GERMANY VISIT: Pope Highlights Importance of Freedom and Responsibility
"I HAVE COME TO GERMANY TO SPEAK ABOUT GOD"
RADIO VATICANA REPORTS: Pope Benedict XVI arrived in his homeland of Germany on Thursday morning. During the welcoming ceremony, the Holy Father said he had "not come [to Germany] primarily to pursue particular political or economic goals, ... but rather to meet people and to speak about God."
Full Text of Pope Benedict XVI's remarks during Welcoming Ceremony in Berlin
Mr President of the Federal Republic,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured by the kind welcome which you have given to me here in Bellevue Castle. I am particularly grateful to you, President Wulff, for inviting me to make this official visit, which marks the third time I have come as Pope to the Federal Republic of Germany. I thank you most heartily for your cordial words of welcome. I am likewise grateful to the representatives of the Federal Government, the Bundestag, the Bundesrat, and the City of Berlin for their presence, which signifies their respect for the Pope as the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Last but not not least, I thank the three Bishops who are my hosts, Archbishop Woelki of Berlin, Bishop Wanke of Erfurt and Archbishop Zollitsch of Freiburg, and all those at the various ecclesial and civil levels who helped in preparing this visit to my native land and contributed to its happy outcome.
Even though this journey is an official visit which will reinforce the good relations existing between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Holy See, I have not come here primarily to pursue particular political or economic goals, as other statesmen rightly do, but rather to meet people and to speak about God.
We are witnessing a growing indifference to religion in society, which considers the issue of truth as something of an obstacle in its decision-making, and instead gives priority to utilitarian considerations.
All the same, a binding basis for our coexistence is needed; otherwise people live in a purely individualistic way. Religion is one of these foundations for a successful social life. “Just as religion has need of freedom, so also freedom has need of religion.” These words of the great bishop and social reformer Wilhelm von Ketteler, the second centenary of whose birth is being celebrated this year, remain timely.
Freedom requires a primordial link to a higher instance. The fact that there are values which are not absolutely open to manipulation is the true guarantee of our freedom. The man who feels a duty to truth and goodness will immediately agree with this: freedom develops only in responsibility to a greater good. Such a good exists only for all of us together; therefore I must always be concerned for my neighbours. Freedom cannot be lived in the absence of relationships
In human coexistence, freedom is impossible without solidarity. What I do at the expense of others is not freedom but a culpable way of acting which is harmful to others and also to myself. I can truly develop as a free person only by using my powers also for the welfare of others. This holds true not only in private matters but also for society as a whole. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, society must give sufficient space for smaller structures to develop and, at the same time, must support them so that one day they will stand on their own.
Here in Bellevue Castle, named for its splendid view of the banks of the Spree and situated close to the Victory Column, the Bundestag and the Brandenburg Gate, we are in the very heart of Berlin, the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. This castle, with its dramatic history – like many buildings of this city – is a testimony to the history of Germany. A clear look at the past, even at its dark pages, enables us to learn from it and to receive an impetus for the present. The Federal Republic of Germany has become what it is today thanks to the power of freedom shaped by responsibility before God and before one another. It needs this dynamism, which engages every human sector in order to continue developing now. It needs this in a world which requires a profound cultural renewal and the rediscovery of fundamental values upon which to build a better future (Caritas in Veritate, 21).
I trust that my meetings throughout this visit – here in Berlin, in Erfurt, in Eichsfeld and in Freiburg – can make a small contribution in this regard. In these days may God grant all of us his blessing.
"Mr President of the Federal Republic,
Mr President of the Bundestag,
Mr President of the Bundesrat,
Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the House,
It is an honour and a joy for me to speak before this distinguished house, before the Parliament of my native Germany, that meets here as a democratically elected representation of the people, in order to work for the good of the Federal Republic of Germany. I should like to thank the President of the Bundestag both for his invitation to deliver this address and for the kind words of greeting and appreciation with which he has welcomed me. At this moment I turn to you, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, not least as your fellow-countryman who for all his life has been conscious of close links to his origins, and has followed the affairs of his native Germany with keen interest. But the invitation to give this address was extended to me as Pope, as the Bishop of Rome, who bears the highest responsibility for Catholic Christianity. In issuing this invitation you are acknowledging the role that the Holy See plays as a partner within the community of peoples and states. Setting out from this international responsibility that I hold, I should like to propose to you some thoughts on the foundations of a free state of law.
