NEWS STATISTICS ON FAITHFUL IN WORLD POPULATION-
EUROPE: SPAIN: PROFESSOR OFFERS OPINION ON PRO-LIFE LEGISLATION-
POPE: RECEIVES PM OF LEBANON: MODEL FOR THE MIDDLE EAST
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The situation in Lebanon and the plight of Christians in the Middle East were the themes at the heart of the meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon this morning in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. After the audience, conducted in a "climate of great cordiality" - as stated in the press release issued by the Holy See - the prime minister visited the Secretary of State Card. Tarcisio Bertone accompanied by Msgr. Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.
Benedict XVI and Hariri stressed the importance of Lebanon, which for decades has been a model of peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims. The hope - said the statement - is that "through the exemplary coexistence" of different religious communities that comprise the country, it will "remain a 'message' for the Middle East region and the entire world."
Among other things the Lebanese government recently announced its intention to establish an Islamic-Christian holiday in the name of the Annunciation of Mary. It will have a "national" rather than "religious" stamp and will complement that of the Annunciation, not replace it. However, the new holiday aims to strengthen the "symbol of unity" among the Lebanese in the name of the Virgin Mary - who is also revered by followers of Mohammed - and "encourage the image of Lebanon as a 'Country' symbol of pluralism and tolerance", as often repeated by John Paul II.
Pope Benedict and Saad Hariri also stressed the need to find a "just and comprehensive solution to the conflicts that cause bloodshed in the Middle East. To achieve this goal - continues the statement - it is important to promote "intercultural and interreligious dialogue" that is a harbinger of peace and justice.
The Christians of the Middle East are victims of sectarian violence and persecution, which moves the faithful to abandon their places of origin in search of safety. In this perspective, the forthcoming Special Meeting of the Synod of Bishops of the Middle East - scheduled 10 to 24 October 2010 – was mentioned, which will seek solutions to the mass exodus that threatens to empty the region of a Christian presence. Benedict XVI and Hariri recalled "the importance of the work of Christians in the country" that is applied to "the entire society, especially through its educational, health and welfare institutions." http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Pope-to-Hariri:-Lebanon,-a-model-of-coexistence-and-message-for-the-entire-Middle-East-17689.html
NEWS STATISTICS ON FAITHFUL IN WORLD POPULATION
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - This morning Card. Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, presented Benedict XVI the new edition of the Pontifical Yearbook, presented by the Central Statistical Office of the Church. The data refers to 2009 regarding the erection of new dioceses (8 and a Prelature) and the appointment of 169 new bishops. For the rest, the statistics are for the period 2007 to 2008 and traces the development of the Catholic Church in the planet’s 2,945 ecclesiastical districts.
In the period 2007 - 2008 the number of baptized Catholics in the world rose by nearly 1.147 billion to 1.166 billion, an increase of 19 million (+1.7%). By comparing the data with the evolution of the global population over the same period, which rose from 6,62 to 6,70 billion, the global incidence of Catholics increased slightly, from 17.33 to 17.40%.
In 2008, the distribution of the clergy between the continents, is characterized by a high prevalence of priests in Europe (47.1%), 30% are Americans, the clergy Asia accounts for 13.2%, Africa for 8.7% and Oceania for 1.2%.
Analyzing the period between 2000 and 2008, a small increase in the number of priests (+1%) was noted. For the same period, the number of priests in Oceania remains unvaried, while instead the number of African and Asian clergy and American priests has increased. Europe’s clergy has conspicuously dropped from 51.5 to 47.1%.
Religious sisters remain the largest group of collaborators active in diocese. From 2000 to 2008 there was a downward trend of 7.8% (from 801,185 to 739,067). The largest contractions recorded in Europe (- 17.6%), America (- 12.9%) and Oceania (- 14.9%). In Africa and Asia, there has been an increase (+ 21.2 + 16.4% in Africa and Asia).
Globally, the number of candidates for the priesthood has increased by about 1%, from 115,919 in 2007 to 117,024 in 2008. The increase by continent shows an increase in Africa (3.6%), Asia (4.4%) and Oceania (6.5%). Europe declined by 4.3%. The figures for America instead are almost stationary.http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Pontifical-Yearbook:-slight-increase-in-global-number-of-Catholics-17687.html
On Thursday MSNBC’s Today Show reported on Olympic athletes’ behavior after their competitions had ended.
