Saturday, March 31, 2012


It was announced on Saturday Pope Benedict XVI has given $100,000 (US) for the charitable work of the local Church in Syria. The Holy Father has repeatedly appealed for the end of violence in Syria, and has called for dialogue and reconciliation between the those involved in the conflict, in view of peace and the common good.

The donation was made through the Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’. Monsignor Giampietro Dal Toso, the Secretary of the Council, was scheduled to meet with the Melkite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude Gregorios III Laham, President of the Catholic Hierarchy in Syria, and other representatives of the local Church on Saturday, at which time he was scheduled to present the donation of the Holy Father.

The Catholic Church is active in charitable work throughout Syria, especially in the area of Homs and Aleppo.


John 11: 45 - 56
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him;
46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.
48 If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation."
49 But one of them, Ca'iaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all;
50 you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish."
51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation,
52 and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
53 So from that day on they took counsel how to put him to death.
54 Jesus therefore no longer went about openly among the Jews, but went from there to the country near the wilderness, to a town called E'phraim; and there he stayed with the disciples.
55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves.
56 They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, "What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?"


The appeal of the All India Christian Council (AICC) to the Indian government. In Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region home to many Indian and Filipino Christians who suffer violence and discrimination. The mufti's words contrary to United Nations Charter.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - In mid-March, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, said that all existing churches in the Arabian Peninsula should be destroyed. Reacting to this the All India Christian Council (AICC) organization has condemned this statement as "bigoted" and "dangerous" for the many Christians who live in Arab states.

The All India Christian Council (AICC) condemns the statement of the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, who claims it is "necessary to destroy all the churches in the region."

According to Joseph D'Souza, president of the AICC, the muftis' controversial demand endangers the Christian Churches throughout the Arabian Peninsula, and could have repercussions for religious minorities in other countries.

John Dayal, AICC General Secretary, calls on the Government of India and other civilized countries to ensure that the nations of the Arabian Peninsula clearly reject the Wahhabi imam's bigoted statement, and ensure security and protection to the churches in Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and UAE. Christianity is already banned in Saudi Arabia, there are no churches.

Local media reported the controversial statement together with the proposal of the Parliamentary Assembly of Kuwait, calling for the "removal" of the churches in his country.

Kuwait's parliament recently proposed to introduce laws on the removal of Christian churches from the country and imposition of strict laws inspired by sharia. Later, it clarified that the law was not talking about removing the churches, but forbade the construction of new churches and Christian places of worship in the Islamic country. The Grand Mufti stressed that Kuwait, as a State of the Arabian Peninsula, should destroy all the churches on its territory. There are many Christians living in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, many of whom come from India and the Philippines: More than 3.5 million in total, of which at least 800 thousand just in Saudi Arabia.

The All India Christian Council has been following the developments in the region for some time with growing alarm and concern, given that Christians continue to suffer violence and discrimination. The situation is particularly disturbing, because India has many of its citizens - mostly workers, but also businessmen, engineers and medical personnel - in the region. A large number of migrants from the southern states of India are Christian.
The All India Christian Council reiterates that the declaration of the Grand Mufti is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination based on religion or belief.

SHARED FROM:,-who-wants-to-eliminate-all-churches-24393.html


Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
30 Mar 2012

Collecting the dole is demoralising
and many lose confidence
and their self esteem
Dr John Falzon, CEO of St Vincent de Paul Society's National Council says unemployment benefits for Australians are not only the lowest in the OECD but are forcing people into poverty.
"You don't help people get into jobs by forcing them into poverty. But leaving unemployment benefits at $35 a day is exactly what the Government is doing," he says.
Federal Treasure Wayne Swan has warned of a tough budget and predicts severe cuts to Government services and programs in a bid to fulfil Labor's election promise to produce a surplus by 2012-13. But despite speaking at the opening of this year's Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) annual Conference yesterday with its focus on the worsening plight of Australia's half million unemployed, he and others in the Government made no move to address the issue or respond to lobbying by welfare agencies across Australia for unemployment benefits to be increased.
"There has been no increase in the Newstart allowance since 1994," Dr Falzon says, joining more than 50 member organisations of ACOSS and their call for a long overdue rise in the Newstart allowance.
Currently the allowance is less than $245 per week or less than half the Australian minimum wage which currently stands at $589 per week.
Research has found that not only is the Newstart allowance forcing people to live below the poverty line but for more than two thirds of those on the allowance a third or more is used for rent and housing costs, leaving less than $20 a day for food, electricity and phone bills, clothing, healthcare, bus and train fares and clothing.

The cost of a family's
weekly supermarket shop
has escalated over the past year
"Surviving on $245 a week must be a humbling if not traumatic experience," says former chief of Western Mining and one time president of the Business Council of Australia, Henry Morgan while Heather Ridout, outgoing CEO of the Australian Industry Group and newly appointed member of the Reserve Bank describes the Newstart allowance as inadequate "and unable t o cover even the most basic living costs."
The theme of this year's ACOSS conference, "Sharing the Wealth of the Lucky Country", is a bid to highlight the plight of Australia's unemployed and their worsening situation.
Treasurer Swan expanded on the theme in his opening address to the Conference with many references to the benefit to all Australians from the tax on mining companies which will come into force on 1 July this year. But the bonanza reaped while adding to planned reductions in corporate tax and the Future Fund does not include an increase to $50 a day for the Newstart.

105,000 Australians are
currently homeless
ACOSS member organisations attending the conference included St Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic Social Services, the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, the Australian Red Cross, Mission Australia, Homelessness Australia, the Salvation Army, Anglicare, Uniting Care and the Smith Family. All have spoken about the rise in the number of families and individuals turning to agencies such as Vinnies for food vouchers and financial help with electricity and utility bills, rent and other expenses.
"We know the key indicators of financial stress include being able to pay bills on time and save for a rainy day, and it is heartbreaking to see more and more people struggling to do this," says Dr Falzon and cited the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which found that close to 31% of low economic resourced households have been unable to pay their utility bills on time over the past 12 months, with a further 10% of these households forced to see assistance from welfare and community organisations.
"Rising poverty across Australia is a major concern," says Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS. "We've known for a long time the Newstart allowance is low but there is now a growing consensus that the allowance is no longer sustainable, and simply cannot be allowed to continue, especially if we want to avoid greater levels of poverty in our country."
Experts and researchers will present new studies that show how allowances such as Newstart and Sole Parenting payments now lag $133 per week behind pension payments and are driving more and more people into poverty.

Dr John Falzon, CEO St Vincent de Paul Society
"Unemployment can happen to anyone. You shouldn't have to live in poverty if it does," says Dr Goldie and will join member organisations to lobby the Government to increase Newstart from $35 to $50 per day and to index all future rises be linked to increases in wages not price rises.
To illustrate the difficulty of surviving on $35 a day, ACOSS made a list of what could be bought for this amount. What they came up with was half a tank of petrol or 1 pair of school or work shoes, or one day's worth of family groceries or one weekly bus or train ticket.
Speakers at the ACOSS Conference which concludes this evening include Federal Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, Sky News political editor, David Speers, Tim Costello of World Vision, Lesley Hall of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations and Jennifer Westacott of the Business Council of Australia.


in Cisa News
CAPE TOWN, March 30, 2012 (CISA) -A former Anglican bishop ordained a Catholic priest is one of the stars of an anti-apartheid musical in South Africa.
Fr Robert Mercer, 77, was deported from South Africa in 1970 for his stand against apartheid, along with several other Anglican priests.
He and other members of the Anglican Community of the Resurrection defied segregation laws by running a multi-racial parish.
They were, says Fr Mercer, “deemed to be a corrupting influence on students” at Stellenbosch University, where they worked as chaplains. One of the Anglican priests was jailed, Catholic Herald reports.
Their stand has been dramatised in a multi-media pop musical called Brothers, which ran for five nights at Stellenbosch University, the country’s top Africaans University.
The musical was performed in September 2010 in a mix of Africaans and English and was directed by playwright Peter Krummeck.
Fr Mercer, who grew up in Zimbabwe, went on to become Bishop of Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, in the Anglican Province of Central Africa, in the midst of a civil war.
He was bishop for 11 years before leaving the Anglican Communion to join the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, part of the worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion. He served as metropolitan bishop from 1988 to 2005, when he retired to England.
Fr Mercer became a Catholic in January and was ordained a priest for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham on March 26.


