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Pope's visit to Philippines
During his recent visit to the Philippines, which included a Papal Mass attended by an estimated record six million people, Pope Francis addressed a gathering of families on 16 January, in the course of which he praised Pope Paul VI for resisting pressures to accept contraception. "Paul VI was courageous, a good pastor, and he warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching."
He described the encyclical Humanae Vitae as a document that foresaw the negative consequences of birth control and "the problem it could cause families in the future."
Then, in a remark clearly aimed at the growing drive for acceptance of same-sex unions, he added, "The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage. Our world needs good and strong families to overcome these threats!"
He encouraged the Catholics of the Philippines to develop active lives of prayer, "resting in the Lord," in order to build up strength to protect family life.
Later, as he flew from the Philippines to Rome on 19 January, he responded to questions from reporters. Regarding his support for Humanae Vitae and its condemnation of contraception, he deplored the "neo-Malthusian" ideology that prevails in much of the world, pointing to the birth rates in Italy and Spain, lagging below 1%.
Referring to the possibility of natural family planning, he said: "Each person, with his pastor, seeks how to do that: responsible parenthood." At the same time, he reminded the listening reporters, "for most poor people, a child is a treasure".
Responding to a question about his criticism of "ideological colonisation," the Pope said that he was referring to organisations that promote their own agendas in impoverished countries, offering "certain loans with certain conditions". He mentioned one case where funds for education were tied to adoption of a text promoting gender theory. "They enter with an idea that has nothing to do with the people," he said, adding that every society has the right to protect its own culture.
The Pope encouraged reporters to read Robert Hugh Benson's book, Lord of the World, promising that those who read it "will understand what I mean by ideological colonisation."
Pope Francis disclosed that he is planning a visit to Africa for the end of this year, with Uganda and the Central African Republic as the likely objectives.
Catholic World News
Ordinations flourish in South Korea
Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, Archbishop of Seoul, ordained 25 deacons as priests for the Archdiocese of Seoul and three deacons from religious orders on 6 February at the Olympic Gymnastics Hall of the Olympic Park in Seoul.
The Archdiocese of Seoul has been holding the Mass of Ordination annually, with an average of 30 new priests ordained each year since 1995.
The new priests include 25 deacons from Seoul Theological Seminary, two from Seoul International Mission Community, and one from the Claretian Missionaries.
The Mass of Ordination this year took its theme from the pastoral letter of Cardinal Yeom: Prayers bring vitality to New Evangelization. The bible verse theme for the occasion was "You are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing." (Psalms 16:2)
A day before the priestly ordination, 22 seminarians, including one from the Hiroshima Diocese of Japan who finished his theological studies in Seoul and one from the Congregation of the Blessed Korean Martyrs, were ordained as deacons by Cardinal Yeom at the same venue.
Zenit News Agency
Possible ancient Gospel fragment find
Archeologists are expecting the publication of what could be the oldest known portion of one of the Gospels. The fragmentary text, taken from the Gospel of St Mark, was reportedly discovered on a sheet of papyrus that was used for a mummy. Experts believe that the text dates back to the first century.
The discovery of the Gospel text has been surrounded by mystery because some scientists have objected to the process in which papyrus is removed from a mummy's mask, thereby destroying the mask itself.
Catholic World News
Niger's Bishops reaffirm friendship with Muslims
In the wake of the recent anti-Christian violence that heavily affected the Church, the bishops of Niger reaffirmed their friendship with the Muslim community.
In a letter addressed to the Muslim community, the bishops stated: "We want to renew our friendship and brotherhood to the entire Muslim community in our country."
According to Fides, the bishops thanked all Muslims "for the gestures and acts of solidarity" shown during the attacks against the Christian community, and said, "We are united in the pain that you share with us. Our places of worship and most of our infrastructure have been destroyed, but our faith is intact."
"What our common enemies have deliberately aimed to destroy," they noted, "We will build again."
Gradually, the bishops explained, the activities of the Catholic Church, "which have no other purpose than to serve the people," will resume where they can, depending on each individual situation.
Citizens of the Muslim-majority country had protested the publishing of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. The images were published several days after a terrorist attack at the magazine's headquarters in Paris.
Local police reported that when demonstrations turned violent, 45 churches were burned and 10 people killed.
Pope Francis later commented: "Brutalities have been committed against Christians, against children, against churches. Let us pray to the Lord for the gift of reconciliation and peace, so that religious sentiment may never become an occasion of violence, oppression and destruction. War, cannot be made in the name of God!
