Rome, May. 29, 2008 (CWNews.com) - In a May 29 talk to the Italian bishops' conference, Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) argued that a democratic state should support Catholic schools. Since the government invests resources in many different projects, the Holy Father reasoned, "there does not appear to be any justification for excluding adequate support for the work of Church institutions in the field of education." Public investment in Catholic schools, he said, "could not fail to produce beneficial effects" for secular society.
The Italian bishops are holding their 58th general assembly in Rome this week, with the meetings taking place in the Vatican Synod hall. The Pope spoke to the bishops about the main topics for this meeting: education and evangelization. Italy today faces an "educational crisis," the Pope warned, raising a theme that he has mentioned frequently during his pontificate. The Pontiff has repeatedly spoken about the need to provide young people with adequate moral and cultural formation. From the Catholic perspective, he said, the educational crisis involves "the transmission of the faith to new generations."
1 Pt 2:2-5, 9-12 / Mk 10:46-52 For about 1500 years, from the time of Moses down to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, Jewish worship centered on sacrifices in their temple. There was a special sacrifice for every circumstance and each one was grounded in a key insight into human nature. For example, every morning began with the holocaust sacrifice. An unblemished lamb and a loaf of the finest bread were burned on the altar, and a cup of choice wine was poured into the ground. Symbolically, the people were giving back to God the essentials they needed to live. In effect they were saying, “We know it all comes from you, Lord, and we’re very grateful.” How wise they were!
They had other sacrifices as well. Sacrifices of praise and of thanksgiving. Sacrifices for sins and for peace. Each one had its own prescribed ritual and special meaning, but probably the most interesting of all was the sacrifice for unknown sins. This was more than just a bit of insurance in case a person had skipped the fine print and ended up breaking some obscure rule he knew nothing about. The sacrifice for unknown sins came from something the wise old rabbis had learned about human nature, and that is, sometimes we’re all spiritually blind. Sometimes we just don’t see ourselves clearly or accurately. Sometimes we don’t see what we’re doing to others, what effect we’re having on them. Sometimes we don’t see the big patterns in our lives, though everyone else sees them. And sometimes we don’t see the not-so-lovely ideas that are shaping our lives at the core. Sometimes our blindness lasts just a little while, and sometimes a whole lifetime. But always inner blindness is a hazard for every one of us. It can strike any one of us at a moment’s notice! Now why is that so? Why do good people like us fail to see so much? I think there are probably two reasons: First of all, very few of us were ever taught to ask carefully at every turn of the road, “What am I really doing, and why am I doing it?” We just weren’t taught to look methodically for the truth about ourselves. And so, unseeing, we live a lot on the outside of things. Secondly, even those who were taught discover that quite often, as we begin to see, fear intervenes, and turns out the lights. Fear of the ugliness we may see. Fear of what we may have to change if we let ourselves see. Fear that whatever is wrong will be too much for us. Fear there’s nothing of value within us. And, so out of fear, often we live unseeing on the outside of things. Our fears would be entirely justifiable if we were walking this road alone. But we are not alone. The Lord himself is at our side with his hand outstretched to steady and encourage and strengthen us. We have no cause to fear now, and no reason to close our eyes any more, for there is nothing that we and the Lord cannot face together. And so it is time for us to cry out with that blind man in the Gospel, “Lord, I want to see. Lord, I am ready to see whatever there is to see, because now I know for sure that I’m not alone!”
HARARE, Zimbabwe, MAY 27, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Many Zimbabwean priests are in hiding out of fear for their lives, Aid to the Church in Need reported.The statement Monday from the charity organization coincided with ongoing reports of an intimidation campaign leading up to the June 27 runoff election between President Robert Mugabe, 84, and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.Tsvangirai won the March elections, but supposedly not by a wide enough margin to have clinched the victory. Results from that election were withheld for weeks; meanwhile human rights groups began to report torture and even the killing of those who had voted against Mugabe.
