You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2006.

Tagged by Terry, here is the halloween meme.

If you were invited to a Halloween/ All Saints Day Costume Party, which saint would you dress up as and why? (The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is not an option.)

St. Cecilia, because organists can’t help but love her.

Which saint or other person would accompany you to the party?

Pope St. Gregory I because organ and chant just go together.

What famous quote would help others identify you?

“More organ, no guitar”. Ok, so it’s not a famous quote, but it still fits.

Describe your costume.

A roman style dress with gold jewelry and a gold brocade cape. Hair braided in a bun with a silk veil.

I tag the first 5 people who read this.

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WASHINGTON (October 30, 2006) — The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Policy has asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to consider measures that would help improve the deteriorating situation for Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.

In a letter to Secretary Rice, Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando (FL) notes that Christians in Iraq continue to decline from a pre-war population of over 1.2 million to a current estimate of 600,000, and according to the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, over 40 percent of Iraqi refugees are Christian even though they represent only about 4 percent of Iraq’s total population.

“The growing and deliberate targeting of Christians is an ominous sign of the breakdown in Iraqi society of civil order and inter-religious respect and represents a grave violation of human rights and religious liberty,” Bishop Wenski wrote, pointing to the recent beheading of a Syriac Orthodox priest in Mosul, the crucifixion of a Christian teenager in Albasra, the kidnapping for ransom of four priests and the rape of Christian women and teenage girls as indicators that the situation has reached a crisis point. “The vulnerability of Christians and other religious minorities is dramatic evidence of the serious and growing security challenges facing the entire nation of Iraq,” Bishop Wenski said.

In order to improve the particular security situation of Christians and other minorities in Iraq, he urged the U.S. government to consider the creation of a new “Administrative Region” in the Nineveh Plain Area that would be directly related to the central government in Baghdad.

Since the Kurds play a key role in stabilizing Iraq, Bishop Wenski urged the U.S. government to work with Kurdish authorities to ensure the safety of Christians in the Plain of Nineveh and to provide protection and assistance for religious minorities in areas directly under Kurdish control. An urgent review of economic reconstruction aid programs is also needed, he said, to ensure that aid is distributed fairly so that all elements of Iraqi society are able to rebuild their communities. Finally, Bishop Wenski called for the U.S. government to adopt a more generous refugee and asylum policy, including the possible resettlement of at-risk cases to the United States.

The complete text of Bishop Wenski’s letter follows.

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C. Street, N.W.
Room 7327
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madame Secretary:

On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I am writing to you to express our deep concern and growing alarm at the rapidly deteriorating situation of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.

We deplore the sectarian violence engulfing the Shia and Sunni communities in Iraq. We are especially and acutely aware of the deliberate violence perpetrated against Christians and other vulnerable minorities. Christians continue to decline from a pre-war population of over 1.2 million to a current estimate of about 600,000. The growing and deliberate targeting of Christians is an ominous sign of the breakdown in Iraqi society of civil order and inter-religious respect and represents a grave violation of human rights and religious liberty.

The recent beheading of a Syriac Orthodox priest in Mosul, the crucifixion of a Christian teenager in Albasra, the frequent kidnappings for ransom of Christians including four priests–one of whom was the secretary of Patriarch Delly, the rape of Christian women and teenage girls, and the bombings of churches are all indicators that the situation has reached a crisis point. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that approximately 44% of Iraqi refugees are Christian, even though they represent only about 4% of the total population of Iraq.

While thousands have fled to Syria, Jordan and Turkey, the remainder in Iraq are increasingly leading lives of desperation. Many no longer feel safe gathering in churches and Christian institutions, resulting in the closing of parishes, seminaries and convents. Others are fleeing to the north of Iraq in search of some measure of safety and sanctuary.
The vulnerability of Christians and other religious minorities is dramatic evidence of the serious and growing security challenges facing the entire nation of Iraq. Efforts must continue to end all sectarian violence and to make Iraq secure for everyone. At the same time, we also urge you to take several specific measures to improve the particular security situation of Christians and other minorities in Iraq. First, we hope that the U.S. government will consider the creation of a new “Administrative Region” in the Nineveh Plain Area that would be directly related to the central government in Baghdad. This could provide Christians and other minorities with greater safety and offer more opportunity to control their own affairs with assistance from the central government. Since the Kurds are key to any real efforts to stabilize Iraq and many Christians and other minorities are fleeing to the north of Iraq, we ask that the U.S. government work with Kurdish authorities to ensure the safety of Christians in the Plain of Nineveh and to provide adequate protection and assistance for religious minorities in areas controlled directly by the Kurds.

