Vatican City, Apr 15, 2004 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” often called the “office of papal charity,” announced in its annual report that financial assistance given in the name of the Holy Father for emergency aid and development to the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel and the Populorum Progressio Foundation totaled $6.482 million in 2003.
The report noted that the monies donated to the Pope for “men, women and children tried in body and spirit” came from individual Catholics, parish and diocesan offices and religious institutes around the world.
“Cor Unum” says there was great response in particular to the Holy Father’s Message for Lent 2004 on the theme “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,” in which he wrote: “With great admiration I also think of all those committed to caring for underprivileged children and those who alleviate the sufferings of children and their families resulting from war and violence, inadequate food and water, forced immigration and the many forms of injustice present in the world.”
A total of $1.680 million was donated for human development projects in 33 countries and for emergency assistance in 23 countries affected by earthquakes, floods, wars, drought and famine, refugees and migrants and victims of HIV/AIDS.
The remaining funds were given to the two foundations instituted by Pope John Paul within Cor Unum: $1.843 million to the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel, created in 1984 to help countries affected by the growing desertification of the Sahara; and $2.959 million to the Populorum Progressio Foundation, created in 1992 to help Native populations in Latin America.
The Cor Unum report also noted that “in special cases, the Holy Father has sent as his personal envoy Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, council president, to show the spiritual closeness of the universal Church and the Apostolic See to populations which have been struck and to encourage all those who are assisting the victims.”
Archbishop Cordes traveled to Vietnam in January and to Iraq from May 28 to June 3, 2003.
Denver, Colo., Apr 15, 2004 (CNA) - A Catholic priest from the diocese of Colorado Springs opened a session of the Colorado House of Representatives by asking God to make the lawmakers “the antithesis of John Kennedy.”
The Colorado House begins each day with a prayer, with different ministers invited to do the honors. According to the Rocky Mountain News, clerics are told to keep the prayer nonsectarian, make it more like a “thought for the day” meditation and to keep it to two minutes.
Fr. Bill Carmody prayed that the state legislators would not be afraid to bring their faith into their decisions as elected officials. Carmody criticized Kennedy for saying he could not let his Catholic faith influence his policy decisions.
Rep. Alice Madden, a Democrat from Boulder, was horrified that the priest criticized one of her heroes, reported the Rocky Mountain News.
“To use your cloth to make a political statement when you've been asked to speak to a body of legislators seems particularly heinous to me,” she told the paper.
But Rep. Bill Sinclair, a Republican from Colorado Springs, defended Carmody, the Associated Press reports, telling lawmakers the prayer was not an attack on Kennedy.
“The appeal here today by the individual who gave that prayer was ‘Let's not set our faith aside. Let's not become a godless society.’ Although there's an appropriate separation of church and state and should be adhered to I think it's gone too far in my own personal belief,” Sinclair told his colleagues in the House.
Fr. Carmody, who expressed surprise at the reaction to his prayer, said he believes Kennedy abdicated his faith to win the presidential election.
Carmody's full prayer says:
“Forty years ago, John F. Kennedy, who was running for president, was under intense scrutiny for his Catholic faith. He made a pledge to the nation that he would not allow his faith to influence his decisions as president. He honored that pledge.
Sadly, politician after politician has followed in Kennedy's footsteps and no longer bring their faith with them in public office. This has led to a vacuum of morality in public debate. Politicians now claim, ‘I am personally opposed to this but I can not let my morality and/or faith influence my decisions.’
I ask you, Almighty God, to change this.
I ask that the Catholics here present in this chamber bring their faith in making public policy decisions.
I ask that evangelicals bring their faith when they vote on public policy.
I ask that mainline Protestants bring their faith into the public square.
I ask that the Jewish people here present bring their faith with them when they vote on issues of public policy.
I ask that all people of faith here in this chamber truly be first and foremost, people of faith.
I ask that the representatives here present today will be men and women of God. If it costs them elections, so be it. It will bring this nation closer to God.
Our nation needs people of God to represent them in public office. Our nation has seen enough of people who claim to be a person of God yet never bring God or their faith into the public debate.
Almighty God, please change and convert the hearts of all representatives in this house.