By Madeleine Teahan on Monday, 26 March 2012
A young man stands above the crowd at Wembley Arena (Mazur/
A young man stands above the crowd at Wembley Arena (Mazur/
Complete silence filled Wembley Arena on Saturday afternoon as approximately 8,000 young Catholics adored the Blessed Sacrament.
The famous sports arena was host to the Flame Youth Congress which was a day of prayer and praise for young Catholic across Britain.
The day culminated in exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament led by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster who said: “Consider the love of God which brought you into existence. Consider how total that love is, for it brought Jesus to give himself entirely for you and to you, on the Cross and here in the Blessed Sacrament. In this light you are truly extraordinary. Maybe you have never thought of that before.”
Drawing on the theme of the Olympic Games which London will host this year, he continued: “We won’t all be Olympic or Paralympic athletes, but we definitely all have our races to run, our finishing lines to cross.
“Consider the people you have heard today – the athletes, the Mizen family, Fr Timothy, Fr Christopher and Sr Catherine. Are there things in their words that have encouraged you? What are the gifts that the Lord has given you that he might fan into a flame, to share with the world? Name these gifts and ask God to help you to use them well, always for the glory of his name.”
The day also included a keynote speech from Father Timothy Radcliffe on the theme of respect, followed by dance and drama.
Testimonies were heard from the Mizen family, whose son Jimmy was murdered in a South London bakery and there was a short talk on silence from Father Christopher Jamison, made famous through the BBC documentary ‘The Monastery’ and ‘The Big Silence.’


On Friday I will attend the funeral in Montreal of a dear Jesuit colleague:

Father Marc Gervais, S.J.
December 3, 1929-March 25, 2012

Marc Gervais, a priest from Montreal, taught for decades at Loyola College and Concordia.
Priest had a passion for film

Pierre Obendrauf, Postmedia News

Postmedia News • Mar. 28, 2012
Last Updated: Mar. 28, 2012 3:05 AM ET
A Montreal priest with a passion for world cinema, Marc Gervais was an influential educator, film consultant and author of scholarly works on Ingmar Bergman and Pier Paolo Pasolini.
He died late Sunday afternoon, age 82, at a Jesuit retreat in Pickering, Ont. His funeral is Friday at his parish church next to Concordia University's Loyola campus, where he taught for decades.
Gervais had been suffering from dementia for several years when he passed away. He is survived by his brother, André, a prominent Montreal lawyer, and his sister, Connie.
Family, friends, colleagues and students remember Gervais as a charismatic humanist who communicated his lifelong love of film to generations of Loyola College and Concordia students.
Among them were Denys Arcand (a future Oscar winner), John Kent Harrison (who went on to make TV movies such as The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler), and Kevin Tierney (producer of Bon Cop, Bad Cop).
"I think in some ways the goal of my entire professional career has been to get Marc's approval," Tierney wrote by email from Mexico City, where he's promoting his latest film, French Immersion.
"Maybe I don't have to worry about that anymore or maybe it's worse now knowing I can't."
Some of Gervais' students went on to become journalists, such as the CBC's Hana Gartner and The Gazette's Paul Cherry, who took two or three courses with him in the mid-1990s.
"He was humble about his credentials," said Cherry, now The Gazette's crime reporter. "I remember one day he mentioned in a very by-theway manner that he knew Jean-Luc Godard personally."
Born and raised in Sherbrooke, Que., Gervais was the second child of Sylvia Mullins and Superior Court Justice Césaire Gervais. He got the movie bug early: Though not yet the legal cinema-going age of 14, he used to tag along with his grandmother, Lily Mullins, on her outings to the theatre.
Gervais graduated from Loyola in 1950 with a bachelor of arts degree. In 1960 he got a master's of fine arts in drama at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1963 and began his academic career at Loyola in 1967. In 1979 he received a doctorate in film esthetics from the Sorbonne.
Over the years - first at Loyola, then at Concordia after its founding in 1974 - he gave courses on Hollywood silents and musicals and Westerns, on German expressionist cinema and Italian neo-realism and the French New Wave, and on directors as varied as John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Quentin Tarantino.
In a course called Film Ideas, Gervais screened one film every week at the old Cinema V in Notre Dame de Grâce. He also opened up screenings to the public at Concordia's F.C. Smith Auditorium.
"His passion was for teaching - he loved to teach," said his long-time Concordia colleague Sheelah O'Neill, who runs the communications studies department.
In emails to her, some of his former students remembered their mentor as someone who, as Harrison put it, "ignited our passion and in most cases, changed the direction of our lives."
"Who can forget," Harrison wrote, "those moments when he would freeze a frame of Bergman or Rossellini on that rickety old 16-millimetre projector, hold his hands to heaven and without a word manage to engage our limbic brains with paragraphs of profundity?"
Gervais attended the annual Cannes Film Festival 39 times; defended Pasolini as a jury member at the 1968 Venice Film Festival and in his 1973 book about the controversial Italian filmmaker; became the go-to international Bergman expert in 1999 with his book Ingmar Bergman: Magician and Prophet; and worked as a consultant on such Catholic-themed films as Agnes of God, Black Robe and The Mission.
Gervais was also the founding director of the Loyola Institute for Studies in International Peace, a founding member of Concordia's Lonergan University College and commissioner with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
An award in his name - the $2,000 Marc Gervais Prize in Communications Studies - is given each year to a BA student graduating from Concordia.
In his spare time, Gervais was an avid tennis player and a big baseball and hockey fan, favouring - to the dismay of his Montreal acolytes - the Boston Bruins.
He struck an urbane figure in tweed jackets and ascots, looked a bit like French director François Truffaut and did funny impersonations of movie stars such as Cary Grant.
He lived most of his life on or just next to Loyola campus.
 * *

