London, U.K., Oct.31,2007 (CINS/SIR) - It is called www.catholicgapyear.com and it is the website promoted by the National Offices for Calling and for the Youth Pastoral of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales to make the best of the “gap year”, i.e. the year at the end of one’s high school or university that very many young people spend travelling or doing volunteer work in search of their calling. According to the English Bishops, “it is also an excellent opportunity for their faith”.
So, for the first time, the Catholic Church has collected and published on one single website all the options available to those who want to spend such time in a religious project. “We do not mean to say that the young should spend their “gap years” with the organisations listed on the website only”, explains father Paul Embery, in charge of the National Office for Callings of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, “we want them to think about the options offered by the Church. We realised that many young people who do volunteer work in spheres of faith cultivate their religious dimension and end up serving the Church and the community they belong to, sometimes going for priesthood or religious life as well”. 300 Catholic high schools and every university chaplain will soon receive funds for the new campaign.
New Delhi, Oct. 07, 2007 (CINS/CBCI) - The Justice, Peace and Development Commission of Delhi Archdiocese will hold a candle light demonstration on Sunday, Oct. 7 evening at the Sacred Heart Cathedral to show “solidarity with the Monks and Democracy movement in Myanmar”.
”The Christian community in India has watched with anguish the brutal repression of civil liberties, Human Rights and democratic yearnings of the people of our neighbouring country, Myanmar,” declared the press statement issued by the Commission’s secretary, Fr Soosai Sebastian.
“The most reprehensible recent military attempt to crush the peaceful protest of Buddhist monks of Burma has shaken the conscience of the world, and has moved the people of India who fully understand what it means to be not just free, but to enjoy the fruits of Independence in an environment of democracy, free speech, a free media and basic human rights”, added Fr Soosai.
”The Catholic community of Delhi, in association with other organizations joins peace and democracy loving people across the world in expressing its support for the people of Myanmar,” continued the statement.
The candle light demonstration will be held at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Gole Dak-Khana, central Delhi.
Loreto, Italy, Sep.03,2007 (CINS/AsiaNews) – In an exigent and a clear proposal
yesterday Pope Benedict XVI invited the young people gathered on the Montorso plain between Loreto and the Adriatic sea, to a lifestyle that “goes against the trend”, to transform society by following the “humble” example of Mary. In his homily during mass concluding the Youth Agorà, he said: “Do not follow the path of pride, rather, follow the path of humility” Go against the trend: do not listen to that chorus of bias and persuasive voices which today put forward a model of life that is drenched in arrogance and violence, in dominance and success at all costs, where appearance and possession to the detriment of others is openly promoted. All of these messages carried by the mass media are aimed at you! Be vigilant! Be critical! Do not follow the trend produced by this powerfully persuasive media. Do not be afraid, my dear friends, to prefer the ‘alternative’ route indicated by true love: a sober style of life, a life of solidarity; an honest commitment to your studies and work; a cultivated interest in the common good. Do not be afraid to appear different, or the criticism that you are out of fashion or a loser; people your age, even adults, all of those who seem far from the mentality of the Gospel values, have a deep seated need to see someone who dares to live according to the fullness of humanity manifested by Jesus Christ”.
The pope’s words met with the warm applause of the immense crowd gathered on the plain. Yesterday alone, over 300 thousand people for the vigil; this morning, the arrival of thousands more young people pushing the numbers up to touch half a million. Many of them spent the night in the open, in prayer and meditation or in dialogue, helped by the “fountains of light”, illuminated meeting points placed at intervals throughout the plain, where priests and catechists were present to listen, hear confessions, speak about vocations, until first light appeared and the Morning Prayer said.
The courage of humility
What Benedict XVI proposed is a veritable way of life for anyone who wishes to remain “young”. Yesterday evening during the vigil the testimonies of some young people laid bare the difficulties and insecurities, the marginalization and unemployment linked to the world of the young. Today the pope affirmed that “Jesus has a special preference for the young” and that God himself “seeks young hearts …. To become the protagonists of the New Alliance”.
