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, has been executed, church leaders have joined world leaders in reacting to the landmark news.

by Daniel Blake
Posted: Saturday, December 30, 2006, 14:12 (GMT)

Following the news that former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, has been executed in northern Baghdad today, the world’s leading figures and organisations have reacted in various ways to the news.

UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett

Saddam Hussein has been held to account for some of his crimes against the Iraqi people, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said following the former Iraqi president's execution on Saturday.

New York Times

European Response Focuses on Death Penalty

Published: December 30, 2006

LONDON, Dec. 31 — With gradations of unease inspired by the hanging of Saddam Hussein, Western politicians sought a cautious balance today between revulsion at his record, support for his executioners and concern at the use of the death penalty they largely shun in their own countries.

But religious leaders — both Christian and Muslim — used stronger and more critical language in response to the news of Mr. Hussein’s execution, which greeted most Western Europeans on their breakfast time news shows and in some newspaper headlines on New Year’s Eve.

Perhaps the most delicately choreographed response came from Britain, whose prime minister, Tony Blair, took a lead as America’s closest ally in toppling Mr. Hussein while his Labor Party prides itself on opposing the death penalty.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Pope's prayer in Turkish mosque inspires Spanish Muslims

By Anka, Madrid
Thursday, December 28, 2006

Inspired by Pope Benedict XVI’s historic visit to the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Spanish Muslims have asked to pray with Christians in the Cordoba Mosque, which was turned into a cathedral in the 13th century.

In a letter to the pope’s representative in Spain, Junta Islamica, a Muslim organization in Spain, requested permission for followers of both faiths to pray together in the Cordoba Mosque.

The organization asked that their request be conveyed directly to the pope and stated that they were not aiming at re-establishing the Cordoba Mosque, nor reviving Andalusia, the pre-Christian Muslim civilization of Spain.

Rather, the demand should be seen as a move to encourage tolerance and reconciliation.

President of Junta Islamica Mansur Escudero spoke of their initiative to the Spanish media and said that they were planning to make the Cordoba Mosque a unique place of worship and serve world peace.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pope gets letter from Ahmadinejad

AP via Yahoo! News

By ALESSANDRA RIZZO, Associated Press Writer
Wed Dec 27, 12:52 PM ET

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI received a letter Wednesday from Iran's hardline president about the recent U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions against Tehran for refusing to compromise on its nuclear program, Iran's state-run news agency reported.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's letter was delivered by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki after the pontiff's general audience at the Vatican's Paul VI hall, the Vatican said.

The Vatican did not release details of the content of Ahmadinejad's letter, but Iran's state-run IRNA news agency said the note focused on Saturday's Security Council vote approving sanctions against Iran in the standoff over its nuclear program.

The Vatican said Benedict stressed his apolitical role in his brief meeting with Mottaki.

The Pope "reaffirmed the role that the Holy See intends to carry out for world peace, not as a political authority but as a religious and moral one ... so that peoples' problems will always be solved in dialogue, mutual understanding and peace," the Vatican said in a statement.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Pope Benedict pays tribute to Catholics persecuted for faith

CP via Yahoo! Canada News - Dec 26 3:47 AM

By Frances D'Emilio

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict on Tuesday paid tribute to Christians who are persecuted for faith, including Catholics who suffer because of their loyalty to the pontiff, in an apparent reference to the underground church in China.

To the Virgin Mary, "we entrust all those who are persecuted and suffer, in various ways, for paying witness to, and being in service to, the Gospel," Benedict told pilgrims as the Church marked the feast day of St. Stephen, a Jewish convert who became the first Christian martyr.

"With special spiritual closeness, I am thinking as well of those Catholics who keep their own loyalty to Peter's Seat without yielding to compromise, sometimes at the price of grave suffering," the Pope said. The mention of St. Peter represents papal authority in Rome.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Text of Pope Benedict XVI's Christmas Day message

12/25/2006 7:58:10 AM
Daily Journal

By The Associated Press

The Vatican's official English-language translation of Pope Benedict XVI's "Urbi et Orbi" Christmas Day address, delivered in Italian from the balcony in St. Peter's Basilica.

"Our Saviour is born to the world!" During the night, in our Churches, we again heard this message that, notwithstanding the passage of the centuries, remains ever new. It is the heavenly message that tells us to fear not, for "a great joy" has come "to all the people" (Lk 1:10). It is a message of hope, for it tells us that, on that night over two thousand years ago, there "was born in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:11). The Angel of Christmas announced it then to the shepherds out on the hills of Bethlehem; today the Angel repeats it to us, to all who dwell in our world: "The Saviour is born; he is born for you! Come, come, let us adore him!".

