Archive of November 28, 2003

Bishops must take care of their own spiritual life first, Pope says

Vatican City, Nov 28, 2003 (CNA) - Speaking to a group of French bishops, Pope John Paul II said this Friday that bishops must take care of their own spiritual life to be credible witnesses of the Gospel.

Speaking to the bishops from the French ecclesiastical provinces of Cambrai and Reims, who have completed their “ad limina” visit, the Pontiff spoke about the Church and the episcopal mission, with reference to the post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Pastores gregis”.

John Paul II emphasized the importance of taking care of their personal spiritual life, “enriching your ministry,” he said, “with a deep relationship with Christ, through meditation, supplemented by Scripture and an intense sacramental life.” 

“In this way –he added, - you will be able to communicate to the faithful the desire to live in intimate union with God, so that they build up their faith and, together, you are able to propose the faith to your citizens, following the spirit of the documents that you have written about proclaiming the Gospel.”

The Pope also said that in the life and mission of bishops, “fraternal collaboration and attention to communion are essential in order to demonstrate the unity of the whole ecclesiastical Body.” “Today –he continued- it is more important than ever to help the faithful to discover the meaning and grandeur of the mystery of Christ’s Church.”

“Without serious and deep knowledge of the mystery of the Church, which always leads to Christ, it is clear that the meaning of ordained ministries and, specifically, the structure of the Church cannot be understood,” the Pontiff also said.

The Pope stressed that bishops “are continually called to bear clear witness to the apostolic communion among them and with the entire episcopal assembly surrounding the Successor of Peter.”  “In their actions, declarations, decisions, every bishop commits to the entire episcopal body and to the Church.”

The Holy Father underscored that “communion is not a contradiction to legitimate diversity which permits every diocesan Church to have its own personality in function of the pastors and communities that compose it.”

 “The apostolic mission of the bishop is, in the first place, to proclaim the Gospel,” said the Pope, and he concluded: “No matter how small or fragile a group of people is or how few priests there are, it becomes necessary that the bishop take care of the flock entrusted to him and that he is not absent for long periods of time from his diocese, that he visit the different communities, listen to them and encourage them.”

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Pope receives President of Moldova for the first time

Vatican City, Nov 28, 2003 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II received Vladimir Voronin, president of the Republic of Moldova, the first encounter between the Pontiff and the top authority of the new Eastern European nation and the successor of Peter.

Moldova is one of the smallest and more densely populated countries of the former Soviet Union. Is also one of the most stable economically and politically. 

“The country that you represent,” said the Pope during the audience,  “has recently obtained freedom and therefore seeks support in order to overcome the inevitable difficulties, especially at the beginning.” 

“Moldova, given its location on the border between the Latin and Slavic worlds, must use dialogue as an essential instrument of action so that concrete possibilities of peace, justice and well-being flourish,” he added.

 “The Catholic community, although small in terms of numbers, is actively involved in this process.  I would like to emphasize that the Church in Moldova to carry out its evangelizing and charitable mission and that the State recognizes its juridical nature.” 

“It is essential that, without prejudice against anyone –the Pontiff concluded, - dialogue between the State and the Catholic Church continue in a fruitful way for the benefit of all of Moldavian society, while respecting the norms of democracy and the equality of all religious confessions.”

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Banning Catholic views from public schools akin to Nazism: federal judge

, Nov 28, 2003 (CNA) - An attorney from the Thomas More Law Center is optimistic that a ruling, expected  around Dec. 1, will be favorable to the rights of a Catholic, after a federal judge compared banning Catholic views to Nazism.

Attorney Robert Muise is representing former Pioneer High School student Elizabeth Hanson, who sued the school after it banned the Christian viewpoint on homosexuality during a “Diversity Week Forum”, organized by the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance.

Muise says it is not uncommon for such discrimination to take place in public schools. Increasingly, "we have schools that want to label Christian students' views toward homosexuality as hate speech. … [and] exclude it."

At a court hearing Nov. 24, U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen interrogated an attorney representing Pioneer High for two hours regarding the school's decision. He scolded school officials for refusing to let the students hear the viewpoint that homosexual behavior is incompatible with Scripture. The school's actions "smack of government and religious totalitarianism," he said.

The judge said only allowing pro-homosexual clergy to take part in the panel discussion on homosexuals and religion was equivalent to book burning in Nazi Germany back in the 1930s.

Muise feels the judge's interrogations and remarks point toward a favorable decision. "The judge here correctly showed that the ones that are intolerant are the school officials who won't allow this Christian message," he says.

The attorney says the court has made clear that this is a case of viewpoint discrimination, and what it will establish is that "the Christian view is worthy of being expressed in public, and in fact the Constitution requires it."

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Broadcaster refuses to pay fine after radio hosts dared listeners to have sex in cathedral

, Nov 28, 2003 (CNA) - The broadcasting company that aired a live description of two people having sex in St. Patrick’s Cathedral refused to pay the $357,500 indecency fine it was issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Infinity Broadcasting was issued the fine after two of their radio hosts on the Opie & Anthony program on WNEW-FM dared listeners to have sex in the cathedral in August 2002.

According to the New York Post, Infinity Broadcasting is seeking a reduction of the fine. Infinity claims that the WNEW-FM broadcast contained only “oblique references and innuendo” and was not indecent under the FCC standards.