* * * * * *

Friday, March 30, 2012


St. Benjamin
Feast: March 31

Feast Day:March 31
Died:424 in Persia
Isdegerdes, son of Sapor III, put a stop to the cruel persecution against the Christians in Persia, which had been begun by Sapor II, and the church had enjoyed twelve years' peace in that kingdom when, in 420, it was disturbed by the indiscreet zeal of one Abdas, a Christian bishop, who burned down the Pyraeum, or temple of fire, the great divinity of the Persians. King Isdegerdes threatened to demolish all the churches of the Christians unless he would rebuild it. Abdas had done ill in destroying the temple, but did well in refusing to rebuild it; for nothing can make it lawful to contribute to any act of idolatry, or to the building a temple, as Theodoret observes. Isdegerdes therefore demolished all the Christian churches in Persia, put to death Abdas, and raised a general persecution against the church, which continued forty years with great fury. Isdegerdes died the year following, in 421. But his son and successor, Varanes, carried on the persecution with greater inhumanity. The very description which Theodoret, a contemporary writer, and one that lived in the neighbourhood, gives of the cruelties he exercised on the Christians strikes us with horror: some were flayed alive in different parts of the body, and suffered all kinds of torture that could be invented: others, being stuck all over with sharp reeds, were hauled and rolled about in that condition; others were tormented divers other ways, such as nothing but the most hellish malice was capable of suggesting. Amongst these glorious champions of Christ was St. Benjamin, a deacon. The tyrant caused him to be beaten and imprisoned. He had lain a year in the dungeon when an ambassador from the emperor obtained his enlargement on condition he should never speak to any of the courtiers about religion.
The ambassador passed his word in his behalf that he would not; but Benjamin, who was a minister of the gospel, declared that he could not detain the truth in captivity, conscious to himself of the condemnation of the slothful servant for having hid his talent. He therefore neglected no opportunity of announcing Christ. The king, being informed that he still preached the faith in his kingdom, ordered him to be apprehended; but the martyr made no other reply to his threats than by putting this question to the king: What opinion he would have of any of his subjects who should renounce his allegiance to him, and join in war against him? The enraged tyrant caused reeds to be run in between the nails and the flesh both of his hands and feet, and the same to be thrust into other most tender parts, and drawn out again, and this to be frequently repeated with violence. He lastly ordered a knotty stake to be thrust into his bowels, to rend and tear them, in which torment he expired in the year 424. The Roman Martyrology places his name on the 31st of March.
St. Ephrem, considering the heroic constancy of the martyrs, makes on them the following pious reflections: "The wisdom of philosophers, and the eloquence of the greatest orators, are dumb through amazement, when they contemplate the wonderful spectacle and glorious actions of the martyrs: the tyrants and judges were not able to express their astonishment when they beheld the faith, the constancy, and the cheerfulness of these holy champions. What excuse shall we have in the dreadful day of judgment, if we, who have never been exposed to any cruel persecutions, or to the violence of such torments, shall have neglected the love of God and the care of a spiritual life? No temptations, no torments, were able to draw them from that love which they bore to God; but we, living in rest and delights, refuse to love our most merciful and gracious Lord. What shall we do in that day of terror, when the martyrs of Christ, standing with confidence near his throne, shall show the marks of their wounds? What shall we then show? Shall we present a lively faith? true charity towards God? a perfect disengagement of our affections from earthly things? souls freed from the tyranny of the passions? silence and recollection? meekness? almsdeeds? prayers poured forth with clean hearts? compunction, watchings, tears? Happy shall he be whom such good works shall attend. He will be the partner of the martyrs, and, supported by the treasure of these virtues, shall appear with equal confidence before Christ and his angels." We entreat you, O most holy martyrs, who cheerfully suffered most cruel torments for God our Saviour and his love, on which account you are now most intimately and familiarly united to him, that you pray to the Lord for us miserable sinners, covered with filth, that he infuse into us the grace of Christ that it may enlighten our souls that we may love him, &c."



John 10: 31 - 42
31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him.
32 Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?"
33 The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God."
34 Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, `I said, you are gods'?
35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken),
36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, `You are blaspheming,' because I said, `I am the Son of God'?
37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me;
38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."
39 Again they tried to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John at first baptized, and there he remained.
41 And many came to him; and they said, "John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true."
42 And many believed in him there.


Vatican City, 30 March 2012 (VIS) - "Religious perspectives on the current financial crisis: vision for a just economic order" was the theme of the eleventh meeting of the Bilateral Commission of the Delegations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, which was held in Rome from 27 to 29 March. The event was presided by Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, and by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
In an English-language joint statement issued at the end of the meeting, the two sides highlight that, "while many factors contributed to the financial crisis, at its roots lies a crisis of moral values in which the importance of having, reflected in a culture of greed, eclipsed the importance of being; and where the value of truth reflected in honesty and transparency was sorely lacking in economic activity".
"At the heart of Jewish and Catholic visions for a just economic order is the affirmation of the sovereignty and providence of the Creator of the world with Whom all wealth originates and which is given to humankind as a gift for the common good", the text adds. Therefore "the purpose of an economic order is to serve the well being of society, affirming the human dignity of all people, each created in the divine image". This concept "is antithetical to egocentricity. Rather, it requires the promotion of the well being of the individual in relation to community and society". It also "posits the obligation to guarantee certain basic human needs, such as the protection of life, sustenance, clothing, housing, health, education and employment". The commission also identifies certain particularly vulnerable categories of people, among them migrant and foreign workers "whose condition serves as a measure of the moral healthof society".
The statement recalls the obligation on countries with developed economies "to recognise their responsibilities and duties towards countries and societies in need, especially in this era of globalisation". In this context the participants in the meeting recall "the universal destination of the goods of the earth; a culture of “enough” that implies a degree of self-limitation and modesty; responsible stewardship; an ethical system of allocation of resources and priorities". They likewise mention the "partial remission of debts on national and international levels", highlighting the need "to extend this to families and individuals".
The members of the bilateral commission underscore the role that faith communities must play in contributing to a responsible economic order, and the importance of their engagement by government, educational institutions, and the media. Finally they note how "the crisis has revealed the profound lack of an ethical component in economic thinking. Hence, it is imperative that institutes and academies of economic studies and policy formation include ethical training in their curricula, similar to that which has developed in recent years in the field of medical ethics".

Vatican City, 30 March 2012 (VIS) - Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, has written a message for the Fifth World Autism Day, which falls on 2 April, in which he makes an appeal for sensitivity and supportive solidarity towards autistic people and their families. In the message, made public yesterday, he recalls how "autistic spectrum disorders constitute ... a grave alteration of behaviour, of verbal and non-verbal communication, and of social integration, with a wide-ranging effect on the normal development and evolution of the personality".
"The Church", writes the archbishop in his English-language message, "sees as impelling the task of placing herself at the side of these people - children and young people in particular - and their families, if not to breakdown these barriers of silence then at least to share in solidarity and prayer in their journey of suffering". This is particularly important because families with autistic children, "although they look after these children with loving care, experience repercussions as regards the quality of their own lives, and are often, in their turn, led to be closed up in an isolation that marginalises and wounds". For this reason the Church and all men and women of good will "feel committed to being ‘travelling companions’ with those who live this eloquent silence, which calls upon our sensitivity towards the suffering of others".
The president of the pontifical council highlights the efforts of health care workers, educators, professionals and volunteers, adding that "the scientific world and health care policies must also be encouraged to engage in and ... increase diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative pathways that can address a pathology which affects more people in numerical terms than could have been imagined only a few years ago. To encourage and sustain, in the supportive action of the world of schools, voluntary work and associations, these efforts is a duty, not least to discover and bring out that dignity which even the gravest and most devastating disability does not eliminate, and which always fills us with hope".
Finally Archbishop Zimowski commends autistic people and their families to God. "Although enveloped in the mystery of silence because of a grave psychological disturbance, they are never alone, inasmuch as they are passionately loved by God and, in Him, by the community of those whose faith commits them to becoming a living and transparent sign of the presence of the Resurrected Christ in the world".