In Midnight Mass, pope urges global goodwill
Bloodshed, security concerns continue around world on Christmas Eve

Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters

Pope Benedict XVI waves to children as he celebrates midnight Mass at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican early Monday.
View related photos

Updated: 9:51 p.m. ET Dec 24, 2006

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Christmas Midnight Mass in the splendor of St. Peter’s Basilica early Monday with an appeal for abused children around the world, including child soldiers, beggars and others deprived of sustenance and love.

“The child of Bethlehem directs our gaze toward all children who suffer and are abused in the world, the born and the unborn,” Benedict said in his homily, referring to the church’s stand against abortion.

In celebrating Jesus’ birth, he said people should direct their thoughts toward children forced to serve “as soldiers in a violent world, toward children who have to beg, toward children who suffer deprivation and hunger, toward children who are unloved.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Jesus is the light of the world

Yahoo! News

AP - Sun Dec 24, 1:06 PM ET

Pope Benedict XVI raises a candle after lighting it at his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, during the inauguration of the Nativity scene, Sunday Dec. 24, 2006. Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday urged people everywhere to prepare for Christmas by overcoming prejudices as pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter's Square ahead of Christmas Eve celebrations. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Pope worries about clash with Islam
Updated 12/22/2006 12:55 PM ET

By Alessandro Bianchi, pool via AP

Pope Benedict XVI is framed by two Bishops as he delivers his year-end speech to the Roman clergy Friday in the Clementine hall at the Vatican.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI on Friday urged intensified dialogue with Islam, saying in a Christmas speech that 2006 will be remembered as a year marked by the danger of a clash between cultures and religions.

Benedict compared the situation in the Muslim world to that faced by Christians beginning in the Enlightenment, the 18th-century movement to promote individual rights, including freedom of religion.

"We Christians feel close to all those who, on the basis of their religious conviction as Muslims, commit themselves against violence," the pope said.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Pope Donates €1 Million to Holy-Land Custodian For Parish Center in Nazareth
Posted on December 21, 2006

The president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" has given the Custodian of the Holy Land, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, a check for €1 million on behalf of Benedict XVI.

Surrounded by the Nazareth Parish council as he made his presentation last Saturday, Archbishop Josef Cordes explained, "This money was collected in Germany, more specifically in Bavaria, at the initiative of the dioceses of Munich, Passau and Regensburg in the enthusiasm of the Pope's visit to his native country last September."

Having received this gift from his compatriots, the Holy Father gave the sum to "Cor Unum," "the Pope's charity," as Archbishop Cordes put it.

The pontifical council, in turn, sought a project on which to bestow the €1 million, worth about $1.3 million.

Its search for a beneficiary met with the Holy Land Custody's search for funds to open a large parish center in Nazareth, the largest parish in the Holy Land.

"The Holy Father would like to show the Christians of the Holy Land his support," Archbishop Cordes said. "The country of Christ should not become a museum without any remaining Christian presence."

The Custodian of the Holy Land, Father Pizzaballa, thanked the Pope and the German faithful for the donation, and added that "the city has not yet had a parish center capable of offering Christians a place of life, encounter and formation. It has long been a desire of the Custody to build this community space."

The Franciscan said that the first stone for the center could be laid as soon as February.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pope Benedict Warns of Secular Trends

ABC News

Pope Warns of Threats to Christmas Celebration From Secular Trends

Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful and pilgrims during his general audience at the Vatican Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006. In his speech the Pontiff asked Christians to defend the spirit of Christmas against secular trends and wished a "Happy Christmas" in seven languages and told them that "false prophets continue to offer cheap salvation which ends up in deep delusions." (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)


VATICAN CITY Dec 20, 2006 (AP)— Pope Benedict XVI urged Christians on Wednesday to defend the spirit of Christmas against secular trends during his last general audience before the holiday.

He wished the several thousand pilgrims and tourists gathered in a Vatican auditorium decorated with Christmas trees a "Happy Christmas" in seven languages and told them that "false prophets continue to offer cheap salvation which ends up in deep delusions."

"It is the duty of Christians to spread through a witness of life the truth of Christmas, which Christ brings to every man and woman of good will."

