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."


25,000 Catholics poured through the streets of Quebec City

QUEBEC CITY, June 21, 2008  -- Nearly 25,000 Catholics from around the world poured through the narrow streets of Quebec City, accompanying the Eucharist in an outpouring of religious fervor absent from this city for at least half a century.

The June 19 procession was one of the highlights of the 49th International Eucharistic Congress June 15-22. The Eucharist, held in an oversized modern monstrance, was driven through the streets on a platform pulled by a truck. Riding with the monstrance were Slovakian Cardinal Jozef Tomko, Pope Benedict XVI's representative to the congress; Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet; and Cardinal Theodore-Adrien Sarr of Dakar, Senegal.

Jean Audet watched the procession with his 34-year-old son, Louis.

"It's very old, it reminds me of my young time," said the elder Audet, who is no longer a practicing Catholic.

He explained that when he was young the English Canadians were Protestant and the French Canadians were Catholic; the young men were embarrassed when their girlfriends knelt on the sidewalk during eucharistic processions back then.

Though once the most devoutly Catholic part of Canada, Quebec society abandoned the church in droves in the 1960s during a tumultuous period of social change. Today roughly 10 percent of Catholics still attend Mass, though symbols and saints' names for streets and villages constantly remind the province's residents of their religious past.

The presence of the Eucharist -- surrounded by cardinals, bishops and priests -- at the end of the nearly milelong crowd gave the procession a solemn finish. While many onlookers stared curiously at the passing sight, occasionally a few would fall to their knees as the Eucharist moved past.

Meanwhile, near the front of the line there was a more festive atmosphere in which hundreds of young people mixed among their elders. The parade started with a fourth-degree Knights of Columbus honor guard, followed by the Ark of the New Covenant, a large wooden box carved in the shape of the ark and covered with icons. This ark had spent the last two years crisscrossing Canada to build involvement in the congress among Catholic youths.

Following the ark were the "13 giants" -- marionettes at least 15 feet tall representing male and female leaders from the almost 400-year history of the Catholic Church in Quebec. Among them were St. Jean de Brebeuf, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Margaret Bourgeoys, Blessed Marie de l'Incarnation and Blessed Francois de Laval.

Cheers arose each time one of the giants would bow or wave at the crowd.

Jordan Clark, 15, of Kensington, Prince Edward Island, waved his province's flag as he walked in the procession.

"I love being with people who want to celebrate our faith," he said. "I've felt a strong bond with religious people in this congress who have come from all over the world."

Twenty-three-year-old Cody Gabrielson of Winnipeg, Manitoba, carried a conga strapped over his shoulder as he walked. He said he was drawn to the congress by a "deep love for the Eucharist."

The procession, he added, gave him a "deeper understanding of how unified we are."

Some elderly women waved flags from their windows along the more than three-mile route.

Outside three homes for the aged, residents, some in wheelchairs, also watched the procession.

The Eucharist made two stops along the way, for a short prayer and adoration service at St. Francois d'Assise and a liturgy at St. Roch. Both are old historic churches in the city, while St. Roch, the city's largest church, has a reputation for service to the poor and sick.

At St. Roch, the Eucharist was the focus of a liturgy of blessing for the sick.

After St. Roch's the crowds thinned because the final destination, the Agora, an amphitheater on the waterfront, could only hold 5,000 marchers. Some carried torches; others carried candles.

The rain that had pounded the streets on and off all day held off for most of the procession. A brief shower did nothing to douse the joy. Umbrellas popped up, and many, including some of the priests and bishops, wore the clear plastic raincoats provided in the congress registration knapsack.

Contributing to this story was Deborah Gyapong. -CNS

Catholics who rely on Eucharist can better resist secularization

QUEBEC CITY - Catholics who rely on family members and the Eucharist can better resist secularization, Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Ill., told pilgrims at the 49th International Eucharistic Congress.

Bishop Braxton noted that the family in the Western Hemisphere "has changed dramatically."

Citing statistics that only 25 percent of American families are made up of a mother, father and children, he said changes in the family and decreased attention on the family dinner have made the meal "merely feeding time."

"We are challenged not to imitate secular society," which can undermine the family and marriage, said the bishop.

The family "relies on the Eucharist" by praying and going to Mass together as well as having a family discussion of the homily, he said.

"There is nothing wrong with telling children" to turn off the computer and TV and "every distraction to pray," he said.

Bishop Braxton was one of several U.S. prelates who spoke to pilgrims June 16 about what the Eucharist is and how its meaning can be applied and enriched in family and church life.

He said renewed faith in the Eucharist is not a quick fix that can be used and manipulated to solve family problems.

"God is not God the way we would be God if we were God," Bishop Braxton said. Prayers and petitions are an important part of the Catholic faith but "it is important not to have a simplistic view of this," he said.

God accompanies people through troubled times but does not "remove them from us," the bishop said.