Vatican City, 30 March 2012 (VIS) - The second Italian-language edition of the "Funeral Rites", produced by the Vatican Publishing House, was presented recently at the headquarters of Vatican Radio. Among other things, the new edition contains fully revised biblical texts and prayers.
The first novelty refers to the visit to the family, which was not part of the earlier edition. Msgr. Angelo Lameri of the National Liturgical Office of the Italian Episcopal Conference, explained how "for a priest this a moment to share in the suffering, to listen to the mourning relatives, to learn about certain aspects of the deceased's life with a view to a correct and personalised presentation during the funeral".
Another change involves the revised and enriched ritual for the closing of the coffin; with a number of different texts for various situations: an elderly person, a young person, or someone who has died unexpectedly. Other changes involve the pronouncement of words recalling of the deceased at the moment of the committal, and the introduction of a broad range of possibilities for the prayer of the faithful.
However the most significant new departure, contained in the appendix of the book, concerns cremation. Msgr. Lameri explained that the issue of cremation had been placed in an appendix to highlight the fact that the Church, "although she does not oppose the cremation of bodies, when not done 'in odium fidei', continues to maintain that the burial of the dead is more appropriate, that it expresses faith in the resurrection of the flesh, nourishes the piety of the faithful and favours the recollection and prayer of relatives and friends".
In exceptional cases the rites normally celebrated at the cemetery chapel or the tomb may be celebrated at the cremation site, and it is recommended that the coffin be accompanied to that site. One particularity important aspect is that "cremation is considered as concluded when the urn is deposited in the cemetery". This is because, although the law does allow ashes to be scattered in the open or conserved in places other than a cemetery, "such practices ... raise considerable doubts as to their coherence to Christian faith, especially when they conceal pantheist or naturalistic beliefs".
The new "Funeral Rites" also focuses on the search for the meaning of death. Concluding the presentation, Bishop Alceste Catella, president of the Episcopal Commission for Liturgy, explained that "the book is testament to the faith of believers and to the importance of respect and 'pietas' towards the deceased, respect for the human body even when dead. It is testament to the pressing need to cultivate memory and to have a specific place in which to place the body or the ashes, in the profound certainty that this is authentic faith and authentic humanism".

Vatican City, 30 March 2012 (VIS) - Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for April is: "That many young people may hear the call of Christ and follow Him in the priesthood and religious life".
His mission intention is: "That the risen Christ may be a sign of certain hope for the men and women of the African continent".

Vatican City, 30 March 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Luis Artemio Flores Calzada of Valle de Chalco, Mexico as bishop of Tepic (area 22,777, population 1,139,584, Catholics 1,107,800, priests 215, religious 2215), Mexico.


29. Mar, 2012

Download a copy of Repent and Believe the Good News (pdf)
An important part of Lent for followers of Jesus Christ is the practice of repentance. In fact Lent is a special period of time set aside for us to intensify and concentrate on the call to repentance that is at the start of our response to Christ. In the Gospel of St Mark, the first statement spoken by Jesus says ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the good news’ (Mark 1:15).
Today the Bishops launch a message to call to mind the central place of repentance in the lives of all of us. This message builds upon the summons to renewal that Pope Benedict XVI has given to us in Ireland in his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland and also last week in the publications of the Summary of the Findings of the Apostolic Visitation in Ireland. As the Bishops say in this message today, ‘The task for us in Ireland is the permanent task of the Christian – to resist the temptation to put convenience, celebrity, domination, blindness, dishonesty, pride, or any other ambition or craving or comfort in the place of God. It is a demanding path but it is the path that leads to the truth which sets us free. It is the only path to a real renewal of ourselves, our country, our Church.’ Repentance and penance help us to strip away what is unimportant in our lives and focus on our dependency on God and our need for his strength.
Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland
Friday Penance

Tweets on Friday penance

The following are suggested tweets which could be tweeted each Friday:
Friday Penance: Make a special effort at family prayer. Make the Stations of the Cross. Do something to help the poor, sick or lonely.
Friday Penance: Make a special effort to avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Abstain from meat or some otherfood.


Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
28 Mar 2012

Across the world young people re-enact the Stations
of the Cross on Good Friday
For the past week the marble statues inside St Mary's Cathedral have been covered in purple cloth. It is customary in the lead up to Holy Week which begins on Sunday, 1 April when faithful around the world gather in churches and Cathedrals to commemorate Palm Sunday and the Lord's triumphant arrival in Jerusalem.
The tradition of covering statues and precious artworks is to enable the faithful to pray without distraction in the days before and during Holy Week or Passion Week as it is also known.
The most important time on the Christian Calendar, Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday when Christ, riding on the back of a donkey, was greeted by an exuberant crowd waving palm fronds as he entered the ancient city of Jerusalem. But the joy at Our Lord's arrival was short-lived and was followed by His betrayal and arrest. Next came His terrible suffering, His crucifixion outside the city's walls, and then three days later, His glorious resurrection.

Cardinal George Pell
The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell will preside over the Palm Sunday celebrations at St Mary's Cathedral. The Cathedral Choir will also be part of the Mass which begins with the Blessing of the Palms at 10.15 am. His Eminence will then lead a procession from the Hyde Park west door of the Cathedral alongside the Cathedral, up the steps and through the main doors at the southern end, after which he will celebrate Solemn High Mass.
At 5 pm, the same day, Solemn Vespers and Benediction will be held at the Cathedral. This will be followed by a Youth Mass at 6 pm which will also mark the 27th anniversary of World Youth Day (WYD) which was created by Blessed John Paul II and held in Rome for the first time back in 1985.
WYD is celebrated by young people across the globe on Palm Sunday each year with an international gathering of the world's youth taking place at different cities every three years.

Pope Benedict XVI at Palm Sunday Procession
in Rome last year
Sydney hosted an international WYD in 2008. Last year WYD was held in Madrid and in a break with tradition, will be held in Rio de Janeiro next year, 2013. The gap of two years rather than the normal three between the international gathering of young people was chosen in order to avoid a clash with the 2014 FIFA World Cup which is also set to be held in Rio.
The final day of Lent is Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday as it is often known. This year Holy Thursday falls on 5 April and is the day faithful around the world commemorate the three pillars of the Catholic faith: the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the Priesthood and the Mass. Holy Thursday also marks the start of the Easter Triduum.
His Eminence, Cardinal Pell will celebrate the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral at 10.35 am on Holy Thursday. This important Mass is when priests from dioceses in cities and towns across the globe gather with their bishop to consecrate the Holy Oils to be used throughout the upcoming year for the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick.
Cardinal Pell will also celebrate Holy Thursday's Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper which will be held at the Cathedral at 6.30 pm. Traditionally held after sundown, this Mass commemorates the Institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion and recalls the Last Supper of Our Lord.

Palm Sunday on the Mt of Olives
It was at this final supper, Christ after being betrayed, offered His Body and Blood to God the Father, under the species of bread and wine, which He gave to the Apostles as spiritual nourishment, commanding them and their successors in the priesthood to perpetuate this offering.
At the Mass of the Last Supper it is traditional for the bishop or archbishop celebrating the Mass to wash the feet of 12 priests to symbolise Christ's washing of the feet of His Apostles. As the Mass ends, the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession to the Altar of Repose where it remains until the communion service the following day, Good Friday.
Holy Thursday will conclude with night prayer, compline, at 9 pm when the faithful will be joined by the Choir of St Mary's Cathedral.'

