Thursday, May 10, 2007

Recap: Day One

Pope Benedict arrived in Brazil yesterday and already he is making headlines.

He started off with a press conference which took place on the "Shepherd One" which covered topics ranging from liberation theology, the abortion situation in Mexico, and the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Here are his opening remarks to the press with a link to the whole transcript:

Good morning aboard this plane! We’re now above the Sahara, on our way to the Continent of Hope. I’m going with great joy, with great hope, to this meeting with Latin America.

We have various important moments, first in Sao Paulo, the meeting with the youth, and then this canonization in Sao Paulo. It’s the first saint born in Brazil, and it seems to me also an important expression of the content of this trip. It’s a Franciscan saint who made real in Brazil the Franciscan charism. He is known as a saint of reconciliation and of peace. This too seems to me an important sign, a personality who knew how to create peace, and therefore also human social coherence.

Then, the visit to the Farm of Hope is also important, a place where the forces of healing which are contained in the faith become clear, to open the horizons of life. All these problems of drugs and so on are born with an absence of hope in the future. A faith which opens to the future also knows how to heal, and this force seems to me important – the force to heal, to give hope, to provide a horizon of the future, is very important.

Finally, the primary aim of this trip is the meeting with the bishops of CELAM, which is the fifth continental conference of the bishops of Latin America, which in and of itself has a content that is predominantly religious – to give life in Christ, and to make ourselves disciples of Christ.

We know that everyone wants to have life, but life is not complete if it does not have content, if it lacks a sense or an orientation about where to go. In this sense, even if the meeting in the first place responds to the religious mission of the church, it also creates the conditions for necessary solutions to the great social and political problems of Latin America. As such, the church does not practice politics, we respect the secular nature of the state. But we offer conditions in which a healthy politics, and solutions to social problems, can mature.

Thus, we want to promote Christians who are conscious of the gift of the faith, the joy of the faith, who know God and who therefore also know the ‘why’ of our life. In this way, they’ll be capable of being witnesses of Christ, and they’ll learn both the necessary personal virtues as well as social virtues, the sense of legality that is essential for the formation of society. We know the problems of Latin America, and we want to mobilize the capacity of the church, its moral strength and its religious resources, to respond to the specific mission of the church and to our universal responsibility to the human person as such, and to society as such.

This press conference, because of some misunderstanding, has caused a stir over the issue of Abortion and Excommunication. When asked:

"Do you agree with the excommunications given to legislators in Mexico City on the question?"

the Holy Father responded: "Yes. The excommunication was not something arbitrary. It is part of the (canon law) code. It is based simply on the principle that the killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with going in Communion with the body of Christ. Thus, they (the bishops) didn't do anything new or anything surprising. Or arbitrary."

This caused quite a stir and prompted a response from the Holy Father later on.

Benedict's spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the pope was not setting a new policy, and did not intend to formally excommunicate anyone — a rare process under church law that is separate from the doctrine of self-excommunication.
"Since excommunication hasn't been declared by the Mexican bishops, the pope has no intention himself of declaring it," Lombardi said in a statement approved by the pope.
But Lombardi added that politicians who vote in favor of abortion should not receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. "Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist. ... Politicians exclude themselves from Communion."
Pressed again to say whether the lawmakers were excommunicated, Lombardi reiterated: "No, they exclude themselves from Communion."

Dr. Ed Peters puts this all in the context of canon law...

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