A priest, who remained anonymous for safety reasons, informed Aid to the Church in Need that people who voted against Mugabe's party have been kidnapped, tortured, maimed and raped by soldiers -- particularly in rural areas. "Many Catholic priests and lay people are on the wanted lists of these soldiers and militia groups," he said, "and many of them are forced to remain in hiding following death threats." Reprisals come after the Catholic Church joined with other denominations earlier this month to speak out about the country's deteriorating human rights situation, including the organized violence in areas that did not vote for Mugabe. Making a bad situation worse, local hospitals are unable to care for the wounded due to lack of even basic painkillers, Aid to the Church in Need lamented.
The priest who spoke with the aid group said he fears the situation will only deteriorate as the runoff nears.Food is being withheld from those who did not vote for Mugape, he said, and despite their best efforts, Catholic dioceses are unable obtain any food for the hungry.
In any case, with an inflation rate at 160,000%, food has been scarce for months.A report on post-election violence by the Christian human rights organization the Solidarity Peace Trust, published in Johannesburg on May 21, contained up to 50 eye-witness accounts of orchestrated beatings, torture and the destruction of homes and shops.
The probe has sent back pictures of a flat landscape with few rocks A Nasa spacecraft has sent back the first historic pictures of an unexplored region of Mars. The Mars Phoenix lander touched down in the far north of the Red Planet, after a 680 million-km (423 million-mile) journey from Earth.
VATICAN CITY, MAY 25, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The feast of Corpus Christi is an invitation to Christians to work for the elimination of world hunger, says Benedict XVI. The Pope affirmed this today in his address to thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray the midday Angelus. "Last week our gaze was attracted by the mystery of the most holy Trinity," the Holy Father said. "Today we are invited to look upon the consecrated Host: It is the same God! The same Love! This is the beauty of Christian truth: The Creator and Lord of all things became 'a grain of wheat' to be sown in our earth, in the furrow of our history; he became bread to be broken, shared, eaten; he became our food to give us life, his own divine life. "He was born in Bethlehem, which in Hebrew means 'House of Bread,' and when he began to preach to the crowds he revealed that the Father sent him into the world as 'living bread come down from heaven,' as 'bread of life.'"
The Pontiff affirmed that the Eucharist is "the school of charity and solidarity." "Those who eat the Bread of Christ cannot remain indifferent before those who, even in our days, lack daily bread," he stated. "Many parents are barely able to provide for themselves and their children. It is a grave and growing problem that the international community finds hard to solve. "The Church does not only pray 'give us this day our daily bread,' but, following the Lord's example, works in every way 'to multiply the five loaves and two fish' with countless humanitarian efforts and sharing so that no one remains without the necessities of life." Rome will host a U.N. summit in early June where the growing global food crisis is to be discussed. A drastic increase in food prices, caused by a variety of factors, including the growing use of biofuels, has poor countries struggling to pay for basic sustenance. "Dear brothers and sisters, may the feast of Corpus Domini be an occasion to grow in this concrete attention to our brothers, especially the poor," Benedict XVI encouraged. "May the Virgin Mary obtain this grace for us.
"May Mary, who, carrying Jesus in her womb, was the living 'tabernacle' of the Eucharist, communicate to us her faith in the holy mystery of the Body and Blood of her divine Son, that he may truly be the center of our life."
23.05.2008, Today from the vatican newsletter: The Apostolic See has erected a new Ecclesiastical province of Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia), formerly under the province of Kuching, Sarawak. The pope has nominated the first Archbishop Metropolitan of Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia) S.E. Mons. John Lee Hiong Fun-Yit Yaw (the present bishop of Kota Kinabalu-bishop Datuk John Lee)
The are about 310,000 Roman Catholic populations new Province of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, 8.8% of the 3.5 million of inhabitants. There are also a various Christians denomination in the state and there are called “Christian Sabah”.
The new Division:
a). The Archdiocese of Kuching , with Sibu and Miri in the suffragan dioceses
b). The Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, with Keningau and Sandakan in the suffragan dioceses
According to the canon law in Latin Church, the metropolitan, who is the archbishop of the diocese which he heads, preside over an ecclesiastical province; this office is connected with an Episcopal see which has been determined or approved by the Roman Pontiff (can. 435)
Meanwhile, all the bishops in the Region of Malaysia, Singapore, Burunei, will be in Rome on the first week of June this year to meet the Pope-Ad Limina visit.
