Archive of August 25, 2004

Pope sends off Russian icon of Mary, expresses will for Christian unity

Vatican City, Aug 25, 2004 (CNA) - At a special Liturgy of the Word this morning, Pope John Paul he is pleased and grateful to see the revered Russian icon of the Mother of God of Kazan return to Russian soil. A 10-member Vatican delegation will return the venerated image of Mary to its native Russia this week on the pontiff’s behalf.

According to historical accounts, the Marian icon had been taken from Moscow after World War II. It made its way through several European countries before settling for some time by the Sanctuary of Fatima in Portugal. The Pope was given the icon more than 10 years ago. However, in a gesture of reconciliation and unity, the Pope has decided to return the icon, which had been kept in the pontifical apartments, to the Russian Church and the entire Russian people.

The Pope had wanted to deliver the icon personally but the Russian Patriarch Alexei II said such a visit was unnecessary, claiming that the icon in the Pope’s possession is merely a copy. The Vatican has instead decided to send the icon with a delegation. Walter Cardinal Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, will lead the delegation and is expected to give the icon to the Russian patriarch Aug. 28. 

The liturgical celebration in the Paul VI Room included prayer and veneration of the icon. Following a song performed by a Russian choir, a Russian prayer to the Mother of God of Kazan, which the Pope composed, was read. 

“We find ourselves, gathered in prayer around the venerated Icon of the Mother of God of Kazan, which will soon embark on a return journey to Russia, from which it was taken many years ago,” the Pope said in his homily. 

“More than 10 years ago, it arrived providentially in the house of the Pope,” said the pontiff. “Since then, it has found its place close to me and it has accompanied my daily service to the Church with a maternal gaze.”  

The Pope said during this time he has often invoked the Mother of God of Kazan, “asking her to protect and guide the Russian people, who are so devoted to her, and to hasten the moment when all of her Son’s disciples, recognizing themselves as brothers, would know how to recover the full the unity that was compromised.”

“Since the beginning, I have desired that this holy icon make its way back to Russian soil, where, according to reliable and historic testimonies, it was for many years an object of profound veneration for generations of faithful,” he said.

The Pope also commented on the strong faith of the Russian people. “Russia is a nation, which for many centuries, has been Christian – the Santa Rus’,” he said.

“Even when adversarial forces persisted against the Church and tried to erase from men’s lives the holy name of God, this people remained profoundly Christian, witnessing, in many cases with their blood, their fidelity to the Gospel and the values that it inspires,” he said with admiration.

The Pope also instructed the 10-member delegation to impart to the Patriarch and to the Russian bishops – along with the ancient image of the Mother of God – “the affection of the Successor of Peter for them and for all the faithful under their care.

“Tell them of his high regard for Russia’s rich spiritual tradition, of which the Holy Russian Church is its guardian,” he continued. “Tell them of the desire and the firm proposal of the Pope of Rome to proceed together with them in the journey toward reciprocal recognition and reconciliation, and to hasten the full unity for believers, for which the Lord Jesus has ardently prayed.”

The Pope then gave the icon to Cardinal Kasper, who will lead the 10-member delegation to Moscow. Edgar Cardinal McCarrick, archbishop of Washington and Joaquín Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See Press Office will be among the delegates.

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Most Americans says politics should stay out of churches

Washington D.C., Aug 25, 2004 (CNA) - A new poll released yesterday shows that most Americans are opposed to political parties obtaining church rosters and to Catholic leaders denying pro-abortion politicians Communion, reported the Associated Press.

The Republican National Committee has sought church directories from Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics to help them mobilize new voters. But the poll, conducted in early August by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, found that about two-thirds of Republicans and Democrats consider the practice improper. 

According to the poll, about 66 percent of Americans believe Catholic leaders should not deny Communion to politicians who take positions counter to Church teaching. Barely more than half (51 percent) said church leaders should express their views on political matters; 44 percent said they should not.

In addition, more people (52 percent) perceive the Republicans to have stronger ties to organized religion than the Democrats (40 percent).

The poll also shows that Bush tends to get more support among regular churchgoers and that four in 10 Republicans consider themselves evangelical Christians.

Poll results indicate that Kerry has 47 percent of the public support, while Bush has 45 percent.

The poll of 1,512 adults was taken Aug. 5-10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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Evangelization conference to be held at Anaheim over weekend

Anaheim, Calif., Aug 25, 2004 (CNA) - About 7,500 people are expected to attend the 14th annual National Catholic Family Conference at the Anaheim Convention Center this weekend, entitled ''For I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel,'' on defending and explaining the Catholic faith amidst controversies.

The organizers of the conference this year are the nonprofit Catholic Resource Center of West Covina, an organization committed to Evangelizing through different kinds of media – tv, books, radio.

Lectures to be presented have names such as ''No More Namby-Pamby Catholicism,'' ''Dashin' with Passion,'' and ''Learning to Witness to Others,'' and will include such speakers as Scott and Kimberly Hahn, authors of “Rome Sweet Home” and “Hail Holy Queen.”

The director of the evangelism program at the center is Michael Combie, a Catholic who grew up a Southern Baptist and was drawn to the Church by the idea of confession.

''As a Protestant I would have been condemned to hell, but as a Catholic I can go to confession. Hallelujah!'' Cumbie said. ''It's a great misnomer to tell people they are saved no matter what,'' said Cumbie who also realized early on that faith without works is empty.