Allow me to begin my reflections on the foundations of law [Recht] with a brief story from sacred Scripture. In the First Book of the Kings, it is recounted that God invited the young King Solomon, on his accession to the throne, to make a request. What will the young ruler ask for at this important moment? Success – wealth – long life – destruction of his enemies? He chooses none of these things. Instead, he asks for a listening heart so that he may govern God’s people, and discern between good and evil (cf. 1 Kg 3:9). Through this story, the Bible wants to tell us what should ultimately matter for a politician. His fundamental criterion and the motivation for his work as a politician must not be success, and certainly not material gain. Politics must be a striving for justice, and hence it has to establish the fundamental preconditions for peace. Naturally a politician will seek success, as this is what opens up for him the possibility of effective political action. Yet success is subordinated to the criterion of justice, to the will to do what is right, and to the understanding of what is right. Success can also be seductive and thus can open up the path towards the falsification of what is right, towards the destruction of justice. “Without justice – what else is the State but a great band of robbers?”, as Saint Augustine once said . We Germans know from our own experience that these words are no empty spectre. We have seen how power became divorced from right, how power opposed right and crushed it, so that the State became an instrument for destroying right – a highly organized band of robbers, capable of threatening the whole world and driving it to the edge of the abyss. To serve right and to fight against the dominion of wrong is and remains the fundamental task of the politician. At a moment in history when man has acquired previously inconceivable power, this task takes on a particular urgency. Man can destroy the world. He can manipulate himself. He can, so to speak, make human beings and he can deny them their humanity. How do we recognize what is right? How can we discern between good and evil, between what is truly right and what may appear right? Even now, Solomon’s request remains the decisive issue facing politicians and politics today.
For most of the matters that need to be regulated by law, the support of the majority can serve as a sufficient criterion. Yet it is evident that for the fundamental issues of law, in which the dignity of man and of humanity is at stake, the majority principle is not enough: everyone in a position of responsibility must personally seek out the criteria to be followed when framing laws. In the third century, the great theologian Origen provided the following explanation for the resistance of Christians to certain legal systems: “Suppose that a man were living among the Scythians, whose laws are contrary to the divine law, and was compelled to live among them ... such a man for the sake of the true law, though illegal among the Scythians, would rightly form associations with like-minded people contrary to the laws of the Scythians.”
This conviction was what motivated resistance movements to act against the Nazi regime and other totalitarian regimes, thereby doing a great service to justice and to humanity as a whole. For these people, it was indisputably evident that the law in force was actually unlawful. Yet when it comes to the decisions of a democratic politician, the question of what now corresponds to the law of truth, what is actually right and may be enacted as law, is less obvious. In terms of the underlying anthropological issues, what is right and may be given the force of law is in no way simply self-evident today. The question of how to recognize what is truly right and thus to serve justice when framing laws has never been simple, and today in view of the vast extent of our knowledge and our capacity, it has become still harder.
How do we recognize what is right? In history, systems of law have almost always been based on religion: decisions regarding what was to be lawful among men were taken with reference to the divinity. Unlike other great religions, Christianity has never proposed a revealed body of law to the State and to society, that is to say a juridical order derived from revelation. Instead, it has pointed to nature and reason as the true sources of law – and to the harmony of objective and subjective reason, which naturally presupposes that both spheres are rooted in the creative reason of God. Christian theologians thereby aligned themselves with a philosophical and juridical movement that began to take shape in the second century B.C. In the first half of that century, the social natural law developed by the Stoic philosophers came into contact with leading teachers of Roman Law. Through this encounter, the juridical culture of the West was born, which was and is of key significance for the juridical culture of mankind. This pre-Christian marriage between law and philosophy opened up the path that led via the Christian Middle Ages and the juridical developments of the Age of Enlightenment all the way to the Declaration of Human Rights and to our German Basic Law of 1949, with which our nation committed itself to “inviolable and inalienable human rights as the foundation of every human community, and of peace and justice in the world”.
For the development of law and for the development of humanity, it was highly significant that Christian theologians aligned themselves against the religious law associated with polytheism and on the side of philosophy, and that they acknowledged reason and nature in their interrelation as the universally valid source of law. This step had already been taken by Saint Paul in the Letter to the Romans, when he said: “When Gentiles who have not the Law [the Torah of Israel] do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves ... they show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness ...” (Rom 2:14f.). Here we see the two fundamental concepts of nature and conscience, where conscience is nothing other than Solomon’s listening heart, reason that is open to the language of being. If this seemed to offer a clear explanation of the foundations of legislation up to the time of the Enlightenment, up to the time of the Declaration on Human Rights after the Second World War and the framing of our Basic Law, there has been a dramatic shift in the situation in the last half-century. The idea of natural law is today viewed as a specifically Catholic doctrine, not worth bringing into the discussion in a non-Catholic environment, so that one feels almost ashamed even to mention the term. Let me outline briefly how this situation arose. Fundamentally it is because of the idea that an unbridgeable gulf exists between “is” and “ought”. An “ought” can never follow from an “is”, because the two are situated on completely different planes. The reason for this is that in the meantime, the positivist understanding of nature and reason has come to be almost universally accepted. If nature – in the words of Hans Kelsen – is viewed as “an aggregate of objective data linked together in terms of cause and effect”, then indeed no ethical indication of any kind can be derived from it. A positivist conception of nature as purely functional, in the way that the natural sciences explain it, is incapable of producing any bridge to ethics and law, but once again yields only functional answers. The same also applies to reason, according to the positivist understanding that is widely held to be the only genuinely scientific one. Anything that is not verifiable or falsifiable, according to this understanding, does not belong to the realm of reason strictly understood. Hence ethics and religion must be assigned to the subjective field, and they remain extraneous to the realm of reason in the strict sense of the word. Where positivist reason dominates the field to the exclusion of all else – and that is broadly the case in our public mindset – then the classical sources of knowledge for ethics and law are excluded. This is a dramatic situation which affects everyone, and on which a public debate is necessary. Indeed, an essential goal of this address is to issue an urgent invitation to launch one.