VATICAN CITY, MAY 22, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's secretary of state clarified that a 2005 Vatican document saying homosexual men should not be admitted to seminaries applies to religious congregations and Eastern Churches as well. L'Osservatore Romano published the brief clarification from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who said the Pope had approved the statement April 8.The cardinal's clarification said the guidelines expressed in the 2005 letter from the Congregation for Catholic Education apply to "all houses of formation for the priesthood, including those under the Dicasteries for Eastern Churches, for the Evangelization of Peoples, and for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life."--- --- --- On the Net:Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders: www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_20051104_istruzione_en.html
SYDNEY, Australia, MAY 21, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI will visit the shrine of Australia's Blessed Mary MacKillop during his visit to Sydney in July.The visit was confirmed by Vatican officials, in Sydney this week to inspect planning and preparations for World Youth Day 2008. "Today we can confirm that the Holy Father will visit the tomb of Blessed Mary MacKillop, one of WYD08's 10 patrons," said Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher, coordinator of the event. "Mary MacKillop's story of serving the poor and the uneducated is inspiring to all Australians and we hope she will also inspire the youth of the world."
The apostolic nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, confirmed the Holy Father will pray at MacKillop's tomb in North Sydney during his stay. "The Holy Father will be one of the thousands of pilgrims who will visit her shrine in July," Archbishop Lazzarotto said. "He will pray for Australia and the young pilgrims of the world so that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit and be witnesses to Christ." The Bishop of Rome will spend eight days in Australia, including three days of private rest and reflection prior to his official arrival at Sydney Harbor on July 17. Sydney will host the 23rd World Youth Day from July 15-20.
ROCCA DI PAPA, Italy, MAY 20, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Buddhists and Christians can find a point of unity and understanding in the Buddhist concept of compassion and the Christian understanding of love, concluded experts at an interreligious dialogue meeting.The Buddhist and Christian representatives, gathered April 26-30 in Rocca di Papa, near Rome, by the Catholic lay Focolare movement, considered the unifying elements in their respective traditions.
Focolare Father Cinto Busquet spoke with ZENIT about the importance of the meeting: "The sincere and radical openness to the religious experience of the other, on the base of love and compassion lived among us, has permitted being able to have together a shared experience of God, who has illuminated both us Christians and our Buddhist brothers."Father Busquet, who has worked for more than 17 years in Japan, said the participants were able to speak freely of their faith experiences."Certainly, and following their tradition, our Buddhist friends do not speak of God, but rather of Buddha or Darma, but both we and they have been able to speak with full liberty of the respective faith experiences, feeling welcomed and profoundly understood by each other in the infinite mystery of God," he said.
Ryoko Nishioka, from Japan, noted how the meeting was the third of its kind. He said it "had a special significance, since as Buddhists and Christians we have gone deeper into what Buddhist compassion and Christian love mean. I believe that in the practice of this love and understanding, we can find depth."
GENOA, Italy, MAY 19, 2008 (Zenit.org).- In a society torn between globalization and individualism, Benedict XVI says the Church is called to offer a witness of communion.The Pope affirmed this on Sunday near the end of his two-day apostolic trip to Genoa and Savona. In his homily at the closing Mass on the solemnity of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Father said the feast "invites us to contemplate him, the Lord; it invites us, in a certain sense, to climb up 'the mountain' as Moses did. Although at first sight this may seem to take us away from the world and its problems, in reality we discover that it is precisely by knowing God more closely that we also receive precious practical guidelines for life.""Human beings do not achieve fulfillment in absolute autonomy, by fooling themselves that they are God but, on the contrary, by recognizing themselves as children, creatures open to and reaching out toward God and toward their fellow men, in whose faces they see the image of the common Father," he said.The Pontiff continued: "It is clear that this concept of God and man lies at the foundations of a corresponding model of human community, and hence of society.
