Pope Welcomes Youths Making Via Francigena Trek

AGI, June 29 — A group of 400 young people traveled more than 515 miles in 40 days on the legendary Via Francigena to meet Pope Benedict at the Vatican, Agenzia Giornalistica Italia reported.

The group set out from the northern Italian town of Susa in May. Once arriving at the Vatican, the Holy Father warmly greeted them.

“Welcome to St. Peter’s Square,” he said. “I have heard that you have been marching for 40 days to the basilica in order to commemorate the 500 years since its foundation.”

The Pope added, “Yours is a pilgrimage of faith, and, coming here on foot you have also come with you hearts. I am happy for your presence; thank you for this sign of faith.”

Cardinal Kasper Opposes Turkey Joining EU

AKI, July 4 — Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said the recent stabbing of a priest in northern Turkey shows that the country is not ready for European Union membership, the international news service reported.

Regarding the attack by a Turkish suspect of French priest Pierre Brunissen late July 2, Cardinal Kasper said the Church believes that “every act of violence committed in the name of God is an insult to him and to every religion.” The cardinal was in Moscow attending  a global interfaith meeting.

“It is not the right moment for Turkey to join the European Union,” he told the newspaper Corriere della Sera July 4. “What is still missing is a secular state capable of assuring real religious freedom, and this is a long process which needs time.”

In Turkey “the Church is not even entitled to private property, there is some tolerance, but no real freedom,” explained Cardinal Kasper. “The Turkish state administers religion and that is not right. Europe can have a ‘special’ relation with Turkey, but this is not the right time for more — Turkey should adapt to European culture beforehand.”

Rabbi Asks Pope to Help Stop ‘Gay Pride’ Parade

ASIANEWS, July 3 — Israel’s top Sephardic leader, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, has asked for Pope Benedict’s help in putting a stop to next month’s World Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, AsiaNews reported.

According to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth Amar sent a letter to the Holy Father, saying the event will violate Jerusalem’s “honor and humiliate its greatness.” The paper also reported survey results released at a Knesset Internal Affairs Committee meeting that indicate that among secular Jews, 63% oppose the parade as do 81% of conservative Jews, 99% of national religious, 100% of Orthodox, and 92% of Arab Muslims and Christians.

In his letter, the rabbi wrote, “We were shocked to hear of plans to hold the world Pride Parade in the Holy City. The city that the entire world looks up to due to its holiness and glory, is now being attacked by evil people who wish to violate its honor and humiliate its greatness with deeds that the Torah despises, as well as all other religions. There is no need to elaborate about their plans and evil actions that bring humanity’s dignity to the ground.”

He asked Pope Benedict “to object to this terrible phenomenon, in the hope that the protest of religious leaders will guide lost souls who fool and harm themselves badly and will deter evil people from corrupting humanity.”