The positivist approach to nature and reason, the positivist world view in general, is a most important dimension of human knowledge and capacity that we may in no way dispense with. But in and of itself it is not a sufficient culture corresponding to the full breadth of the human condition. Where positivist reason considers itself the only sufficient culture and banishes all other cultural realities to the status of subcultures, it diminishes man, indeed it threatens his humanity. I say this with Europe specifically in mind, where there are concerted efforts to recognize only positivism as a common culture and a common basis for law-making, so that all the other insights and values of our culture are reduced to the level of subculture, with the result that Europe vis-à-vis other world cultures is left in a state of culturelessness and at the same time extremist and radical movements emerge to fill the vacuum. In its self-proclaimed exclusivity, the positivist reason which recognizes nothing beyond mere functionality resembles a concrete bunker with no windows, in which we ourselves provide lighting and atmospheric conditions, being no longer willing to obtain either from God’s wide world. And yet we cannot hide from ourselves the fact that even in this artificial world, we are still covertly drawing upon God’s raw materials, which we refashion into our own products. The windows must be flung open again, we must see the wide world, the sky and the earth once more and learn to make proper use of all this.
But how are we to do this? How do we find our way out into the wide world, into the big picture? How can reason rediscover its true greatness, without being sidetracked into irrationality? How can nature reassert itself in its true depth, with all its demands, with all its directives? I would like to recall one of the developments in recent political history, hoping that I will neither be misunderstood, nor provoke too many one-sided polemics. I would say that the emergence of the ecological movement in German politics since the 1970s, while it has not exactly flung open the windows, nevertheless was and continues to be a cry for fresh air which must not be ignored or pushed aside, just because too much of it is seen to be irrational. Young people had come to realize that something is wrong in our relationship with nature, that matter is not just raw material for us to shape at will, but that the earth has a dignity of its own and that we must follow its directives. In saying this, I am clearly not promoting any particular political party – nothing could be further from my mind. If something is wrong in our relationship with reality, then we must all reflect seriously on the whole situation and we are all prompted to question the very foundations of our culture. Allow me to dwell a little longer on this point. The importance of ecology is no longer disputed. We must listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly. Yet I would like to underline a further point that is still largely disregarded, today as in the past: there is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he listens to his nature, respects it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.
Let us come back to the fundamental concepts of nature and reason, from which we set out. The great proponent of legal positivism, Kelsen, at the age of 84 – in 1965 – abandoned the dualism of “is” and “ought”. He had said that norms can only come from the will. Nature therefore could only contain norms if a will had put them there. But this would presuppose a Creator God, whose will had entered into nature. “Any attempt to discuss the truth of this belief is utterly futile”, he observed. Is it really? – I find myself asking. Is it really pointless to wonder whether the objective reason that manifests itself in nature does not presuppose a creative reason, a Creator Spiritus?
At this point Europe’s cultural heritage ought to come to our assistance. The conviction that there is a Creator God is what gave rise to the idea of human rights, the idea of the equality of all people before the law, the recognition of the inviolability of human dignity in every single person and the awareness of people’s responsibility for their actions. Our cultural memory is shaped by these rational insights. To ignore it or dismiss it as a thing of the past would be to dismember our culture totally and to rob it of its completeness. The culture of Europe arose from the encounter between Jerusalem, Athens and Rome – from the encounter between Israel’s monotheism, the philosophical reason of the Greeks and Roman law. This three-way encounter has shaped the inner identity of Europe. In the awareness of man’s responsibility before God and in the acknowledgment of the inviolable dignity of every single human person, it has established criteria of law: it is these criteria that we are called to defend at this moment in our history.
As he assumed the mantle of office, the young King Solomon was invited to make a request. How would it be if we, the law-makers of today, were invited to make a request? What would we ask for? I think that, even today, there is ultimately nothing else we could wish for but a listening heart – the capacity to discern between good and evil, and thus to establish true law, to serve justice and peace. Thank you for your attention!"
