Boston, Mass., Jul 30, 2004 (CNA) - Fr. John B. Ardis, the director of the Paulist Center in Boston, who gave the benediction at yesterday’s closing session of the Democratic National Convention, said his goal was to “bring the convention to a close in prayer” and to challenge “all of us to our responsibility as citizens,” reported the Boston Globe.
The Catholic priest’s acceptance to speak at the convention is somewhat controversial since several Catholic cardinals, such as Cardinals Joseph L. Bernardin of Chicago and John J. O'Connor of New York, declined in the past to speak at Democratic conventions over the years because of the party's support for abortion rights.
Fr. Ardis told the Globe he personally opposes abortion, but he equally opposes capital punishment, the war in Iraq, and public policies he considers unjust toward the poor.
During yesterday’s benediction, however, he only alluded to the abortion issue with a call to "respect for life in all of its forms."
In preparation for his benediction, Fr. Ardis studied the invocation given by Roger Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles at the 2000 Democratic convention that elected Al Gore as candidate four years ago. However, Cardinal Mahony, who was criticized by pro-lifers for attending the convention, openly mentioned the need to defend the life of the unborn.
The Paulist Center, which draws from 800 to 1,200 people for mass each weekend, says it is one of the earliest Catholic houses of worship to welcome divorced members. The congregation welcomes homosexuals and emphasizes “leadership for women.”
Before Easter, Fr. Ardis said he would welcome Kerry to Communion regardless of his support for abortion rights.
Vatican City, Jul 30, 2004 (CNA) - At least 15 people were killed and more than 100 injured when the explosion ripped through the underground pipeline in the industrial zone of Ghislenghien, near the town of Ath, 25 miles southwest of Brussels.
"There were bodies in parking lots, in the fields, burned out cars over a 500-yard radius," fire department spokesman Francis Boileau said. "It looks like a war zone."
In the telegram, Cardinal Sodano says that "having learned of the tragedy that has struck the region of Ath in southern Belgium, the Pope has asked me to let you know that he is joined in prayer to the persons who have been struck by this drama."
"He entrusts the deceased to the mercy of the Lord, that He may welcome them in His peace. He prays for the many wounded and their families, that they may be surrounded by support and comfort in their trials. He encourages the rescue workers and the many hospital people in their important mission of receiving and assisting the wounded, and bringing help to the families and inhabitants of the region."
"Asking the Lord to be close to everyone, the Holy Father extends to the wounded, their families and all persons touched by this calamity his Apostolic Blessing," the telegram concludes.
Washington D.C., Jul 30, 2004 (CNA) - An alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention says he was ousted from his job at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for his support of presidential candidate John F. Kerry, reported the Capital News Service.
Ono Ekeh, 33, of Waldorf, Md., said his employers accused him of using the organization's computers to moderate a "Catholics for Kerry" electronic message board.
Ekeh had been program coordinator for the USCCB Secretariat for African American Catholics for three years when he was asked to resign from the $54,000-a-year post March 9.
Ekeh posted 31 of the board's 401 messages from its creation last August until the end of February, when the publisher of an electronic newsletter wrote about Ekeh's role in the Catholics for Kerry message board.
USCCB spokesman Bill Ryan said the organization would not fire anyone merely for supporting a particular political candidate, but declined to comment on the Ekeh matter.
Ekeh, an alternate delegate from the 5th Congressional District, said he supports the Massachusetts senator's "pro-choice but not pro-abortion stance." The 49-year-old owns a Catholic books shop and is studying theology at Catholic University.
Eugene, Ore., Jul 30, 2004 (CNA) - A local lesbian couple has decided to file a lawsuit against a Catholic school and the local Catholic parish after they declined to admit their daughter.
Lee Inkmann, along with her partner, Trish Wilson, says the denial came because they are gay. They are seeking up to $550,000 in damages on behalf of their daughter.
According to the lawsuit -which names O'Hara Catholic School's principal Dianne Bert and St. Mary Catholic Church's pastor Fr. Mark Bachmeier, Inkmann told the principal about her domestic partner after a school tour last winter.
A couple of weeks later, also according to the suit, Bert informed Inkmann that the school wouldn't enroll their daughter, now 5, because her parents' relationship was opposed to Church teachings and would be confusing for other students and their parents, the suit alleges.
The couple's attorney, Martha Walters, said she thinks the private school meets the definition of a place of public accommodation. That makes it subject to Eugene's city code, which forbids discrimination based on sex, marital status, domestic-partnership status, or sexual orientation, she argues.
Bud Bunce, spokesman for the Archdiocese, said the Archdiocese plans a vigorous defense. "O'Hara Catholic School and the Archdiocese of Portland do not discuss publicly details concerning school admissions of any particular child," he said. "However, it is believed that this situation was handled appropriately. The lawsuit filed includes numerous false statements of fact and is believed to be totally without merit."
Washington D.C., Jul 30, 2004 (CNA) - Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom is urging U.S. delegates at this weekend’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Singapore to pressure China to grant its citizens full religious freedom.