Catholics can risk thinking that receiving the Eucharist is about "Jesus and me ... like a personal Jesus or an insurance policy to heaven," Bishop Braxton said. But the Eucharist "is a call to each one of us to a conversion as a community," he said.

Earlier in the day, Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington said the Eucharist enriches and continues Catholic identity today.

"What we are called to do is remember, remember what Christ accomplished for us," Archbishop Wuerl told the crowd of thousands gathered in Quebec City's hockey arena as part of the June 15-22 congress. The Gospel stories are wonderful messages "but nothing has more significance" than Jesus offering himself to the world, he said.

The archbishop, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, said that at the time of the Last Supper, "an age before technology," identity and history were passed on through meals as a "perpetual institution."

But the "new ceremonial setting" of the Eucharist is not just "a memory, not something we reflect on, but a reality," he said, adding that "Jesus is not a historic figure; the risen Christ is our companion today."

"The church calls us not just to recall the events of 2,000 years ago but to participate" in the Mass, he said. The Mass is unlike any other historical remembrance, he explained, because "it has the power to make present the reality it symbolizes in the context of the church."

Cardinal Adam J. Maida of Detroit spoke of the role of the Eucharist in uniting communities.

"Given that the Eucharist is a sacrament of unity and a bond of love," it unites Christians from diverse backgrounds and invites them to become part of each other's lives, he said. And through this unity, the Eucharist "illuminates the spirit" of migrants and refugees and highlights "what challenges and gifts they can offer to the church" in their new home, the cardinal said.

Archbishop Wuerl, Cardinal Maida and Bishop Braxton gave their talks on the second day of the congress. The more than 10,000 cardinals, bishops, priests, nuns and laypeople who participated in the international congress attended sessions throughout the day in the hockey arena and other buildings.

Pope Benedict XVI praised the work of the Catholic Church in southern Italy

SANTA MARIA DI LEUCA, Italy — Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday praised the work of the Roman Catholic Church in southern Italy as he began a two-day visit to the impoverished Apulia region.

Tradition holds that it was here that Saint Peter, the disciple of Jesus considered the founder of the Christian Church, arrived from Palestine and headed to Rome to begin the evangelisation of Europe.

"This promontory between Europe and the Mediterranean, between West and East, reminds us that the Church has no borders, that it is universal," said the 81-year-old pontiff.

Benedict also hailed the "generosity" of the port city of Brindisi that for years took in thousands of refugees from the former Yugoslavia and Albania.

The German-born pope celebrated an open-air mass attended by several thousand people under a hot sun at a sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary overlooking the sea in this town at the tip of the heel of Italy's "boot."

"Here as in all of southern Italy, Church communities are places where the young generation can learn hope, not as a Utopia but as the tenacious confidence in the force of good," the pope said.

"For the Church, geographical, cultural, ethnic and even religious borders are an invitation to evangelisation," he said.

Local Bishop Vito De Grisantis, greeting the pope, stressed the "need for rapid social, civil and economic development" in southern Italy, "especially to help families and young people for whom unemployment is an ever more serious problem."

The pope replied: "In a context in which individualism is more and more encouraged ... the first service of the Church is to educate in the social sense, towards paying attention to those around you, to solidarity and sharing."

He added: "The Church can have a positive influence, especially on the social level," because it fosters "open and constructive human relationships, respectful of the service of the humblest and the weakest."

Later Saturday, at a vigil with young people in nearby Brindisi, the pope warned against "the temptation of easy profits."

The Church and several humanitarian groups offered "refuge and help, despite the economic difficulties that continue to affect this region in particular," he said.

The pontiff was set to celebrate another open-air mass in Brindisi on Sunday.


Anglican and Catholic bishops joint statement slamming the violence

Colombo, Srilanka, Jun. 10, 2008 (vaticans.org) – “Shocked” by the high number of casualties in recent senseless attacks in Dehiwala, Moratuwa and Polgolla, the Catholic and Anglican bishops of Sri Lanka signed a joint statementcalling on the government to find a political solution to the civil war.

“Killing of any human being is unacceptable but the killing of innocent civilians is abominable. We vehemently condemn these acts of wanton violence and terrorism,” the statement said.

The bishops also appealed to Tamil Tiger rebels asking them to desist from using violence.

They called on both sides to enter into negotiations to find a way out of the crisis that has plagued this country for so long.

It is most urgent that the President and the government obtain the cooperation of all political leaders to forge a consensus as regards to a political solution since peaceful means is the only way to lasting peace,” the prelates said.

In another special press release the Anglican bishop of Colombo, Mgr Duleep de Chickera, urged “all parties to remain calm” because ethnic relations are fast spinning out of control exacerbated by the economic hardships people face.

Given the situation he urged the government and the rebels “to show greater political discernment and maturity to pull our country from the brink” and “collaborate [. . .] towards peace.”


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