VATICAN CITY, 22 SEP 2011 (VIS) - At 8.15 a.m. today the Holy Father departed from Ciampino airport in Rome. Following a two-hour flight, his place landed at Berlin-Tegel airport, thus beginning the twenty-first international apostolic trip of his pontificate and his first State visit toGermany.
On arriving in Berlin the Holy Father was greeted by a twenty-one gun salute, as per the protocol for State visits, while Christian Wulff and Angela Merkel, respectively president and chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, waited on the runway to greet him. Also present were Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki ofBerlin, and Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg im Breisgau, president of the German Bishops' Conference.
From the airport the Pope travelled by car to Bellevue Castle, official residence of the president, where the welcome ceremony took place in the palace gardens.
"Even though this journey is an official visit which will reinforce the good relations existing between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Holy See, I have not come here primarily to pursue particular political or economic goals, as other statesmen rightly do, but rather to meet people and to speak about God", said the Pope in his address. "We are witnessing a growing indifference to religion in society, which considers the issue of truth as something of an obstacle in its decision-making, and instead gives priority to utilitarian considerations.
"All the same", he added, "a binding basis for our coexistence is needed; otherwise people live in a purely individualistic way. Religion is one of these foundations for a successful social life. 'Just as religion has need of freedom, so also freedom has need of religion'. These words of the great bishop and social reformer Wilhelm von Ketteler, the second centenary of whose birth is being celebrated this year, remain timely.
"Freedom requires a primordial link to a higher instance. The fact that there are values which are not absolutely open to manipulation is the true guarantee of our freedom", which "develops only in responsibility to a greater good. Such a good exists only for all of us together. ... In human coexistence, freedom is impossible without solidarity. ... This holds true not only in private matters but also for society as a whole. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, society must give sufficient space for smaller structures to develop and, at the same time, must support them so that one day they will stand on their own".
The Holy Father went on: "Bellevue Castle, ... with its dramatic history (like many buildings of this city) is a testimony to the history of Germany. A clear look at the past, even at its dark pages, enables us to learn from it and to receive an impetus for the present. The Federal Republic of Germany has become what it is today thanks to the power of freedom shaped by responsibility before God and before one another. It needs this dynamism, which engages every human sector in order to continue developing now. It needs this in a world which requires a profound cultural renewal and the rediscovery of fundamental values upon which to build a better future".
Having completed his address the Pope held a private meeting with President Wulff and his family, after which he travelled to the headquarters of the German Episcopal Conference (DBK) where he was received by its president Archbishop Robert Zollitsch. He then held a private meeting which Chancellor Merkel in the DBK library, where they were later joined by her husband and members of her entourage. At the end of the meeting the Holy Father went by foot to the refectory of the nearbyCatholic Academy where he had lunch.
WORDS TO JOURNALISTS FROM PLANE
RADIO VATICANA REPORT: Pope Benedict XVI, told accredited journalists on the Papal plane that he is joyful to be taking the message of Christ to his homeland. As is customary, at the start of an Apostolic journey, the Pope answers questions put to him by journalists who are travelling in his entourage.
Introducing the press conference, Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, said that there are some 4.000 accredited journalists on the ground in Germany to report on the journey. On the plane – he revealed - there are 68 journalists, 20 or so of them, of German nationality.
Pope Benedict then answered four questions: one in German and three in Italian.
The first very “personal” question regarded how “German” does the Pope still feel himself to be.
Benedict noted that his entire cultural formation was received in Germany. German is his language, and continues to be the language in which he reads most books. For this reason – he said – his German identity is still very strong. A sense of belonging to its history, in all of its greatness and its weaknesses, cannot and must not be erased. However, he said, for a Christian there is more: Baptism is a rebirth and the belonging to a new people which includes all peoples and all cultures without losing one’s natural origin. And having taken on the supreme responsibility of this new people – as Pope – it is clear, Benedict explained, that the roots grow into a tree that branches out in many directions. So the sense of belonging to this great community of the Catholic Church is ever deeper and more vibrant. Summing up, he said, the sense of origin remains but it is enshrouded in a greater belonging, in “civitas Dei” as Augustin would say, where we are all brothers and sisters.
In the second question the Pope was asked about the number of German Catholics formally renouncing their membership in the Church, also because of the abuses committed by clergy on minors. He was asked about his own sentiment regarding this issue and what words would he have for those who want to leave the Church.
Some, he said, have left because of the revelation of “terrible scandals” involving clerical sexual abuse, especially if the scandals have affected people close to them. For others, in this secularized society, it is often the last step in a long process of moving away from the Catholic community. The Pope said the church is “the Lord’s net” and like any fisherman’s net, there can be bad fish. Catholic leaders need to explain and help people understand the nature of the Church as the people of God and “learn to withstand even these scandals and work against these scandals from the inside.”
