Archive of July 2, 2004

Italian reporter to release Cardinal Ratzinger’s full letter to US Bishops on denying communion

Rome, Italy, Jul 2, 2004 (CNA) - The dean of Italian Vatican journalists, Sandro Magister of the weekly L’Espresso, will release tomorrow a story on the debate over whether communion should be denied to pro-abortion Catholic politicians. The story will include the letter that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith, addressed to the US bishops.

According to Magister, Cardinal Ratzinger had clearly told Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington and head of the Ad Hoc committee for domestic policy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, that communion may not be given to Catholic politicians who make systematic political efforts in favor of abortion.

Magister says that Ratzinger’s letter, which he will reproduce tomorrow in its entirety, is different, if not opposed, to what the US Bishops decided during their spring assembly held in Denver from June 14 to 19. Magister says the US bishops are divided in how to answer to the “public unworthiness of receiving Holy Communion.”

Magister also claims that not only the final document of the USCCB meeting in Denver, “Catholics in Political Life,” but especially Cardinal McCarrick’s comments to his fellow bishops, present “a clear divergence” with the letter Cardinal Ratzinger sent to both the Archbishop of Washington DC as well as to Bishop Wilton Gregory, President of the USCCB.

Magister’s column will be available online tomorrow, Saturday, July 3, at:

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Knights urged to ‘make crucial difference’ in Federal Marriage Amendment

New Haven, Conn., Jul 2, 2004 (CNA) - The 1.5 million U.S. members of the Knights of Columbus are urged to “make the crucial difference” in the debate over the Federal Marriage Amendment by calling their senators or showing up at their senator’s local office and voicing their support for the measure.

The Senate will begin debating the amendment July 9; a vote is expected the following week.

“Amending the Constitution is something that we should never take lightly,” Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said. “But the recent same-sex marriage decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court leaves no alternative. The danger that other state or federal courts will adopt their reasoning and strike down laws protecting traditional marriage is now very great.”

The amendment would declare that “marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.” It provides that “neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.”

The Knights are urged to contact senators at their offices “back home,” rather than on Capitol Hill. “Letters and e-mails may have some impact, but phone calls are more likely to get their attention,” said the instructions to U.S. Knights.

The Knights were also told to contact their own senators only since senators do not pay attention to communications from people living in states they don’t represent.

“As the largest Catholic family organization in the country, the Knights of Columbus regards defense of the traditional family as among its highest priorities,” Anderson said.

At its national convention in August 2003, the Knights adopted a resolution that the organization “will oppose any effort to alter the institution and sacrament of marriage to include unions between persons of the same sex.”

Senators’ contact information is available on the Knights of Columbus Web site:

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Common resolution signed by Pope and Orthodox Patriarch confirms "desire to reach full communion"

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2004 (CNA) - At the end of their meeting yesterday afternoon, Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I signed a Common Declaration "witnessing to the firm will to continue on the path towards full communion between us in Christ."

The Declaration recalls that the encounters in recent days in the Vatican marked the 40th anniversary of the embrace between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem in January 1964 which "visibly expressed a hope present in the hearts of everyone," that "all may be one" as Christ desired.

“Unity and Peace! The hope kindled by that historical meeting has illuminated the path of these last decades,” says the statement.

It adds that although “the Christian world for centuries has suffered the drama of separation,” there have been signs of progress, such as reciprocal meetings in Fanar and Rome between John Paul II and the ecumenical patriarchs and the establishment in 1979 of the International Mixed Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as a whole.

“It is our duty to continue in the decisive commitment to reactivate work as soon as possible,” said the statement, refering to the standstill in the work of the Mixed Comission.

The Declaration affirms that “Notwithstanding our firm desire to continue on the path towards full communion, it would be unrealistic not to realize there are obstacles of various natures: doctrinal above all, but also arising from a difficult history.”

“In addition,” it continues, “new problems have arisen from the profound changes that have occurred in the European socio-political context have not been without consequences in the relations between the Christian Churches. With the return to freedom of Christians in central and eastern Europe fears have been awakened, making dialogue difficult.”

“In the particular context of Europe, the path towards higher forms of integration and enlargement towards the East of the continent, we give thanks to the Lord for this positive development and express the hope that in this new situation collaboration between Catholics and Orthodox will grow.”

