New York Times
Published: May 13, 2010
By RACHEL DONADIO
FÁTIMA, Portugal — Pope Benedict XVI used a famous Portuguese shrine to the Virgin Mary on Thursday as a venue to denounce abortion and gay marriage, just days before Portugal is expected to join five European countries that have legalized same-sex weddings.
In a speech here to Catholic social service groups, Benedict called for initiatives aimed at protecting “the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, help to respond to some of today’s most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good.”
He also said he expressed his “deep appreciation for all those social and pastoral initiatives aimed at combating the socioeconomic and cultural mechanisms which lead to abortion, and are openly concerned to defend life and to promote the reconciliation and healing of those harmed by the tragedy of abortion.”
The audience in a chapel at the shrine applauded and gave the pope a standing ovation.
The pope’s remarks came on the third day of a four-day visit aimed at shoring up Christian belief in increasingly secular Europe, although it has been somewhat eclipsed by the priestly sex-abuse scandal confronting the Vatican in recent weeks. Benedict also has used the visit as an occasion to signal a more forceful tone in confronting the abuse, which he has called a “sin inside the church.”
Although it is 90 percent Catholic, Portugal has seen a notable shift away from Catholic teaching in recent years. The country legalized abortion in 2008 and its Parliament recently approved a bill permitting same-sex marriage. President Aníbal Cavaco Silva is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days.
The church has opposed the measure, but Portuguese society appears to be largely supportive of it.
Portugal would be the sixth country in Europe to legalize same-sex marriage, after the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway and Sweden. France and Denmark recognize same-sex unions, which convey many but not all of the rights enjoyed by married couples.
Throughout his five-year-old papacy, Benedict has endeavored to shape a new identity for the Catholic Church as a “creative minority” in an increasingly secular Europe. On Thursday, he denounced “the pressure exerted by the prevailing culture, which constantly holds up a lifestyle based on the law of the stronger, on easy and attractive gain.”
The pope also told the social service groups to find alternatives to state financing so they would not be subject to legislation at odds with Catholic teaching, urging them “to ensure that Christian charitable activity is granted autonomy and independence from politics and ideologies, even while cooperating with state agencies in the pursuit of common goals.”
Addressing bishops later on Thursday, Benedict called for “authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ” in “those human situations where the silence of the faith is most widely and deeply felt: among politicians, intellectuals, communications professionals who profess and who promote a monocultural ideal, with disdain for the religious and contemplative dimension of life.”
He added that “in such circles are found some believers who are ashamed of their beliefs and who even give a helping hand to this type of secularism, which builds barriers before Christian inspiration.”
Earlier on Thursday, Benedict celebrated Mass before an estimated half a million faithful on the anniversary of the day three peasant children are said to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary here in 1917.
Tradition has it that the Virgin revealed three secrets to the children: One was interpreted as predicting the end of World War I and the start of World War II, the second to have predicted the rise and fall of communism, which gave Fátima a strong anti-communist allure during the Cold War.
Pope John Paul II credited the Virgin of Fátima with saving him from an assassination attempt in 1981. In 2000, the Vatican revealed the third secret of Fátima, which it said prefigured the attempt.
Since arriving in Portugal on Tuesday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the beatification of two of the peasant children, Benedict has sought to broaden the significance of the message of Fátima to help the church overcome its difficulties in the sex-abuse scandal.
Catholic faithful flock to Fatima for papal Mass
13 May 2010
Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Thousands spent the night at or near the site of the Mass
Pope Benedict XVI received an enthusiastic reception in Portugal, despite the paedophilia scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church. Nearly 400,000 worshippers attended a Mass at the shrine of Fatima.
Nearly half a million people flocked to hear Pope Benedict XVI celebrate a Mass at the shrine of Fatima in Portugal, one of Christianity’s holiest sites.
Many of the worshippers had camped out overnight to attend the two-hour ceremony.
The overwhelming support was evidence of Church’s continued influence despite the sex abuse scandal, said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.
“What’s happened in the last few months, with the problems of the abuse scandal, could lead one to think that the attention and energy towards the pope has been weakened, but that has not happened,” he told reporters.
Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: The mass marked the 93rd anniversary of reported appearances of the Virgin Mary to shepherd children
Gay marriage ‘threat’
In his speech, the 83-year-old German-born pontiff criticized gay marriage and abortion as “insidious and dangerous threats to the common good.”