Throughout the audience, choral groups sang Christmas carols, including "Silent Night," a favorite in the pope's native Germany. Shepherds from Italy's Abruzzi mountains, in their traditional fur-trimmed costumes, played Italian carols on their bagpipes.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Pope: Peace Depends on Jews, Christians and Muslims
Posted on December 19, 2006

Peace in the Middle East will come about thanks to the commitment of Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope expressed this today with the words "Shalom alechem," on receiving representatives of B'nai B'rith International. The group's stated objective is to keep Jewish traditions and culture alive, as well as to offer humanitarian aid to the needy.

In his address in English to his guests, the Holy Father reiterated his "unfailing hope and prayer for peace in the Holy Land."

"Peace can only come about if it is the concern of Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, expressed in genuine interreligious dialogue and concrete gestures of reconciliation," assured the Holy Father.

Monday, December 18, 2006

At Meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, B'nai B'rith Looks to New Era in Catholic-Jewish Relations

BBI Urges Decisive “Moral Response” to Iranian Policies of Terror and Hate

Contact: Sharon Bender, B’nai B’rith International, 202-857-6699, 202-297-0003,

ROME, Dec. 18 /Christian Newswire/ -- Senior B’nai B’rith International leaders and supporters met today in a private session with Pope Benedict XVI. B’nai B’rith President Moishe Smith delivered a message of cooperation and shared values, stressing the common interests and concerns that both communities share.

During the private audience – on the third day of Chanukah, and one week before Christmas – the B’nai B’rith contingent urged the Pope to lead “an urgent and unwavering moral response” to global extremists, such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who hosted a Holocaust-denial conference last week.

Smith thanked the Pope for the meaningful steps he has taken in the last year – his pilgrimage to Auschwitz, his visit to an historic synagogue in Germany, and his warm reception of the leaders of the State of Israel, including, most recently, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. He congratulated the Pope for his principled religious calls for reason when some corrupt religion into serving as “a tool and cover” for hatred. And, Smith invited the Pope to work together with B’nai B’rith International and the Jewish community of the world to address “poverty and disease, as well as injustice and ignorance, in light of the timeless vision and sacred values” that both religions share.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Pope: joy of Christmas is for the “lame”, like refugees from Iraq

The pope drew attention to people who suffer during this season of joy, like those forced to seek refuge in Syria, sick and lonely people, and also those who, lured by myths of consumerism and false values, are lost in a futile quest for “moments of intoxication”. Baby Jesus statuettes were blessed

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The proclamation of the joy of Christmas, of the coming of the Lord, is directed especially at the “lame of the earth”: those who suffer because they face the tragedy of war, in the Middle East or some places in Africa, or because they are stricken by sickness or solitude, or because, like many of today’s young people, they do not know the true meaning of joy for they have lost themselves in an exaggerated quest for the mirages of consumerism, for moments of intoxication and all forms of alienation. On this day when the liturgy makes a call to joy of the spirit, Benedict XVI urged the faithful to reflect on the true meaning of joy, found not in the myths of our time but in the proclamation of salvation contained in the word of God. The pope remembered especially Iraqi refugees in Syria, “forced to leave their country because of the tragic situation they are experiencing” and he made an appeal on their behalf to “individuals, international organizations and governments” to commit themselves still more “to meet their most urgent needs”.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

`Post-Christian Europe'? The issues are old but the landscape is changing
UPDATE: 3:33 PM, Saturday, December 16, 2006

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - In 1905 France passed a landmark law declaring a clean break between church and state. Riots erupted and a papal encyclical denounced the act as a "most pernicious error."

Such extreme passions cooled long ago, but the core questions remain as strong as ever. Debates over religion, politics and civic life _ and how much they should overlap and interact _ are demanding more attention across Europe than at any time in recent decades.

Friday, December 15, 2006

In pictures: The Pope's calendar


Benedict was invited to feature on Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana's 2007 charity wall calendar. Calendar images reprinted by permission of photographer Giancarlo Giuliani.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pope and Greek Orthodox leader sign joint declaration

Vatican City, Dec. 14, 2006 (CNA) - Following their private meeting in the Vatican this morning, Pope Benedict XVI and His Beatitude Christodoulos, archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, signed a Joint Declaration in the presence of members of the archbishop's Greek delegation and of Catholic representatives.

The statement begins, "We, Benedict XVI, Pope and Bishop of Rome, and Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, in this sacred place of Rome...wish to live ever more intensely our mission to bear apostolic witness, to transmit the faith, ... and to announce the Good News of the birth of the Lord. ... It is also our joint responsibility to overcome, in love and truth, the multiple difficulties and painful experiences of the past."