The pope’s programme for young people is taken from Mary’s “youth” and has at its foundation her humility. Recalling the nearby sanctuary of Loreto, where stones from the Holy House of Nazareth are preserved he affirmed: “the Holy House of Nazareth is the sanctuary of humility: the humility of God who became flesh and of Mary who welcomed him to her womb”.
The pope is not afraid of showing the stark opposition between the ideals of the world and Christianity: “The humble – he says – are perceived as being defeated and beaten, people who have nothing to offer the world. Yet this is the master route, not only because humility is a great virtue, but because above all it represents the very way in which God himself behaves. It is the path chosen by Christ”. And after having underlined the necessity of a witness that “goes against the trend”, he adds: “My dear friends, the path of humility is not the path of renunciation, it is the path of true courage. It is not the result of a defeat but of victory of love over selfishness and of grace over sin. In following Christ and imitating Mary, we must have the courage of humility”.
The “new paths” which the young people need to follow imply the ability to say “yes to God”, from who “all the yes of our lives” descend. There is also something new in our view of the faith and of the Church: “Our faith does is not merely a list of moral prerogatives, rather, it is a glorious journey towards the light of our Yes to God. It is true; there are many great challenges ahead of you. The first of which remains the challenge of following Christ to the very depths, without reservations, without compromise. Following Christ means being a living part of his body, which is the Church. You cannot call yourself a disciple of Jesus if you do not love and follow his Church”.
The Church (which is not a “power centre”, he had said last night) is a place which unites, not for “success”, but for “the good of humanity, a good which is both authentic and shared, and which does not subsist in power or possession, but in being”. These radical decisions are necessary in order to build “the city of God with man, a city which grows contemporarily from the ground up and from Heaven downwards, because it develops in the encounter and collaboration between man and God”. ( Ap 21,2-3)”.
Stewards of creation
In building “a more just and sharing society, where everyone can enjoy the fruits of the earth”, the pontiff indicates one priority: that of “safeguarding creation”. “The future of the planet – said the pope – “is in the hands of the new generations, a planet where the signs of a development that has not always protected the delicate equilibrium of nature, can be seen. Before it is too late, we must take courageous steps, to recreate the alliance between man and earth. We need to say yes to safeguarding creation, we must decidedly commit ourselves to invert those tendencies which risk bringing about irreversible degradation”. In fact today the Italian Church celebrates the National Day for the protection of creation, dedicated to water, “a precious good, which if not peacefully and equally shared, is destined to become a motive for tension and bitter conflict”.
And after having invited the young people once again – just as last night – to participate in the World Youth Day Sydney 2008, the pope turned to the Blessed Virgin: “In the end …..We turn our eyes towards Mary, model of humility and of courage. Help us, Virgin of Nazareth, to be docile to the work of the Holy Spirit, as you were; help us to become ever more saintly, disciples in love with your Son Jesus Christ; sustain and accompany these young people so that they may be joyful and tireless missionaries of the Gospel among their contemporaries, in every corner of Italy. Amen!”
At the end of his homily, the applause, waving of banners, scarves and the shouting of slogans lasted so long that the pope was forced to ask for silence in order to continue the mass.
The silence of the Home and the witness of the town square
In the Angelus, the pontiff returned once again to underlining the bond between Loreto and Nazareth, the place of the annunciation to Mary: “Loreto second only to Nazareth, is the ideal place to pray and meditate on the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God….the place where the Virgin said ‘yes’ to God and conceived in her womb the eternal incarnate Word”.
The pope recalled that every “agorà”, every public moment, needs a “home”, a place of contemplation: “The town square is big, it is open, it is the meeting place for many for dialogue and confrontation; the home, instead, is the place of inner gathering and silence, where the Word can be heard in its depths. In order to bring God to the town square, first you must gather him to your inner being at home, just like Mary in the Annunciation”. And he adds that likewise” the home must open out onto the square: this is further suggested by the Holy House in Loreto, which has three walls not four: it is an open Home, open on the world, open to life and even to the Agorà of young Italians”.