Portugal is set to legalize gay marriage next week, just three years after the deeply Catholic country decriminalized abortion.
The mass at Fatima was considered by many to be the highlight of the pope’s visit to Portugal, which began in Lisbon on Tuesday and is to end in Porto on Friday.
Pope decries abortion, same-sex marriage at Fatima
13 May 2010
By NICOLE WINFIELD (AP)
FATIMA, Portugal — Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday called abortion and same-sex marriage some of the most “insidious and dangerous” threats facing the world today, asserting key church teachings as he tried to move beyond the clerical abuse scandal.
Benedict made the comments to Catholic social workers, health providers and others after celebrating Mass before an estimated 400,000 people in Fatima. The central Portuguese farming town is one of the most important shrines in Christianity, where three shepherd children reported having visions of the Virgin Mary in 1917.
Benedict’s visit to Fatima on the anniversary of the apparitions was the spiritual centerpiece of his four-day visit to Portugal, which ends Friday. It was cast by Vatican officials as evidence that he had turned a page in weathering the abuse scandal, which has dogged him for months.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, pointed to the turnout in Fatima and said it was “very beautiful and encouraging” that pilgrims hadn’t been deterred in expressing their faith despite months of revelations in Europe about priests who molested children and bishops and Vatican officials who turned a blind eye.
The faithful understand “the capacity of the church to effectively overcome — via conversion, penance and prayer — the dimension of real sin there is in our community,” Lombardi said.
Benedict himself admitted to the “sins within the church” on the first day of the trip, his most explicit admission of Church culpability in the scandal. By Thursday, however, he had moved on to stressing core church teachings in the largely Roman Catholic country, where abortion on demand has been available since 2007 and where Parliament in January passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage. In addition, a judge in 2008 made it easier to obtain divorce even when one spouse objects.
Benedict told the gathering of lay Catholics that he appreciated their efforts fighting abortion and promoting the family based on the “indissoluble marriage between a man and woman” — the Vatican’s way of expressing its opposition to divorce and same-sex unions.
Such initiatives “help respond to some of the most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good today,” he said. “Alongside numerous other forms of commitment, such initiatives represent essential elements in the building of the civilization of love.”
The admonition was a break of sorts from the continuous message Benedict has delivered in Portugal about the suffering of the world and church — a message which resonates in Fatima, where the sick and infirm flock seeking remedies for ailments.
In a special message to the sick during Mass, Benedict urged them to take heart, saying they should “overcome the feeling of the uselessness of suffering which consumes a person from within and makes him feel a burden to those around him.”
“In suffering, you will discover an interior peace and even spiritual joy,” he said.
His message struck a chord with many in the huge gathering, among them elderly and infirm people who, with their heads bowed, fingered rosaries.
Aurora Clemente, a 65-year-old cook from Portugal’s northeastern tip, close to the border with Spain, said she had been coming to Fatima on May 13 for more than 30 years.
“Fatima makes miracles. When my son was seriously ill, I prayed to the Virgin of Fatima and he survived,” she said.
“I find it very moving here. For me, this is the most beautiful place in the world,” she said, sitting beneath a red umbrella on the fringe of the crowd.
Like Lourdes in France, Fatima attracts millions of pilgrims a year seeking cures. One of the rituals pilgrims perform at Fatima involves casting replicas of body parts — eyes, lungs, hearts — on sale at local shops into a big bonfire while reciting a prayer asking for healing.
Pope Paul VI visited Fatima in 1967. Pope John Paul II — who was shot in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981 — came three times before his death, believing that the Virgin’s “unseen hand” had saved him.
During his third and final visit in 2000, the Vatican announced the “third secret” of Fatima: the third part of the message the Virgin is said to have told the three children: a description of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.
The first two secrets of Fatima were said to have foretold the end of World War I and the outbreak of World War II and the rise and fall of Soviet communism.
After the third secret was revealed, the Vatican essentially implied the Fatima case was closed. But on Thursday, Benedict said its message continued to be relevant.
“We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete,” Benedict said in his homily during the Mass. Lombardi was asked if such comments were merely an effort to keep Fatima’s fascination relevant to the faithful at a time when the Cold War and John Paul’s assassination attempt are no longer front-burner issues.
“The term ‘prophetic’ doesn’t mean an announcement of concrete facts that one sees in a crystal ball but rather knowing how to read history and events in the light of faith,” Lombardi said.
Associated Press writer Barry Hatton contributed to this report.