"Our meeting in charity makes us more aware of our joint task: together to follow the arduous path of dialogue in truth in order to re-establish full communion of faith. ... Thus we obey a divine mandate ... and continue our commitment, ... following the example of the Apostles and demonstrating mutual love and a spirit of reconciliation."

The two leaders say they recognize the steps made in dialogue since the close of the Second Vatican Council and write that they, “hope that bilateral theological dialogue will take advantage of these positive elements in order to formulate propositions acceptable to both sides, in a spirit of reconciliation."

Catholics and Orthodox called to continue ever deeper relations, Pope says

VATICAN CITY, December 14 (CNA) - This morning, the Holy Father received His Beatitude Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and of all Greece, who is making an historic official visit to the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI recounted the strong relationship between the Roman and Greek worlds since the beginning of Christianity and called for a renewed effort to deepen relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Christians.

The archbishop’s trip, which will run from Thursday to Sunday, is the first official visit ever by a prelate of the Church of Greece to the Vatican.

In his address, the Holy Father recalled how "following the advent of Christianity, Greece and Rome intensified their relations" and how "this gave rise to very different forms of Christian communities and traditions in the regions of the world that today correspond to Eastern Europe and Western Europe. These intense relations helped to create a kind of osmosis in the formation of ecclesial institutions. And this osmosis - in safeguarding the disciplinary, liturgical, theological and spiritual peculiarities of the Roman and Greek traditions - made the Church's evangelizing activity and the inculturation of the Christian faith fruitful."

Pope Meets With Head of Greece Church
By Associated Press

December 14, 2006, 5:54 AM EST

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI met on Thursday with Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, for talks on relations between the two churches.

Christodoulos arrived late Wednesday for a four-day visit. It is his first visit to the Vatican since he attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II in April 2005.

Relations between Orthodox and Catholic churches have improved significantly in recent years, although they remain divided by long-standing questions of doctrine.

Calls for greater dialogue were strengthened when Benedict visited Turkey from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1 and met with Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians.

In remarks Wednesday before his departure, Christodoulos referred to "the scandal of the division of Christians" and spoke of a continuing, 25-year "dialogue that has as its aim to break the ice between the churches."

Christodoulos set his visit in a broader perspective, expressing "the need for collaboration of religions, and not only between the Christian churches." World peace "is threatened by the fanaticism of certain persons, on which they put the label of religion," he said.

Archbishop Christodoulos' visit reciprocates John Paul's trip to Athens in 2001.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas tree arrives at Vatican

AP - Wed Dec 13, 3:50 AM ET

A crane lifts a 32-meter-high (106 feet) Christmas tree, in St. Peter's square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2006. The 80-year old tree was donated by the southern Italian region of Calabria. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

AP via Yahoo! News
Wed Dec 13, 8:21 AM ET

VATICAN CITY - The pope's Christmas tree — the tallest to date to adorn the Vatican — is finally in position in St. Peter's Square after bad weather and other problems delayed its arrival for more than a week.

"This morning I saw the tree from my window," Pope Benedict XVI told several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Basilica for the weekly public audience Wednesday.

The 109-foot fir tree from the mountains of Sila National Park in Calabria, southern Italy, arrived during the night. Thick fog encountered en route was the last of a series of delivery problems.

Workers had problems cutting down the tree because of heavy winds. Then they had to figure out how to hoist the 9-ton tree onto the helicopter that carried it on the first leg of the trip to the Vatican.

"We were on the Sila for three days," Eugenio Ripepe, supervisor of the delivery, told AP Television News as he described the transportation difficulties.

The tradition of erecting a Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square, next to a larger-than-life Nativity scene, was introduced by Pope John Paul II in 1982.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pope Benedict sees abortion, euthanasia as "attacks on peace"

Vatican City (dpa) - Pope Benedict XVI has denounced terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons and has described hunger, abortion, experimentation on human embryos and euthanasia as "an attack on peace".

The pope's views are expressed in a message marking the Church's January 1 World Day of Peace, which was published by the Vatican on Tuesday.

"The duty to respect the dignity of each human being, in whose nature the image of the Creator is reflected, means in consequence that the person can not be disposed of at will," the pope writes.