In the third question he was asked about the planned protests in Germany during his visit, and with what sentiments he is travelling to his homeland.
Pope Benedict said that protests and criticism are normal in a free and secularized society. He voiced his respect for anyone who expresses his opinion in a civilized way. But, he said, there are also great expectations and great love for the Pope in Germany and he added that in many sectors of the German population, there is a growing sense of a need for a moral voice in society. “For this reason” Pope Benedict concluded “I travel with joy to my Germany and I am happy to bring the message of Christ to my homeland”.
In the fourth question the Pope was asked about his visit to Erfurt and to the Augustinian Convent of Martin Luther where an ecumenical celebration will take place.
When I accepted the invitation to this journey – the Pope pointed out - it was evident that ecumenism with our Lutheran friends had to be a central point. We live in a secularized time, and all Christians have a mission to bring witness to the message of Christ. Thus, even although we are not institutionally united, we are united in our faith in Christ, in the Holy Trinity and in man made in the image of God. And it is essential in this historic moment to show the world this unity. Therefore - he said – I am very grateful to our protestant friends, sisters and brothers, who have made this encounter possible. I am happy to be able to show this fundamental unity, that we are working together for the good of humanity, announcing Christ’s message of joy.
From 23 to 25 September, Moscow’s Cathedral of Immaculate Conception will mark its centennial anniversary. Described by the pope as “a bright symbol of the strength of faith”, the building was defaced and its members repressed for 50 years. Archbishop Pezzi and Vatican envoy Card Tomko took part in the celebrations.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – Russia’s biggest Catholic church, Moscow’s Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, will mark its first 100 years on 23-25 September. Many bishops will arrive in the Russian capital from Poland, the United States, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Lithuania, guests of the archbishop of the Mother of God, Mgr. Paolo Pezzi. The Pope, whose visit to Russia continues to be a sensitive issue in the ecumenical dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church, will be symbolically join Russia’s Catholics through his special envoy, Card Jozef Tomko. Benedict XVI gave him a letter in which he describes Moscow’s cathedral as “a bright symbol of the strength of faith”.
The letter notes that Tomko, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples who will hold Mass on 25 September, brings to Russia’s Catholics the Pontiff’s greetings and exhortation, that through Mary’s intercession, they may lead a life full of faith and charity.
The history of Moscow’s cathedral is one of “suffering and redemption”, Benedict XVI writes in his letter. Built between 1901 and 1911, on Malaya Gruzinskaya Street, as a home for the parish of Saints Peter and Paul and that of Saint Louis as well as the capital’s 30,000 Catholics, mostly Poles, the church “shared the destiny of most Russian churches, falling under the yoke of militant atheism,” Mgr Pezzi noted.
After the October Revolution, it was declared “national property” and parishioners had to pay high taxes to keep it open as a place of worship. Members’ faith was strong to keep it alive. However, in 1938, Soviet authorities closed it for good. Defaced, deconsecrated and turned into a factory, it became the Mosspetspromproekt Research Institute in 1956.
Mgr Pezzi himself explained that the Malaya Gruzinskaya community suffered severely under Stalin’s cruel repression. In his address, he mentioned the names of three of the many martyrs connected with the parish. The first one is the first rector, Fr Mikhail Tsakul (1885-1938), who was executed at the infamous Butovo firing range. The second is Fr Leonid Fedorov, exarch of Eastern rite Catholics who celebrated his last Easter Mass at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception before he was killed. The third is Fr Sergey Solovyov, vice exarch of Russian Catholics, and nephew of the famous religious philosopher Vladimir Solovyov.
Things began changing with Gorbatchev’s perestroika. In 1989, the association “Poland House” applied for the return of the church, said Fr Kirill Gorbunov, spokesman of the archdiocese. In December 1990, the first authorised Mass was held in the church parvis. Despite the biting cold, hundreds of people attended the service, the clergyman noted. Starting in June 1991, Eucharistic services were celebrated there till January 1996 when the Mosspetspromproekt left the building and the next month the parish was informed that it had the right to use the church. With funds raised among the faithful and money from donors, restoration work began. On 12 December 1999, then Vatican Secretary of State Card Angelo Sodano re-consecrated the building. With the creation of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in 2002, the church earned the status of cathedral.
Like most of Russia’s Catholic Churches, the Immaculate Conception represents the “universal Church in miniature”, Fr Gorbunov explained. Most parishioners are Russian but with roots in other countries, inextricably linked to the local culture. In the church, Masses are celebrated in Polish, English, Spanish, Korean and Armenian.