The statement closes with a list of the task that lay ahead: “Many are the challenges we must face together in order to contribute to the good of society: healing with love the scourge of  terrorism; infusing a hope of peace;

contributing to rectifying so many painful conflicts; restoring in Europe the awareness of its Christian roots; building a true dialogue with Islam, because indifference and reciprocal ignorance can only lead to  distrust and even hatred;

nourishing the awareness of the sacredness of human life; working so that science does not deny the divine spark that every man receives with the gift of life;

collaborating so that our earth is not disfigured and creation can preserve the beauty that God has given it;

but above all, announcing with renewed vigor the Gospel message, showing modern man how the Gospel helps him to renew himself and to build a more human world.”

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In farewell meeting Pope and Orthodox Patriarch vow to remain in "communion in prayer and fraternal charity."

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2004 (CNA) - The Holy Father and the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I together gave thanks to God for the fraternity and  signified by their meeting, and for the confirmation of their commitment “to make decisive progress toward full unity between Catholics and Orthodox,” during the Patriarch’s farewell visit to the Pope yesterday afternoon.

“There is great need for these signs of communion, as well as for the words that accompany them and explain them which we have written in the joint declaration,” said John Paul II.

“Another important event during these days, which has been a motive for special joy for me, is to have had the opportunity to grant the ecumenical patriarchate use of the church of St. Theodore on the Palatine Hill in the heart of ancient Rome,”said the Holy Father.

He continued :“This will allow the faithful of the Greek-Orthodox archdiocese in Italy to have a significant and continuing presence close to the tomb of the Apostle Peter.  All of this, we know, is a gift from God. And it is beautiful that brothers and sisters live together in this common recognition.”

The Holy Father thanked His Holiness Bartholomew I and the members of his entourage. He concluded by saying: “With the memory of these days of grace, and today's meeting, may we remain in communion in prayer and fraternal charity.”

Patriarch Bartholomew departed from Rome at noon today.

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General Assembly agrees to upgrade status of the Holy See at the UN

Vatican City, Jul 2, 2004 (CNA) - Yesterday, at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the General Assembly adopted a Resolution, submitted as a presidential text, to upgrade the status of the Holy See at the U.N., signifying a more participatory role in the U.N.’s work.

The Holy See's role as a permanent observer now includes all the same rights and privileges as other observers and it will be easier for it to participate in U.N. sessions without a vote. 

The Holy See no longer has to ask permission to participate in debates, it has a right of reply, the right to circulate documents and to raise points of order.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer to the United Nations, addressed the General Assembly and thanked the president for “the adoption by consensus of this Resolution on the participation of the Holy See in the work of the United Nations, under agenda item 59, entitled “Strengthening of the United Nations system.”

He noted that “the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See is happily celebrating the fortieth anniversary of its presence at this Organization this year.”

“The adoption of this Resolution is an important step forward and reflects the lofty values and collective interests shared by the Holy See and the United Nations. We are committed to the same objectives that necessitate the protection of the fundamental human rights, the preservation of the dignity and worth of the human person and the promotion of the common good,” said the archbishop.

“To achieve these goals, we need an ordered international community built upon the strong edifice of law - a law not of whim and caprice but of principles stemming from the very universality of human nature - that can guide human reason for the future,” he continued.

“With an edifice built on such principles guiding our efforts, we can be assured of attaining our mutual quest for a lasting and universal justice and peace.”

Archbishop Migliore concluded by thanking the “many Permanent Representatives who expressed to me their personal and their Governments' support for the Resolution just adopted” and “all Member States for their invaluable support in the adoption of this Resolution.”

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Cleveland bishop will not deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians

Cleveland, Ohio, Jul 2, 2004 (CNA) - In a long statement to the faithful of his diocese, Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland announced that he would not deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, stating that the altar is “not a place for confrontation.”

“The view of refusing Communion to politicians who support keeping abortion legal is not part of the pastoral tradition of the Church,” he wrote in his statement. “Given the longstanding practice of not making a public judgment about the state of the soul of those who present themselves for Communion, the pastoral tradition of the Church places the responsibility of such a judgment first on those presenting themselves for Holy Communion.”

