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Volume 3, Issue 236

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  • John N. Lupia
    ROMAN CATHOLIC NEWS Volume 3, Issue 236 MONDAY 15 December 2003 * * * WEAR THE BROWN SCAPULAR OF OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL AND PRAY THE ROSARY DAILY FOR THE
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 12, 2003
      ROMAN CATHOLIC NEWS

      Volume 3, Issue 236

      MONDAY 15 December 2003


      * * *

      WEAR THE BROWN SCAPULAR OF OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL AND
      PRAY THE ROSARY DAILY FOR THE CONVERSION OF THE WHOLE
      WORLD AND FOR CHURCH UNITY

      * * *

      INSIDE THIS ISSUE:
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      • God's Closeness Is Secret of Christian Joy, Says Pope
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      • John Paul II Asks Children to Pray for Him
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      • John Paul II's Address to New Ambassador of Denmark
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      • Pope's Address to New Ambassador of Singapore
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      • Papal Address to New Ambassador of Estonia
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      • Holy See Address at Summit on Information Society
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      • John Paul II Lists Key Conditions for Peace in Holy Land
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      • U.S. Bishops on Why Homosexual "Marriage" Is a Contradiction
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      • Delay in Vote on Constitution Is Criticized
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      • LECTIO DIVINA
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      • On the Unmistakable Characteristic of Christian Joy
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      • CATALOGUE OF LINKS
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      • EUCHARISTIC PRAYER IN HONOR OF THE SORROWFUL HEART OF MARY
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      • DAILY REMINDER
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      • ROMAN CATHOLIC NEWS ARCHIVES
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      • COPYRIGHT NOTICES
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      God's Closeness Is Secret of Christian Joy, Says Pope

      Such Happiness "Can Coexist With Suffering," He Adds

      VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- God's love is the foundation of Christian joy, which no trial or suffering can affect, John Paul II said as he invited Christians to prepare spiritually for Christmas.

      "Advent is a time of joy, because it makes us relive the expectation of the happiest event in history: the birth of the Son of God of the Virgin Mary," the Pope said today before praying the midday Angelus.

      On the Third Sunday of Advent, the Pope dedicated his reflection -- addressed to several thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square -- to Christian joy.

      "To know that God is not far but close, not indifferent but compassionate, not a stranger but a merciful Father who follows us lovingly while respecting our freedom -- all this is reason for profound joy that different daily events cannot affect," he said.

      "An unmistakable characteristic of Christian joy is that it can coexist with suffering, because it is totally based on love," added the Pope, who read his address in a clear voice.

      "In fact, the Lord who is at hand, to the point of becoming man, comes to infuse in us his joy, the joy of loving," he said.

      "Only in this way can one understand the serene joy of the martyrs even in the midst of trials, or the smile of charity of the saints before those who are suffering: a smile that does not offend but consoles," the Pope concluded.



      * * *

      John Paul II Asks Children to Pray for Him


      VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- At a pre-Christmas meeting with pilgrims, John Paul II asked the children present to pray for him and for the people who turn to him in their difficulties.

      Hundreds of children gathered in St. Peter's Square today to pray the midday Angelus and to have the Pope bless the figurines of the Baby Jesus they were holding, a tradition on the Third Sunday of Advent.

      Eventually, the children will place the images of the Christ Child in the crib of their nativity scenes at home.

      "Dear children and boys and girls, when you put the figurine of Baby Jesus in the crib, say a prayer for me and for the many people who turn to the Pope in their difficulties," he said. In farewell, he wished a "Merry Christmas to all!"




      * * *

      John Paul II's Address to New Ambassador of Denmark

      "An Eclipse of the Sense of God Has Cast Its Shadow"

      VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address John Paul II delivered on Friday to Birger Dan Nielsen, the new ambassador of Denmark to the Holy See, in the ceremony to present his letters of credence.


      Your Excellency,

      I am pleased to welcome you today and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Denmark to the Holy See. Though my visit to your country took place some years ago, I fondly recall the warmth and hospitality with which I was received. I thank you for the gracious words of greeting which you bring from Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II, and I would ask you to convey to Her Majesty, to the Government and to the people of Denmark my good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the peace and well-being of the nation.