Zenit News Agency
Hindu call to ban religious conversions
A Hindu nationalist party has called for the adoption of a law restricting religious conversions in India.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) proposal was brought forward by leaders of the group as a way to defend India's identity. A VHP leader offered the proposal on the same day that Hindu activists claimed the "reconversion" of over 100 Christians.
Sajan George, the president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, remarked to the AsiaNews service that the VHP proposal would be a "grave violation of a person's freedom of choice and conscience".
Catholic World News
Venezuelan bishops condemn socialism
The bishops of Venezuela in a letter on 12 January warned that "Marxist socialism is an erroneous path, and therefore should not be instituted."
The bishops began their letter by recalling the events that took place at the beginning of 2014, when political upheaval led to 43 deaths and hundreds injured: "That grave crisis showed the need for dialogue among government leaders, the opposition, and other sectors. Thanks to the exhortations of Pope Francis and the participation of the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Aldo Giordano, among other things, a dialogue was launched that unfortunately never continued beyond the first few meetings."
In recent months, they said, the situation had worsened due to a growing economic crisis rooted in massive external debt, uncontrolled inflation, the devaluation of the currency, and shortages of basic necessities.
Adding to this widespread corruption, the drop in oil prices, and government inefficiency, the main problem and cause of this crisis was "the politico-economic system of a socialist, Marxist or communist nature," the bishops wrote.
"This system is totalitarian and centralist, it establishes control of the state over all aspects of the lives of the citizens and public and private institutions. It also threatens freedom and the rights of persons and associations and has led to oppression and ruin in every country where it has been tried.
The response to this situation should be "sincere and effective dialogue aimed at bringing about changes and agreements for the good of all," and in which the National Assembly must take the lead.
The government must "set aside rigid and failed ideologies, as well as the desire to control everything, and enact reforms to break the logjam in production, stop inflation and solve the shortages of basic items."
At the root of all this social renewal is the unity of the family, the bishops stressed, "as the family is the fundamental nucleus of society".
Catholic News Agency
No US tax funding of abortions
Cardinal Seán O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston and chairman of the US Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, welcomed passage of the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015" (H.R. 7) by the US House of Representatives.
"By passing this legislation, the House has taken a decisive step toward respect for unborn human life, reflecting the will of the American people," he said.
The pro-life bill passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 242-179 on 22 January, the day of the annual March for Life in Washington.
The bill codifies a permanent, government-wide policy against taxpayer subsidies for abortion and abortion coverage. It also requires health plans offered under the Affordable Care Act to disclose the extent of their coverage for abortion and the amount of any surcharge for that coverage to consumers.
Cardinal O'Malley had earlier written to Congress urging support for the legislation, saying it "will write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 37 years: The federal government should not use its funding power to support and promote elective abortion, and should not force taxpayers to subsidise this violence. Even public officials who take a 'pro-choice' stand, and courts that have insisted on a constitutional 'right' to abortion, have agreed that the government has every right (in the Supreme Court's words) to 'encourage childbirth over abortion.'
"H.R. 7 also requires health plans under the Affordable Care Act to provide full disclosure on their abortion coverage to consumers," said Cardinal O'Malley. "This lets Americans choose health coverage that reflects their values. Just as most Americans do not want their tax dollars used for abortion, they do not want their own health coverage misused to pay for abortions."
Zenit News Agency
Philippines Conference on New Evangelisation
More than 5,000 participants from more than 70 dioceses across the Philippines gathered from 15-17 January at the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas in Manila.
Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose said, "PCNE II is a spiritual experience that helps the participants understand that we are called to be blessed, in its true meaning, as modelled by Jesus."
"The Beatitudes given by Jesus are the ways and pathways to happiness," Bishop Mallari continued, saying that "what is important is that we have the humility to recognise our worthiness of God's grace, to really allow the grace of God to flow down us."
.The 2012 Synod on the New Evangelisation inspired the Filipino bishops to hold PCNE I the following year, focusing on rekindling the ardour of evangelisation and renewal of faith experience in the region.
PCNE II follows the same track, aiming to respond to the challenges of the first conference and tailoring responses to the Filipino context.
The Filipino bishops were also inspired by the beautitudes theme adopted by Pope Francis for World Youth Day in Krakow in 2016.
Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila said the year had witnessed several natural disasters but was also a "year of many graces."
Cardinal Tagle referred in particular to PCNE I, saying, "it provided hope against the rubble of natural calamities, escalating poverty, scandalising corruption and worrisome violence."
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 28 No 2 (March 2015), p. 4
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