We also believe that an urgent review of economic reconstruction aid programs is needed to make sure that the aid is distributed fairly so that all elements of Iraqi society are able to rebuild their communities. Finally, we urge the U.S. government to adopt a more generous refugee and asylum policy, including the possible resettlement of at-risk cases to the United States, and to work with the governments of Turkey, Jordan and Syria to grant visas to allow Iraqi Christians and others compelled to leave Iraq access to economic, health and other necessary assistance and help until they are able to stabilize their own situation, return to Iraq or make other plans for their future.

Thank you for your attention to this important concern. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss this urgent and dangerous situation further.

Sincerely yours,

Most Reverend Thomas G. WenskiBishop of OrlandoChairman, Committee on International Policy

This morning, tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square joined Benedict XVI for the Angelus prayer. Commenting today’s Gospel reading on the healing of the blind man Bartimaeus, the Pope remarked how, “in the essentiality of its narrative, this account evokes the catechumen’s journey towards the Sacrament of Baptism, which in the early Church was also called ‘illumination.’

“Faith,” the Holy Father added, “is a path of illumination. It begins with the recognition of our need for salvation and arrives at the personal meeting with Christ, Who calls us to follow Him on the road of love. This is the model followed by itineraries of Christian initiation in the Church, as a preparation for the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.

“In places of long-standing evangelization, where the Baptism of children is widespread, young people and adults are presented with experiences of catechesis and spirituality enabling them to rediscover their faith with maturity and awareness, so that they can then take on a coherent commitment of witness” to that faith.

Benedict XVI praised the work of catechists and pastors in this field, highlighting how “the rediscovery of the value of their own Baptism lies at the root of all Christians’ missionary commitment, because we see from the Gospel that people who let themselves be fascinated by Christ cannot but bear witness to the joy of following His footsteps.”

Recalling how the month of October is traditionally dedicated to missions, the Pope called for the intercession of the Virgin Mary, “that missionaries of the Gospel may proliferate,” and that “all the baptized may feel themselves called to announce, with the witness of their own lives, God’s love to everyone.”

After praying the Angelus, the Pope remarked upon the many requests he receives to intervene “in favor of people who, in different parts of the world, are victims of kidnapping.”

He went on: “Reiterating my firm condemnation of this crime, I give assurances of my recollection in prayer for all the victims and their families and friends. In particular, I endorse the urgent appeal recently sent to me by the archbishop and the community of Sassari, Italy, in favor of Giovanni Battista Pinna, kidnapped on September 14, that he may soon be restored to his loved ones.”

Benedict XVI then went on to address young people from various regions of Italy, who are meeting in Rome over these days as part of a project organized by the Italian Church every three years, known as the “Agora of young people.”

“Dear friends,” he told them, “I bless your journey and await your participation in large numbers at the great meeting of Italian youth, scheduled to take place on September 1 and 2, 2007 in Loreto, Italy. At that beloved Marian shrine we will experience a moment of grace together, in the joy of the faith and with a view to the mission, also as a preparation for World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, in 2008.”

Saturday morning, Benedict XVI received prelates from the Irish Episcopal Conference, who have just completed their “ad limina” visit.

At the start of his English-language address to them, the Pope dwelt upon the Irish people’s “constant witness … to their faith in Christ and their fidelity to the Holy See,” as well as their “outstanding contribution … to the life of the Church,” and their extraordinary missionary courage.

He called on the prelates to help their faithful “to recognize the inability of the secular, materialist culture to bring true satisfaction and joy. Be bold in speaking to them of the joy that comes from following Christ and living according to His commandments.”

“Even though it is necessary to speak out strongly against the evils that threaten us,” he proceeded, “we must correct the idea that Catholicism is merely ‘a collection of prohibitions.’ Sound catechesis and careful ‘formation of the heart’ are needed here, and in this regard you are blessed in Ireland with solid resources in your network of Catholic schools.”