      The Holy See's steadfast commitment to promoting the dignity of the human person stands at the heart of her diplomatic activity. Without an authentic understanding of the incomparable worth of men and women, claims to defend fundamental human rights and efforts to attain peaceful coexistence among peoples will prove vain. It is only in the respect and protection of the inviolable dignity of every person that the search for solidarity and harmony in our world finds its sure basis. Indeed, the urgent need for the entire human family to give practical expression to what my predecessor, Blessed Pope John XXIII, called the four pillars of peace -- truth, justice, love and freedom -- stems precisely from their being "requirements of the human spirit" (Message for the 2003 World Day of Peace, No. 3).

      Within the international community Denmark has long been esteemed for the generosity which has marked its relations with the developing nations of the world. Tangible expression of such solidarity is found in Danish leadership of peace-keeping operations, generous assistance with aid projects, and readiness to contribute to the requirements of international stability and security necessary for social and economic advancement across the globe. In this regard, I am particularly glad to acknowledge Your Excellency's observation concerning the way in which Denmark and the Holy See have mutually supported the Millennium Declaration. Your nation's exemplary commitment to funding that Declaration's goals has not gone unnoticed and I am confident that Denmark will be a reliable supporter of the newly proposed International Finance Facility, the initiatives of which the Holy See welcomes.

      Effective solidarity is always an expression of a firm and persevering desire to promote the common good. Though this desire resonates deeply within the hearts of all men and women, it also requires the determination to foster actively a culture of acceptance. To this end, your country has sought to introduce peace education programs, to support projects combating poverty and injustice, and to encourage tolerance especially in regard to the immigrant community. At their most significant level such laudable initiatives help to elicit a recognition of the essential nature of human life as a gift and of our world as a family of persons. True commitment to human solidarity on an international level in fact finds its roots in the domestic family. If authentic and mature communion between persons within the family -- the first and irreplaceable school of social life -- is not truly appreciated and protected, then the relationships of international solidarity, marked by respect, justice, dialogue and love, which serve the common good will be severely impeded (cf. apostolic exhortation "Familiaris Consortio," No. 43).

      During my visit to Denmark I observed that your flag, the Dannebrog, is marked with the sign of the Cross. I suggested that by being faithful to this historical symbol of your existence as a people, Denmark will be faithful to her very self. Integral to your history is the Christian Gospel which, as an inspiration and support for your people (cf. Arrival Speech, Copenhagen, 6 June 1989), is as crucial today as it has been for over a thousand years. However, one cannot but notice that an eclipse of the sense of God has cast its shadow not only over your own country but over others on the Continent of Europe as well. Many people are disoriented, uncertain, and some even without hope. With numbers of Europeans living without spiritual roots, it is not surprising that there are political and social moves to create a vision of Europe which ignores its religious heritage and, in particular, its profoundly Christian soul (cf. postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Europa," No. 7). The advocates of these misguided efforts assert the rights of the peoples of Europe, and claim to speak in their name, yet are blind to the reality of the higher objective law written on the heart of every man and woman and known to the human conscience.

      A vision of Europe detached from God can only herald social fragmentation, moral confusion and political disunity. In the face of the troubling signs which cloud the horizon of the European continent I wish to repeat again the words from Scripture which I quoted during my visit to your country: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. This light has come into the world and those who live by his truth come out into the light so that it may be plainly seen that what they do is done in God" (Jn 3:16; 19-21). Christ's truth does not disappoint. It illuminates and directs our ways, dispelling the shadows of bewilderment and fear. Christ again invites us all "to blaze new trails leading to a 'Europe of the spirit,' in order to make the continent a true 'common home' filled with the joy of life" (postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Europa," No. 121).

      With these words of encouragement I assure you that the Catholic Church, in ecumenical fellowship with her Christian brothers and sisters in your land, will continue to work for the spiritual enrichment and social development of the Danish people. Through the witness of charity the Church reaches out to all men and women, irrespective of ethnicity or religion, facilitating the growth of a "culture of solidarity" and restoring life to the universal values of human existence (cf. ibid., No. 85).

      Mr. Ambassador, I am confident that the mission which you begin today will help to strengthen the cordial bonds of understanding and cooperation between Denmark and the Holy See. As you take up your new responsibilities be assured that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you, your family and your fellow citizens I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.





      * * *

      Pope's Address to New Ambassador of Singapore

      "The Courage of a New Solidarity"

      VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address John Paul II delivered on Friday to Walter Woon, when the new ambassador of Singapore to the Holy See presented his letters of credence.

      Your Excellency,

      I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Singapore to the Holy See. I thank you for the kind greetings you have expressed on behalf of President S.R. Nathan and the Government and people of Singapore, and I ask you kindly to convey my good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the peace and well-being of the nation.