Stations of the Cross re-enacted
WYD Sydney 2008
As happens each year on Good Friday, prayer will begin with the Stations of the Cross at 10 am followed by a Celebration of the Passion of the Lord celebrated by Cardinal Pell at the Cathedral at 3 pm.
The Holy Triduum continues on Easter Saturday, 7 April with the moving Service of Light and Easter Vigil celebrated by the Cardinal at 7 pm at St Mary's Cathedral.
The Easter fast, begun on Good Friday and carried out for two days of this sacred time, finally ends on Sunday 8 April with the Resurrection of Our Lord and Easter Sunday's joyous celebrations.
At the Cathedral the statues are once again uncovered, the altar no longer bare and the entire Cathedral filled with flowers as St Mary's bells ring out across the city.
The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Pell will celebrate Solemn Mass on Easter Sunday at 10.30 am. Easter Sunday at the Cathedral will also include a Mass at 7.00 am, 9.00 am to be followed by Solemn Vespers & Benediction at 5 pm and Mass at 6 pm.


 Agenzia Fides REPORT - The population of Uruguay is still dismayed by the terrible situation that came into the open a few days ago when it was learned that a group of nurses in more than one hospital, carried out euthanasia without any control . In this context, the Conference of Bishops issued a statement on the occasion of Easter, to express the feelings of Christians before these events and to encourage the defense of life in all its stages, from before birth until natural death.
"We refer –is read in the statement signed by Mgr. Carlos Collazzi, Bishop of Mercedes and President of the Episcopal Conference - especially to crimes committed against people who were in intensive care, totally helpless. We raise our prayer for those who have seen their lives shattered, for their bereaved families and also for the perpetrators of these deaths. With all the Uruguayan society, we hope that measures will help to rebuild trust in health care organizations. With the same sensitivity we remember that the debate on the decriminalization of abortion will soon have a decisive stage in the House of Representatives. Here we are in front of defenseless human lives. We reaffirm our belief, supported by science, that every life that is in the womb is that of a human being who asks to be born and to continue to develop in all aspects of life, and therefore to participate with all its rights and duties in the life of our society". (CE) (Agenzia Fides 29/3/2012)


NAIROBI, March 27, 2012 (CISA) -A Christian organization has launched a national pregnancy-crisis centre to cater for victims of “unwanted” pregnancies who sometimes often opt for abortion.
The Rescue Homes, Kiotas (a Swahili word for bird’s nest) are spear-headed by the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum (KCPF).
The guest of honor at the official launch Professor Miriam Were, Kenya’s community health Goodwill Ambassador, praised KCPF and its patron, Dr Jean Kagia for the wisdom behind the establishment of the Centre.
“This is all about the Church and matters pertaining to life. I commend you for being pro life,” she said.
Professor Were called on the Christians to commit themselves fully to the teachings of God, observing that certain issues such as “unwanted pregnancies “ and abortions occur due our moral weakness.
“There is need for all of us to be pro-life, for this is what God expects from us,” she stressed.
On, March 24, KCPF organized a March for life that began and ended at Uhuru Park, Nairobi.
Flagging off the March, Deputy National Council of Churches (NCCK) General Secretary, Oliver Kisaka said the Church’s pro-life activities were not accidental but Gods command.
He asked the Christians to be watchful of possible “shortcomings” in the country’s new Constitution, which he said might open up areas of anti-life, through channels like abortion.
Kisaka promised that the Church will forever uphold its pro-life stand.
“Our opposition to the new Constitution during the referendum was partly because, we as God’s people felt that certain sections of the document were not pro-life enough, “he explained.
KCPF patron, Dr Kagia said her organizations vision is to establish 47 Rescue Kiotas throughout the country by the year 2020. They planned to work through churches and Christians to achieve their goal.
“We must work hard to counteract those who are anti-life, pro-abortionists included,” she concluded.
Pauline Kalonzo, the wife of the country’s Vice President, Stephen Kalonzo, said those who have decided to work against God’s plan for life will always fail.


by di Joseph Yun Li-sun
The meeting is set for 12 June in the chapel of the Kaesong industrial complex, an inter-Korean joint venture. Tensions remain high on the peninsula because of a missile launch. The presence of Christians in North Korea raises doubts.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - South Korea's Protestant leaders agreed to hold a religious service and a prayer vigil in the North. The event will take place in the chapel of the Kaesong industrial complex, a joint venture between the two Koreas, on 12 June. Rev Han Gie-yang, of the United Church of Korea, confirmed the meeting but many sources have doubts about the identity (and faith) of northern Christians.

The agreement was reached in Shenyang, China, and is part of a plan to appease relations between Seoul and Pyongyang. The Stalinist regime plans to launch a missile on 15 April to mark the centennial of the birth of the founding of the state, Kim Il-sung, but South Korea, the United States and Japan want to prevent it.

North Korea's new dictator, Kim Jong-un, agreed to a moratorium on its nuclear programme in exchange for humanitarian aid for his country, but does not appear willing to back down on the missile launch.

North Korea has opened its doors to various religious delegations in the past year. South Korean Buddhists have gone on pilgrimage to the North. An inter-confessional Christian group, led by the catholic bishop of Kwangju, visited Pyongyang in November.

However, the presence of Christians in the North remains doubtful. Despite the existence of two churches in the northern capital, many believe they (and their members) are a smokescreen for foreign consumption.,-Korean-Christians-say-24387.html


St. John Climacus
Feast: March 30

Feast Day:March 30
Born:525, Syria
Died:30 March 606, Mount Sinai
St John, generally distinguished by the appellation of Climacus, from his excellent book entitled Climax, or the Ladder to Perfection, was born about the year 525, probably in Palestine. By his extraordinary progress in the arts and sciences he obtained very young the surname of the Scholastic. But at sixteen years of age he renounced all the advantages which the world promised him to dedicate himself to God in a religious state, in 547. He retired to Mount Sinai, which, from the time of the disciples of St. Anthony and St. Hilarion, had been always peopled by holy men, who, in imitation of Moses, when he received the law on that mountain, lived in the perpetual contemplation of heavenly things. Our novice, fearing the danger of dissipation and relaxation to which numerous communities are generally more exposed than others, chose not to live in the great monastery on the summit, but in an hermitage on the descent of the mountain, under the discipline of Martyrius, an holy ancient anchoret. By silence he curbed the insolent itch of talking about everything, an ordinary vice in learned men, but usually a mark of pride and self-sufficiency. By perfect humility and obedience he banished the dangerous desire of self-complacency in his actions. He never contradicted, never disputed with anyone. So perfect was his submission that he seemed to have no self-will. He undertook to sail through the deep sea of this mortal life securely, under the direction of a prudent guide, and shunned those rocks which he could not have escaped, had he presumed to steer alone, as he tells us. From the visible mountain he raised his heart, without interruption, in all his actions, to God, who is invisible; and, attentive to all the motions of his grace, studied only to do his will. Four years he spent in the trial of his own strength, and in learning the obligations of his state, before he made his religious profession, which was in the twentieth year of his age. In his writings he severely condemns engagements made by persons too young, or before a sufficient probation. By fervent prayer and fasting he prepared himself for the solemn consecration of himself to God, that the most intense fervour might make his holocaust the more perfect; and from that moment he seemed to be renewed in spirit; and his master admired the strides with which, like a mighty giant, the young disciple advanced daily more and more towards God, by self-denial, obedience, humility, and the uninterrupted exercises of divine love and prayer.