“Superficial presentations of Catholic teaching must be avoided, because only the fullness of the faith can communicate the liberating power of the Gospel,” said Pope Benedict, underlining the importance of “exercising vigilance over the quality of the syllabuses and the course-books used.”

“In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric. The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged. In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes. In this way, the Church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ.”

“The fine work and selfless dedication of the great majority of priests and religious in Ireland should not be obscured by the transgressions of some of their brethren. I am certain that the people understand this, and continue to regard their clergy with affection and esteem.”

The Pope recalled how “at one time, Ireland was blessed with … an abundance of priestly and religious vocations,” but in recent years the number has fallen sharply. “Pray, therefore, the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest,” he told the bishops.

“I am pleased to learn that many of your dioceses have adopted the practice of silent prayer for vocations before the Blessed Sacrament. This should be warmly encouraged. Yet above all, it falls to you, the bishops, and to your clergy to offer young people an inspiring and attractive vision of the ordained priesthood.”

“Even if Christian commitment is considered unfashionable in some circles, there is a real spiritual hunger and a generous desire to serve others among the young people of Ireland.”

In closing his address, the Holy Father considered the question of Northern Ireland, noting that, “although the path is arduous, much progress has been made in recent times. It is my prayer that the committed efforts of those concerned will lead to the creation of a society marked by a spirit of reconciliation, mutual respect and willing cooperation for the common good of all.”
VIS

Here is the full text of the pope’s address.

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO THE BISHOPS OF IRELAND
ON THEIR AD LIMINA VISIT
Consistory Hall
Saturday, 28 October 2006

Dear Brother Bishops,

In the words of a traditional Irish greeting, a hundred thousand welcomes to you, the Bishops of Ireland, on the occasion of your ad Limina visit. As you venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, may you draw inspiration from the courage and vision of these two great saints, who so faithfully led the way in the Church’s mission of proclaiming Christ to the world. Today you have come to strengthen the bonds of communion with the Successor of Peter, and I gladly express my appreciation for the gracious words addressed to me on your behalf by Archbishop Seán Brady, President of your Episcopal Conference. The constant witness of countless generations of Irish people to their faith in Christ and their fidelity to the Holy See has shaped Ireland at the deepest level of her history and culture. We are all aware of the outstanding contribution that Ireland has made to the life of the Church, and the extraordinary courage of her missionary sons and daughters who have carried the Gospel message far beyond her shores. Meanwhile, the flame of faith has continued bravely burning at home through all the trials afflicting your people in the course of their history. In the words of the Psalmist, “I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord, through all ages my mouth shall proclaim your truth” (Ps 89:1).

The present time brings many new opportunities to bear witness to Christ and fresh challenges for the Church in Ireland. You have spoken about the consequences for society of the rise in prosperity that the last fifteen years have brought. After centuries of emigration, which involved the pain of separation for so many families, you are experiencing for the first time a wave of immigration. Traditional Irish hospitality is finding unexpected new outlets. Like the wise householder who brings forth from his treasure “what is new and what is old” (Mt 13:52), your people need to view the changes in society with discernment, and here they look to you for leadership. Help them to recognize the inability of the secular, materialist culture to bring true satisfaction and joy. Be bold in speaking to them of the joy that comes from following Christ and living according to his commandments. Remind them that our hearts were made for the Lord and that they find no peace until they rest in him (cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions, 1:1).

So often the Church’s counter-cultural witness is misunderstood as something backward and negative in today’s society. That is why it is important to emphasize the Good News, the life-giving and life-enhancing message of the Gospel (cf. Jn 10:10). Even though it is necessary to speak out strongly against the evils that threaten us, we must correct the idea that Catholicism is merely “a collection of prohibitions”. Sound catechesis and careful “formation of the heart” are needed here, and in this regard you are blessed in Ireland with solid resources in your network of Catholic schools, and in so many dedicated religious and lay teachers who are seriously committed to the education of the young. Continue to encourage them in their task and ensure that their catechetical programmes are based on The Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the new Compendium. Superficial presentations of Catholic teaching must be avoided, because only the fullness of the faith can communicate the liberating power of the Gospel. By exercising vigilance over the quality of the syllabuses and the course-books used and by proclaiming the Church’s doctrine in its entirety, you are carrying out your responsibility to “preach the word … in season and out of season … unfailing in patience and in teaching” (2 Tim 4:2).

