Pope Benedict said only the pure of heart could receive communion

Pope Benedict said on Sunday only the pure of heart could receive communion, a day after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi joked that the Church should extend it to those who have divorced and remarried.

Italian newspapers had reported that Berlusconi, attending a ceremony in Sardinia, asked a bishop offering communion when the Church planned to change the rules for people who remarried after divorce, who are barred from receiving communion.

"You should turn to a higher power than me," replied the priest, according to newspapers.

The pope, in a message to a Quebec conference, did not mention Berlusconi or divorce but said communion could only be given to those who were free of major sins.

"We have to do everything that is in our power to receive (communion) in a pure heart, searching without end, through the sacrament of forgiveness, the purity that sin has stained," Pope Benedict said in his message.

"On the other hand, those who cannot take communion because of their situation will find, nevertheless, in the desire to participate in the Eucharist, strength and effect of salvation."

Berlusconi himself is divorced and married a second time.


Pope Benedict was invited to visit the Philippines

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI pledged Sunday to say a "special prayer to God" after a typhoon-stricken ferry sank with more than 700 people on board in the Philippines, a mainly Roman Catholic nation.

"It is with deep emotion that I learn this morning of the sinking in the Philippines of a ferry hit by Typhoon Fengshen (Philippine codename: Frank)," the pope said after reciting the Angelus prayer following his Sunday mass at the Vatican.

Expressing "spiritual closeness" with islanders living in the typhoon's path, he said he would be making "a special prayer to God for the victims of a new tragedy at sea, in which it appears many children were involved".

The M/V Princess of the Stars listed and sank in just 15 terrifying minutes Saturday in the typhoon-battered seas of the central Philippines, leaving only four survivors so far.

Pope Benedict was invited to visit the Philippines, where eight out of 10 people are Roman Catholics, by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last year. The last papal visit to the southeast Asian nation was by the late John Paul II in 1995.

Pope Benedict: Worldly fears can be overcome through trust in God

Pilgrims gathered under a blazing sun in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday to pray the Angelus prayer at noon with Pope Benedict XVI. In his remarks preceding the Angelus, Pope Benedict said that worldly fears can be overcome through trust in God.

Speaking of today’s Gospel, the Holy Father said the scriptures invite us to reflect on the difference between human fears and the fear of God.

Fear, he said, is a natural dimension of human life. While we overcome the imaginary fears of childhood, others emerge that are founded in reality.

These fears “must be faced and overcome with human commitment and trust in God.”

However, the Holy Father said, there is a deeper fear that exists today, an “existential fear, which at times borders on anguish and which stems from a sense of emptiness that is tied to a certain culture permeated by widespread theoretical and practical nihilism.”

He said the Scriptures speak clearly of a different kind of fear: the fear of God that is the beginning of true wisdom.

"The fear of God defined by the Scriptures as the beginning of true wisdom coincides with faith in God, with respect for His authority over life and the world.  To be without this ‘fear of God’ is equivalent to putting ourselves in God’s place, to feel ourselves to be a masters over good and evil, life and death.”

The Holy Father continued, “Those who fear Him have the security of a child in the arms of his mother. Whoever fears God is at peace even in the midst of storms, because God, as Jesus has revealed, is a Father full of mercy and goodness. Whoever loves Him is not afraid: as the Apostle John wrote, ‘In love there is no fear.’ On the contrary, perfect love casts out all fear, because fear assumes punishment, and those who fear do not have perfect love.”

He said that those who believe need not fear anything, since all things are in the hands of God, who does not allow evil and what is irrational to have to the last word. The only Lord of the world and of life is Christ, the Incarnate Word of God who loved us even unto sacrificing himself, and dying on the cross for our salvation.

The Holy Father said the more we grow in this intimacy with God, steeped in love, the more easily we conquer every form of fear. Jesus exhorts us not to be afraid.

“We are reassured just as He reassured the Apostles, as he did with St. Paul in appearing to them in a night vision during a particularly difficult time. ‘Do not be afraid, because I am with you.’  Confident in the presence of Christ and comforted by his love, the Apostle to the Gentiles did not even fear martyrdom.”

The Holy Father explained that a special jubilee year will be dedicated to St. Paul:

“I would ask you, dear brothers and sisters, prepare to celebrate the Pauline Year with faith that, God willing, solemnly begins next Saturday in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.”

Pope Benedict concluded his reflection with an invocation to Mary, Queen of Apostles and Mother of Christ, source of our joy and our peace.

At the end of the Angelus, the Holy Father mentioned Saturday’s ferry disaster in the Philippines in which hundreds may have died.

“With deep emotion I learned this morning of the sinking, in the islands of the Philippines, a ferry overwhelmed by the typhoon Fengshen, which has raged in the area. While I assure you of my spiritual closeness to the people of the islands affected by the typhoon, I offer a special prayer to the Lord for the victims of this new tragedy at sea, which seems to have involved many children as well.”

The Holy Father then congratulated the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross of Lebanon whose founder, Yaaqub Ghazir Haddad, a priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, was declared Blessed today.

“In expressing my congratulations to his spiritual daughters, I hope with all my heart that the intercession of Blessed Abuna Yaaqub, together with that of the Lebanese Saints, obtain in that beloved and tortured country, which has suffered too much, final progress towards a stable peace.”


Pope Benedict XVI is an inspiration for future priests

New York, June 21,2008 - For the New York Archdiocese, one positive affect of the April visit by Pope Benedict XVI to the Big Apple could be a turnaround in the dwindling number of men who are choosing to become priests.