As a model it predates any form of normative, juridical or institutional regulation and, I would say, any kind of cultural specification. "It is a transversal model of the human family common to all civilizations; something which, from childhood, we Christians are wont to express by affirming that men are all children of God and, hence, brothers."In a society torn between globalization and individualism, the Church is called to offer her witness of 'koinonia,' of communion. This reality does not come 'from the roots' but is a mystery that, so to say, has its 'roots in heaven,' in the one and triune God."Attractive commitmentsBenedict XVI encouraged the faithful to take an interest in "spiritual and catechetical formation," which he described as "a 'substantial' formation, more necessary than ever in order to live a Christian vocation well in today's world."Addressing adults and young people, he said, "Cultivate a well-thought-out faith, one capable of engaging in profound dialogue with everyone, with our non-Catholic brethren, with non-Christians, with non-believers.
"He had a special word for youth discerning their vocations."With particular affection, I encourage seminarians and young people following vocational journeys: Do not be afraid; rather, feel the attraction of definitive choices, of a serious and demanding formative journey," he said.The Pope concluded his homily by calling on the Church in Genoa to remain "united and missionary, so as to announce to everyone the joy of the faith and the beauty of being God's family. [...] Look to the future with trust and seek to build it together, avoiding factional disputes."Following Mass, the Holy Father traveled to Genoa's Christopher Columbus airport where he boarded his flight for Rome.
Emptiness and fullness at first seem complete opposites. But in the spiritual life they are not. In the spiritual life we find the fulfillment of our deepest desires by becoming empty for God.We must empty the cups of our lives completely to be able to receive the fullness of life from God. Jesus lived this on the cross. The moment of complete emptiness and complete fullness become the same. When he had given all away to his Abba, his dear Father, he cried out, "It is fulfilled" (John 19:30). He who was lifted up on the cross was also lifted into the resurrection. He who had emptied and humbled himself was raised up and "given the name above all other names" (see Philippians 2:7-9). Let us keep listening to Jesus' question: "Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?" (Matthew 20:22).
ALOR STAR, Mon: After goading Umno members today to temporarily resign from Umno as a sign of protest against the party president, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad took up a “dare” to take the lead by resigning from the party he had been a founding member of since 1946. However, he implored Umno members taking up his challenge not to join any other party and remain independent, at least until the Umno leadership was determined (after the December party elections). He said he will only rejoin the party when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi steps down as Umno president.
Dr Mahathir was answering questions from the floor after giving a talk at a forum entitled 'Malays’ Future after the 12th General Election' at the Star City Hotel in Alor Star when a member of the audience asked him if he would take the lead in quitting Umno.“Wah, saya di cabar ni…(I have been dared),” he quipped but in a serious tone, he said: “Yes, I will leave Umno….until the party leadership is determined. Other Umno members should follow me.”
VATICAN CITY, MAY 8, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is praising the Melkite Catholic Church for their work in establishing good relations with Islam.
The Pope expressed this view today when he received some 300 members of the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate, headed by Patriarch Gregorios III Laham. The group is on pilgrimage in Rome.
The Holy Father praised “the vitality of the Melkite Church, despite the difficulties of the [Mideast] region’s social and political situation." He said that "on drawing near to the beginning of the year dedicated to St. Paul, I cannot forget that the see of your patriarchate is established in the city of Damascus, on the road to which the Apostle lived the event that transformed his existence and opened the doors of Christianity to all the nations."
Benedict XVI has declared a jubilee year marking the 2,000th anniversary of Paul's birth from June 28, 2008, to June 29, 2009.
The Pontiff used the occasion of the jubilee to invite the patriarch to carry out “an intense pastoral outreach” to awaken in the faithful “a new impetus to know ever more closely the person of Christ, thanks to a renewed reading of Paul’s writings."
This focus,” he emphasized, “will also guarantee a thriving future for the Melkite Church."
The Holy Father also promoted the role of the bishops' synod to "ensure the evangelical dynamism and unity of the communities, as well as the proper functioning of the ecclesial work in the patriarchal Churches."
He encouraged giving the bishops' synod -- and not just the permanent synod -- the "standing it merits," above all "when it has to do with questions related to those same bishops."
Referring to ecumenical outreach, the Pope recalled that “the commitment to the search for unity of all Jesus’ disciples is an urgent obligation” and therefore “everything possible must be done to tear down the walls of division and mistrust that prevent us from achieving it."
"Nevertheless," he said, "we cannot lose sight of the fact that the search for unity is a task that concerns not only a particular Church but the entire Church, in respect of its nature."