      Your presence here today takes my thoughts to the visit I was privileged to make to your country in 1986. The time I spent in Singapore allowed me the opportunity to experience at first hand a culture shaped by the influence of so many different ethnic and religious groups, which have for years lived in harmony with one another. Singapore has been greatly enriched by its variety of cultures and peoples and should take pride in its tradition of respect and esteem for this patrimony. In fact, your country's commitment to encouraging an authentic spirit of unity in diversity has made a significant contribution to the region and you can rightly claim that it is one of the most developed in Asia. Although Singapore is small in size and population, it nevertheless plays an important role in the area, often acting as a bridge of cultural exchange between East and West.

      In order for authentic globalization to be achieved, governments and peoples should encourage cultural diversity, at all times ensuring that it remains grounded in the moral principles and values which govern human behavior and relationships. Singapore has demonstrated its dedication to these precepts by the ongoing commitment to religious tolerance, which it has enthusiastically fostered since independence. It is to be hoped that the harmony which has traditionally prevailed among the followers of the various religions in Singapore will continue and grow even stronger. This is especially important today, as moments of recent tension and tragic incidents in your region have challenged the mutual respect which is basic to the peaceful co-existence of all peoples. In accordance with your best traditions, there is a need for continued dialogue, understanding and cooperation among the followers of the various religions in order to ensure that all people work together for a civilization built upon the universal values of solidarity, justice and freedom.

      Singaporean society is permeated by a deep appreciation for the importance of the spiritual and transcendent dimensions of human life. This has contributed to a recognition of the need to develop a culture in which "people live together" always avoiding the temptation to become a society which rejects, marginalizes, uproots or oppresses others (cf. encyclical letter "Evangelium Vitae," No. 18). This fundamental responsibility towards our brothers and sisters is a characteristic of social interaction which must be exercised at both national and international levels. Your country's resolve to assist those beyond its borders is evident in the impressive international support which you offer. In fact, our shared commitment to the less fortunate is one of many areas which unite Singapore and the Holy See in our desire to serve the common good. An example of this cooperation can be seen in our joint efforts to form young professionals from poor countries in the region through the Singapore-Vatican Third Country Training Program, initiated five years ago. Education is a key to sustained development. I am therefore hopeful that our attempts to train young people as conscientious and honest citizens will not only benefit their individual countries but will also assist Asia and the entire global community.

      Responsibility for the well-being of others extends to all sectors of life. In this regard, I am aware of the significant contributions your country has made, especially in the spheres of science and technology. The ability to serve humanity through these is a gift demanding great respect. At no time can governments support initiatives which threaten the sanctity of human life for scientific or economic gain. "The great moral challenge facing nations and the international community in relation to development is to have the courage of a new solidarity, capable of taking imaginative and effective steps to overcome both dehumanizing underdevelopment and the 'overdevelopment' which tends to reduce the person to an economic unit" (postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Asia," No. 32). For this reason, proper judgment and prudent deliberation concerning the control of these fields is essential. Such discussions should include the different religious traditions which play a significant role in the life of your nation. These groups make an essential contribution to the genuine progress of society by drawing attention to the most profound human questions and values and by giving the spiritual and moral direction which must always accompany scientific and technological advances.

      Even though the Catholic Church in Singapore is relatively small, her members are proud contributors to the country's political, cultural and social development. At a time when your nation and much of Asia are attempting to rethink past policies concerning family life and demographics, Catholics have much to offer. As I stated in 1986, "Families have a unique place in the Church as a community of life and love. While being a communion of persons in dialogue with God, they have an important role in society. They must remain open to the larger community, so that the loving concern they show in their homes may be extended to others for the betterment of all" (Homily in Singapore, No. 9). A firm commitment to a culture of life and a culture of the family is an essential building block to the social fabric of every country and a requirement for long-term success.

      Mr. Ambassador, it is my hope that, as you take up your new responsibilities, the bonds of friendship between the Holy See and Singapore will be increasingly strengthened. You can be assured that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in fulfilling your mission. Upon yourself and the beloved people of your nation I invoke abundant divine blessings.



      * * *


      Papal Address to New Ambassador of Estonia

      "An Increasingly Obvious Crisis of the Family"

      VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address John Paul II delivered on Friday to Priit Kolbre, when the new ambassador of Estonia to the Holy See presented his credentials.