The Rev. Robert Bubel, who is one of the archdiocese's six newly ordained priests, played a major role as a deacon during the April 19 papal Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Bubel, whose formative religious years were spent in St. Columba parish in Hopewell Junction, said celebrating Mass for Pope Benedict affirmed his own decision to give his life to God.

"It certainly motivates me as a priest in wanting to give my entire life to the service of God and his people," he said. "I see a man like Pope Benedict who is so talented and given so many gifts by God. And he's given all of this to God and this is so important to him. His faith is so strong and a desire to spread that faith to the youth of America essentially is absolutely inspiring. It's such a powerful affirmation of what I'm giving my entire life to."

Bubel attended St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers. He was among the seminarians who greeted the pope at a youth rally and prayer service there.

"It was very, very special because the seminary is our home," he said. "To welcome the pope into our home meant a lot. We're a bunch of young guys, too. We're hooting and hollering. ... It really was a powerful, powerful moment."

The pope's visit, Bubel said, ignited an interest in young men keen to study at the seminary to become a priest.

"Rumors that I've heard is that the phone was ringing off the hook following his visit," he said. "Unfortunately, you can never really know until September 1, the day when people show up."

One of the people who is still experiencing the papal visit, in a sense, is the Rev. Luke Sweeney, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of New York.

Normally, he receives a couple of inquires each week from young men considering the priesthood. But during the last three weeks, he has received dozens. Some of them are quite serious and come from men who say Pope Benedict 's visit has inspired them to consider taking a step they have avoided.

This was the hope. The Archdiocese faces a worsening shortage of priests and is in great need of seminarians. The archdiocese has about 470 active diocesan priests - compared to 1,200 four decades ago - and about 40 percent are between 65 and 75.

At St. Patrick's Cathedral in May, Cardinal Edward Egan ordained six diocesan priests, including Bubel and the Rev. Ronald Perez, who has been assigned to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha parish in the Town of LaGrange. The main or upper seminary at St. Joseph's will train fewer than 20 men next fall.

"It's always been my gut feeling and belief that there are guys out there thinking about it," Sweeney said referring to the priesthood. "The idea has been kicking around for a while, maybe years, but for whatever reason - work, fear, simply pushing it out of their minds - they can't take the step. My hope was the Holy Father's visit would knock some people off the fence and give us the shot in the arm we need.

"It seems to be happening," said Sweeney, who talks about the priesthood at high schools, colleges and parishes.

He is excited, but cautiously so. Of the men who have contacted him, some will get cold feet right away. Others will need to finish college or to take a few years to consider their vocation or get up their courage. Others will prove to be a poor fit for the priesthood.

"We want to avoid flash-in-the-pan conversions," Sweeney said. "We really monitor applications. But I want to talk to them as soon as possible to get a sense of their vocation, of whether they are a promising candidate."

Taking a step

Sweeney believes at least several young men may be ready to enter St. Joseph's minor seminary this fall, where students study philosophy and other subjects before entering the main seminary to study theology.

The true impact of the papal visit, though, won't be known for more than a decade, Sweeney said. The hope is that men who enter the seminary years from now will look back on the papal visit as a formative experience - and a counter to the sex-abuse crisis that has certainly weighed on the minds of young Catholic men in recent years.

"I'm hopeful that in the coming years, young men will say, 'That's the first time I thought about the priesthood, when the pope was in New York,' " Sweeney said.

Bubel, 30, celebrated his first Mass on May 11 at St. Columba Church with his family and friends in attendance.

"It was so intimate and warm and happy," he said. "It was a joyous, joyous occasion."

He has been assigned to St. Stephen's parish in Warwick in Orange County.

Bubel said what led to his becoming a priest were parents that were oriented to attending Mass every Sunday and providing him with a Catholic education. He attended grade school at St. Columba School and Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie.

"First and foremost, it really does start in the family," Bubel said. "Also my parish priests who served as role models for me, were people I wanted to be like."

Add Pope Benedict to that list of role models.

"One thing I recognized was how reverent he was - the way he celebrated Mass, the way he took time before Mass began to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and say his prayers," Bubel said. "A real inspiration of a priest."

Reach John Davis at jpdavis@poughkeepsiejournal.com or 845-437-4807. Reach Gary Stern at gstern@lohud.com or 1-914-694-3513.


Pope Benedict XVI met with administrators of Catholic radio stations

Vatican, Jun. 21, 2008  - Pope Benedict XVI met on June 20 with administrators of Catholic radio stations from around the world, and told them: "The words that you broadcast each day are an echo of that eternal Word which became flesh."

The Holy Father spoke to participants in a conference at the Pontifical Urban University, organized by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, under the leadership of Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli. He told the 130 broadcasting executives, representing stations in 50 different countries, that they should recognize the importance of their work in the evangelizing mission of the Church.

Pope Benedict told the radio executives that he could understand how they might feel "completely lost amid the competition of other noisy and more powerful mass media." But he urged them not to become discouraged, reminding them that Jesus was born into humble surroundings, isolated from the "noisy imperial cities of antiquity," so that the climactic even in of human history, the Incarnation, nearly escaped public notice.

Nevertheless the Word of God has been preached all around the world, the Pope continued. Catholic radio stations, he observed, transmit the Gospel message to untold numbers of people, reaching thousands who may be hearing the Good News at a propitious time. "This work of patient sowing, carried on day after day, hour after hour, is your way of cooperating in the apostolic mission," he told the broadcasters.

Radio personnel might never meet those who are touched by their words, the Pope said, and yet "your can be a small but real echo in the world of the network of friendship that the presence of the risen Christ, the God-with-us, inaugurated between heaven and earth and among mankind of all continents and epochs."


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