"I also appreciate your good relations with Muslims,” the Pontiff continued, “as well as your efforts to resolve, with a sincere and objective spirit of fraternal dialogue, problems that may arise."
"In line with the Second Vatican Council," he added, "the Melkite Church has sincerely sought mutual understanding and the promotion and a shared defense of social justice, moral values, peace and freedom with Muslims to the benefit of all."
VATICAN CITY, MAY 11, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave today before praying the Regina Caeli with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square. The Holy Father had just finished celebrating Mass for the feast of Pentecost. * * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we celebrate the solemnity of Pentecost, an ancient Hebrew feast in which the covenant made between God and his people on Mount Sinai (cf. Exodus 19) was celebrated. It became a Christian feast on account of what happened during this celebration 50 days after Jesus' resurrection.
We read in the Acts of the Apostles that the disciples were gathered together in prayer in the Cenacle when the Holy Spirit descended upon them with power like wind and fire. They then began to proclaim the glad tidings of Christ's resurrection in many languages (cf. Acts 2:1-4). That was the "baptism in the Holy Spirit," which had already been announced by John the Baptist: "I have baptized you with water," he said to the crowds, "but he who comes after me is more powerful than me. (...) He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 3:11).
In effect, Jesus' whole mission was aimed at giving the Spirit of God to men and baptizing them in the "bath" of regeneration. This was realized through his glorification (cf. John 7:39), that is, through his death and resurrection: Then the Spirit of God was poured out in a superabundant way, like a waterfall able to purify every heart, to extinguish the flames of evil and ignite the fire of divine love in the world.
The Acts of the Apostles present Pentecost as a fulfillment of such a promise and therefore as the crowning moment of Jesus' whole mission. After his resurrection, he himself ordered his disciples to stay in Jerusalem, because, he said, "In a short time you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:8); and he added: "You will have the power of the Holy Spirit, who will descend upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all of Galilee and Samaria unto the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
Pentecost is, thus, in a special way, the baptism of the Church who undertakes her universal mission beginning from the streets of Jerusalem with prodigious preaching in the different languages of humanity. In this baptism of the Holy Spirit the personal and communal dimensions -- the "I" of the disciple and the "we" of the Church -- are inseparable. The Spirit consecrates the person and at the same time makes him a living member of the mystical body of Christ, a participant in the mission to witness to his love.
And this is actualized through the sacraments of Christian initiation: baptism and confirmation. In my message for World Youth Day 2008, I invited young people to rediscover the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives and, therefore, the importance of these sacraments. Today I would like to extend this invitation to everyone: Let us rediscover, dear brothers and sisters, the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit; let us be aware again of our baptism and of our confirmation, sources of grace that are always present.
Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain a renewed Pentecost for the Church again today, a Pentecost that will spread in everyone the joy of living and witnessing to the Gospel.
PETALING JAYA,Controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin of the news portal Malaysia Today is finally out of jail on bail.
Raja Petra, who was remanded at the Sungai Buloh Prison after being charged with publishing an allegedly seditious article, “Let's send the Altantuya murderers to hell”, was released at the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court at 9.35am today.
To get a handle on loneliness in the elderly, Father Peter Abas, parochial administrator at St. Anne Parish in Rochester, asked seniors he was counseling to describe their lives through art.
Together, they painted a picture. One woman contributed a cactus to the canvas.
“Life for her is a cactus -- so dry,” he said.
That was just one metaphor of many that seniors used to describe their lives to Father Abas as he researched his doctoral dissertation on how elderly individuals describe and interpret the experience of loneliness.
“Loneliness is the existence of a powerful void; the state of being overwhelmed with work and life; the state of emotional pain; and the state of no direction,” he said.
He earned his doctorate in education with a specialization in geriatric populations in December of 2007 from the University of Rochester’s Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development. In addition to the doctorate, Father Abas also has three master’s degrees and has worked in a variety of fields, including youth ministry with street gangs in the Bronx. At St. Anne, Father Abas has led several initiatives for the elderly, including discussion groups and an intergenerational drum circle.
