December 31, 2008

Facing a New Era

by Friar Jack Wintz, O.F.M.



New Year's Day 2009!
Pope Benedict sends congratulations to Obama
Cardinal George makes similar comments
Pope Benedict XVI’s World Day of Peace message (January 1, 2009)
Friar Jim’s Inbox


New Year’s Day—2009!

Pope Benedict XVI marks the World Day of Peace in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 1, 2008. (CNS photo/Dario Pignatelli, Reuters)

We stand at the threshold of a new year and of new possibilities. On the night of November 4, when it was announced that Barack Obama won the U.S. presidential election, much of the world took note and recognized that something new was happening! And many people sent letters of good will and pledges of prayer for the new administration.

Pope Benedict sends congratulations to Obama

Pope Benedict XVI sent a personal message to the president-elect congratulating him and offering prayers for all the people of the United States. Though the pope’s message to Obama was not made public, a Vatican spokesman said that the papal message referred to the “historic occasion” of the election, marking the first time a black man has been elected president of the United States. The pope congratulated Obama, his wife and his family, according to the spokesman. The pope “assured him of his prayers that God would help him with his high responsibilities for his country and for the international community.” The pope also prayed that “the blessing of God would sustain (Obama) and the American people so that, with all people of good will, they could build a world of peace, solidarity and justice.”

Cardinal George makes similar comments

Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), also sent personal congratulations to the president-elect.

And in a November 12 statement at the end of the annual fall assembly of the USCCB, Cardinal George made the following comments: “The bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States welcome this moment of historic transition and look forward to working with President-elect Obama and the members of the new Congress for the common good of all.” Later Cardinal George added: “Symbolically, this is a moment that touches more than our history when a country that once enshrined race slavery in its very constitutional order should come to elect an African-American to the presidency…. We can rejoice today with those who, following heroic figures like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., were part of a movement to bring our country’s civil rights, our legal order, into better accord with universal human rights, God’s order.”

Pope Benedict XVI’s World Day of Peace message (January 1, 2009)

Here is a brief sampling of points Pope Benedict will be making this New Year’s Day for the celebration of the World Day of Peace. In light of the election and the upcoming inauguration (January 20) of Barack Obama, this is a time of heightened hope and new possibilities for this country and many others around the world.

Several months ago, when the pope prepared this year’s World Day of Peace message, focused on the theme of world poverty, he did not know the full extent of our economic crisis as we know it today. We look at the first words of the pope’s message: “Once again, as the New Year begins, I want to extend good wishes for peace to people everywhere. With this message I would like to propose a reflection on the theme: ‘Fighting Poverty to Build Peace.’”

Early on, Pope Benedict notes: “Every form of externally imposed poverty has at its roots a lack of respect for the transcendent dignity of the human person.” A special area of concern, says the pope, is “child poverty.” He points out that “when poverty strikes a family, the children prove to be the most vulnerable victims: almost half of those living in absolute poverty today are children…. If the dignity of women and mothers is not protected, it is the children who are affected most.”

Another area needing particular attention from the moral standpoint, according to Pope Benedict, “is the relationship between disarmament and development. The current level of world military expenditure gives cause for concern. As I have pointed out before, it can happen that ‘immense military expenditure, involving material and human resources and arms, is in fact diverted from development projects for peoples, especially the poorest who are most in need of aid.’”

The pope also sees clearly that “global solidarity” has an important role in the fight against poverty. “One of the most important ways of building peace is through a form of globalization directed toward the interests of the whole human family,” asserts Pope Benedict. “In order to govern globalization, however, there needs to be a strong sense of global solidarity between rich and poor countries, as well as within individual countries, including affluent ones.”


In such matters, the pope insists, “it is timely to recall in particular the “preferential love for the poor, in the light of the primacy of charity, which is attested throughout Christian tradition, beginning with the early Church (see Acts 4:32-36; 1 Cor 16:1; 2 Cor 8-9; Gal 2:10 )….

“At the start of the New Year, then, I extend to every disciple of Christ and to every person of good will a warm invitation to expand their hearts to meet the needs of the poor and to take whatever practical steps are possible in order to help them. The truth of the axiom cannot be refuted: ‘to fight poverty is to build peace.’”

Friar Jim’s Inbox

Readers respond to Friar Jim Van Vurst’s “An Important Word for Anyone Touched by an Abortion” and “An Important Word to Those Who Placed Their Infants for Adoption.”

Dear Friar Jim: …My son was stillborn 32 years ago. I never got to see him or hold him. Within moments of his birth I had to sign a "disposal of remains" form…. Years later I did learn that my son is buried in a Catholic cemetery and that the interment was officiated by a priest…. While I realize the Church no longer "promotes" limbo and that we are called to trust in God's mercy, I would like to know what the Church says specifically about this situation. At the time, our associate pastor said to me, "Do you think for one minute that God would deny heaven to an innocent child?" I don't really, but as the prospect of heaven gets closer day by day, I have begun to think about this again…. Jane

Dear Jane: Let me reiterate what the wise priest said: Yes, you will see your son in heaven, and it will be a perfect union between you and him. In fact, I would hope you would pray to your son; he knows you in a way you can't know him because he is with God. He has been by your side every moment of your life. He loves you for the gift of life you gave him. Don't be a stranger to him. Give your son a name and talk to him every day. He prays for you and loves you more than you can imagine. Don't worry. He's there with the Lord. Friar Jim

Dear Friar Jim: What a beautiful article! As an adopted mother of two great teenage boys, I often stop and say a prayer of thanks for their birth mothers. I know that I have a bond with them that will go on forever. Natalie

Dear Natalie: And I know your prayers are heard and that someday there will be a most wonderful reunion. Friar Jim

Dear Friar Jim: I am one of those girls that gave their child up for adoption in the 1960s. Back then it was a much easier decision to put the baby up for adoption, because of the stigma that would be attached to the poor child and the mother…. I am so very glad that they did not have abortion then. I am afraid that I would have fallen for the "politically correct" thing to do. And I am not sure how I could have faced that decision later in life when the reality of what I had done hit home. When my boy was adopted, the good sisters (of the Daughters of Charity in New Orleans) called and let me know…. I was assured that he was in a good home. Lee
Dear Lee: I understand what you were saying about adoption in those early years when unwed motherhood was such a stigma. Isn't it wonderful to know that loving relationships always remain, and in heaven there will be that wonderful, loving, healing union with the Lord and all your loved ones? Friar Jim

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