Over the years, the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception has become a point of reference for the cultural life of the capital. Celebrations for the centennial of its dedication include concerts of sacred music, the inauguration of a monument to Mother Teresa of Kolkata, a photo exhibit, and the presentation of a book and a film dedicated to the cathedral’s history, which is a “significant monument” to the Marian faith of all Christians, as noted by the pope.
Sydney Archdiocese REPORT
16 Sep 2011
Robyn and her husband Leigh have love, warmth and big hearts and for the past decade have not only been Mum and Dad to their own three children but foster parents to many more.
Not only do Robyn and Leigh welcome foster children into their four-bedroom Sydney home, parenting them with patience, commonsense, humour and plenty of love, but they do what they can to make sure siblings are not separated.
Currently the couple, who prefer their surname is not mentioned to ensure the privacy of their young charges, are caring for three brothers from one family and a sister and brother from another.
Among the 80 dedicated parents and their families with CatholicCare who offer short or long term foster care to children, Robyn and Leigh can be relied on to step in when fostering is needed for a family group.
Now as Foster Care Week is celebrated across Australia from 11-17 September, Robyn talks about her role as a specialist carer of siblings.
CatholicCare, the Archdiocese of Sydney's welfare agency offers a wide range of different types of foster care including emergency foster care, short or long term foster care, respite care for children and fostering for children with disabilities. But Robyn and Leigh are one of the few who specialise in fostering groups of siblings.
"For siblings to be separated can be very traumatic and we have the room," she says, explaining that in the couple's big old house, she and Leigh have one bedroom, their youngest daughter another, with the three brothers who range in age from 10 to 14 sharing the third bedroom and the two little ones, a four-year-old girl and two-year-old boy in the fourth bedroom. "Everything's pretty basic but for the kids it seems to work well."
Robyn and Leigh are no strangers to fostering and began caring for youngsters who needed a temporary home and plenty of love and care more than 25 years ago.
"When the two eldest of our three kids were small, we became foster parents as well. We really enjoyed it and found it was something we could do that was both rewarding as well as worthwhile. But as our kids grew older and life became more hectic, we took a break from fostering, although we always knew we'd return to it at some stage in the future," Robyn explains.
Originally based in Melbourne, Leigh and Robyn not only fostered children when their own brood were young but for many years worked at Victoria's St Joseph's Homes, a large residential care facility for children founded by St Vincent de Paul Society and now run by the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart.
Later, moving to Sydney where Leigh works at Kingsford Smith Airport, and with their youngest daughter in her final years at high school, Robyn came an ad for CatholicCare which said the Archdiocese of Sydney's welfare agency was looking for families to foster groups of siblings.
"Looking after kids is something we're pretty good at and we thought we could help," she says with a smile.
As with all prospective foster parents, CatholicCare checked out the family's credentials, then after undergoing further training, Robyn and Leigh began caring for groups of young sisters and brothers and opening both their hearts and their home.
"As foster parents officially we're down as providing temporary care, but this can be anything from a few months to several years," says Robyn laughing and explains that the three boys have been with them for four and a half years now and may be there for some time to come.
"But the two little ones are only with us for several weeks while their mother is in hospital and unable to care for them," she says.
The reasons children need foster care vary and they often enter care because a parent is ill and a mother is simply worn down, exhausted and for a short time, unable to cope. There are also cases where parents may be experiencing difficulties looking after their children, or a marriage has broken up and the parent now single is having a tough time.
There are also instances where because of drugs or alcohol abuse, parents may be unable to care for their children.
"Most parents love their kids very much but for complex and different reasons find they are unable to take care of them. But whatever these reasons, at CatholicCare the hope is that eventually all children in our foster care program will be reunited with their families," says Andree Borc, CatholicCare's Manager for the Professional Support of Children.
According to Robyn the big thing for a foster parent is not to be judgemental, to understand how important a child's parents are in their lives and to encourage contact if that's what the children want.
"The three boys know they can call their mum and dad anytime they want to and if there is something special like a prize giving I make sure their parents are invited and know they can come along too," says Robyn who originally had the three sisters of the boys also living with her.
"They were with us for close on three and a half years and now are with another family. Younger than their brothers, we made sure it was a three month transition so everyone could get used to the idea and while it was a sad time for us when the girls left, we make sure they are still part of each others lives."
Next week when school holidays begin, Robyn and the little girls' new foster parents have arranged for the brothers and their sisters to spend a whole day together and are already planning other events.
At 56, Robyn is full of energy matched with a self-deprecating sense of humour and keen sense of the ridiculous.
"Some mothers say to me that this is something they'd like to do too, but quickly add that they don't think their husbands or children could cope with the intrusion," she says and shakes her head. "It's a mistake many people make. There's no intrusion into your life if you don't let it be. Our life just goes on as always whether we have foster children or not. If we go on holiday everyone comes along. Whatever we do everyone is included."
