Israel, Jordan launch Web sites for pope’s visit


(CNS graphic/Emily Thompson)

VATICAN CITY — The Jordan Tourism Board and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism have opened special Web sites to help pilgrims wanting to follow Pope Benedict XVI’s May 8-15 pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The Jordanian site, which already has several video clips up, will provide live feeds of the papal events.

The Israeli site provides information in seven languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Polish and Portuguese. In addition to news about the pope’s visit, it includes information on the most popular Christian sites in Israel and in Palestine.

Both sites include information and photos from Pope John Paul II’s visit in 2000. The Israeli site says of Pope John Paul’s visit:  “His Holiness’ pilgrimage to the Holy Land for the Great Jubilee was the highlight of all of his papal pilgrimages. His visit to the cradle of Christianity bore historical, emotional and spiritual meaning not only for Christianity but also for the Jewish people.”

Of course, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land also has beefed up its Web site in advance of the trip and filled it with news stories from the Custody’s CTS news service.

Bishop accuses Chicago Tribune of anti-Catholic bias in Notre Dame coverage

The ongoing debate over next month’s University of Notre Dame commencement appearance by President Barack Obama took a new turn today when Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Chicago accused the Chicago Tribune of anti-Catholic bias in the opinion pieces it has run in recent weeks on the controversy. In a letter to the editor published today, he also cited a Tribune article that he said “features Catholics who have acted against Catholic Church teaching on in-vitro fertilization.”

The three opinion articles he cited included an April 3 Tribune editorial saying Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George was “deeply out of line” for his comments on the controversy, a March 31 column by Notre Dame alumnus Don Wycliff urging the university not to cave to pressure from opponents of Obama’s appearance, and an April 3 article by Obama campaign co-chairman William M. Daley, which Bishop Paprocki characterized as part of the Tribune’s effort “to enlist dissenting Catholics to be the mouthpiece of the newspaper’s attacks against the church’s teaching authority.”

“I don’t recall the Chicago Tribune ever running such stories and editorials against any other church or religion, let alone with such frequency or invective, so I can only conclude that the know-nothing views of the Chicago Tribune have not changed,” he wrote, referring to the anti-Catholicism of the Know-Nothing movement — and of the Tribune — in the mid-19th century.

Father Dear writes about his night in the Las Vegas jail

Franciscan Father Louis Vitale Brian Terrell, a Catholic Worker from Malloy, Iowa, stand outside Creech Air Force Base during Holy Week and the annual Nevada Desert Experience to end nuclear war preparations and unmitigated militarism. (Photo from Nevada Desert Experience)

Franciscan Father Louis Vitale and Brian Terrell, a Catholic Worker from Malloy, Iowa, stand outside Creech Air Force Base during Holy Week and the annual Nevada Desert Experience. (Photo from Nevada Desert Experience)

Digging a little deeper after yesterday’s blog post on the arrest of 14 peace activists who were guided by their faith to enter Creech Air Force Base near Las Vegas on Holy Thursday, we found an interesting account of the event from Father John Dear, one of those accused of trespassing.

The group had been in the midst of a 10-day vigil at Creech to call attention to the dangers the unmanned drones — controlled from the base — pose to innocent people in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Writing on, Father Dear described the group’s initial encounter with the soldiers, machine gun at the ready, who approached the nonviolent trespassers. Here’s an excerpt:

At the first notice of our presence, a young airman approached, fear in his eyes, and he began yelling, ordering us to turn around. He had an M-16 slung over his shoulder and he swung it toward us. His order notwithstanding, we continued to walk and started to sing.

The poor airman was undone and started shoving, first a friend, then me. He was growing furious, so we knelt down. Soon three other soldiers approached, all of them toting machine guns. Together they shouted, as if that would make any difference. We assured them we were unarmed, and we offered them our roses. The poor airmen, they stood befuddled. Should they shout louder? Should they open fire? Whatever their script, it failed them in the face of nonviolence. Meantime another drone flew overhead.

Link here for the rest of the story (with apologies to Paul Harvey).

CNS correspondent from India raises uncomfortable questions about anti-Christian violence

Journalist Anto Akkara, who has covered the church in India for Catholic News Service for years, recently released a book on the continued violence in the Kandhamal district of India’s Orissa state.

Kandhamal is the scene of Hindu extremist violence against Christians which began last August and continues today. Sixty people were killed and 50,000 people were displaced by the violence. Churches and homes were burnt to the ground.

In his book, “Kandhamal — A Blot on Indian Secularism,” Akkara retells the horrors of the victims and discusses the gross impunity of the local government in controlling the Hindu mob attacks.