"As far as the right to life is concerned, we must denounce its widespread violation in our society: alongside the victims of armed conflicts, terrorism and the different forms of violence, there are the silent deaths caused by hunger, abortion, experimentation on human embryos and euthanasia.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Pope Benedict expresses continued concern over situation in the Middle East

Vatican City, Dec. 11, 2006 (CNA) - After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father spoke of his concern for the situation in the Middle East, "where glimmers of hope for resolving the crises that afflict the region alternate with tensions and difficulties that cause us to fear fresh violence."

In this context, he made special mention of Lebanon. There, he said quoting John Paul II's 1997 post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, “A New Hope for Lebanon,” "yesterday as today, 'men from different cultures and religions are called to live together, to build a nation of dialogue and coexistence and to work together for the common good.' Hence, in the face of recent developments, I share the great concern expressed by the patriarch, His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, and by Maronite bishops in a communique made public last Wednesday.”

"Together with them, I ask the Lebanese and their political leaders to have as their exclusive concern the good of the country and the harmony of its communities," in order to achieve "the unity which is the responsibility of all and of each, and which requires patient and persevering efforts and a trusting and permanent dialogue.

“I also hope," the Pope concluded, "that the international community will help to find ... the peaceful and balanced solutions so necessary for Lebanon and for the entire Middle East, and I invite everyone to prayer at this difficult moment."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pontiff Makes Special Appeal for Lebanon; Echoes Fears Expressed by Maronites

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 10, 2006 ( Concerned about Lebanon and all the Mideast, Benedict XVI appealed to the faithful to pray for the convulsed region and he called on national and international authorities to exercise responsibility.

"I follow with heartfelt concern all that is happening in the Middle East, where the possibilities for a solution to the crisis besetting the region alternate with tensions and difficulties that cause fears of new violence," the Pope told the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square today to pray the midday Angelus.

"Lebanon deserves a special mention, on whose soil, today as yesterday, men who are different on the cultural and religious plane, are called to live together to build a nation of dialogue and coexistence, and to favor the common good," the Holy Father said.

He continued: "That is why, in the face of recent events, I share the strong fears expressed by the patriarch, His Beatitude the Lord Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, and by the Maronite bishops in the communiqué they published last Wednesday."

"Together with them, I appeal to the Lebanese and to their political leaders to be interested exclusively in the good of the country and harmony between its communities, inspiring their commitment in that unity that is the responsibility of one and all, and that requires patient and persevering efforts, along with confident and permanent dialogue."

Benedict XVI added his hope that "the international community will help to identify urgent, peaceful and just solutions, necessary for Lebanon and for the whole Middle East" and invited all to pray "in this grave moment."

In a message read during the funeral service of 34-year-old Maronite Christian Pierre Gemayel, the Lebanese minister of industry, slain in Beirut on Nov. 21, Benedict XVI called for an "autonomous and increasingly fraternal" Lebanon, and lamented that "unspeakable act."

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mary, the Immaculate Conception, helps us to fight evil and to grow in purity

Friday, December 8, the Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Mary's fiat and purity are our model. We ask her to intercede for us, so that we might also grow in purity of heart, for,

"Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8 [RSV]).

Thank you, Spirit Daily, for the following article:

Purity Of Mary And Holy Water Proven During Exorcisms To Drive Out Demons

At a time when we contemplate the purity of Mary we might also focus on how to bring purity to ourselves, and of course this begins internally: we must watch every thought we have in addition to every word we speak. We are called to step back from antagonism (particularly at Christmas). And we are called to purge evil from our situations.

To do so it greatly helps to invoke "Mary, the Immaculate Conception." According to Father Carl Vogl, author of Begone Satan! (the account of an extraordinary possession), when the Blessed Mother under that title was spoken, it caused the possessing devil "fearful agony."

"When he was addressed, 'I command you in the name of the Immaculate Conception, in the name of her who crushed the head of the serpent,' he wilted and languished," writes the priest.

And then there are the practical issues of purity, and here we can mention the importance of Holy Water in "cleaning up" our surroundings.

The Blessed Mother has actually advised using it every Saturday to cleanse our homes. The same is urged by exorcists -- who state that their experience in casting out impure spirits has taught them the value of this sacramental.

"Holy Water is also something hateful to Satan," wrote Father Vogl. "Whenever he was approached with Holy Water he screamed: 'Away, away with it, away with the abominable dirt! Oh, that burns, that scorches!'