May they be the antithesis of John Kennedy.
May they be women and men of God and may their faith influence and guide every vote they make.
May God bless this chamber and our state.”
Dallas, Texas, Apr 15, 2004 (CNA) - In the view of Arnold Hamilton, a political analyst for the Knight Ridder Tribune News Service, the Catholic vote will provably be decisive in defining the next election.
In his latest analysis about Democratic candidate John Kerry and his Catholicism, Hamilton argues that in a campaign in which a polarized electorate magnifies every swing vote, “how Catholics view Kerry - whose positions on abortion and stem cell research conflict with church teaching - could be pivotal, especially in heavily Catholic Midwestern states considered vital to Democratic prospects.”
In his analysis, Hamilton says that both Kerry and President Bush, a Methodist, recognize the power Catholic voters could wield in the election: “Bush taking steps to carve deeper into the traditional Democratic bloc and Kerry lashing out at conservative Catholics who question his commitment to the faith.”
According to the Knight Ridder analyst, America's 65 million Catholics represent more than one-fifth of the nation's population, many living in states with the most electoral votes, such as California, Texas, Florida, Illinois and Ohio.
“A few hundred votes in Florida swung the election to Bush four years ago. The same scenario could play out this year in Ohio or Illinois, for example, if the president is able to peel away enough Catholic votes from Kerry,” he says.
“Also up in the air: How will Latinos vote? They are overwhelmingly Catholic - and traditionally Democratic. Yet Republicans - including the Spanish-speaking Bush - have worked feverishly to make inroads with the group.”
“I believe that it's the key segment of the electorate that will decide this election,” says Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
“Will we continue to see the trend that we have been seeing the last few elections - namely, that more Catholics are moving into the Republican ranks? Or will a Democratic candidate who's also a Roman Catholic be able to pull them back? Or will these cultural issues - and you should put gay marriage into that pot as well - be sufficient for the trend to continue?”
Quebec City, Canada, Apr 15, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic North American families will soon be able to trace their ancestral roots to the continent’s oldest diocese with the help of new historical Church archives that are currently being developed.
The goals of the project are to repatriate, restore and preserve more than three centuries of diocesan and parochial documents – particularly baptismal and marriage records – in the new Center for the Historical Archives of the Archdiocese of Quebec.
The Archdiocese of Quebec once took in all of North America, except for the British colonies of what is now the eastern United States, and the Spanish colonies of California, Florida and Mexico. It was the only diocese in New France from 1674 to 1789. The first diocese to be carved out of Quebec was Baltimore in 1789. The first Canadian diocese to be carved out Quebec was Kingston in 1826. Therefore, millions of families throughout Canada and the U.S. can trace their roots to the Quebec diocese.
The new six-storey center will have archive storage, exposition halls and sacred artifacts. Organizers say the center will provide an educational environment.
A foundation was created to raise funds for the $70-million project; $12 million have been raised to date. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec, is the foundation’s honorary patron.
Organizers hope the center will be completed by 2008, for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Samuel de Champlain in Quebec.
Rome, Italy, Apr 15, 2004 (CNA) - Underground Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, from the Diocese of Zhengding, was released at 1.30 p.m. on April 14, sources in Beijing told the Rome-based Catholic News Agency AsiaNews.
“The timing and release of the bishop does not surprise us at all. We had already imagined that he would be released (after Easter).”
“We don’t understand why the government insists every year on repeating the same useless act, arresting our bishop before every important liturgical celebration. Such forceful attempts by the government don’t change our faith and our joy in the Lord’s Resurrection,” the sources told AsiaNews.
The bishop was arrested on the afternoon of April 5, and held in custody in Shijiazhuang. The government does not allow for church activities which are not registered and controlled by the Religious Affairs Bureau. Therefore, police officials arrest underground priests and bishops (between Easter and Pentecost and just before Christmas) in order to prevent what they term incidents of “social disorder”, that is, non-government approved and regulated liturgical celebrations
Bishop Jia Zhiguo is regularly taken in by police one week a month. In years past he was always arrested right before Easter. In 2002 he was arrested in March, a few days before Holy Week.