Robyn and Leigh, however, insist on house rules, the same rules their own kids had to follow. "The children who come to us know from the outset what the house rules are and that there are no exceptions. Kids like knowing boundaries and while they might kick up a bit at first, it is amazing how quickly they adjust and how much happier they are as a result," she says.
The house rules include everyone sitting down for a meal together not only in the evening but at breakfast. "We're old fashioned and use meals as get togethers and a time for all of us to talk and tell each other about our day," she says.
Robyn also uses the two kilometres she walks with the kids to school each day as a time to exchange ideas, thoughts and have a good "natter."
"I've never had a driving license so the kids and I walk everywhere and on the walk to and from school we have a great chat and the best time."
The two eldest in Robyn's own family have long since left home with her 30-year-old son now a trained nurse and her 31-year-old daughter working in hospitality in Melbourne. Robyn and Leigh's youngest daughter who is 21 and studying to be a social worker, is the only one of three still living at home.
"My children all have their own lives now but they learned a lot sharing the house with other kids when they were growing up," Robyn says. "Quite a bit rubbed off on them such as their choice of career in nursing and in social work. And from an early age they realised that some kids had it much tougher than they did. Fostering also helps your own kids learn to share and to help others."
For Robyn though one of the most personally rewarding moments from her years of fostering came just a few weeks ago courtesy of cyberspace.
"One of the boys we fostered when my kids were at primary school found us through one of my children's pages on Facebook. He spent four years with us as a youngster. He's now 28 and said he had spent his whole life looking for us as his time in our family was the best time of his life. He had vivid memories of his time with us. I know people say that kids are so young they won't remember but he did and was sad he hadn't been able to get in touch with us."
Robyn and her former foster child are now in contact by email and hope to meet in Melbourne in the near future.
"It is wonderful to have feedback like that. Another girl we cared for also got in touch via my daughter's Facebook page. She's was a very troubled little girl but is now grown up with children of her own and we're arranging a get together."
But for Robyn the quiet joy of being a foster parent occurs each evening when she's tucked the last one into bed, straightened the cushions and having made herself a coffee, sat down on the couch.
"There's a feeling of warmth and contentment, a really feeling of accomplishment and love," she says.
To volunteer to become a foster family and to learn more about CatholicCare's Foster program log on towww.fosterkids.com.au
A priest who swapped a medical career for a life of dangerous missions has been named the Philippines’ Provincial Superior of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI).
Father Lauro de los Santos De Guia will take over from Father Ramon Maria Bernabe, who has held the post since 2005, on October 11. The search by the OMI Superior General council in Rome was a lengthy one, lasting almost a year.
The OMI is the seventh largest religious congregation of men in the world, with a reputation for missionary work in arduous regions; Pope Pius XI named them “Specialists in the Most Difficult Missions of the Church.”
Accordingly, Father De Guia’s impressive CV includes a number of sizeable challenges. At the time of the OMI announcement on Sunday, the man who is fondly called “Father Doc” was in his third year as parish priest of Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.
He said he was prepared to live a “very simple” life when he first accepted the difficult mission in Jolo vicariate, where only about one percent of the 26,000 people are Catholics. Most of the rest are Muslims.
The 55 year-old from Bulacan joined the Oblates in 1986, three years after finishing his doctorate in medicine.
He said he gave up his career in medicine because “my heart belongs to the poor. My passion is working for them so they know God loves them so much.”
After his ordination in 1992, Father De Guia was sent to Datu Piang parish in Maguindanao, at the height of Moro rebellion.
His next assignments took him to high-risk areas in North Cotabato, and other parts of Maguindanao. In Bongao, his confrere Father Rey Roda was shot dead when resisting a kidnap attempt.
Even that incident in 2009 failed to dampen the Oblates’ enthusiasm to serve the people of Tawi-tawi. And despite its ordeals and deprivations, Father De Guia has derived great satisfaction from his chosen path.
“My being a doctor and priest in difficult and remote OMI missions has served a purpose,” he said, “because I can answer the spiritual, health and medical needs of people who have not seen a doctor. This has been very fulfilling.”