      Your Excellency,

      It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican as you present the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Estonia to the Holy See. I would ask you kindly to convey to His Excellency Mr. Arnold Rüütel my appreciation of his good wishes, which I warmly reciprocate, and to assure him and the people of Estonia of my prayers for the nation's well-being. Ten years ago I embarked on my "pilgrimage of peace" to various Baltic nations including your own beloved country, where I thanked God that "the lamp of freedom" had been lit anew. That visit remains vivid in my mind and I gratefully recall the warmth and hospitality with which I was received by civic and religious leaders alike.

      The Church's diplomatic relations form a part of her mission of service to the whole human family. Her heartfelt desire to foster fruitful relations with civil society is anchored in her conviction that the hope of building a more just world -- a world more worthy of man -- cannot ignore an understanding of man's supernatural vocation. The Holy See's diplomatic activity seeks therefore to promote an understanding of the human person who "receives from God his essential dignity and with it the capacity to transcend every social order so as to move towards truth and goodness" (encyclical letter "Centesimus Annus," No. 38). From this foundation the Church applies the universal values pertaining to truth and love to the vast array of cultures and nations that constitute our world.

      As Your Excellency has observed, the arrival of the Catholic Church in Estonia dates back to the twelfth century. Together with other Europeans, Estonians rightly understand that the truths and values of Christianity have long been the foundation of the very fabric of European society. This heritage does not, however, belong just to the past. It is a project always in the making. It is therefore imperative that as the nations of Europe move towards a new configuration, Christianity's perennial proclamation of the truth should be recognized and reclaimed. It is in recovering Europe's true identity, upon which its freedom and democracy are founded, that the genuine progress of its cultural and civic institutions can be assured (cf. postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Europa," No. 109).

      The people of Estonia know only too well that, when the treasure of the Christian faith is repressed or even denied, authentic social development founders and the vision of a society marked with hope fades. In the wake of a tragic period of fear and intimidation in European history, when the supremacy of force prevailed, the Christian faith proposes its Gospel of life assuring a future of hope and freedom, a future in which the supremacy of love and truth will prevail. No human folly or shallow sense of inclusiveness can be allowed to deny future generations this path to genuine personal fulfillment and sustainable solidarity between peoples, rooted in the hope that "does not disappoint" (Rm 5:5). In this regard I am confident that the Government of Estonia will support the efforts of the Holy See to ensure that the Treaty of the Constitution of Europe will recognize Christianity's place at the heart of the Continent's life and future.

      As Estonia continues to engage in the delicate but profoundly satisfying task of forging its national spirit there is much for which to be grateful. Freedom of thought and expression, now enjoyed by your citizens, is the condition for the search for truth which defines the human person. The experience of history teaches us however that the journey from oppression to liberty is arduous. It is often marked by hollow promises of hope and the lure of false forms of freedom detached from an essential link with truth. The passing of an era of repressive political ideology must not be allowed to usher in one of destructive secularist ideology. The human person -- the one who seeks truth -- is also the one who lives by belief (cf. encyclical letter "Fides et Ratio," No. 31). It is to believing communities then that political and civic authorities can turn with confidence for a commitment to the humanization of society, by shaping a European social order respectful of every man and woman and thus in accordance with the common good (cf. postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Europa," No. 117).

      There is no doubt that one of the greatest needs in Estonia today is to ensure that the sacred institution of marriage, willed by God in the very act of creation, with its concomitant of stable family life, is affirmed and supported. Both civic and religious leaders of all denominations must work together towards this end. Many cultural, social and political factors are in fact conspiring to create an increasingly obvious crisis of the family. The tragedy of divorce desolates family life and harms communities and individuals, especially children. The scourge of abortion, in addition to violating the essential dignity of human life, often causes untold emotional and psychological pain to the mother who herself is frequently a victim of circumstances contrary to her deepest hopes and desires. Faced with these afflictions, I again remind civil leaders that they have a duty to make courageous choices to protect life through legislative measures (cf. encyclical letter "Evangelium Vitae," No. 90) and to uphold the values and demands of the family through effective social policies. I also appeal to the Christian community of Estonia to bear steadfast witness to the sublime beauty of the intimate communion of life and love which defines the family and brings joy to human society.

      Members of the Catholic Church, though few in number in your country, will continue to pray and work for the continuing development of the Estonian people and nation. I thank you for your gracious words of appreciation for what the Church is achieving through her humanitarian organizations, notably Caritas, in bringing a spirit of hope and practical assistance to vulnerable groups. Her mission of service to all peoples, particularly the poor and marginalized, stands at the heart of her witness to Christ's all-encompassing love.