In January, Father Abas left to take a seven-week journey back to his native Borneo, where he grew up in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Speaking in an interview prior to his trip, he said he intends to continue his research by interviewing the elderly in Borneo as well. He said he plans to compare whether a different cultural background changes how people describe loneliness.
He said work on his doctorate “Loneliness and Lived Experiences of Elderly Individuals Living Independently: A Hermeneutic Phenomological Approach” took two years to complete. He recruited volunteers from throughout upstate New York who were 65 years and older and living independently. All were from different professional backgrounds, and his research subjects included a retired social worker, a retired English teacher and a retired professional truck driver.
Father Abas had the seniors describe their everyday lives, then he was able to interpret the meaning of the phrases they used and the words they said to him.
“I couldn’t jump to the conclusion of whether they were lonely or not,” Father Abas noted.
As he began to explore the theme of loneliness more, Father Abas asked people what they did when they were lonely, how they would explain the reason for their loneliness and how they would describe their experience with loneliness.
“Some of them found it easy to speak, and they were very open with their story,” Father Abas said. “Some found it really difficult.”
Although he was confronted with initial reluctance, Father Abas did have success when he asked the elderly to describe a favorite memory, which led to disclosures about loneliness.
“I could even see some of them really feel a burden in their lives,” he said.
Many used metaphors to describe their lives, such as a flowing river, a flower, a cross, a sunset, an oak tree, an entangled circle or a spinning top.
After a while, though, as participants continued meeting with Father Abas, some began to look at the world in more positive ways. For example, the person who described life as a flowing river amended the statement to say the river was not that treacherous.
“It’s flowing much better,” Father Abas recalled the person saying.
Sue Murty, director of social work at St. Ann’s Community in Rochester, said isolation and loneliness in the elderly can be caused by the loss of loved ones; the loss of independence, such as the loss of driving abilities; and the loss of physical abilities, such as hearing or mobility.
She said seniors often are reluctant to talk about being lonely, so neighbors and friends should keep watch for signs of changes in routine, reclusive behavior or depression. Another sign may be an eagerness to talk for a long time, she said. Friends and neighbors should begin asking questions if they see signs of loneliness, she noted.
“Start by saying, who else do you get support from? Are there other persons in your life?” Murty said.
Father Abas said other ways to cope with loneliness include having a strong faith, acknowledging the importance of prayer, accepting loss and coming to terms with the fact that a person is alone.
It also is important for seniors to take care of their health so that a loss of mobility does not isolate them, he said. Seniors also should consider the time and talents that they are able to give, and they should maintain social connections to counter loneliness.
“Within the church parish level, they can join a social-programming group or some involvement in their church,” Father Abas said.
Most importantly, seniors should turn to others if they are feeling isolated, he noted.
“The way to work through it is to ask for help from people,” Father Abas said.
(Publication Date: 02-28-2008)
By Amy Kotlarz/Catholic Courier
Emailed by my former professor: Fr. Dr. Peter Abas, a Sabahan-in New York
VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI expressed his sympathy for the victims of Cyclone Nargis that pounded Myanmar on Saturday.
In a telegram sent by the Pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to Archbishop Paul Zinghtung Grawng of Mandalay, president of the bishops' conference of Myanmar, the Holy Father expressed his sorrow and promised prayers.
The telegram said: "Deeply saddened by news of the tragic aftermath of the recent cyclone, the Holy Father expresses his heartfelt sympathy. With prayers for the victims and their families, he invokes God's peace upon the dead and divine strength and comfort upon the homeless and all who are suffering.
"Confident that the international community will respond with generous and effective relief to the needs of your countrymen, His Holiness asks you to convey his solidarity and concern to the civil authorities and to all the beloved people of Myanmar."
The death toll rises by the minute in Myanmar, with state radio announcing today that more than 22,000 are confirmed dead and some 41,000 are missing.
"What makes you think I don't have proof? What makes you think I don't have documents? "If I do submit the proof behind my writing, they will arrest me under the OSA. You think I'm stupid?" he asked the assembled journalists.
(AFP) — Malaysian Catholics on Monday won the right to mount a legal battle against a government ban on the use of the word "Allah" as a translation for "God" in their main publication.