Combie brings his experience as an Evangelical to the table and also sees points of contact between Catholics and Evangelicals that may aid them in working togethr to preach Jesus Christ. ''Every evangelical is trying to help people get to heaven,'' Cumbie said. ''Basically, we're on the same team.''

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Forced divorce argued illegal under terms of Catholic antenuptial agreement

Cleveland, Ohio, Aug 25, 2004 (CNA) - Couples who marry in the Roman Catholic Church are bound by an antenuptial (prenuptial) agreement, which includes specific rules about separation and divorce, according to a brief filed today by Cleveland attorney Bob Lynch, on behalf of his client, Marie (Bai) Macfarlane.

Mr. Lynch has argued, on behalf of his client, that her husband violated the antenuptial agreement, which was willingly consented to by both parties, by separating and filing for divorce without first consulting his bishop, and has thus asked that all temporary orders be dismissed.

In The Code of Canon Law, canon 1153 requires a spouse to first demonstrate to the bishop or the tribunal that there’s an acceptable reason for separating from the other spouse, unless there is “danger in delay”.  Macfarlane’s husband, Bud,  did not first consult with Cleveland’s Bishop Pilla before moving out of the family home and subsequently filing for divorce.  Canon 1692 requires that a spouse receive authorization to “approach the civil forum.”

Mr. Lynch has asked that the Church’s laws be upheld following the precedent in case law of Orthodox Jews who have had their prenuptial agreements upheld by civil authorities.

In response Judge Cheryl Karner made the statement that  “. . .your religious conviction and the contract you entered into in front of your priest, has priority, I can understand that from a religious point of view, but it doesn’t from a secular point of view and doesn’t from a legal point of view.”

Bai had asked the judge to send her and her husband to conciliation services to resolve the conflict at the time the case was first filedm but the judge refused to do so because her husband was unwilling to go.

Stephen Safranek, a professor of Law at the Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan, maintains that the contract placing jurisdiction in the courts of the Catholic Church should be granted like other arbitration agreements.

According to Ohio RevisedCode 3117, all counties in the state must institute conciliation programs to help couples who wish to keep their families intact. However, Bai discovered that Cuyahoga County had never instituted any such programs to aid families in trouble.

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Cardinal Hummes denounces indigenous killings in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 25, 2004 (CNA) - Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil, issued an official statement this week condemning the anonymous attacks on homeless indigenous people, which in less than a week have left six dead and another ten seriously wounded.

The cardinal said he was profoundly saddened by “the tragic news of the massacre of our brethren, who are part of the neglected and suffering population of our beloved city.”

“Such violence and cruelty is unacceptable and should be vigorously repudiated.  The Church has cried out many times regarding the need to come to the aid of those who are forced to live in our streets, without shelter.  She does so out of a duty of humanity and because of her faith in Jesus Christ, who wishes to be identified in each person, especially in the poor and handicapped,” the Cardinal said.

Likewise, he questioned the value of projects to improve the city, “if a significant part of its population suffers from the worst of miseries, is defenseless and subject to all kinds of violence.”

The Cardinal asked that “this be a moment in which all of us, our entire society, reflect deeply upon our social responsibilities and not run away from what should be done above all else—to care for human beings, for each human being.”

He recommended that people have an attitude of sorrow and “remain in suffering silence, because words mean so little,” and he encouraged authorities to carry out their responsibilities in response to these acts.

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Bishops not discouraged by Marxist group’s cool response to government offer to release rebel soldiers

, Aug 25, 2004 (CNA) - The Vice President of the Bishops Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro, expressed his hope that the Marxists Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) still might accept a humanitarian proposal to free dozens of hostages.

The Archbishop of Tunja said he did not consider the cool response of the FARC to the government proposal to mean the door is closed.

The Colombian government has proposed to FARC the release of 50 rebel soldiers in exchange for the release of civilians being held by the group.  The FARC responded that it wanted to decide which soldiers would be released and when, as well as what the conditions and circumstances of the release would be, demanding that the government appoint a negotiator to work out the details.

Archbishop Castro said the last exchange of messages between the two sides was more intended for the public than for each other.  “Both sides are saying they want to reach a humanitarian agreement,” said the Archbishop, although he acknowledged that the FARC “has not budged an inch.”

Archbishop Castro said that their response proves the FARC are willing to “dialogue face to face in some location” and that now it is up to the government to “decide if it is willing to dialogue face to face with the rebels or if things will just stay the same.”

The Archbishop insisted that the only ones jeopardized by this situation are “the kidnapped and the families who must deal with another frustration.”

However, he hoped that the two parties would manifest “creativity and a desire to explore new ways to end this deadlock.”

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Indigenous peoples in need of spiritual care, says Mexican bishop

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 25, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, called on his fellow bishops to boost their efforts to address the spiritual needs of the country’s more than 12 million Native Mexicans.

As President of the Bishops’ Committee for Indigenous Pastoral Care, he has published a letter urging prelates to respond to the hunger for God in the more than 80 ethnic groups that are present in Mexico, saying that four events have been scheduled to launch such an initiative.

The first event will bring together Native Mexican seminarians in the city of Tuxpan the first week of September.  Next, Native Mexican representatives of the laity will meet in October in Huanjuapan in southern Mexico.

Lastly, Native Mexican religious will meet in November in the city of Ahuatitla.

According to Bishop Arizmendi, a national gathering is also being planned for Native Mexican catechists and religion teachers in January of 2005.

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