      Mr. Ambassador, during your term as Estonia's representative to the Holy See the various departments of the Roman Curia will do all they can to assist you in the discharge of your duties. I offer my best wishes for the success of your endeavors to strengthen the cordial relations already existing between us. Upon you, your family and all your fellow citizens I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.




      * * *


      Holy See Address at Summit on Information Society

      Archbishop John Foley Highlights 3 Moral Foundations of Communications

      GENEVA, DEC. 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address of Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and head of the Holy See delegation, delivered Thursday at the World Summit on the Information Society.

      The purpose of the meeting was to identify concrete policies to overcome the technological gap that exists among countries worldwide.

      Mr. President,
      Distinguished representatives:

      The Holy See is very pleased that this World Summit on the Information Society is being held under the high patronage of the United Nations Secretary General and is also grateful that the International Telecommunications Union has taken the lead in organizing this gathering.

      As you might expect, the Holy See is most interested in the human and moral implications of the information society.

      Thus, we are particularly grateful that agreement has been reached on the "Ethical Dimensions of the Information Society" (Nos. 56-59) in the Declaration of Principles.

      We think that most men and women of good will would approve that "all actors in the Information Society should take appropriate actions and preventive measures against abusive uses of ICTs, such as illegal and other acts motivated by racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, hatred, violence, all forms of child abuse, including pedophilia and child pornography, and trafficking in and exploitation of human beings."

      In our commendable concern to make information and communications technology available to the broadest possible range of persons, I would hope that we might remember three basic moral foundations of communication: the overriding importance of truth, the dignity of the human person, and the promotion of the common good.

      In this context, access to information is essential to the development of a healthy society in which all citizens might be well informed and active participants, in keeping with their dignity and in light of the common good.

      All of us are committed to avoiding the possibility that information and communications technologies and programs might aggravate any inequalities which already exist.

      As the Holy See has always stated, the protection of private property, including intellectual property, has the fundamental social task of serving the common good of the human family and, as such, should allow for safeguard mechanisms, even if this differs from market logic and the law of immediate economic return.

      Development must be understood in a fully human way, concretely enhancing every individual's dignity and creativity.

      His Holiness Pope John Paul II, in an address to the United Nations Secretary General and to the Administrative Committee on Coordination of the United Nations (April 7, 2000), spoke of a "growing sense of international solidarity" that offers the United Nations system "a unique opportunity to contribute to the globalization of solidarity by serving as a meeting place for States and civil society and a convergence of the varied interests and needs."

      My delegation is particularly interested in the role of media and ICTs in the preservation and construction of peace. We hope that this Summit will end in a high-profile commitment in favor of peace, taken by all of us. It is just one aspect of the ICTs' enormous potential for good, but perhaps the most urgent.

      In these days, we cannot build a lasting peace without the cooperation of media networks. They can serve the culture of dialogue, participation, solidarity and reconciliation without which peace cannot flourish.

      If peace is the state which exists when each person is treated with dignity and allowed to develop as a whole person, a courageous contribution of media, instead of featuring violence, immorality and superficiality, could foster a more open and respectful use of ICTs to build better reciprocal knowledge and respect and to foster reconciliation and a more fruitful relationship among peoples of different cultures, ideologies and religions.

      Technology is a means: We are responsible for using it so that, in this communication age, the search for truth and true freedom might be advanced among all peoples.

      Thank you.




      * * *

      John Paul II Lists Key Conditions for Peace in Holy Land


      VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Peace will elude the Holy Land unless both sides in the conflict reject violence and embrace a dialogue that leads to the recognition of every person's rights, says John Paul II.

      The Pope expressed this conviction today when receiving the letters of credence of Mohammed Jaham Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, the new ambassador of Qatar to the Holy See. Part of the papal address was dedicated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

      The Holy See "never loses an occasion to remind the international community of its duty to act with insistence before the parties in dispute so that they will commit themselves to genuine negotiations," the Pope said.

      "There will be no genuine peace in this region without reciprocal relinquishment of violence and without recourse to courageous dialogue that will lead to recognition of the right of each one to live freely in his land, in respect of justice and the security of all, in particular around the holy places," he added.

      "May that much desired day come in which this land, so loved by all the children of Abraham, will again see the return of peace!" the Pope exclaimed.

      On Thursday, John Paul II appealed to Palestinians and Israelis for "concrete acts" of peace when he received Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Silvan Shalom in audience.