The Muslim-dominated government last year declared that the word could only be used by Muslims and threatened to close down The Herald newspaper if it defied the prohibition.
The newspaper, which features articles written in English, Chinese, Tamil and Malay, is circulated among the country's 850,000 Catholics. In January it nearly lost its publishing licence after using "Allah" in its Malay section.
Authorities warned The Herald not to print the word in future, but instead it is asking the High Court to revoke the ban and make a declaration that its use is legal.
High Court judge Lau Bee Lan on Monday overruled objections by the state's counsel to the case going ahead, saying they were "without merit and therefore dismissed."
"The issues should be determined in the next stage," she said.
Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of The Herald, welcomed the decision which paves the way for a judicial review of the government ban.
"I am very pleased that we can now proceed. We will see what will happen at the next stage," he told reporters.
The church's lawyer Porres Ryan said they would soon submit an application to proceed with the case.
"The effect of the decision today is that our application is not frivolous and we can now proceed to address the issues at the review," he said.
Malaysia is dominated by Muslim Malays and the minority ethnic Chinese and Indians have become concerned over the growing "Islamisation" of the country.
In recent months there have been controversies over a ban on the construction of a Taoist statue on Borneo island and the destruction of Hindu temples by local authorities.
ROME, MAY 2, 2008 (Zenit.org).- In the first reading an angel says to the disciples: "Men of Galilee, why are you staring at the sky? This Jesus, who was taken up from among you and assumed into heaven, shall one day return in the same way in which you saw him go to heaven."
This is an occasion to clarify once and for all what we mean by "heaven." Among almost all people, heaven indicates the habitation of the divinity. Even the Bible uses this spatial language: "Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace to men on earth."
With the advent of the scientific era, all these religious meanings attributed to the word "heaven" are now in crisis. The heavens are the space in which our planet and the whole solar system moves, and nothing else. We all have heard of the remark attributed to the Soviet astronaut after returning from his trip through the cosmos: "I traveled through outer space a long time and didn't see God anywhere!"
It is important therefore to try to clarify what we Christians mean when we say "Our Father who art in heaven," or when we say that someone "went to heaven." In these cases the Bible adapts itself to the common way of speaking (we do it today too, even in the scientific era, when we say that the sun "rises" and "sets"). But the Bible knows well and teaches that God is "in heaven, on earth and everywhere," that he is the one who "created the heavens" and, if he created them, cannot be "contained" by them. That God is "in the heavens" means that he "dwells in inaccessible light," that he is as far beyond us "as the heavens are above the earth."
We Christians also agree that in talking about heaven as God's dwelling place we understand it more as a state of being than a place. When we speak about God it would be nonsense to say that he is literally "above" or "below," "up" or "down." We are not therefore saying that heaven doesn't exist but only that we lack the categories with which to adequately represent it. Suppose we ask a person who is blind from birth to describe the different colors to us: red, green, blue. ... He could not tell us anything since we only perceive colors through our eyes. This is what it is like for us in regard to "heaven" and to eternal life, which is outside space and time.
In light of what we have said, what does it mean to proclaim that Jesus "ascended into heaven"? We find the answer in the Creed. "He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father."
That Christ has ascended into heaven means that he "is seated at the right hand of the Father," that is, as man too, he has entered into God's world; that he has been constituted the Lord and head of all things, as St. Paul says in the second reading.
In regard to us, "going to heaven" or going to "paradise" means going and being "with Christ" (Philippians 1:23). Our heaven is the risen Christ together with whom we shall form a "body" after our resurrection but also, in a provisional and imperfect way, immediately after our death. It is sometimes objected that no one has returned from heaven to assure us that it truly exists and is not just a pious illusion. It's not true! There is one who -- if we know how to recognize him -- returns from heaven every day in the Eucharist to assure us and to renew his promises.
The words of the angel -- "Men of Galilee, why are you staring at the sky?" -- also contain an implicit reproof: We should not just "stare into the sky" and speculate about the beyond, but rather we should live in expectation of his return, follow his mission, bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth, improve life in this world.
He has gone to heaven but without leaving earth. He has only disappeared from our field of vision. Indeed in the Gospel he himself assures us: "Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the world." By Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap