Archive of August 31, 2004

Cardinal Egan to give official benediction at RNC on Thursday

, Aug 31, 2004 (CNA) - The Republican National Convention in New York this week has two things that the Democratic convention a few months ago did not have: daily mass and a cardinal’s benediction.

Roman Catholics participating at the RNC at Madison Square Garden have the possibility of celebrating daily mass all week at the Church of Our Saviour, one mile from the convention site.

Though masses are not official convention activities, they are listed on a schedule distributed by the volunteer Catholic Working Group, which is helping President George Bush garner the Catholic vote for his presidential race.

Edward Cardinal Egan, archbishop of New York, is scheduled to give the benediction Thursday, after Bush accepts the nomination for presidential candidate.

Contrary to tradition, the Democratic Convention did not have a bishop or cardinal give the benediction. Rather, Senator John Kerry’s pastor, a Paulist priest, gave the benediction.

Though a Methodist, President Bush’s stance on right-to-life life issues is more in line with Catholic teaching than Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry.

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Russian Patriarch responds to Pope’s gesture, insists on “respect” for Orthodox territories

Moscow, Russia, Aug 31, 2004 (CNA) - The Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II sent a letter to Pope John Paul II thanking him for the handing over of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan back to the Russian Orthodox Church, and insisting that the Catholic Church “respects” the Russian Orthodox territories.

The icon was handed over by Cardinal Walter Kasper at the end of the celebration of Mass in the Kremlin on August 28, the Feast of the most glorious Dormition of Mary in the Orthodox calendar.

“The transfer of this holy icon brought over by your envoys is seen by the Plenitude of the Russian Orthodox Church as both an act of the restoration of justice and an act of good will on the part of Your Holiness,” said the Patriarch.

The Patriarch said that the Pope’s decision to hand over the icon “points to the sincere desire to overcome the difficulties existing in relations between our two Churches,” and prayed that it might help overcome the suffering of the Church in the 20th century.

“The veneration of the Mother of God as "the zealous intercessor for the Christian race" - the veneration common to the Orthodox and Catholic Churches - brings us back to the times of the Early Church when there were no divisions between East and West so visible, regretfully, in our days,” he continued.

The Patriarch mentioned the desire of the Russian Orthodox Church to maintain a relationship of “sincere cooperation,” and said that the transfer of the icon is a “step in the right direction” towards settling problems between the two Churches.

He concluded by saying that “openness in relations among Christians of various confessions presupposes respect for one another, knowledge of their common history and sensitivity in carrying out any actions in territories where other Christian tradition has existed for centuries.”

The term “sensitivity in carrying out actions in territories where other Christian tradition has existed for centuries,” is a demand, politely put, that the Catholic Church cease to evangelize in Russia, an activity which the Russian Orthodox hierarchy considers an aggressive form of proselytism.

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U.S. bishops urge FCC to adapt rules so public can oppose indecency

Washington D.C., Aug 31, 2004 (CNA) - U.S. broadcasters should be required to maintain archives of the programs they air and make them easily available in order to make it easier for the public to oppose indecent programming, says the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The change was proposed to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a testimony prepared by USCCB assistant general counsel Katherine G. Grincewich Aug. 27 in Washington.

The FCC’s current procedure for indecency complaints puts the initial burden on listeners and viewers to obtain a transcript from the broadcaster of the program at issue, Grincewich explained. However, it does not require the broadcaster to provide the program when requested by the listener or viewer.

This “inhibits the appropriate enforcement of indecency rules,” said Grincewich, since it prevents the public from acquiring evidence that indecent material has been aired. Without a transcript or tape, the FCC is forced to make its decision based on a listener’s or viewer’s memory alone.

This situation is “unfair to the complainant, the broadcaster and the Commission,” Grincewich added.

On behalf of the USCCB, she also urged the FCC to do more to require broadcasters to serve the public interest of the local communities that they are licensed to serve.

The FCC should require broadcasters to “determine the needs and interests of their communities of license, air at least a minimum amount of public affairs, news and independently produced programs which meet those needs and interests, and report to the public their actions,” Grincewich said.

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Insurers refuse to meet damage settlements in Los Angeles abuse cases

Los Angeles, Calif., Aug 31, 2004 (CNA) - Insurers for the dioceses of Los Angeles and Orange are balking at paying the possible damages claimed by hundreds of people, who say they were sexually abused by Catholic priests.

According to newly released court documents from pre-trial proceedings, the damages in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles alone could exceed $1.5 billion, reported the Los Angeles Times. This amount far exceeds what any other U.S. diocese has paid to date.

There are more than 500 child-molestation claims against Los Angeles priests and another 60 against priests from the Diocese of Orange – both dioceses are part of the same litigation.

Damages, if proven, could be paid both by insurers and from church assets. However, The plaintiffs’ lead lawyer has requested that insurers pay at least $3.1 million per individual claimant.

While most of the pretrial proceedings are held in secret, court documents indicate that at least 20 insurance companies are involved, covering church liability since 1950.

Attorney Raymond P. Boucher says the amount is justified. However, many of the insurers involved seemingly don’t agree.

In the pretrial settlements for the Diocese of Orange, claimants’ lawyers have already accused insurers of failing to make a meaningful contribution to what the diocese is offering in damages.

Lawyers for Los Angeles are also in dispute with their own insurers over "the existence, nature and amount of coverage," although Boucher has estimated that the archdiocese had about $10 billion in potential insurance coverage.

According to court documents, retrieved by the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Insurance Co., has said it might try to protect its assets by asserting that the Los Angeles Archdiocese intentionally put children in harm's way.

According to other court documents, some companies may argue that the Los Angeles and Orange dioceses broke their insurance contracts by allowing known pedophiles to remain in active ministry. Other companies had required the church to notify them of abuse allegations so they could stop liability coverage for claims filed up to five years after such notification.

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Newspaper campaign assists Catholic refugees from Vietnam

, Aug 31, 2004 (CNA) - A local newspaper in Northern Wisconsin has launched a campaign to help the nearly 500 Catholic refugees, who are arriving from Northern Vietnam this summer and fall.

The Hmong are a Catholic minority in Vietnam, who is continuously persecuted by communist authorities. Many of its leaders have been arrested, tortured and sentenced without just cause.

With its Refugee Relief Fund Do It! Campaign, the Post-Crescent hopes to raise enough funds to meet the refugees’ immediate needs for food, housing, health care and living expenses for at least the first month.

Contributions will go to the Fox Cities Hmong Refugee Resettlement Fund, established within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. Catholic Charities of Green Bay Diocese is responsible for resettling refugees in Wisconsin and will manage the fund, which will be used to help meet immediate needs once government assistance runs out.

Each refugee receives a $400 federal resettlement stipend. Refugees with children are eligible for Wisconsin Works, a welfare-to-work program providing up to $673 a month for 24 months, plus food stamps and medical assistance.

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Church in Colombia laments no new peace initiatives by rebels

, Aug 31, 2004 (CNA) - The Vice President of the Colombian Bishops Conference, Bishop Luis Augusto Castro, expressed disappointment this week that the response of the Marxist rebel group FARC does not contain any new proposals that would facilitate a peace solution to the country’s civil conflict.

“There is nothing new in the response of the guerilla to the national government concerning direct negotiations for a humanitarian accord,” the Archbishop told reporters.

Nevertheless he emphasized the positive aspects of the FARC statement, saying at least “there has not been any regression” because “the guerrilla’s position continues to be the same as one as last year and as of a few months ago.”

Archbishop Castro recalled that the guerilla seeks a prisoner exchange “package for package,” as well as “a face-to-face dialogue” with a government representative in “some area of the country.”  The government has rejected these conditions, saying they would put incarcerated FARC rebels on the same level as soldiers, police officers and citizens kidnapped by the guerillas.

The Archbishop said the FARC’s agreement to negotiate with commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo was a positive development, since “that was something that they previously would not consider.”

Lastly he warned that only through dialogue “will positions be positively altered in order to facilitate a coming together of both parties.”

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Cardinal encourages fostering of a “culture of vocations” in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 31, 2004 (CNA) - During the opening of the Second Vocations Congress, taking place at the headquarters of the Bishops Conference of Brazil, Cardinal Geraldo Majella Angelo emphasized the need to “create a culture of vocations” in the country.

The President of the bishops’ conference said, “Our vocation is to be the Church.  We are called to make the Church, to give continuity to the mystery of the Incarnation through the proclamation of the Gospel.  We are all called and the call is for everyone.”

“We need to create a culture of vocations,” said the Cardinal, adding that “a vocation is a response of God to the community that prays.  We also need to create a missionary culture in the Church.”

Before inaugurating the event, the Cardinal finished his comments asking for “the blessing of our Lady, Mother of the Church,” that she might protect all Brazilians.

According to the President of the Executive Committee of the Vocations Congress, Bishop Pedro Brito Guimaraes, “We want to bring people together.”  He added that the Congress seeks “to create a new mentality, recover the memory and the experience of the People of God.  The Church is an assembly of people who are called.  All service that the Church carries out has a vocational dimension.  It is call to respond.”

“We hope his Congress will bring us together, that we may advance in theory and in practice in being called,” he said.

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Experts say streamlining of divorce laws will be devastating for the family

Madrid, Spain, Aug 31, 2004 (CNA) - The President of the Institute for Family Policy in Spain, Eduardo Hertfelder, said the Socialist government’s proposal to speed up the divorce process in Spain by not requiring a time of separation signifies a true regression in the policies that are supposed to help resolve marriage crises and that the measure will make the rupture of marriage bonds easier rather than less common.

The analysis carried out by the Institute resulted in the following conclusions:

  1. The explosion of marriage ruptures on a national level continues: 1 rupture every 4.1 minutes (126,742 divorces), an increase in 10% from 2002.
  2. Four regions in Spain (Catalonia, Andalusia, Madrid and Valencia) account for 60% of marriage ruptures, with the highest rate (1 in 5) in Catalonia.
  3. Married couples in crisis opt for separation rather than divorce
  4. Married couples in crisis opt for the most peaceful rupture possible, with separation being more peaceful than divorce.
  5. Between 20-25 % of separated couples end up reconciling. This means that each year approximately 15,000 marriages are reconciled. Between 5-10% of marriages remain in a state of separation rather than proceeding definitively to divorce.

Among the solutions proposed by the Institute include “having the political will to solve and/or reduce the problem,” “developing active public policies which favor the family and preventative measures,” and lastly, implementing “public and/or private organisms (Centers of Assistance, Family Therapy) composed of experts in distinct areas who help married couples to overcome their crises.”

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