Non-official Chinese churches and practitioners of Falun Gong are particularly persecuted by Chinese authorities. The Center for Religious Freedom reports that hundreds of pastors and Christian house church leaders are continually abducted or arrested and led through unjust trials.
“Religious persecution is on the upswing in China,” said Center for Religious Freedom director Nina Shea. “It is imperative that the U.S. delegation to APEC make clear to their Chinese counterparts that restrictions on religious freedom are intolerable.”
According to the Vatican, Chinese authorities arrested 83-year-old Catholic Bishop Zhao Zhengdong of Shangyingzhuang June 23. He is reportedly being held at an undisclosed location. The bishop’s arrest is reportedly part of a systematic campaign by the Chinese government to convince Catholic clergy to join the Patriotic Association and bring the so-called “underground church” under its control.
China’s religious affairs bureau representative Liu Yongqing recently insisted that "Mr. Zhao Zhengdong was not arrested" and that he had voluntarily attended courses on religious policy organized by the bureau.
China’s Catholic bishops are reportedly being pressured to renounce their ties to the Pope and subject themselves to exclusive communist party authority.
Clergy affiliated with state-approved churches also complain about being regularly subjected to months of "training,” including lessons on Marxism and the undisputed leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.
Draconian measures have been taken against practitioners of Falun Gong, a peaceful spiritual movement founded in China that promotes meditation and physical exercises. In 1999, the government outlawed the movement, which has at least 100 million members. Hundreds of thousands of members have since been detained, and approximately 100,000 are estimated to have been sent to labor camps. At least 1,000 members have been killed in custody, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center.
According to a recent survey conducted by Forum 18, a Norwegian religious news service, the Chinese government blocks access to Internet sites related to Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama, certain branches of Islam, Protestant house churches, and major Protestant and Catholic organizations, including the Vatican. Web sites of American groups promoting religious freedom in China are also blocked.
Newark, N.J., Jul 30, 2004 (CNA) - Priests for Life will hold its annual national retreat for seminarians next month, from Aug. 10 to 17, at the Newark Youth Retreat Centre in Kearney, New Jersey.
The 2004 conference, sponsored by Seminarian Life Link, will feature Bishop John Yanta of Amarillo as a special guest speaker. Participants will receive a certificate for post-abortion healing training.
Other speakers include: Fr. Frank Pavone, founder of Priests for Life; Fr. Tom Euteneuer, president of Human Life International; Msgr. Phillip Reilly, founder of Helpers of God’s Precious Infants; Dr. Phillip Ney, renowned authority on Post-Abortion Syndrome and Dr. Theresa Burke, founder of Rachel’s Vineyard, a post-abortion healing ministry of Priests for Life.
The conference will begin Tuesday evening. Wednesday through Saturday will include conferences, seminars and hands-on activities. Monday will likely include a tour of New York City. Mass and prayer times are also scheduled.
For more information, write to: [email protected]
Madrid, Spain, Jul 30, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Luis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Spain, underscored this week the need to harmonize the rights of Muslim immigrants with the right and the duty to respect the social, cultural and religious identity of Spain.
In an interview with the Spanish newspaper “La Razon,” the new archbishop said that the challenge of the growing Muslim immigration in Spain requires that “respect for the rights of immigrants be harmonized with our own rights, which also includes the duty to respect the social, cultural and religious identity and configuration of the country which welcomes them.”
“We must avoid falling into two attitudes: adopt everything they offer without any kind of discernment and thus lose our identity, or oppose them with xenophobic actions. For Christians it is a duty to welcome them as persons, especially if they are in need, without hiding the fact that we are helping them because of our Christian faith,” the archbishop said.
During the interview Archbishop Sistach defended the roll of Catholic schools in the country. “Catholic schools provide an incalculable service to parents in the education of their children.”
Parents are “responsible first for the education of their children, they have a right to choose a school that is in conformity with their religious convictions. Catholic schools respond to this right of the parents. It is a right recognized in international declarations and in the Spanish Constitution itself that these schools exist,” he said.
In same way, he added, “schools and education should be a matter of the State and not dependent upon the change of power from one party to the next. That would bolster the democratic character of our country.”
Later on the archbishop made reference to the role of the new ecclesial movements in “the new evangelization,” pointing out that “they have been conceived in the Church under the impulse of the Holy Spirit and they are doing great work for evangelization. The collaboration between these movements and the more traditional movements in the diocesan churches should bear much fruit in the midst of a very secularized society.”
Konigstein, Germany, Jul 30, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Fernando Legal, SDB, of Sao Miguel Paulista in southern Brazil, said this week it is more important to strengthen the faith of Catholics than to “combat” sects.
During a visit to Aid to the Church in Need in Germany, the bishop said that rather than combating sects which are attempting to recruit Catholics in his diocese, the primordial task of the Church is to defend the Catholic faith.
“Our people should know their Church, learn to love Her and to serve Christ and neighbor,” Bishop Legal said.
Therefore, his priority is in the formation of future priests. Currently, the Diocese of San Miguel Paulista has 56 seminarians, with an additional six men studying in Rome. The diocese, which was created 15 years ago, has ordained more than 60 priests.