While acknowledging athletes’ self-control, the Today Show cited event organizers’ distribution of 100,000 condoms and recounted off-the-record rumors of liaisons between residents of the Olympic Village as evidence of “hot nights” at the international event.
In a Friday interview, CNA sought comment on the spiritual dangers and benefits of sports from Ray McKenna, president of the Alexandria, Virginia-based Catholic Athletes for Christ.
McKenna said he knew 2008 Summer Olympics swimmer Kate Ziegler, but had never spoken with her about anything discussed in the Today Show article.
Hearsay of “somewhat bacchanalian excesses,” in his view, probably had “a lot of truth to it.”
The condom distribution, McKenna said, seems to be evidence of that lifestyle and sends the message that such a lifestyle is permitted and even encouraged at the Olympic Village.
“If there is encouragement to distribute condoms, at the very least there should be encouragement to practice your faith at those events,” McKenna told CNA.
While Olympians may have a “play hard, party hard” reputation, McKenna said athletes’ behavior differs with each person. Gossip about their pastimes is a “real danger,” in his view, and detracts from the story of a sport.
He encouraged Catholic athletes to be grounded in their faith and to engage in prayer, frequent reception of the sacraments and spiritual reading. They should also have a “discipleship relationship” with a spiritual mentor to help combat the dangers of off-the-field activities.
He named dangers such as drunk driving and the number of children fathered out of wedlock by some sportsmen.
Asked whether the self-control of sports is related to self-control for the sake of moral and spiritual integrity, McKenna gave a “clear and definitive ‘yes’.”
“Faith can inform sports, so that one’s personal faith can be beneficial for one’s sports life,” he explained.
Discipline is very valuable in one’s spiritual life and in sports because it cultivates the virtues of dedication, determination, constant practice and repetition, McKenna explained.
One central aim of Catholic Athletes for Christ, he reported, was to tell athletes “be good in your faith, be good in your sport.”
He encouraged athletes to stay bonded with friends of similar faith so that they can share their struggles and can be better disciples.
“Historically, sports was considered to be a ‘virtue-making machine.’ The values that correspond with sports were considered to go hand in glove with those that go into being a person of integrity and faith,” McKenna told CNA.
“Vince Lombardi, the former coach of the Green Bay Packers, was a good example of that. He lived his faith and it was integral to his coaching.”
McKenna thought it was unfortunate that people now associate sports with vice.
He cited a quotation of Pope Pius XII, who said that sports “develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor.”
The virtues of the Olympic model, fraternity, goodwill, and teamwork, are also praiseworthy. McKenna added that sports and athletes’ “heroic efforts” have been the vehicle used to overcome some “real, terrible social problems” such as racial discrimination.
In athletics, “great bonds” which otherwise could not have happened have formed between different races, ethnicities and faiths.
Catholic Athletes for Christ encourages athletes in their spiritual formation, particularly as Catholics, McKenna reiterated. The organization works with the Vatican often to help ensure access to the sacraments and to Mass and Bible studies.
The group also advocates better access to ministers and rabbis so athletes of other beliefs can practice their faith.
Its website is http://www.catholicathletesforchrist.com/.
“The Sisters rejoice with the Australian Church and people on this news. We look forward to the canonisation and give thanks that God did bless our country with such a model of goodness,” they said in a press statement.
Postulator for the Cause of Mary MacKillop, Sr Maria Casey speaking from Rome, says that this news confirms that Mary’s work and legacy has great relevance in today’s busy world.
“Today it has been recognised that a woman can become a saint in the Australian environment with all its complexities and challenges.
“Mary MacKillop is to be listed among the saints of the Catholic Church. I look forward to the celebration of her goodness when many pilgrims from all over the world come to Rome for the ceremony,” says Sister Maria. http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=19523
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Almost 60 graves were damaged yesterday in the Catholic Cemetery of St Michael in Happy Valley. Headstones targeted, vases destroyed, pictures of dead broken was the spectacle that greeted security guards yesterday morning, in what has been called the first large-scale desecration in the 160-year existence of the cemetery. The act offends traditional Chinese culture, which reveres ancestors, and the religious sensibility of Catholics.
