Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Today's Scientists Need Awe, Benedict XVI Says.

Notes Hope That Marvels of Creation Lead to Creator.

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 30, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Modernity would benefit from the sense of awe that inspired the fathers of modern science, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this today when he addressed a group celebrating the International Year of Astronomy with a two-day congress.

"This celebration [...] invites us to consider the immense progress of scientific knowledge in the modern age and, in a particular way, to turn our gaze anew to the heavens in a spirit of wonder, contemplation and commitment to the pursuit of truth, wherever it is to be found," the Holy Father said.

The International Year of Astronomy was convoked by UNESCO in memory of the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of the telescope.

The Holy Father noted that the celebration also coincides with the recent inauguration of new headquarters for the Vatican Observatory.

"As you know," he said, "the history of the Observatory is in a very real way linked to the figure of Galileo, the controversies which surrounded his research, and the Church’s attempt to attain a correct and fruitful understanding of the relationship between science and religion."

In this regard, the Pontiff thanked those "committed to ongoing dialogue and reflection on the complementarity of faith and reason in the service of an integral understanding of man and his place in the universe."

The congress participants will also tour the Tower of the Winds at the Vatican, built in 1582 at the time of the Gregorian reform of the calendar and the first location of the Vatican Observatory. On Saturday, they will tour the new headquarters of the Vatican Observatory, which the Pope officially inaugurated last month.

Wonder and amazement

Benedict XVI suggested that the International Year of Astronomy should help to "recapture for people throughout our world the extraordinary wonder and amazement which characterized the great age of discovery in the 16th century."

"I think, for example, of the exultation felt by the scientists of the Roman College who just a few steps from here carried out the observations and calculations which led to the worldwide adoption of the Gregorian calendar," he said.

The Pope affirmed that this exultation needs to be renewed today.

"Our own age," he said, "poised at the edge of perhaps even greater and more far-ranging scientific discoveries, would benefit from that same sense of awe and the desire to attain a truly humanistic synthesis of knowledge which inspired the fathers of modern science."

"At the same time," the Holy Father added, "the great scientists of the age of discovery remind us also that true knowledge is always directed to wisdom, and, rather than restricting the eyes of the mind, it invites us to lift our gaze to the higher realm of the spirit."

"Knowledge, in a word, must be understood and pursued in all its liberating breadth," the Bishop of Rome affirmed. "It can certainly be reduced to calculation and experiment, yet if it aspires to be wisdom, capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends, it must be committed to the pursuit of that ultimate truth which, while ever beyond our complete grasp, is nonetheless the key to our authentic happiness and freedom, the measure of our true humanity, and the criterion for a just relationship with the physical world and with our brothers and sisters in the great human family."

Center of the universe

Benedict XVI reflected on how "neither we, nor the earth we stand on, is the center of our universe."

"Yet," he said, "as we seek to respond to the challenge of this Year -- to lift up our eyes to the heavens in order to rediscover our place in the universe -- how can we not be caught up in the marvel expressed by the Psalmist so long ago? [...] '[W]hat is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man, that you should care for him?'"

"It is my hope that the wonder and exaltation which are meant to be the fruits of this International Year of Astronomy will lead beyond the contemplation of the marvels of creation to the contemplation of the Creator," the Pontiff concluded, "and of that Love which is the underlying motive of his creation -- the Love which, in the words of Dante Alighieri, 'moves the sun and the other stars.'"

U.S. bishops launch grassroots effort to fight for Catholic concerns on health care.

Washington D.C., Oct 30, 2009 / 05:27 am (CNA).- After attempting to persuade lawmakers to listen to Catholic concerns about health care reform, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has initiated a grassroots campaign to mobilize the faithful across the country. The effort includes bulletin inserts, pulpit announcements, web-based ads and an appeal for bishops to personally contact legislators who serve in their diocese.

Cardinal Francis George and the chairmen of the three major bishops' committees engaged in health care reform wrote all of the U.S. bishops on Oct. 28 and said, "The debate and decisions on health care reform are reaching decisive moments." In order to ensure that abortion is not funded with federal dollars, consciences are protected and that health care is affordable for all, the USCCB leaders asked every bishop to personally take action and lend their support.