The FCC also issued $27,500 fines to 12 other Infinity stations that aired the broadcast, the maximum allowed under federal regulations.

Infinity has a reputation of dodging FCC fines. In the last decade, the FCC also lodged indecency complaints against Howard Stern, another Infinity radio host. Fines against Stern during the 1990s totaled $1.7 million. The FCC wiped the slate clean for Stern in 1995, accepting a $1.7 million “donation” from Infinity in return for not citing the violations when Infinity’s licenses came up for renewal.

Jan LaRue, Concerned Women for America’s (CWA) chief counsel, encouraged the FCC to hold firm on the fine.

“Indecency fines do not count against a station unless they are paid,” communications attorney Arthur Belenduik told CWA’s Culture & Family Institute, reported the newspaper. Broadcast networks often prefer to challenge indecency fines rather than pay them. “The battle against broadcast indecency must continue into the appeal process as well as the renewal of the broadcast licenses of repeat offenders,” he added.

Meanwhile, WNEW employee Paul Mercurio, who provided the live, on-air commentary of the sex acts, pled guilty to disorderly conduct charges in October and was sentenced to seven days of community service, reported the newspaper.

Loretta Harper, 36, and Brian Florence, 38, who were arrested for the St. Patrick’s stunt, also pled guilty to disorderly conduct and were sentenced to five days of community service earlier this month. Florence died in September of a heart attack.

Gregg Hughes and Anthony Cumia, a.k.a. “Opie & Anthony,” were fired after the broadcast, but they continue to receive their full salary under a contract with Infinity that expires in June 2004.

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Cardinal Sepe tells CAM2 the Church must be missionary

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Nov 28, 2003 (CNA) - Before more than 3,000 people gathered together for the II American Missionary Congress, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, said, ““The Church is either missionary or she is not the Church.”

“This is a theological reality,” the Cardinal said during the first CAM2 conference entitled, “The Mission of Today.”  “The Magisterium of both the Pontiff and the Bishops affirms it.  Christians are missionaries in virtue of our Baptism.”  The Cardinal was interrupted frequently with warm applause for his comments, especially when he mentioned that in the 25 years of his pontificate, John Paul II has insisted that the Church is essentially missionary.

According to the Cardinal, the Pope has embodied this himself, become a traveling catechist and visiting particular churches around the world.

Cardinal Sepe also pointed out that in various Church documents, especially Redemptoris Missio and Novo Millennio Ineunte, the Pope has highlighted the validity of the Church’s missionary mandate.

In explaining the contemporary profile of a missionary, Cardinal Sepe emphasized that, particularly in Redemptoris Missio, the Pope has given guidelines for a fervent new evangelization.

He added that in the intense discussion that followed Vatican II, the work of the missionary in the modern world was not sufficiently analyzed.

Later in statements to the Vatican news agency, Fides, Cardinal Sepe said, “The fruit of the arduous work that has been done in preparation for CAM2 can already be seen,” and he emphasized the importance of promoting meetings such as this on other continents in order to renew “the missionary commitment on a world-wide level.”

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Secularization is greater challenge for Central America than Fundamentalists, says Cardinal Quezada

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Nov 28, 2003 (CNA) - During a press conference at the II American Missionary Conference (CAM2), being held in Guatemala, Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada, Archbishop of Guatemala City, warned the greatest challenge the Church in the region faces is secularization and not the presence of evangelicals.

“The great challenge the Church in Central America faces is not about whether the number of Catholics is going up or down—the great challenges are disbelief and indifference, the complete exclusion of God from one’s life,” the Cardinal told journalists at the CAM2 press conference, which was attended as well by the Pope’s special envoy to the event, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe.

Cardinal Quezada insisted that “the number of those indifferent, the number of non-believers has indeed gone up in recent years,” although he also acknowledged that “there are other religious institutions that are having some success” in Central America.

The Cardinal also warned that “members of other Christian denominations are filling in the gaps that the Catholic Church is leaving open,” but he clarified that the Catholic Church today is more alive and dynamic, with a greater commitment to the poor and to evangelization.

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Gibson film ‘faithful to Bible’s teaching’: Billy Graham

, Nov 28, 2003 (CNA) - Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of the Christ", is “faithful to the Bible's teaching that we are all responsible for Jesus' death, because we have all sinned," said renowned evangelist Billy Graham in a statement released from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association this week.

Graham issued the release after screening the film, which, he said, moved him to tears, reported the WorldNet Daily. The film is a testament to the fact that it is "our sins that caused His death, not any particular group,” he continued.

Graham’s comment makes reference to a claims made by some critics that Gibson’s film is anti-Semitic and blames Jews for Christ’s death.

"I have often wondered what it must have been like to be a bystander during those last hours before Jesus' death," Graham said in the release. "After watching 'The Passion of the Christ,' I feel as if I have actually been there.

“I doubt if there has ever been a more graphic and moving presentation of Jesus' death and resurrection – which Christians believe are the most important events in human history,” he said. “No one who views this film's compelling imagery will ever be the same."

According to the statement, Gibson and actor Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in the film, came to see the 85-year-old Graham twice, before and after he saw the film, reported WorldNetDaily.

Graham said he became convinced of Gibson's "deep sincerity and great desire" that the motion picture be used to bring a new emphasis on the events that occurred 2,000 years ago.

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