The last proposal made by the pope is that Loreto become a constant reference point in the lives of the young: “In the most important moment of your lives come here, at least in your hearts, to gather yourselves spiritually between the walls of the Holy House…. Then will you become its true witnesses in the ‘squares’, in society, bringers of a Gospel that is not abstract, but incarnated in your own lives”.
Confirming this commitment to witnessing God in society, at the end of the mass 72 young people from diocese across Italy received the missionary Mandate of the Italian Agorà, to bring the faith “with joy and gratitude” throughout the world. The pope bestowed on them the so-called “pilgrims sackcloth”, distributed by two bishops.
Manila,Philippines,July.23,2007(CINS/AsiaNews) – “I will share what my heart will prompt,” said Fr Giancarlo Bossi as he announced that he would talk about his ordeal and missionary experience in the Philippines, happy that he will get a chance to speak to Italian youth together with Pope Benedict XVI. He said this as he accepted an invitation by Mgr Giuseppe Betori, secretary-general of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI), to attend the World Youth Day celebration in the central Italian town of Loreto, September 1-2.
Recently Father Bossi told AsiaNews that he wanted to meet Pope Benedict XVI, a request that the CEI accepted in order to give the PIME missionary an opportunity to talk to young Italian Catholics about his experience during their two-day meeting.
Bossi's “courageous experience as a missionary will enter into the hearts of many young people,” Betori said, and serve as a example for those who, like him, want to make the Gospel their life’s raison d’être and the root of their hope for living amongst others.”
Father Bossi’s experience in captivity made the PIME missionary’s faith stronger.
He described how he prayed with his captors, started discussions with them about understanding oneself and different people’s points of view and finding what made them happy.
“After some days we became close,” he said, claiming he would even crack jokes with his kidnappers, igniting a friendly debate with them over Christian and Islamic beliefs and comparing the Bible to the Qur’an.
However, he warned that more foreign missionaries will be kidnapped in Mindanao unless drastic measures are taken by concerned authorities.
“My kidnappers are no longer interested in taking locals as they now want to take foreigners like me [. . .]. But they promised me that [if I go back to Payao] they would never take me again,” he said.
Kidnappers pick foreigners like him to raise more money for their illegal activities.
“Despite what happened to me, I really love the Filipinos and I will continue to love them. I am really grateful to them since I know that even before I was released, their sense of solidarity was strong, that all of them wanted me to soon surface,” he said.
The growing militarisation of the region by Manila is seen as “an aggression” by the local population and results in “extrajudicial killings and abductions” of local community leaders, including Church leaders. In the forum’s view, the law is “oppressive, barbaric and demonic.”
Pope addressed young people who are currently preparing for the next World Youth Day (WYD), due to be held in July 2008 in Sydney, Australia.
Speaking English, the Holy Father encouraged the young people "to prepare well for this marvelous celebration of the faith. ... Enter fully into the life of your parishes and participate enthusiastically in diocesan events! In this way you will be equipped spiritually to experience new depths of understanding of all that we believe when we gather in Sydney next July."
"I know that already the ecclesial and government authorities, together with numerous young Australians, are working very hard to ensure an exceptional experience for us all. I offer them my heartfelt thanks.
"World Youth Day is much more than an event," Pope Benedict added. "It is a time of deep spiritual renewal, the fruits of which benefit the whole of society."
"Some of you have friends with little real purpose in their lives, perhaps caught up in a futile search for endless new experiences. Bring them to World Youth Day too! In fact, I have noticed that against the tide of secularism many young people are rediscovering the satisfying quest for authentic beauty, goodness and truth. Through your witness you help them in their search for the Spirit of God."
The Holy Father concluded: "Be courageous in that witness! Strive to spread Christ's guiding light, which gives purpose to all life, making lasting joy and happiness possible for everyone."