"On one occasion a piece of paper bearing the inscription of a fake Latin prayer was placed on the woman's head. Even the good nuns [assisting in the exorcism of an Iowa woman] believed that the prayer was genuine. In reality, the prayer consisted of words taken out of a pagan classic. The nuns were very much surprised that Satan remained so quiet under the experiment. The exorcist, however, knew the cause of the devil's tranquility. Immediately afterwards, a second prepared paper was placed on the head of the woman, which had been blessed beforehand with the Sign of the Cross and Holy Water without anybody noticing it. In an instant the piece of paper was torn into a thousand pieces."

We see then the potency of Holy Water, the rage it causes demons, and how exorcisms prove the worth of Catholic sacramentals, not to mention sacraments.

They may rip at a piece of paper, but eventually they have to leave!

Benedict XVI Offers an Answer to Church's Crisis

Urges a Rediscovery of Greatness of God's Love

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 7, 2006 ( The answer to the crisis the Church is facing, especially in the West, consists in proclaiming and rediscovering the grandeur of God's love, experienced in prayer, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope expressed this when analyzing in several meetings with the bishops of Switzerland, from Nov. 7-9, today's challenges to evangelization.

The bishops were concluding their five-yearly visit to Rome, which had been put on hold in 2005 because of Pope John Paul II's failing health.

Benedict XVI's two interventions, as well as his homily to the Swiss bishops, are revealing, as he delivered them in German, his mother tongue. They were subsequently translated by the Holy See and will appear later in ZENIT.

The Pontiff began his last talk by explaining that he had not had the time to prepare his addresses as he had wished.

"I would like to ask you to excuse me for having come without a prepared text on the very first day," the Holy Father said. "I had of course given it some thought, but I did not have the time to write. And so, once again now, I am presenting myself with this impoverishment, but it might be right also for a Pope to be poor in all senses at this time in the Church's history.

"In any case, I am unable to offer you a grand discourse now as would have been fitting after a meeting with these results."

Faulty identity

Addressing the present crisis in the Church, Benedict XVI recalled how, "when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and '90s, … I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.

"If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Pope: Mary, Show Yourself Mother for Rome, Europe and the World

In the annual tribute to the statue of Our Lady in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna, Benedict XVI entrusts to Mary Europe’s Christian roots, the marginalised and the excluded in a world where man is sacrificed “to other purposes and interests.” Every “Yes” to God is a “No” to selfishness, violence and the power of evil. Here is the full text of the Pope’s meditation.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Tens of thousands of people joined Benedict XVI today in paying tribute to the statue of Our Lady at the top of the Column of the Immacolata in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna. The annual event, one of the simplest but also most heart-felt gestures in Rome, takes place in one of the beautiful and exclusive corners of the Italian capital, in a district known for its Christmas shopping, and in the square home to the Propaganda Fide Palace.

Benedict XVI arrived in Piazza di Spagna around 4 pm (CES Time) and after an introductory prayer he offered a basket with a hundred pink roses that was placed at the foot of the tall column on which rests the bronze statue of the Virgin Mary.

After a few chants and some thoughts taken from the texts of the Second Vatican Council the Pope read his tribute to Our Lady, which we publish here in full:

O Mary, Immaculate Virgin,

again this year we find ourselves with filial love at the foot of your image in order to renew the tribute of the Christian community and the city of Rome.

Here we pause in prayer, following the tradition inaugurated by previous popes, in the solemn day in which the liturgy celebrates your Immaculate Conception, mystery that is a source of joy and hope for all the redeemed. We greet You and call upon You using the words of the Angel, “Full of Grace” (Lk 1, 28), the most beautiful name with which God Himself called You since eternity.

Pope, on Solemnity of Immaculate Conception: Mary shows Church its vocation and mission

AP via Yahoo! News

AP - Fri Dec 8, 1:40 PM ET

Pope Benedict XVI, wearing an ermine-trimmed cape, waves from his car as he leaves Piazza di Spagna Square (Spanish Steps) on the occasion of the Immaculate Conception holiday, in Rome, Friday, Dec. 8, 2006. Making a traditional visit to the Spanish Steps on a holiday dedicated to Mary, the pope prayed that Mary would inspire a respect for human dignity in the world and a repudiation of violence and exploitation. The holiday also marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Rome. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

The Immaculate Mary shows the Church its vocation, to receive Christ and offer Him to the world, Pope says

Vatican City, Dec. 08, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI greeted thousands of pilgrims and faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square today for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and prayed the Angelus with them. Prior to leading the Angelus, the Holy Father pointed out that in her receiving of Christ in faith and offering Him to the world the Immaculate Virgin showed to us the vocation and mission of the Church.