In the year 560, and the thirty-fifth of his age, he lost Martyrius by death; having then spent nineteen years in that place in penance and holy contemplation. By the advice of a prudent director, he then embraced an eremitical life in a plain called Thole, near the foot of Mount Sinai. His cell was five miles from the church, probably the same which had been built a little before, by order of the Emperor Justinian, for the use of the monks at the bottom of this mountain, in honour of the Blessed Virgin, as Procopius mentions. Thither he went every Saturday and Sunday to assist, with all the other anchorets and monks of that desert, at the holy office and at the celebration of the divine mysteries, when they all communicated. His diet was very sparing, though, to shun ostentation and the danger of vainglory, he ate of everything that was allowed among the monks of Egypt, who universally abstained from flesh, fish, &c. Prayer was his principal employment; and he practiced what he earnestly recommends to all Christians, that in all their actions, thoughts, and words they should keep themselves with great fervour in the presence of God, and direct all they do to his holy will. By habitual contemplation he acquired an extraordinary purity of heart, and such a facility of lovingly beholding God in all his works that this practice seemed in him a second nature. Thus he accompanied his studies with perpetual prayer. He assiduously read the holy scriptures and fathers, and was one of the most learned doctors of the church. But, to preserve the treasure of humility, he concealed, as much as possible, both his natural and acquired talents, and the extraordinary graces with which the Holy Ghost enriched his soul. By this secrecy he fled from the danger of vainglory, which, like a leech, sticks to our best actions and, sucking from them its nourishment, robs us of their fruit. As if this cell had not been sufficiently remote from the eyes of men, St. John frequently retired into a neighbouring cavern which he had made in the rock, where no one could come to disturb his devotions or interrupt his tears. So ardent were his charity and compunction, that his eyes seemed two fountains, which scarce ever ceased to flow; and his continual sighs and groans to heaven, under the weight of the miseries inseparable from his moral pilgrimage, were not to be equaled by the vehemency of the cries of those who suffer from knives and fire. Overcome by importunities, he admitted a holy anchoret named Moyses to live with him as his disciple.
God bestowed on St. John an extraordinary grace of healing the spiritual disorders of souls. Among others, a monk called Isaac was brought almost to the brink of despair by most violent temptations of the flesh. He addressed himself to St. John, who perceived by his tears how much he underwent from that conflict and struggle which he felt within himself. The servant of God commended his faith, and said, "My son, let us have recourse to God by prayer." They accordingly prostrated themselves together on the ground in fervent supplication for a deliverance, and from that time the infernal serpent left Isaac in peace. Many others resorted to St. John for spiritual advice; but the devil excited some to jealousy, who censured him as one who, out of vanity, lost much time in unprofitable discourse. The saint took this accusation, which was a mere calumny, in good part, and as a charitable admonition; he therefore imposed on himself a rigorous silence for near a twelvemonth. This, his humility and modesty, so much astonished his calumniators that they joined the rest of the monks in beseeching him to reassume his former function of giving charitable advice to all that resorted to him for it, and not to bury that talent of science which he had received for the benefit of many. He who knew not what it was to contradict others, with the same humility and deference again opened his mouth to instruct his neighbour in the rules of perfect virtue, in which office, such was the reputation of his wisdom and experience, that he was regarded as another Moses in that holy place.
St. John was now seventy-five years old, and had spent forty of them in his hermitage, when, in the year 600, he was unanimously chosen Abbot of Mount Sinai, and superior-general of all the monks and hermits in that country. Soon after he was raised to this dignity, the people of Palestine and Arabia, in the time of a great drought and famine, made their application to him as to another Elias, begging him to intercede with God in their behalf. The saint failed not, with great earnestness, to recommend their distress to the Father of mercies, and his prayer was immediately recompensed with abundant rains. St. Gregory the Great, who then sat in St. Peter's chair, wrote to our holy abbot, recommending himself to his prayers, and sent him beds, with other furniture and money, for his hospital, for the use of pilgrims near Mount Sinai. John, who had used his utmost endeavours to decline the pastoral charge when he saw it laid upon him, neglected no means which might promote the sanctification of all those who were entrusted to his care. That posterity might receive some share in the benefit of his holy instructions, John, the learned and virtuous Abbot of Raithu, a monastery situate towards the Red Sea, entreated him by that obedience he had ever practiced, even with regard to his inferiors, that he would draw up the most necessary rules by which fervent souls might arrive at Christian perfection. The saint answered him that nothing but extreme humility could have moved him to write to so miserable a sinner, destitute of every sort of virtue; but that he received his commands with respect, though far above his strength, never considering his own insufficiency. Wherefore, apprehensive of falling into death by disobedience, he took up his pen in haste, with great eagerness mixed with fear, and set himself to draw some imperfect outlines, as an unskillful painter, leaving them to receive from him, as a great master, the finishing strokes. This produced the excellent work which he called "Climax; or, the Ladder of religious Perfection." This book, being written in sentences, almost in the manner of aphorisms, abounds more in sense than words. A certain majestic simplicity- an inexpressible unction and spirit of humility, joined with conciseness and perspicuity-very much enhance the value of this performance; but its chief merit consists in the sublime sentiments and perfect description of all Christian virtues which it contains. The author confirms his precepts by several edifying examples, as of obedience and penance. In describing a monastery of three hundred and thirty monks which he had visited near Alexandria, in Egypt, he mentions one of the principal citizens of that city, named Isidore, who, petitioning to be admitted into the house, said to the abbot, "As iron is in the hands of the smith, so am I in your hands." The abbot ordered him to remain without the gate, and to prostrate himself at the feet of everyone that passed by, begging their prayers for his soul struck with a leprosy. Thus he passed seven years in profound humility and patience. He told St. John that, during the first year, he always considered himself as a slave condemned for his sins, and sustained violent conflicts; the second year he passed in tranquillity and confidence; and the third with relish and pleasure in his humiliations. So great was his virtue that the abbot determined to present him to the bishop in order to be promoted to the priesthood, but the humility of the holy penitent prevented the execution of that design; for, having begged at least a respite, he died within ten days. St. John could not help admiring the cook of this numerous community, who seemed always recollected, and generally bathed in tears amidst his continual occupation, and asked him by what means he nourished so perfect a spirit of compunction, in the midst of such a dissipating laborious employment. He said that serving the monks, he represented to himself that he was serving not men, but God in his servants; and that the fire he always had before his eyes reminded him of that fire which will burn souls for all eternity. The moving description which our author gives of the monastery of penitents called the Prison, above a mile from the former, hath been already abridged in our language. John the Sabaite told our saint, as of a third person, that seeing himself respected in his monastery, he considered that this was not the way to satisfy for his sins; wherefore, with the leave of his abbot, he repaired to a severe monastery in Pontus, and after three years saw in a dream a schedule of his debts, to the amount in appearance of one hundred pounds of gold, of which only ten were cancelled. He therefore repeated often to himself, "Poor Antiochus, thou hast still a great debt to satisfy." After passing other thirteen years in contempt and the most fervent practices of penance, he deserved to see in a vision his whole debt blotted out. Another monk, in a grievous fit of illness, fell into a trance, in which he lay as if he had been dead for the space of an hour; but, recovering, he shut himself up in a cell, and lived a recluse twelve years, almost continually weeping, in the perpetual meditation of death. When he was near death, his brethren could only extort from him these words of edification, "He who hath death always before his eyes will never sin." John, Abbot of Raithu, explained this book of our saint by judicious comments, which are also extant. We have likewise a letter of St. John Climacus to the same person concerning the duties of a pastor, in which he exhorts him in correcting others to temper severity with mildness, and encourages him zealously to fulfil the obligations of his charge; for nothing is greater or more acceptable to God than to offer him the sacrifice of rational souls sanctified by penance and charity.
St. John sighed continually under the weight of his dignity during the four years that he governed the monks of Mount Sinai; and as he had taken upon him that burden with fear and reluctance, he with joy found means to resign the same a little before his death. Heavenly contemplation, and the continual exercise of divine love and praise, were his delight and comfort in his earthly pilgrimage: and in this imitation of the functions of the blessed spirits in heaven he placeth the essence of the monastic state. In his excellent maxims concerning the gift of holy tears, the fruit of charity, we seem to behold a lively portraiture of his most pure soul. He died in his hermitage on the 30th day of March, in 605, being fourscore years old. His spiritual son, George, who had succeeded him in the abbacy, earnestly begged of God that he might not be separated from his dear master and guide; and followed him by a happy death within a few days. On several Greek commentaries on St. John Climacus's ladder, see Montfaucon, Biblioth. Coisliana, pp. 305, 306.
St. John Climacus, speaking of the excellence and the effects of charity, does it with a feeling and energy worthy of such a subject: "A mother," says he, "feels less pleasure when she folds within her arms the dear infant whom she nourishes with her own milk than the true child of charity does when united as he incessantly is, to his God, and folded as it were in the arms of his heavenly Father.—Charity operates in some persons so as to carry them almost entirely out of themselves. It illuminates others, and fills them with such sentiments of joy, that they cannot help crying out: The Lord is my helper and my protector: in him hath my heart confided, and I have been helped And my flesh hath flourished again, and with my will I will give praise to him. This joy which they feel in their hearts, is reflected on their countenances; and when once God has united, or, as we may say, incorporated them with his charity, he displays in their exterior, as in the reflection of a mirror, the brightness and serenity of their souls: even as Moses, being honored with a sight of God, was encompassed round by his glory." St. John Climacus composed the following prayer to obtain the gift of charity: "My God, I pretend to nothing upon this earth, except to be so firmly united to you by prayer that to be separated from you may be impossible; let others desire riches and glory; for my part, I desire but one thing, and that is, to be inseparably united to you, and to place in you alone all my hopes of happiness and repose."