      * * *

      U.S. Bishops on Why Homosexual "Marriage" Is a Contradiction

      Denying Status to Same-Sex Unions Seen as Requirement of Justice

      WASHINGTON, D.C., DEC. 12, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Denying marriage to homosexual couples does not demonstrate unjust discrimination or lack of respect, because marriages and same-sex unions are essentially different realities, says the U.S. bishops' conference.

      "To uphold God's intent for marriage, in which sexual relations have their proper and exclusive place, is not to offend the dignity of homosexual persons," the bishops wrote in their statement, which they overwhelmingly approved at their meeting last month.

      "Christians must give witness to the whole moral truth and oppose as immoral both homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons," the statement said.

      The statement comes at a time of serious debate over the definition of marriage in the United States. A Massachusetts court recently ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. Vermont allows civil unions between homosexuals, and laws in California and Hawaii extend some economic benefits to same-sex couples.

      The bishops stressed that marriages and same-sex unions are fundamentally different.

      "For several reasons a same-sex union contradicts the nature of marriage," they said. "It is not based on the natural complementarity of male and female; it cannot cooperate with God to create new life; and the natural purpose of sexual union cannot be achieved by a same-sex union."

      "Persons in same-sex unions cannot enter into a true conjugal union. Therefore, it is wrong to equate their relationship to a marriage," they said.

      Some proponents of same-sex unions want equal rights for homosexual couples under law. But the bishops rejected redefining marriage to provide legal benefits for homosexual persons.

      "The legal recognition of marriage, including the benefits associated with it, is not only about personal commitment, but also about the social commitment that husband and wife make to the well-being of society," they said. "It would be wrong to redefine marriage for the sake of providing benefits to those who cannot rightfully enter into marriage."

      The bishops pointed out that some benefits sought by persons in homosexual unions could already be obtained without regard to marital status. For example, individuals can agree to own property jointly with another, and they can generally designate anyone they choose to be a beneficiary of their will or to make health care decisions in case they become incompetent.

      To explain the state's responsibility in supporting marriage between a man and a woman, the bishops wrote, "Across times, cultures and very different religious beliefs, marriage is the foundation of the family. The family, in turn, is the basic unit of society. Thus, marriage is a personal relationship with public significance."

      "The state has an obligation to promote the family, which is rooted in marriage," they said. "Therefore, it can justly give married couples rights and benefits it does not extend to others. Ultimately, the stability and flourishing of society is dependent on the stability and flourishing of healthy family life."

      The bishops concluded that the state or the Church could not redefine marriage, as it was given by God.

      "Marriage is a basic human and social institution," they wrote. "Though it is regulated by civil laws and church laws, it did not originate from either the church or state, but from God. Therefore, neither church nor state can alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage."




      * * *

      Delay in Vote on Constitution Is Criticized

      Convention of Christians for Europe Reproaches Italy

      ROME, DEC. 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The failure to agree on a European Constitution is due to an ideology that puts political agreements ahead of values, said an official of the Convention of Christians for Europe.

      In a press statement, the group criticized the result of the Inter-Governmental Conference that ended Saturday without agreement on the system of voting in the European Union, blocking the approval of the draft Constitutional Treaty.

      Ireland, which will hold the EU presidency during the first semester of 2004, must now continue the talks among the governments. No date has been set for further analysis of the draft.

      "The lack of agreement on the European Constitution represents the failure of an ideology that would like to construct Europe by removing its Christian roots and trusting only in political calculations," said Giorgio Salina, vice president for Italy of the Convention of Christians for Europe.

      The statement reproached the Italian government, current EU president, for having sought a "high profile" agreement on technical questions that blocked the approval of the convention, and accepting an agreement of "very low profile" that rejects the mention of the Christian roots in the preamble.

      The Christian group proposes a return to the plan of the leaders who launched the process of European integration after World War II -- Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schuman and Alcide De Gasperi, all of them Christian politicians -- in order to base the European Constitution on "shared values" and "rules of coexistence that respect the effective equality and dignity of all its members."


      * * *

      LECTIO DIVINA

      Mother Teresa's "Dark Nights" Can Teach Us a Lot, Says Preacher

      Father Cantalamessa's 2nd Advent Homily for Pope and Roman Curia

      VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- From the dark night of the mystics such as Mother Teresa, we can learn "how to behave in the time of dryness," a preacher said at a mediation in the presence of the Pope.

      Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Papal Household preacher, delivered that message Friday when he gave his second meditation for Advent 2003, on Christian holiness in the light of the experience of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

      He delivered the homily in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, in the presence of John Paul II and officials of the Roman Curia.