“I think the the ashes in the Kandhamal are not of the churches or the Christians there. I think the ashes are the ashes of Indian secularism,” Akkara said.

Bishop D’Arcy says planned demonstrations “unseemly and unhelpful”

Bishop D'Arcy

Bishop D'Arcy

This was news to us, though perhaps you’ve already seen it: Bishop John M. D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., issued a new statement late last week calling on Catholics not to attend planned demonstrations when President Obama speaks at Notre Dame next month because they can be “unseemly and unhelpful.”

He also said he had a “positive meeting” with the president of the university, “and I expect further dialogue will continue.”

Here’s our story today.

TUESDAY UPDATE: Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, who has opened an office in South Bend to protest the Obama speech (as noted in our story), responded to Bishop D’Arcy this morning in an opinion column published in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

Holy Week actions connect Crucifixion with peacemaking

Catholic peace activist Paul Magno was arrested soon after he was chained to the White House fence in a "contemporary crucifixion" Good Friday as part of a campaign to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Catholic peace activist Paul Magno was arrested soon after he was chained to the White House fence in a "contemporary crucifixion" Good Friday as part of a campaign to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo from Witness Against Torture)

Among Catholic peacemakers Holy Week has become a time of witnessing for peace and prayerful resistance while recalling Christ’s crucifixion. Catholics were among 23 people arrested in at least three vigils across the country on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

The largest group of arrests came during the annual Nevada Desert Experience at Creech Air Force Base 40 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Fourteen people were charged with trespass after walking through an open gate seeking to talk with Air Force soldiers piloting unmanned drones over Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, one of those arrested, told Catholic News Service the group wanted to ask why attacks on innocent people were being carried out.

“It’s a new form of warfare in which a soldier doesn’t leave the base but yet can wreak terrible havoc on people,” she said.
Other arrested include Jesuit Fathers John Dear and Steve Kelly; Franciscan Fathers Louis Vitale and Jerry Zawada; Holy Child of Jesus Sister Megan Rice; and Catholic Workers Mariah Klusmire of Albuquerque, N.M., Brian Terrell of Maloy, Iowa, and Renee Espeland of Des Moines, Iowa. Arraignments are set for June 9.

On Good Friday eight people were arrested at the Pentagon for praying around a cross outside of a designated protest zone. They were among 50 people wearing black robes and white masks to symbolize the war dead. They had been part of a Holy Week Faith and Resistance retreat in Washington put together by the Jonah House community in Baltimore and Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in Washington.

Charged with disobeying a lawful order of a government agent and given a June 19 court date were Molly Brechtel, Susan Crane, Nancy Gowan, Brian Hynes, Bill Frankel-Streit, Art Laffin, Sister Margaret McKenna and David Ryle.

Longtime Catholic peace activist Paul Magno of Washington was arrested during a noon hour witness Good Friday at the White House in which he was chained to a fence in a “contemporary crucifixion” as a group of people sang “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” His action was part of Witness Against Torture’s 100 Day Campaign to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Pope Benedict’s message “urbi et orbi”

VATICAN CITY — Here is the Vatican’s English translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s message “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world):

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world,

From the depths of my heart, I wish all of you a blessed Easter. To quote Saint Augustine, “Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra – the resurrection of the Lord is our hope” (Sermon 261:1). With these words, the great Bishop explained to the faithful that Jesus rose again so that we, though destined to die, should not despair, worrying that with death life is completely finished; Christ is risen to give us hope (cf. ibid.).


Pope Benedict XVI delivered his message and offered his blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica this morning. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Indeed, one of the questions that most preoccupies men and women is this: what is there after death? To this mystery today’s solemnity allows us to respond that death does not have the last word, because Life will be victorious at the end. This certainty of ours is based not on simple human reasoning, but on a historical fact of faith: Jesus Christ, crucified and buried, is risen with his glorified body. Jesus is risen so that we too, believing in him, may have eternal life. This proclamation is at the heart of the Gospel message. As Saint Paul vigorously declares: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” He goes on to say: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:14,19). Ever since the dawn of Easter a new Spring of hope has filled the world; from that day forward our resurrection has begun, because Easter does not simply signal a moment in history, but the beginning of a new condition: Jesus is risen not because his memory remains alive in the hearts of his disciples, but because he himself lives in us, and in him we can already savour the joy of eternal life.