Thursday, March 29, 2012


John 8: 51 - 59
51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death."
52 The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, as did the prophets; and you say, `If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.'
53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you claim to be?"
54 Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God.
55 But you have not known him; I know him. If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know him and I keep his word.
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad."
57 The Jews then said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?"
58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."
59 So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.


Vatican City, 28 March 2012 (VIS) - At 9 a.m. today the Holy Father presided at Mass in Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion Jose Marti, in the presence of thousands of faithful who had come from all over Cuba. Extracts from Benedict XVI's homily are given below: (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
"“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”. In this text from today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals Himself as the Son of God the Father, the Saviour, the One Who alone can show us the truth and give us genuine freedom. His teaching provokes resistance and disquiet among His hearers. ... Even so, He exhorts them to believe, to keep His word, so as to know the truth which redeems and justifies.
"The truth is a desire of the human person, the search for which always supposes the exercise of authentic freedom. Many, without a doubt, would prefer to take the easy way out, trying to avoid this task. Some, like Pontius Pilate, ironically question the possibility of even knowing what truth is, ... or deny that there exists a truth valid for all. This attitude, as in the case of scepticism and relativism, changes hearts, making them cold, wavering, distant from others and closed. There are too many who, like the Roman governor, wash their hands and let the water of history drain away without taking a stand.
"On the other hand, there are those who wrongly interpret this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism; they close themselves up in “their truth”, and try to impose it on others. ... Anyone who acts irrationally cannot become a disciple of Jesus. Faith and reason are necessary and complementary in the pursuit of truth. God created man with an innate vocation to the truth and He gave him reason for this purpose. Certainly, it is not irrationality but rather the yearning for truth which the Christian faith promotes".
"Furthermore, the truth which stands above humanity is an unavoidable condition for attaining freedom, since in it we discover the foundation of an ethics on which all can converge and which contains clear and precise indications concerning life and death, duties and rights, marriage, family and society, in short, regarding the inviolable dignity of the human person. This ethical patrimony can bring together different cultures, peoples and religions, authorities and citizens, citizens among themselves, and believers in Christ and non-believers.
"Christianity, in highlighting those values which sustain ethics, does not impose, but rather proposes Christ’s invitation to know the truth which sets us free. ... In Christ we find the truth about God and about mankind. He helps us to overcome our selfishness, to rise above our vain struggles and to conquer all that oppresses us. The one who does evil, who sins, becomes its slave and will never attain freedom. Only by renouncing hatred and our hard and blind hearts will we be free and a new life will well up in us".
"The Church lives to make others sharers in the one thing she possesses, which is none other than Christ, our hope of glory. To carry out this duty, she must count on basic religious freedom, which consists in her being able to proclaim and to celebrate her faith also in public, bringing to others the message of love, reconciliation and peace which Jesus brought to the world. It must be said with joy that in Cuba steps have been taken to enable the Church to carry out her essential mission of expressing her faith openly and publicly. Nonetheless, this must continue forwards, and I wish to encourage the country’s government authorities to strengthen what has already been achieved and advance along this path of genuine service to the true good of Cuban society as a whole.
"The right to freedom of religion, both in its private and in its public dimension, manifests the unity of the human person, who is at once a citizen and a believer. It also legitimises the fact that believers have a contribution to make to the building up of society. Strengthening religious freedom consolidates social bonds, nourishes the hope of a better world, creates favourable conditions for peace and harmonious development. ... When the Church upholds this human right, she is not claiming any special privileges for herself. She wishes only to be faithful to the command of her divine founder, conscious that, where Christ is present, we become more human and our humanity becomes authentic. This is why the Church seeks to give witness by her preaching and teaching, both in catechesis and in the schools and universities. It is greatly to be hoped that the moment will soon arrive when, here too, the Church can bring to the fields of knowledge the benefitsof the mission which the Lord entrusted to her and which she can never neglect.
"A shining example of this commitment is found in the outstanding priest Felix Varela, teacher and educator, an illustrious son of this city of Havana, who has taken his place in Cuban history as the first one who taught his people how to think. Father Varela offers us a path to a true transformation of society: to form virtuous men and women in order to forge a worthy and free nation, for this transformation depends on the spiritual, in as much as “there is no authentic fatherland without virtue”. Cuba and the world need change, but this will occur only if each one is in a position to seek the truth and chooses the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity".

Vatican City, 28 March 2012 (VIS) - After celebrating Mass this morning in Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion Jose Marti, Benedict XVI held a meeting in the apostolic nunciature with Fidel Castro, former president of Cuba.
"I took the decision to ask for some moments of your time, which I know is full of commitments, when I learned that you would take pleasure in this modest and simple encounter", said Fidel Castro to the Pope. During the meeting, which according to Vatican Radio lasted about half an hour, the former president spoke to the Holy Father of his pleasure at the beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who had been a great benefactress of Cuba, and of John Paul II, "a man whose contact with children and ordinary citizens invariably aroused feelings of affection". For his part Benedict XVI spoke of his own pleasure at being in Cuba and at the cordiality of his welcome.
Fidel Castro asked the Pope a number of questions about changes in the liturgy and the role of the Pontiff, and Benedict XVI replied by speaking about his meeting with peoples and his service to the universal Church. The former president also turned his attention to the plight mankind is facing in the modern world, while the Pope spoke of the absence and non recognition of God, and the fundamental importance of the relationship between faith and reason. Finally, Castro asked the Pope to send him a number of books to enable him to study the issues raised in their talk, and Benedict XVI said he would give thought to which texts to send. Finally, the former president presented the Pope his wife and two of his children.