In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric. The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged. In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes. In this way, the Church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ. I pray that by the grace of the Holy Spirit, this time of purification will enable all God’s people in Ireland to “maintain and perfect in their lives that holiness which they have received from God” (Lumen Gentium, 40).

The fine work and selfless dedication of the great majority of priests and religious in Ireland should not be obscured by the transgressions of some of their brethren. I am certain that the people understand this, and continue to regard their clergy with affection and esteem. Encourage your priests always to seek spiritual renewal and to discover afresh the joy of ministering to their flocks within the great family of the Church. At one time, Ireland was blessed with such an abundance of priestly and religious vocations that much of the world was able to benefit from their apostolic labours. In recent years, though, the number of vocations has fallen sharply. How urgent it is, then, to heed the Lord’s words: “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Pray, therefore, the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Mt 9:37-38). I am pleased to learn that many of your dioceses have adopted the practice of silent prayer for vocations before the Blessed Sacrament. This should be warmly encouraged. Yet above all, it falls to you, the Bishops, and to your clergy to offer young people an inspiring and attractive vision of the ordained priesthood. Our prayer for vocations “must lead to action so that from our praying heart a spark of our joy in God and in the Gospel may arise, enkindling in the hearts of others a readiness to say ‘yes’” (Address to Priests and Permanent Deacons, Freising, 14 September 2006). Even if Christian commitment is considered unfashionable in some circles, there is a real spiritual hunger and a generous desire to serve others among the young people of Ireland. A vocation to the priesthood or the religious life offers an opportunity to respond to this desire in a way that brings deep joy and personal fulfilment.

Allow me to add an observation that is close to my heart. For many years, Christian representatives of all denominations, political leaders and many men and women of good will have been involved in seeking means to ensure a brighter future for Northern Ireland. Although the path is arduous, much progress has been made in recent times. It is my prayer that the committed efforts of those concerned will lead to the creation of a society marked by a spirit of reconciliation, mutual respect and willing cooperation for the common good of all.

As you prepare to return to your Dioceses, I commend your apostolic ministry to the intercession of all the saints of Ireland, and I assure you of my deep affection and constant prayer for you and for the Irish people. May Our Lady of Knock watch over and protect you always. To all of you, and to the priests, religious and lay faithful of your beloved island I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ.

© Copyright 2006 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

H/T to Brian.

Bishop Robert Morlino from the diocese of Madison has written a wonderful letter on liturgical music.

(This communication was sent directly to all priests and deacons in the Diocese of Madison, as well as to the local parish directors of worship and directors of music.)

Dear Friends,

The clear teaching of the Second Vatican Council is that the presence of Christ at Mass occurs in four different ways: the most sacramentally intense presence of Christ is His Real Presence under the signs of bread and wine; the second most sacramentally intense presence of Christ is in His proclaimed word; the third most sacramentally intense presence of Christ is through the priest, who is ordained to act in the person of Christ; and the fourth most sacramentally intense presence of Christ is in the assembly. These four “places” of the presence of Christ are all important but they are not all equal in sacramental intensity.

Misinterpretation of council teachings
In previous communications, I have written about what Pope Benedict has called the discontinuity hermeneutic, that is the various misinterpretations of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, which have occurred since the council and which now stand in need of correction.

After the council, an overemphasis was given to the presence of Christ in the assembly, so that the other ways Christ is even more sacramentally intensely present suffered a certain neglect.
Evidence of that is given through the occurrence, not unusual throughout the United States, of the practice of the taking of the consecrated Precious Blood of Christ, which remained after Mass, and pouring it down the sacrarium or even an ordinary sink. Evidence of this is also given in the need seen universally among the Bishops of the United States to issue a document affirming and clarifying our belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species.

As I have said repeatedly, everything that we do or do not do at the Eucharistic liturgy teaches. Pope Benedict has called us recently to a reflection about the music that is sung during the liturgy, and in fact our national bishops’ conference will be considering this matter further at our coming meeting in November.

Music during the Mass
The question arises, does some of the music routinely sung embody the incorrect overemphasis on the presence of Christ in the assembly, so that people are confused as to the importance of the sacramental intensity of His presence, especially under the signs of bread and wine.