The resurrection, then, is not a theory, but a historical reality revealed by the man Jesus Christ by means of his “Passover”, his “passage”, that has opened a “new way” between heaven and earth (cf. Heb 10:20). It is neither a myth nor a dream, it is not a vision or a utopia, it is not a fairy tale, but it is a singular and unrepeatable event: Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, who at dusk on Friday was taken down from the Cross and buried, has victoriously left the tomb. In fact, at dawn on the first day after the Sabbath, Peter and John found the tomb empty. Mary Magdalene and the other women encountered the risen Jesus. On the way to Emmaus the two disciples recognized him at the breaking of the bread. The Risen One appeared to the Apostles that evening in the Upper Room and then to many other disciples in Galilee.

The proclamation of the Lord’s Resurrection lightens up the dark regions of the world in which we live. I am referring particularly to materialism and nihilism, to a vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable, and retreats cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be the definitive destiny of human life. It is a fact that if Christ had not risen, the “emptiness” would be set to prevail. If we take away Christ and his resurrection, there is no escape for man, and every one of his hopes remains an illusion. Yet today is the day when the proclamation of the Lord’s resurrection vigorously bursts forth, and it is the answer to the recurring question of the sceptics, that we also find in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’?” (Ec 1:10). We answer, yes: on Easter morning, everything was renewed. “Mors et vita, duello conflixere mirando: dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus – Death and life have come face to face in a tremendous duel: the Lord of life was dead, but now he lives triumphant.” This is what is new! A newness that changes the lives of those who accept it, as in the case of the saints. This, for example, is what happened to Saint Paul.

Many times, in the context of the Pauline year, we have had occasion to meditate on the experience of the great Apostle. Saul of Tarsus, the relentless persecutor of Christians, encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, and was “conquered” by him. The rest we know. In Paul there occurred what he would later write about to the Christians of Corinth: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). Let us look at this great evangelizer, who with bold enthusiasm and apostolic zeal brought the Gospel to many different peoples in the world of that time. Let his teaching and example inspire us to go in search of the Lord Jesus. Let them encourage us to trust him, because that sense of emptiness, which tends to intoxicate humanity, has been overcome by the light and the hope that emanate from the resurrection. The words of the Psalm have truly been fulfilled: “Darkness is not darkness for you, and the night is as clear as the day” (Ps 139 [138]:12). It is no longer emptiness that envelops all things, but the loving presence of God. The very reign of death has been set free, because the Word of life has even reached the “underworld”, carried by the breath of the Spirit (v. 8).


Pilgrims praying last night during the Easter Vigil at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City. (CNS photo/ Debbie Hill)

If it is true that death no longer has power over man and over the world, there still remain very many, in fact too many signs of its former dominion. Even if through Easter, Christ has destroyed the root of evil, he still wants the assistance of men and women in every time and place who help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love. This is the message which, during my recent Apostolic Visit to Cameroon and Angola, I wanted to convey to the entire African continent, where I was welcomed with such great enthusiasm and readiness to listen. Africa suffers disproportionately from the cruel and unending conflicts, often forgotten, that are causing so much bloodshed and destruction in several of her nations, and from the growing number of her sons and daughters who fall prey to hunger, poverty and disease. I shall repeat the same message emphatically in the Holy Land, to which I shall have the joy of travelling in a few weeks from now. Reconciliation – difficult, but indispensable – is a precondition for a future of overall security and peaceful coexistence, and it can only be achieved through renewed, persevering and sincere efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My thoughts move outwards from the Holy Land to neighbouring countries, to the Middle East, to the whole world. At a time of world food shortage, of financial turmoil, of old and new forms of poverty, of disturbing climate change, of violence and deprivation which force many to leave their homelands in search of a less precarious form of existence, of the ever-present threat of terrorism, of growing fears over the future, it is urgent to rediscover grounds for hope. Let no one draw back from this peaceful battle that has been launched by Christ’s Resurrection. For as I said earlier, Christ is looking for men and women who will help him to affirm his victory using his own weapons: the weapons of justice and truth, mercy, forgiveness and love.

Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra! The resurrection of Christ is our hope! This the Church proclaims today with joy. She announces the hope that is now firm and invincible because God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. She communicates the hope that she carries in her heart and wishes to share with all people in every place, especially where Christians suffer persecution because of their faith and their commitment to justice and peace. She invokes the hope that can call forth the courage to do good, even when it costs, especially when it costs. Today the Church sings “the day that the Lord has made”, and she summons people to joy. Today the Church calls in prayer upon Mary, Star of Hope, asking her to guide humanity towards the safe haven of salvation which is the heart of Christ, the paschal Victim, the Lamb who has “redeemed the world”, the Innocent one who has “reconciled us sinners with the Father”. To him, our victorious King, to him who is crucified and risen, we sing out with joy our Alleluia!