The former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that no one should misunderstand reservations about refusing Communion “as ignoring or excusing those who clearly contradict Catholic teaching in their public roles.” 

Politicians and others, who act in opposition to fundamental Church teachings, “should not underestimate the seriousness of this situation,” said the bishop. “They must study Catholic teaching, recognize their grave responsibility to protect human life from conception to natural death, and adopt positions consistent with these principles. 

“However, in my view,” he continued, “the battles for human life and dignity and for the weak and vulnerable should be fought not at the Communion rail, but in the public square, in hearts and minds, in our pulpits and public advocacy, in our consciences and communities.

“The altar is a place of unity, healing, nourishment and grace,” he stated. “It is not a place for confrontation.”

Citing Fr. John Courtney Murray, a controversial theorist on the engagement of Catholics in political life, Bishop Pilla defended a politician’s right to use the democratic process and the right of free speech to persuade public opinion in favor of his or her position on a public moral issue, such as abortion. “This cannot reasonably or justly be alleged as imposing one’s personal views on others,” he said.

“As Catholics, we have the religious and moral responsibility of advocating social policies and laws that safeguard the rights of the unborn and the well being of the mother,” he said.

But he emphasized that he is not suggesting that “Catholic public officials are obligated to incorporate all precepts of divine and moral law in civil statutes,” or that  they “are not free in conscience to disagree with their bishops on public policy questions. 

Bishop Pilla’s full statement:

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Archdiocese of Los Angeles to challenge California law on abuse victims

Los Angeles, Calif., Jul 2, 2004 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Los Angeles plans to petition a federal judge and request to join a constitutional challenge to a California law, which allowed hundreds of alleged victims of sex abuse by clergy to file suit against the Church, reported The Associated Press.

Lawyers for the archdiocese argue that the law unfairly targets the Catholic Church and makes it liable for alleged abuse, which, in some cases, dates back 70 years.

The law, passed in 2002, temporarily rolled back the state’s statute of limitations in civil cases. It allowed victims to file claims against the archdiocese by Dec. 31, 2003.

The archdiocese will continue to negotiate settlements with the more than 500 cases – which were filed after the law was passed – as it challenges the law in federal court, archdiocese attorney J. Michael Hennigan told the AP.

He added that trial lawyers, who now represent many of the plaintiffs in the lawsuits, drafted the law.

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Seminary in San Antonio to launch expansion campaign

, Jul 2, 2004 (CNA) - A seminary in the American Southwest, which is in the midst of an expansion campaign, has welcomed a new leader.  Fr. Larry Christian was named rector of Assumption Seminary, succeeding Fr. Jerry Brown.

Fr. Christian is an archdiocesan priest for San Antonio and former pastor at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Jourdanton, Texas. 

One of Fr. Christian’s priorities is Assumption Seminary’s $13-million expansion campaign, which will raise funds for a new residence hall.

The seminary also welcomes a new director of development. Barbara Spinner will lead the marketing and public relations for the seminary’s endowment fund and expansion campaign.

She has served in similar fundraising positions with Father Flanagan’s Boys Town of San Antonio, Providence High School and the San Fernando Cathedral Historical Centre Foundation.

St. John’s/Assumption Seminary was established in 1915 to provide a bilingual  priestly formation.

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Government announces federal funding to teach and spread Islam in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Jul 2, 2004 (CNA) - The Spanish Justice Minister, Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, expressed this week the willingness of the government to provide federal funding to Muslim communities in Spain, as well as to “assure the presence of religion in the educational system” and in the public media.

Lopez did not specify the exact amount that would be earmarked for Muslims, although he pointed out that it would be based on the number of Muslim adherents.  He said the decision would be “reasonable and proportionate” and that support would be given to Muslim communities that “fulfill a social purpose.”

According to reports, the economic aid may be given in the form of grants to the Islamic Commission—the highest-ranking Muslim body in the Spain.

Lopez said the purpose of the funding is to help Muslims move away from meeting for worship in garages and to transition into the mainstream of society.  He estimated the program would bring the 200 clandestine prayer mosques out of hiding and register them with the Justice department.

Lopez added, “It is important that the Government of the federation of Muslim entities work together in education and in fostering the values of tolerance and coexistence with one another.”

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