Certain songs come to mind where the lyrics raise a real question for me. For example: “We are called, We are chosen, We are Christ for one another, We are a promise, We are sower, We are seed, We are question, We are creed.” Singing that song repeatedly teaches people something, and I am afraid that it is something that I as Bishop do not want to teach them, but we certainly need to begin a dialogue about these matters.
Another example of this same problem would be the lyrics of the hymn Gather Us In, where a seemingly endless explanation is given to God about who We are, who are gathered in.

Pope Benedict has said that the music at Mass is not an extrinsic accompaniment to the liturgy, but is intrinsically part of our prayer of praise and adoration and thanksgiving to the Lord. The words of the songs we sing should be focused on giving praise and adoration to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, rather than explaining to God things about ourselves or even praising ourselves.

When we gather for the Eucharist, we gather as sinners as the beautiful Eucharistic Preface teaches: “You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank You is itself Your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to Your greatness, but makes us grow in your grace, through Jesus our Lord.” That prayer of the Church contains the truth about the assembly. We are an assembly in whom Christ is indeed present, an assembly blessed with this wonderful gift even though we are sinners. The music we sing at Mass should teach nothing different than that.

Open discussion about music at Mass
I make these observations in order to open a discussion about the music we sing at Mass, in the context of my addressing my second focal point since coming to Madison (vocations has been the first focal point), of liturgy and catechesis. This is just the beginning of a discussion. I will in the near future be issuing additional guidelines for music at celebration of Confirmation only (which will take effect next Easter), and any further liturgical approaches that we take as a diocese will depend on the continuing wisdom which Pope Benedict offers us about liturgical music, on the wisdom we receive from our deliberations as a National Conference of Bishops, and upon the reflections I hear from our good priests and people in the days ahead.

But I write this present communication in the hope that pastors and brother priests, deacons, and various liturgical ministers in the parishes will begin to reflect on and discuss this particular important matter, so that the liturgical prayer of our people will be more integral with and more expressive of authentic spirituality and theology, and as a result our faithful people who pray that prayer will be even more holy than so many of you already are.

We must remember that as we pray before the “Holy, Holy, Holy,” the angels and saints are present with us giving praise to the Trinity. The hymns we sing should be worthy of the participation of the angels and saints.

Thank you for reading this, God bless you and yours. Praises be Jesus Christ!

Thank you Bishop Morlino for these simple words, which are so hard to get liturgical musicians to understand. I hope more bishops will take such an active stand on liturgical music.

It seems I am on a theme today.

As I am sure some of you know, Cardinal Mahony from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was featured as a character on “South Park” last week. I despise “South Park”. It is vile filth that has no business being on tv. However, I refrained from commenting on the episode until I was able to view it. I was able to find this particular episode on You Tube.

I am not going to comment on the episode except to say that is is terrible. Gerald has the goods on this one.

This has made me think about how we treat our clergy and the hierarchy. Some of the same people who are furious about the episode, are the same people who call Cardinal Mahony “Cardinal Kool-Aid”. I think that is hypocritical. Yes, Cardinal Mahony is far from being a pillar of orthodoxy and we can disagree with him on countless issues, but in the end he is a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and a successor to the apostles. Purely by virtue of his office, he is entitled to a certain level of respect.

Why is it ok for us to disrespect the clergy and it is not ok for others? If we, as faithful Catholics, do not hold the hierarchy in high regard, We cannot we expect others to.

Jesus chose human apostles with human issues and human frailties. They didn’t always do what they were supposed to. We don’t always do what we are suposed to, there are many priests and bishops who don’t do what they are supposed to.

We need to be careful about how we speak of our clergy, especially the hierarchy. We can be critical, but pictures of prelates celebrating Mass using glass decanters with the Kool-Aid man digitally emblazoned on the decanter and other similar things is simply disgraceful.

When the shepherd misleads his flock, and yes, there are many shepherds who are misleading their flocks, he must be corrected. Corrected…not ridiculed…not disrespected.

Fr. Cantalamessa has given another superb homily. This time on the priesthood. You can read the full text here.

My pastor always reminds people that he is born, not hatched. Fr. Cantalamessa reminds of that in a similar way.