Vatican City, 28 March 2012 (VIS) - As the Pope prepared to leave Cuba this afternoon he recalled the profound impression that country had left on his predecessor Blessed John Paul II, "when he came to these lands as a herald of truth and hope". Benedict XVI reiterated the fact that he had come to Cuba as a pilgrim of love, to give thanks to the Virgin Mary "who has accompanied the journey of the Church in this nation and given encouragement to all Cubans so that, from the hand of Christ, they might discover the true meaning of the desires and aspirations found in the human heart and gain the strength needed to build a fraternal society in which no one feels excluded".
At Jose Marti airport in Havana, where he arrived at 4.30 p.m. amid the acclamation of tens of thousands of faithful who had thronged to see him, the Pope thanked the president and other State authorities "for the interest and generous cooperation which they have shown in the the preparation of this journey". He also thanked members of the episcopal conference and others who had spared no effort to ensure the success of his visit. "I hold deep in my heart all the Cuban people, each and every one. You have surrounded me with prayer and affection, offered me cordial hospitality and shared with me your profound and rightful aspirations.
"I came here as a witness to Jesus Christ, convinced that, wherever He is present, discouragement yields to hope, goodness dispels uncertainties and a powerful force opens up the horizon to beneficial and unexpected possibilities", said the Holy Father. He also expressed the hope that Christ's message of salvation would strengthen the zeal and pastoral concern of Cuban bishops and all who cooperate the work of evangelisation, particularly the lay faithful so that, "by intensifying their commitment to God in the midst of their homes and workplaces, they may never tire of offering their responsible contribution for the good and the integral progress of their homeland.
"The path which Christ points out to humanity, and to each particular individual and people, is not a source of constraint, but rather the primary and principal premise for their authentic development. The light of the Lord, has shone brightly during these days; may that light never fade in those who have welcomed it; may it help all people to foster social harmony and to allow the blossoming of all that is finest in the Cuban soul, its most noble values, which can be the basis for building a society of broad vision, renewed and reconciled. May no one feel excluded from taking up this exciting search for his or her basic freedoms, or excused from this this by indolence or lack of material resources, a situation which is worsened when restrictive economic measures, imposed from outside the country, unfairly burden its people.
"I now conclude my pilgrimage, but I will continue praying fervently that you will go forward and that Cuba will be the home of all and for all Cubans, where justice and freedom coexist in a climate of serene fraternity. Respect and promotion of freedom which is present in the heart of each person are essential in order to respond adequately to the fundamental demands of his or her dignity and, in this way, to build up a society in which all are indispensable actors in the future of their life, their family and their country.
"The present hour urgently demands that in personal, national and international coexistence we reject immovable positions and unilateral viewpoints which tend to make understanding more difficult and efforts at cooperation ineffective. Possible discrepancies and difficulties will be resolved by tirelessly seeking what unites everyone, with patient and sincere dialogue, and a willingness to listen and accept goals which will bring new hope.
"Cuba, look again to the faith of your elders, draw from that faith the strength to build a better future, trust in the Lord’s promises, and open your heart to His Gospel so as to renew authentically your personal and social life.
"As I bid you a heartfelt adios, I ask our Lady of Charity of El Cobre to protect all Cubans under her mantle, to sustain them in the midst of their trials and to obtain from Almighty God the grace that they most desire. Hasta siempre, Cuba, a land made beautiful by the maternal presence of Mary. May God bless your future".
Having concluded his farewell address, Benedict XVI boarded his plane for Rome where, following a flight of ten and a half hours, he arrived at 10.15 a.m. local time on 29 March.

Vatican City, 29 March 2012 (VIS) - Given below is the text of a declaration issued today by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concerning the canonical status of the "so-called Greek-Catholic bishops of Pidhirci": Fr. Elias A. Dohnal O.S.B.M., Fr. Markian V. Hitiuk O.S.B.M., Fr. Metodej R. Spirik O.S.B.M., and Fr. Robert Oberhauser. The text is dated 22 February and bears the signatures of Cardinal William Joseph Levada and Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer S.J., respectively prefect and secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
(1) The Holy See has followed with great concern the activities of Fr. Elias A. Dohnal O.S.B.M., Fr. Markian V. Hitiuk O.S.B.M., Fr. Metodej R. Spirik O.S.B.M., and Fr. Robert Oberhauser who, having been expelled from the Basilian Order of St. Josaphat, subsequently proclaimed themselves as bishops of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church. With their disobedience, these priests continue to challenge ecclesiastical authority, causing moral and spiritual damage, not only to the Basilian Order of St. Josaphat and the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church, but also to this Apostolic See and the Catholic Church as a whole. All this provokes division and bewilderment among the faithful. The aforementioned priests, having established a group of "bishops" of Pidhirci, have recently sought to have that group recognised and registered by the competent State authorities as the "Ukrainian Orthodox Greek-Catholic Church".
(2) Since the beginning of this painful episode, Church representatives of various ranks have sought to dissuade them from continuing a conduct which, among other things, could deceive the faithful, as has already happened in a number of cases.
(3) The Holy See, concerned to protect the unity and peace of Christs flock, had hoped in the repentance and subsequent return of the aforementioned priests to full communion with the Catholic Church. Unfortunately the most recent developments - such as the unsuccessful attempt to acquire State registration for the "Pidhirci" group under the name of the "Ukrainian Orthodox Greek-Catholic Church" - demonstrates their continuing disobedience.
(4) Therefore, to safeguard the common good of the Church and the "salus animarum", and given that the so-called "bishops" of Pidhirci show no sign of repentance but continue to create confusion and disarray in the community of faithful, in particular by calumniating representatives of the Holy See and of the local Church, and asserting that the supreme authority of the Church is in possession of documentation testifying to the full validity of their episcopal ordination, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, accepting the request presented by the ecclesiastical authorities of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church, and by other dicasteries of the Holy See, has decided, by this declaration, to inform the faithful, especially in the countries of origin of the so-called "bishops", about their current canonical status.
(5) This Congregation, disassociating itself entirely from the actions of the so-called "bishops" aforementioned, and from their aforesaid declarations, formally declares that it does not recognise the validity of their episcopal ordinations, or of any and all ordinations that have derived, or will derive therefrom. Moreover, the canonical status of the four so-called "bishops" is that of excommunication, pursuant to canon 1459 para. 1 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO), in view of the fact that an appeal sentence of the ordinary tribunal of the Major Archiepiscopal Ukrainian Church, issued on 10 September 2008, recognised them as guilty of offences under canons 1462, 1447 and 1452 of the CCEO; i.e., the offences of illegitimate usurpation of office, inciting sedition and hatred towards certain hierarchs, provoking subjects to disobedience, and harming a third party's good name by calumny.
(6) Furthermore, the use of the name "Catholic" by groups which are not recognised by the competent ecclesiastical authority is to be considered as illegitimate, pursuant to canon 19 of the CCEO.
(7) The faithful are, then, enjoined not to adhere to the aforementioned group as, to all canonical effects, it is outside ecclesiastical communion. The faithful are invited to pray for the members of the group, that they may repent and return to full communion with the Catholic Church.