The Catholic cemetery is on the island besieged by large skyscrapers. It lies at the heart of the city and is close to the racetrack. There the bishops of Hong Kong and many missionaries of the PIME (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) as well as several Catholic personages of the history of Hong Kong are buried.
The Episcopal Vicar Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, is not yet sure if the gesture is the work of vandals. In any case, Father Chan said that safety will be improved in the cemetery. The police have opened an investigation and are treating the episode as a crime. Police are excluding the possibility of robbery being a motive behind the attack as many niches and tombs, which contain items of value, were left untouched. Fr. Edward Chau King-fun, Director of Institute of Religious Sciences at the Holy Spirit Seminary College in Hong Kong, points out that the graves of ancestors are important both for the Chinese, and for Catholics. "In Chinese culture, damaging a grave is a grave offence, a humiliation for the ancestors and their families. Respect for graves is considered an act of filial piety towards the same ancestors. According to Father Chau, the way in which the graves were damaged, shows that the "vandals acted deliberately, revealing a deep anger." For the priest is not clear whether the target is the Catholic Church. In this case, the tombs of bishops and priests would have been the first to be affected. Instead, both the tomb of Card. Wu, both the priests and missionaries have remained intact.
Meanwhile, many relatives of the deceased buried in the cemetery, have come today to visit the site and check for damage to the graves of their loved ones. Emily Lau, a lawmaker in Hong Kong, visited the tomb of her parents, to assure it was not among the affected. Lau has asked the Catholic Church to strengthen security at the cemetery. The former Chief Secretary of local government, Anson Chan, hopes that the police can trace the criminals. The grave of Anson Chan’s Uncle, Harry Fan, is among those damaged.http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Graves-desecrated-at-the-Catholic-cemetery-in-Happy-Valley-17688.html
The head of the Genetics department at the University of Alcala in Spain, Nicolas Jouve de la Barreda, warned this week that the government’s new law on abortion goes against medical ethics and will not reduce the number of abortions.
“Nobody believes this legislative reform will help reduce the number of abortions,” the professor told the organization, Professionals for Ethics.
“The promotion of contraceptive methods, the morning-after pill and abortion itself cannot result in the reduction of abortions but rather the opposite. The experience of other countries proves it,” he continued.
The professor noted that the law has an “ideological undercurrent” that seeks to impose pro-abortion beliefs on children through education and on college campuses by requiring medical schools to teach abortion methods.
He said medical students are taught how to carry out “a uterine evacuation, generally known as a “D & C.” However, “the intention is not to teach these techniques as all gynecologists learn them at the university, but rather to teach techniques designed to kill a fetus,” something which conflicts “directly with medical ethics.”
Jouve de la Barreda said the new law also goes against science, which has demonstrated that life begins at the moment of conception. Therefore “when an embryo is destroyed or a fetus is crushed in order to carry out an abortion, what is destroyed or crushed is the life of a human being in its first stages of development.”
After defending the right to conscientious objection, the professor called on the scientific and university community to act consistently “with the truth and to always defend it, without bending to ideologies or impositions that are contrary to scientific knowledge and professional ethics.”
BENEDICTINE BISHOP OF ORLEANS
Feast: February 20
687 AD, Orléans, France
20 February 743
Benedictine Bishop of Orleans, France, exiled for opposing Charles Martel (r. 714-741), the famous and powerful mayor of the palace in the Frankish kingdom. Born in Orleans, Eucherius became a Benedictine at Jumieges about 714 and bishop in 721. He immediately set about protesting Charles Martel's seizure of Church properties. Charles exiled Eucherius to Cologne, Germany, where he became very popular as a result. Eucherius was then held captive in Liege, Belgium, but was allowed to retire to Saint-Trond Abbey near Maastricht, Netherlands, where he died in the monastery. Apparently, he was never reconciled with Charles.
Luke 5: 27 - 32
After this he went out, and saw a tax collector, named Levi, sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, "Follow me."
And he left everything, and rose and followed him.
And Levi made him a great feast in his house; and there was a large company of tax collectors and others sitting at table with them.
And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick;
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."