Last March the same bishop was arrested again. Yet since he was sick, he was immediately released. “Normally” Bishop Jia is detained for 3 months and then released. According to some underground Catholics the bishop’s release, like that of Bishop Wei Jingyi (also last March) is attributed to the open criticism the Vatican has voiced against the incidents.
Msgr. Julius Jia Zhiguo, 69, and bishop since 1980, has already spent 20 years behind bars. He heads one of the most active dioceses in Hebei, the region with highest concentration of Catholics—numbering roughly 1.5 million.
, Apr 15, 2004 (CNA) - The soundtrack of Mel Gibson's “The Passion of the Christ” was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, Integrity Media Inc announced on Wednesday. The album sold 500,000 copies in February, the Mobile-based company that publishes and distributes Christian products said.
The CD was released by Integrity Music to the Christian market and by Sony Music to the general market.
Nielsen SoundScan reported that through the week ending April 4, the soundtrack had been the best-selling Christian music album for six consecutive weeks on Billboard's contemporary Christian chart.
The film score was composed by John Debney. The soundtrack features vocals and chants provided by Shannon Kingsbury, the Transylvania State Philharmonic Choir, The London Voices and Gibson, who co-produced the soundtrack with Debney.
The soundtrack can be purchased at: www.catholicmusicnetwork.com
Montevideo, Uruguay, Apr 15, 2004 (CNA) - After heated debate on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Uruguayan Senate decided to postpone the final vote on a bill that would decriminalized abortion. The measure, which would allow abortion on demand during the first trimester, was approved by the Uruguayan House of Representatives last year, but most watchers agree that the bill will not have enough votes to pass in the Senate.
The delay until next month simply postpones the battle between pro-life groups and anti-life forces that are seeking to garner votes for the measure. If the Senate votes against the bill—on Wednesday there were not enough votes in favor ensure passage—it cannot be brought before the body again until the new legislative session, which will begin on March 1, 2005.
, Apr 15, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Jairo Jaramillo Monsalve of Santa Rosa de Osos, Colombia, is calling on the leaders of FARC (the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia)—one of the main rebel militias in the country’s ongoing civil conflict—to release Fr. Cesar Dario Peña Garcia, who was kidnapped by the group on March 15.
The bishop issued a statement expressing concern that the FARC has taken Fr. Peña away from his parishioners and calling him “an exemplary priest in his actions and in his judgment in every circumstance in which he has worked; he has spent 15 years working tirelessly in rural areas.”
Bishop Jaramillo asked the FARC “to allow Fr. Cesar to continue serving his parishioners, because his silence and his absence causes much grief in me as his bishop, and in all of the priests of the dioceses, as well as in his beloved parents and family members.”
The bishop added that the Fr. Peña must surely feel “hurt very deeply that he cannot be with his community,” and his parishioners feel “their rights are violated by the forced absence of their shepherd.”
The town of Raudal, where he is pastor, is preparing to organize demonstrations for the release of Fr. Peña.
Fr. Peña was born on June 12, 1961, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1988.
Madrid, Spain, Apr 15, 2004 (CNA) - In a recent pastoral letter, Archbishop Luis Martinez Sistach, of Tarragona, Spain, said Catholic parents should request their kids be given Catholic moral and religious education in their schools, even though their children participate in parish religious education, because “the two are distinct and complementary.”
According to the Tarragona Daily newspaper, Archbishop Martínez Sistach writes in his letter that young people should understand that religion is “an integral part of their human and social education” and that it is part of their preparation to live “peacefully” in society with others.
In the letter, which will be read in parishes this Sunday, the Archbishop reminds Catholics that the Spanish constitution recognizes the rights of parents to request from public authorities religious and moral formation that is in accord with their convictions.
The Archbishop criticizes the West for having “forgotten the importance of religion,” saying “the Bible is absolutely necessary for understanding Western education.”
Archbishop Martinez Sistach pointed out that “in the 2002-2003 school year, in elementary schools 85% of parents placed their children in religion classes, and 60% in high schools.”
The newly elected socialist government in Spain has announced it will reverse a law passed in the last legislative session, which allowed parents to request religion classes for the children in public schools.