It is said of a priest first of all that he is “chosen from among men.” He is not, therefore, an uprooted being or fallen from heaven, but a human being who has behind him a family and a history like everyone else.

“Chosen from among men” also means that the priest is made of the same fabric as any other human creature: with the emotions, struggles, doubts and weaknesses of everybody else. Scripture sees in this a benefit for other men, not a motive for scandal. In this way, in fact, the priest will be more ready to have compassion, as he is also cloaked in weakness.

Speaking about the human frailities and sinfulness, he says,

We have sketched the positive vision of the priest’s figure. We know that it is not always so. Every now and then the news reminds us that another reality also exists, made of weakness and infidelity — of this reality the Church can do no more than ask forgiveness.

But there is a truth that must be recalled for a certain consolation of the people. As man, the priest can err, but the gestures he carries out as priest, at the altar or in the confessional, are not invalid or ineffective because of it. The people are not deprived of God’s grace because of the unworthiness of the priest. It is Christ who baptizes, celebrates, forgives; the priest is only the instrument.

Too often I hear people say that they don’t go to Confession because why should they tell their sins to the priest. After all, he’s no better than they are. Other times I talk with people who seem to think the priest is some sort of subspecies or third gender. I can guarantee that when your priests were born, it was announced, “It’s a boy!” not “It’s a priest!”. Sometimes we need to remember that. We also need to remember that Jesus didn’t choose perfect people to lead His Church. He chose ordinary men and entrusted them with a great responsibility.
that his representatives on earth be perfect, but that they be merciful.

To all the priests who serve the Church so faithfully. They are too often unappreciated and taken for granted.

Remember to pray for vocations, especially within your own family. If we do not encourage our children to consider a religious vocation, we shouldn’t be surprised when our parish doesn’t have a priest.

Yesterday in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of Frank De Coninck, the new ambassador of Belgium to the Holy See.

Recalling how Belgium was, from the very beginning, an active participant in “the great project of European construction,” the Holy Father praised the goals achieved in this field over the last 50 years. “Little by little, the continent of Europe is finding its unity in peace,” he said, “the European Union has become a major economic force and, for many people, a sign of hope.”

Today, faced with “the requirements of the globalization of trade and of solidarity between human beings,” Europe must “continue to open itself, committing itself to the great projects of the planet.” In the first place is “the question of peace and security, … the international situation riven by conflict, … especially in the Middle East, and the dramatic conditions in the Holy Land, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as in Africa and Asia.”

The Holy Father went on to consider challenges that “concern the future of human beings and their identity,” noting how “enormous technological progress has revolutionized many practices in the field of medical science, while … norms that once appeared untouchable have been relativized. … In Western societies, characterized by their superabundance of consumer goods and by their subjectivism, human beings find themselves facing a crisis of meaning,” while “laws are passed that put respect for human life into question.”

“The Church, on the foundation of her long experience, and of the treasure of Revelation she received, … firmly underlines her convictions concerning human beings and their prodigious destiny,” said the Pope. “When Belgian bishops speak in favor of the development of palliative care to enable people … to die with dignity, or when they participate in the debates of society” in order to draw attention to that invisible moral frontier before which technological progress must bow: the dignity of man, “they seek to serve the whole of society by identifying the conditions for a real future of freedom and dignity for mankind. With them, I invite political leaders … to give attentive consideration to their responsibilities and to the challenges these questions pose.”

“Belgium,” said the Holy Father, “came into being as a monarchy, the monarch’s role being to guarantee national unity and ensure respect for each linguistic and cultural community within the nation. … The unity of a country … requires all sides to show a will to serve the common interest and a desire for better mutual knowledge through dialogue and reciprocal enrichment. Today, the influx of ever-greater numbers of immigrants and the increasing number of communities of different cultural origin or religion, make it absolutely necessary for there to be dialogue between cultures and religions in our societies.”

“We must know one another better,” the Pope concluded, “respecting one another’s religious convictions and the legitimate requirements of social life, in accordance with current legislation. We must welcome immigrants in such a way as always to respect their dignity” through “immigration policies that reconcile the interests of the country of destination with the necessary development of less-favored nations. … Thus we will avoid the risks of … exacerbated nationalism or xenophobia, and may hope for the harmonious development of our societies.”

VIS

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