Feast: September 22
1555, in Valencia, Spain
November 1, 1658 by Pope Alexander VII
Educator, philanthropist, born at Fuentellana, Spain, 1488; died at Valencia, 8 September, 1555. Son of Aloazo Tomas Garcia and Lucia Martinez Castellanos, the saint was brought up in the practices of religion and charity. Every Friday his father was wont to give in alms all the meal he earned at the mill, besides his usual daily dole of bread. On great feast-days he added wood, wine, and money; while to poor farmers he loaned money and seed. On the death of her husband, Lucia continued the usual alms, and supplied indigent maidens in the neighbourhood with clothing and money. When sixteen tears old, Thomas entered the University of Alcala, where, after proceeding master of arts and licentiate in theology, he filled the chair (1514) of arts, logic, and philosophy. Among his auditors were the famed scholars Ferdinand de Encina and Dominic Soto. With Alcala, however, ended his university associations, he having declined the chair of natural philosophy at Salamanca, where he joined the Augustinians in 1516, his vows following a year later, and his ordination to priesthood the year after; his first Mass was celebrated at Christmas, 1518. At Salamanca Convent Thomas was given the class of scholastic theology because of his attachment for books, chiefly the Lombard and St. Thomas, and his exemplary life. Preaching in the pulpits of Spain was soon added to his duties, among other places at Valencia, the field of his later trials, and Valladolid, seat of the imperial Court and residence of the Emperor Charles V when on his visits to the Low Countries. In this last-named city St. Thomas was named by the emperor his court preacher, and one of his councillors of state. Rarely, however, did the saint pay visits of ceremony to the then master of Europe, though his written correspondence with Charles, who held his opinions in high esteem, was voluminous. Towards the close of his life, while at Valencia, he had all the emperor's letters destroyed; his own letters to the emperor, however, are now stored at Simancas.
Apart from these burdens Thomas held many offices of trust in his order, e.g. as convent prior in various cities, among others at Valladolid in 1544, the very year he was called to the See of Valencia. Moreover, he was twice provincial-prior, first of Andalusia and Castile in 1527, then six years later of Castile alone, whence the first mission band of his brethren was sent across the Atlantic in 1533 to establish houses of their order in Mexico. On 5 Aug., 1544, he received his nomination to the Archbishopric of Valencia, a post that for well-nigh a hundred years had witnessed no bishop in residence, an appointment that was confirmed by Paul III. Previously St. Thomas had declined the See of Granada, offered him by the emperor, while that of Valencia he accepted only through obedience to his superiors. He was consecrated in the church of his order at Valladolid by Juan, Cardinal Tavera de Pardo, Archbishop of Toledo. On his entrance to his see on 1 Jan., 1545, of which he was thirty-second bishop and eighth archbishop, St. Thomas opened his career as legislator and philanthropist, which won for him the titles of "Almsgiver", "Father of the Poor", and "Model of Bishops", given him at his beatification in 1618 by Paul V. During his eleven years of episcopal rule his most noteworthy deeds were as follows: a visitation of his diocese, opened a few weeks after entrance into his see. Among other amendments he inhibited his visitators from accepting any gifts whatever. He then held a synod, the first at Valencia for many years, whereby he sought to do away with a number of abuses, as bloodshed, divorce, concubinage, and many excessive privileges or unreasonable exemptions; he abolished the underground prisons; rebuilt the general hospital at Valencia which had just been destroyed by fire; founded two colleges, one for young ecclesiastics, the other for poor students; laboured for the conversion of the
Towards the poor especially his heart was ever alive with pity; to them his palace gate was always open; daily he had a repast for every poor person that applied for help, as many even as four to five hundred thus getting their meals at his hands. In every district of the city he had almoners appointed with orders especially to search out the respectable persons who shrank from asking alms; these he had supplied with money, food, clothing, while as to indigent workmen, poor farmers, and mechanics, he replenished their stock and brought them tools, thus putting them in the way of making a living. His whole life as replete with acts of practical kindness. He spent his spare time chiefly in prayer and study; his table was one of simple fare, with no luxuries. His dress was inexpensive; he mended with his own hands whatever needed repairs. Numberless are the instances of St. Thomas' supernatural gifts, of his power of healing the sick, of multiplication of food, of redressing grievances, of his ecstasies, of his conversions of sinners. He was taken ill in August, 1555, of angina pectoris, of which he died at the age of 67, at the termination of Mass in his bedroom. His last words were the versicles: "In manus tuas, Domine", etc.; his remains were entombed at the convent Church of Our Lady of Help of his order outside the city walls, whence later they were brought to the cathedral. The saint was of well-knit frame, of medium height, with dark complexion, brilliant eyes, ruddy cheeks, and Roman nose. He was beatified by Paul V (7 Oct., 1618), who set his feast-day for 18 Sept., and canonized by Alexander VII on 1 Nov., 1658.
Various reasons are given to account for St. Thomas' non-appearance at the Council of Trent, among them that he was ill, unable to stand the fatigue of travel; that his people would not brook his absence; and that the emperor was unable to do without his aid at home. The writings of St. Thomas, mainly sermons, are replete with practical norms of mystic theology. Some twenty editions have been published, the best and most complete being probably that of Manila, 1882-1884, in 5 tomes.http://www.ewtn.com/saintsHoly/saints/T/stthomasofvillanova.asp
|Luke 9: 7 - 9|
|7||Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead,|
|8||by some that Eli'jah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen.|
|9||Herod said, "John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?" And he sought to see him.|