The official memo sent out to every U.S. bishop includes a bulletin insert, a flier, a prayer petition and suggested pulpit announcements. In addition, every bishop was asked to personally mail, email and speak with those lawmakers who serve in their diocese.

The letter to the bishops also requests that they have every parish in their diocese insert or hand-stuff the USCCB Bulletin Insert on Health Care Reform "as soon as possible," since voting on the current health care measures is likely to take place in November.

Catholic bishops have been calling for health care reform for years, the letter notes. Saying that “Catholic moral tradition teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity,” the bishops cite the numerous Catholic emergency rooms, shelters, clinics, and charities that “pick up the pieces of a failing health care system.”

Though health care reform is desperately needed, the U.S. bishops’ conference has concluded that all committee approved bills are seriously deficient on the issues of abortion and conscience, and do not provide adequate access to health care for immigrants and the poor.

If these issues go unaddressed, the bishops have pledged to vigorously oppose the current reforms.

Despite presidential and congressional assurances that abortions will not be funded by taxpayer money in the proposed health care reform bills, none of the proposed bills have such restrictions. The Capps amendment is worded in such a way that money to fund abortions is shuffled around so that it merely appears not to do so. Currently, no bill offers conscience protection clauses or ensures that legal immigrants are afforded access to health care.

The USCCB bulletin insert asks that Catholics contact the Senate and request that they listen to Catholics' concerns. “During floor debate on the health care reform bill, please support an amendment to incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights. If these serious concerns are not addressed, the final bill should be opposed,” the insert says.

A similarly worded message for members of the House of Representatives suggests that each representative be encouraged to “support the Stupak Amendment that addresses essential pro-life concerns on abortion funding and conscience rights in the health care reform bill. Help ensure that the Rule for the bill allows a vote on this amendment.”

The Stupak amendment attempts to apply the wording of the Hyde Amendment, which has kept federal funding from going to abortions, as well as provided conscience protections to health care professionals.

The USCCB has also released a banner ad which can be posted to individual websites to encourage visitors to take action and support health care reform that respects life.

More information about the grassroots campaign can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/official_documents.shtml#alerts

'We are never alone,' Pope exclaims on All Saints Day

'We are never alone,' Pope exclaims on All Saints Day.
Vatican City, Nov 1, 2009 / 09:58 am (CNA).- To the faithful gathered on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI presented the communion of saints, a “beautiful and comforting” reality that says “we are never alone.” In particular he held up the ancient cult of martyrs in the early Church, and in this Year for Priests, “the saintly priests, both those canonized…and those many more that are known to the Lord.”

Pope Benedict also spoke of Monday’s commemoration of the faithful departed, also known as All Souls Day. "I would ask,” he said, “that this liturgical memory be lived in a genuine Christian spirit, that is, in light of the Paschal Mystery.”

Benedict XVI explained that Christ died and rose again and opened the door to the house of the Father, the kingdom of life and peace: “Those who follow Jesus in this life are welcomed where He came before us. So as we visit cemeteries, let us remember that there, in the tombs, are only the mortal remains of our loved ones awaiting the final resurrection.”

Pope Benedict concluded his remarks by teaching that the most proper and effective way to honor and pray for the faithful departed is by offering acts of faith, hope and charity: “In union with the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we can intercede for their eternal salvation, and experience the deepest communion, as we wait to find ourselves together again, to enjoy forever the Love that created and redeemed us."

After the Angelus prayer, the Pope recalled the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration between the World Lutheran Federation and the Catholic Church. "That document,” he said, “attests to an agreement between Lutherans and Catholics on the fundamental truth of the doctrine of justification, a truth that brings us to the very heart of the Gospel and the essential issues of our lives.”

The Holy Father expounded on the acceptance and redemption of man by God, saying, “Our existence is part of the horizon of grace. It is led by a merciful God who forgives our sin and calls us to a new life following in the footsteps of his Son. We live by the grace of God and are called to respond to his gift. This frees us from fear and gives us hope and courage in a world full of uncertainty, anxiety, suffering."

This anniversary, the Pontiff explained, is an occasion to remember the truth about the justification of man, witnessed together, to unite Catholics and Lutherans in ecumenical celebrations and to further investigate this issue and others that are the subject of ecumenical dialogue.

“I sincerely hope that this important anniversary will help bring forward the path towards the full visible unity of all the disciples of Christ.”