On this day, “we celebrate one of the most beautiful and popular feasts of the Blessed Virgin,” the Pope noted. “Not only did Mary never commit a sin, but she was even preserved from the common inheritance of the human race, which is original sin. And this due to the mission for which God had always destined her: to be the Mother of the Redeemer.”

The biblical foundations of this truth of the faith, the Holy Father noted, “are found in the words of the Angel Gabriel directed at the maiden of Nazareth, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.’” The Pontiff noted that the name “full of grace,” “is the most beautiful name of Mary, the name which was given by God Himself, to show what she is from the beginning and forever, the beloved, the elect, the one chosen to receive the most precious gift, Jesus, ‘the love of God incarnate.’”

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Vatican archaeologists find tomb believed to be that of Apostle Paul
Posted 12/6/2006 10:57 AM ET

ROME (AP) — Vatican archaeologists have unearthed a sarcophagus believed to contain the remains of the Apostle Paul that had been buried beneath Rome's second largest basilica.

The sarcophagus, which dates back to at least A.D. 390, has been the subject of an extended excavation that began in 2002 and was completed last month, the project's head said this week.

"Our objective was to bring the remains of the tomb back to light for devotional reasons, so that it could be venerated and be visible," said Giorgio Filippi, the Vatican archaeologist who headed the project at St. Paul Outside the Walls basilica.

The interior of the sarcophagus has not yet been explored, but Filippi didn't rule out the possibility of doing so in the future.

Two ancient churches that once stood at the site of the current basilica were successively built over the spot where tradition said the saint had been buried. The second church, built by the Roman emperor Theodosius in the fourth century, left the tomb visible, first above ground and later in a crypt.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Moscow Patriarchate: Pope’s Turkey trip “important”

The Russian Orthodox Church augurs that the trip of Benedict XVI will contribute to “sincere dialogue” between Christians. He described as “correct” the intentions expressed in the joint declaration signed by the Pope and Bartholomew I.

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Patriarchate of Moscow has described the recent journey of Benedict XVI to Turkey as “important”, and has expressed hope that it will contribute to promoting sincere dialogue between the two sister Churches. Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, said: "The visit of the Pope to Turkey (28 November – 1 December is indisputably important for the mutual understanding of Christians and Muslims, for the development of Turkey's relations with Western Europe, for the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.” In an interview with the Russian press, Chaplin said that despite the actions of some extremists, the majority of Turkish Muslims and their spiritual leaders viewed the Pope’s visit favorably.

He dwelt on the significance of the meeting between Benedict XVI and Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, “one of the few but one of the most famous and historically important Orthodox Churches”. As for the joint declaration signed on 30 November between the two religious leaders, the archpriest said the document contains "many correct thoughts about the development of the dialogue and cooperation between Orthodox and Catholic Christians." He added: "I hope they will be specified in the process of relations between the Vatican and each of the local Orthodox Churches," he said.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pope: visit to Turkey "an unforgettable spiritual and pastoral experience"

VOA News

Pope Hopes Turkey Visit Will Lead to Useful Dialogue With Muslims
By Sabina Castelfranco
03 December 2006

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Pope Benedict XVI gestures from his study window overlooking St. Peter's Square, 3 Dec 2006

Pope Benedict expressed hope Sunday that his trip to Turkey would lead to useful dialogue with Muslims. But on another issue, the Vatican has had strong words for China after the government-run Catholic Church ordained another bishop, without papal approval. Sabina Castelfranco has this VOA report from Rome.

Addressing pilgrims from his studio window overlooking Saint Peter's Square, the pope called his visit to Turkey "an unforgettable experience."

The pope returned to the Vatican on Friday, after spending four days in Ankara, Ephesus and Istanbul. His visit appeared to have gone some way toward improving relations with Muslims, whom the pope had angered when he made comments in September linking Islam to violence.

Benedict became the second pope ever to walk into a Muslim place of worship, when he visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. His visit was also focused on continuing efforts to reach out to Orthodox Christians.

The pope told pilgrims his visit to Turkey was "an unforgettable spiritual and pastoral experience, which I hope will produce the fruits for an increasingly sincere cooperation between all of Christ's disciples, and a useful dialogue with Muslims."

