In his first encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI called for a deeper understanding of love as a gift from God to be shared in a self-sacrificial way, at both a personal and a social level.
The pope said love between couples, often reduced today to selfish sexual pleasure, needs to be purified to include concern and care for the other.
Love is also charity, he said, and the church has an obligation to help the needy wherever they are foundbut its primary motives must always be spiritual, never political or ideological.
The nearly 16,000-word encyclical addressed to all Catholics, titled Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love), was issued on Jan. 25 in seven languages. The document is divided into two sections, one on the meaning of love in salvation history, the other on the practice of love by the church.
The pope said his aim was to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in return must share with others. The two aspects, personal love and the practice of charity, are profoundly interconnected, he said.
The encyclical begins with a phrase from the First Letter of John: God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. The pope said the line expresses the heart of the Christian faith, which understands the creator as a loving God and which sees Christ’s death as the ultimate sign of God’s love for humankind.
The second half of the encyclical makes two main points:
As a community, the church must practice love through works of charity and attend to people’s sufferings and needs, including material needs.
The church’s action stems from its spiritual mission and must never be undertaken as part of a political or ideological agenda.
The pope said there was a connection between the commitment to justice and the ministry of charity, but there are also important distinctions. Building a just social and civil order is an essential political task to which the church contributes through its social doctrine, but it cannot be the church’s immediate responsibility.
A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the church, he added.
The church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the state.... Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.
The church’s role is to make the rational arguments for justice and awaken the spiritual energy needed for the sacrifices that justice requires, he wrote.Thousands at Vigil Mass Mark Roe Anniversary
They were just an aisle apart, but Abigail Matava, who is almost 6 months old, and 102-year-old Hattie Proctor symbolized the full spectrum of life celebrated by thousands of pro-lifers who filled the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 22. More than 6,000 peoplemany of them high school and college studentsfilled every square inch of the basilica’s upper church, including the side chapels, and its lower crypt church for the National Prayer Vigil for Life on the anniversary of the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Roe v. Wade case in 1973 that legalized abortion on demand.
We gather in this sacred space to bear witness yet again to the terrible cloud that has darkened our nation since the Supreme Court declared 33 years ago today that the life of a human being, a life created in God’s image, may be ended before its birth, said Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, the main celebrant and homilist at the vigil Mass. We come together to pray that this darkest of clouds might at last be lifted. We come together again to pray for the triumph of life, said the cardinal, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.Oregon Archbishop: No One Can Seize Parishes
Archbishop John G. Vlazny of Portland reiterated on Jan. 20 that no one in the archdiocese had the authority to seize parish property or assets to satisfy claims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy. In his column in the Jan. 20 issue of The Catholic Sentinel, Portland archdiocesan newspaper, the archbishop said the bankruptcy court ruling three weeks earlier, declaring parish and school properties to be part of the archdiocesan assets to be considered in settling sex abuse claims, felt like a punch in the stomach. We want to do what is right for victims and we are committed to the evangelizing mission entrusted to us by Jesus Christ, he wrote. Parishioners, schoolchildren, the poor and the needy depend on us for services that are not so highly valued by many in today’s secular culture. For us these matters are paramount, and so we make every effort to balance the demands of victims with the needs of the church.Vatican Denies Appeals by Closed Boston Parishes
The Archdiocese of Boston announced on Jan. 14 that the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy has denied the appeals of 10 parishes that were closed in the process of archdiocesan reconfiguration. We appreciate the disappointment that this news brings to those who submitted the appeals and all who are saddened by the parish closings, Boston’s Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley, O.F.M.Cap., said. While many members of closed parishes have joined, enriched and strengthened neighboring parish communities, others continue to struggle with the effects of reconfiguration. This has been a difficult time for our Catholic community. We wish to express our gratitude to the many priests, deacons, religious and parishioners who have generously accepted the need for change in light of our limited resources, he added. The archdiocese cited declining numbers of clergy, changing Catholic demographics and significant financial pressures as the causes of the reconfiguration process that began in January 2004.Ecumenical Schedule Full for 2006
By mid-January, Pope Benedict XVI and the Roman Catholic Church already had a full schedule of ecumenical events planned for 2006. The Catholic-Orthodox international commission is scheduled to meet in September for the first time in six years. Commission members plan to return to the theological discussion of church authority and primacy. The Catholic-Lutheran dialogue is nearing completion of a document on the apostolicity of the church, looking at the continuation of church teaching and tradition from the time of the apostles. The Catholic-Methodist dialogue is scheduled to finish work by July on a statement about how far each community can go in recognizing the church of God present in each other. The World Methodist Council also is scheduled to vote in July on formally adopting the 1999 Catholic-Lutheran agreement on justification. The Catholic Church and a group of Pentecostal churches are working on a document explaining what both mean by baptism of the Holy Spirit and its role in the salvation of individual Christians.Catholic Schools May Get Federal Hurricane Aid
Congress has given Catholic schools damaged by the hurricanes Katrina and Rita or inundated with evacuated students the green light to request a percentage of the federal help offered to public schools. The federal aid will be allocated through the Hurricane Education Recovery Act signed by President George W. Bush on Dec. 30. It won Senate approval on Dec. 21 in a 93-to-0 vote and House approval in a voice vote the next day as a part of an appropriations bill.Orthodox Theologian on Place of Deaconesses
The order of ordained women deacons never totally disappeared in the life of the Orthodox churches and there are strong signs of a desire to renew it, an Orthodox theologian told a largely Catholic gathering on Jan. 20. Kyriaki Karidoyanes FitzGerald, a theologian, outlined the history and Orthodox theology and practice regarding deaconesses in the 2006 Isaac Hecker Lecture at St. Paul’s College in Washington. The lecture series is named after the founder of the Paulist religious order. FitzGerald, author of the book Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church: Called to Holiness and Ministry (1998), said Orthodox perspectives on deaconesses are important to Catholics, as Catholicism not only recognizes the validity of Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox sacraments [but] the Orthodox Church is also considered as a sister church’ by Rome.St. Louis Jesuit Musicians Reunited After 21 Years
The St. Louis Jesuits, liturgical music icons from the 1970’s, are back together and have released their first album in more than 20 years. Morning Light is the seventh recording for the St. Louis JesuitsDan Schutte and Jesuit Fathers Bob Dufford, John Foley and Roc O’Connorwho were known for such songs as Blest Be the Lord, Lift Up Your Hearts and Sing a New Song.
In the mid-1980’s, various assignments moved the men to different parts of the country, and Schutte left the Society of Jesus. These changes made it difficult to record music together, said Father O’Connor, a theology professor at Creighton University in Omaha and liturgist at St. John Parish on the Creighton campus. It just seemed like it was a time for each of us to try something on our own, he said. Since that time, all four have released successful solo CD’s.