      After Mother Teresa said her "yes" to the divine inspiration, which called her to leave everything to serve the poorest of the poor, "an oppressive darkness came upon her," Father Cantalamessa explained. She was entering the experience of the "dark night of the spirit," he said.

      In letters to her spiritual director, Mother Teresa explained the "profound contradiction" her soul was suffering, and the "feeling of not being loved by God," something which accompanied her until her death in 1997.

      "The most perfumed flower of Mother Teresa's night is her silence about it," the Papal Household preacher said. "Even the people who were closest to her did not suspect anything, until the end, of this interior torment."

      According to Father Cantalamessa, "This strange phenomenon of a night of the spirit that lasts practically the whole of life" has a point of novelty that goes beyond purification.

      "It is the means of protection invented by God for today's saints who live and work constantly under the spotlight of the media," he said.

      In fact, this suffering -- "the silence of God" -- impeded Mother Teresa from being affected by the fame she enjoyed among everyone, the Capuchin said.

      "But there is an even more profound reason that explains why these nights are prolonged for a whole lifetime: the imitation of Christ, participation in the dark night of the spirit that Jesus had in Gethsemane and in which he died on Calvary," Father Cantalamessa continued.

      Yet, it "would be a serious error to think that the life of these persons was all gloom and suffering," the Capuchin stressed. He quoted John Paul II's apostolic letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte," in which is expressed the "paradoxical blending of bliss and pain" that these persons experience.

      Through such an experience "the mystics have arrived within a step of the world of those who live 'without God,'" to the extent that they become "the ideal evangelizers in the postmodern world, where one lives as if God did not exist."

      Moreover, we believers "learn from the dark night of the mystics and, in particular, of Mother Teresa: how to behave in the time of dryness, when prayer becomes a struggle," Father Cantalamessa said. He pointed to the Gospel according to Luke, which tells how Jesus in his agony in the garden prayed fervently.

      The Capuchin's third and last meditation for this Advent will take place next Friday.



      Chapter Eight (to be continued tomorrow)

      Jean Leclercq, O.S.B., The Love of Learning and the Desire For God. A
      Study of Monastic Culture. (NY: Fordham University Press, 1961, 1974)
      ISBN 0-8232-0406-5

      * * *

      On the Unmistakable Characteristic of Christian Joy

      It Can Coexist With Suffering, Says John Paul II

      VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave today before praying the midday Angelus with several thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.


      1. "Rejoice in the Lord always. ...The Lord is at hand" (Philippians 4:4-5).

      With these words of the Apostle Paul, the liturgy invites us to joy. It is the Third Sunday of Advent, called precisely because of this "Gaudete" Sunday. They are the words with which the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, wished to entitle in 1975 his memorable apostolic exhortation on Christian joy, "Gaudete in Domino!"

      2. Advent is a time of joy, because it makes us relive the expectation of the happiest event in history: the birth of the Son of God of the Virgin Mary.

      To know that God is not far but close, not indifferent but compassionate, not a stranger but a merciful Father who follows us lovingly while respecting our freedom -- all this is reason for profound joy that different daily events cannot affect.

      3. An unmistakable characteristic of Christian joy is that it can coexist with suffering, because it is totally based on love. In fact, the Lord who "is at hand," to the point of becoming man, comes to infuse in us his joy, the joy of loving. Only in this way can one understand the serene joy of the martyrs even in the midst of trials, or the smile of charity of the saints before those who are suffering: a smile that does not offend but consoles.

      "Rejoice, O full of grace, the Lord is with you!" (Luke 1:28). The Angel's annunciation to Mary is an invitation to joy. Let us ask the Holy Virgin for the gift of Christian joy.

      [After praying the Angelus, John Paul II greeted the pilgrims as follows:]

      I greet with affection the children of Rome, who have come for the traditional blessing of the images of Baby Jesus; I thank the Center of Roman Oratories, which organizes this beautiful initiative. Dear children and boys and girls, when you put the figurine of Baby Jesus in the crib, say a prayer for me and for the many people who turn to the Pope in their difficulties.

      [After a brief greeting in Spanish and Polish, the Holy Father concluded in Italian:]

      Merry Christmas to all!

      * * *

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      3. Today's Lectionary Readings Text
      <http://www.nccbuscc.org/nab/121503.htm>

      Biblica Online
      <http://biblica.bsw.org>

      * * *

      4.DIVINE OFFICE TEXTS & AUDIO ONLINE:

      OFFICE OF READINGS, TEXTS
      <http://www.universalis.com/cgi-bin/display/600/USA/Readings.html>

      MORNING, EVENING & NIGHT PRAYERS, TEXTS:
      <http://www.liturgyhours.org>

      AUDIO RECORDINGS OF THE DIVINE OFFICE: recited by the
      Monks of Adoration:
      <http://www.monksofadoration.org/audiolit.html>

      * * *

      5. Polish Rosary Hour by the Conventual Franciscans
      <http://www.rosaryhour.net/ra/program.ram>

      * * *

      6. CHANTED ROSARY ONLINE
      <http://www.monksofadoration.org/rosarych.html>

      DOWNLOAD FREE SCRIPTURAL ROSARY
      <http://www.virtualrosary.org/>

      Our Father Movie
      <http://www.dayspring.com/movies/webmovies/lordsprayer.html>

      * * *

      7. CHAPLET OF DIVINE MERCY ONLINE
      <http://www.markhargrave.com/chaplet.html>

      * * *

      8. THE BEATIFICATION OF MAMA GILI

      Color Photograph of Mama Gili, Biography and Prayers
      <http://holyfaceofjesus.com/dolores_immacolata.htm>

      Cause of Mama Gili as Servant of God (Part 1)
      <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Roman-Catholic-News/message/33>

      Cause of Mama Gili as Servant of God (Part 2)
      <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Roman-Catholic-News/message/37>

      Need a Miracle?
      <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Roman-Catholic-News/message/55>

      Dolores Immacolata "Mama" Gili (1892-1985)
      <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Roman-Catholic-News/message/117>

      MAMA GILI GUILD

      The Mama Gili Guild was established several years ago to gather,
      collect, and publish information on Dolores Immacolata Gili (1892-
      1985) for an investigation into her cause as a Servant of God, as
      well as to promote her cause and toperpetuate her cult by directing
      prayer groups assembled in her honor. It has continuously enjoyed the
      ecclesiastical approval of Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, and the Most
      Reverend John Joseph Myers, Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.

      Call or write today regarding favors granted through the intercession
      of Dolores Immacolata "Mama" Gili, or, for more information about the
      cause of her investigation for canonization to:

      Rev. Dante DiGirolamo, Director
      Mama Gili Guild
      P. O. Box 455
      Kearny, New Jersey 07032
      Phone (973) 412-1170
      Fax (973) 412-7011

      * * *

      9. ABBAYE SAINT-JOSEPH DE CLAIRVAL

      The Benedictine monks of Abbaye Saint-Joseph de Clairval mail a free
      monthly newsletter to anyone who requests it. Also free of charge
      are: the tract about the divinity of Jesus Christ; tract about the
      Truths of the Catholic Religion; scapular of Our Lady of Mount
      Carmel, with explanatory notice; the promises of the Sacred Heart;
      the mysteries of the Rosary.

      Sample Newsletter
      <http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~vlaisney/lettre.cgi?language==EN>

      Abbey of Saint-Joseph de Clairval

      21150 FLAVIGNY-SUR-OZERAIN
      France

      Phone.: 03 80 96 22 31
      Fax: 03 80 96 25 29
      Email: <englishspoken@c...> or
      <stjoseph.flavigny@l...>

      <http://www.clairval.com>

      10. Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ. English Trans. Online
      <http://www.ccel.org/k/kempis/imitation2/htm/i.htm>

      Thomas a Kempis, De Imitatione Christi. Latin Text Online
      <http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/kempis.html>

      * * *

      EUCHARISTIC PRAYER IN HONOR OF THE SORROWFUL HEART OF
      MARY

      When the Eucharistic host is elevated at Mass say:

      "Eternal Father, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary,
      I offer you the crucified Body of Your dearly beloved Son, Jesus
      Christ, in reparation for all the sins committed against you and for
      the conversion and salvation of the whole world."

      When the Eucharistic chalice is elevated at Mass say:

      "Eternal Father, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary,
      I offer you the precious Blood of Your dearly beloved Son, Jesus
      Christ, in reparation for all the sins committed against you and for
      the conversion and salvation of the whole world."

      * * *

      DAILY REMINDER

      "during this important time, as the eve of the new millennium
      approaches unity among all Christians of the various confessions will
      increase until they reach full communion." John Paul II, Tertio
      Millennio Adveniente, 16

      "Keep close to the Mother of God as if you were the child Jesus
      clinging to her robes while walking down a dusty and busy crowded
      street and you'll always be safe."

      * * *

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