Friday, December 01, 2006

Benedict XVI: Turkey 2006--"A Journey for unity"

This is an excellent summary, provided by the Catholic News Agency, of the Pope's historic journey to Turkey from November 28 to December 1, which includes the official program, a virtual tour, the news, his speeches and homilies and a gallery of photos.

Turks surprised by Pope, says bishops’ spokesman

Istanbul, Dec. 01, 2006 (CNA) - The spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of Turkey, Msgr. Georges Marovitch, said Turks have been surprised by the Holy Father’s visit to their country.

In comments to the SIR news agency, Msgr. Marovitch said on the streets of Istanbul he is hearing encouraging comments such as, “They should let him (the Pope) come every year,” and “He is not an enemy of Islam, he’s welcome here.”

The bishops’ spokesman added that people seem to be “happy that the Pope is in their country.” “Many Muslim friends have confirmed this. They have not stood in the way of such a beloved Pontiff, who has every desire to identify with the Turkish reality. His meetings with the Prime Minister Erdogan, with President Sezer and with the Minister of Religious Affairs, Bardakoglu, marked a crucial point in his trip, relaxing the tensions of past days.”

Not even the threats of Al Qaeda “have dampened the optimism of the Pope,” Msgr. Marovitch stated, adding that “after his first encounter with Bartholomew I, he looked happy and satisfied. The climate is relaxed and we can hope it remains so even after his departure, especially regarding our minority Christian and Catholic communities, that will be encouraged and reaffirmed to continue ahead after this visit.”

Pope Benedict's tour of Turkey looks like an "across-the-board success"

Yahoo! News India

Pope on final day of fence-mending visit to Turkey
Friday December 1, 10:45 AM

Enlarge photo

By Tom Heneghan

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Pope Benedict's tour of Turkey winds up on Friday looking like an across-the-board success for his effort to repair battered relations with Turkey's Muslims.

Benedict infuriated many Muslims in September with a speech implying Islam was a violent faith, but won Turkish praise when he arrived on Tuesday by backing Ankara's bid to join the European Union and praising Islam as peaceful.

On Thursday he made his first visit to a mosque, among the conciliatory gestures that won high praise from Istanbul's Grand Mufti Mustafa Cagrici.

"Your two-day visit to Istanbul has produced an incredibly positive outcome for Turkey. We thank you," he told the German-born pontiff after guiding him around the famous Blue Mosque, only the second mosque ever entered by any pope.

Benedict's predecessor John Paul became the first pope to visit a mosque in Damascus in 2001.

"The pope's visit and the messages he gave are creating great synergies for the dialogues between the two religions. We are very happy for the visit," Cagrici said afterwards.

The warm words echoed satisfied comments from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who welcomed Benedict at Ankara airport on Tuesday and heard him clarify his views on Turkey's EU bid -- which he had once opposed -- and on Islam.

Perhaps thanks to very heavy security, only scattered protests broke out during the visit, which organisers had feared might attract big demonstrations by nationalists and Islamists.


Benedict, 79, will start the day by celebrating mass at Istanbul's Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, which will be attended by the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who issued a joint declaration with him on Thursday restating their desire to overcome the 1054 Great Schism between their two churches.

Pope flies out urging cooperation
POSTED: 8:04 a.m. EST, December 1, 2006

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) -- Pope Benedict XVI, in a parting message of goodwill to Muslims at the end of his first papal trip to a predominantly Muslim nation, said Friday that the Vatican wishes to "impose nothing on anyone."

The pope -- celebrating Mass for members of Turkey's tiny Roman Catholic community a day after a stunning moment of prayer at a mosque -- also repeated his call to end divisions among the world's Christians.

"You know well that the church wishes to impose nothing on anyone, and that she merely asks to live in freedom," the pope said at Istanbul's Holy Spirit Cathedral, where he was joined by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians.

The pope has worked hard during the four-day trip to convince the Muslim world that he is interested in cooperation rather than confrontation, nearly three months after touching off worldwide fury for his remarks on violence and the Prophet Muhammad.

But Benedict also has made it clear he expects Islamic nations to improve rights and protections for Christian minorities, including the estimated 90,000 Christians in Turkey whose religious roots go back to biblical times.

Photo essay: Pope Benedict visits Turkey

Pope Visits Turkey

Pope Benedict XVI waves to the photographers at Ataturk's Mausoleum in Ankara, Tuesday Nov. 28, 2006. The Pope began his trip to Turkey with a message of dialogue and "brotherhood" between Christians and Muslims in an attempt to ease anger over his perceived criticism of Islam. (Photo: AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis)