Archive of September 3, 2004

Popularity of ‘Passion’ is world's longing for the Eucharist, Phoenix bishop says

Phoenix, Ariz., Sep 3, 2004 (CNA) - The world is longing for communion with Christ and evidence of that is the box office success of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” said Bishop James Olmsted of Pheonix.

The film is just another way the Lord is leading his faithful to be “more intensely Eucharistic,” said the bishop in his column for the diocesan newspaper.

Bishop Olmsted’s invitation to be more Eucharistic comes just one month before the start of the Church’s Year of the Eucharist and the International Eucharistic Congress in Mexico, Oct. 10-17.

But the bishop was clear in highlighting that the Passion of Christ is not just the name of a successful film or an historical event that took place 2,000 years ago. Rather, the Passion of Christ, “continues to be present in the Church today every time that the Eucharist is celebrated,” he said. “That is why the Eucharistic celebration is often called the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

“When we have the awesome privilege of participating in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we are not just remembering an event that happened to Jesus. Rather, in the Sacred Liturgy, we are one with Christ in His Cross and Resurrection.”

Jesus “continues for all eternity to offer this sacrifice of love to the Father as perfect worship and praise and as expiation for the sins of the world. When we participate in the Eucharist, we are joined with Christ in this one and eternal Sacrifice of Praise,” he explained.

It is important for Catholics to participate at mass, which the Church calls “the source and summit of the Christian life,” because it is there that they will find the courage to remain faithful, the strength for sacrificial love, and “the desire to take up our cross each day and follow Jesus” with joy, said Bishop Olmsted.

The film also awakened a new awareness of sacrifice as the language of love, he added. Sacrifice, he said, “is the way that covenants are forged, the way that bonds of marriage are strengthened, and the way that hatred is overcome and peace restored.”

Christ expects his followers to love in this way, he said, with “a love that is ready to give without counting the cost.”

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Schedule of Pope’s trip to Marian shrine of Loreto announced

Vatican City, Sep 3, 2004 (CNA) - The Vatican released the schedule of the Holy father’s pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Loreto this Sunday, September 5. The Pope will leave Castelgandolfo by helicopter and after a one-hour trip will arrive in Montorso, near Loreto, to celebrate Mass and beatify three servants of God, members of Catholic Action.

After the beatification of Catalan priest, Pedro Tarres y Claret, and two young lay Italians, Alberto Marvelli and Pina Suriano, the Pope is scheduled to say a few words before praying the Angelus.

He is scheduled to leave Loreto for Castelgandolfo at 5 p.m. after lunching and resting at the John Paul II Youth Center in Montorso.

This is the Pope’s fiftth trip to the Loreto shrine having previously traveled to Loreto in 1979, 1985, and 1994, 1995, and 1998.

According to Catholic tradition, the Loreto shrine is built around the house in which the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary took place. It is also believed to be the house where the Holy Family lived in Nazareth.

The house was believed to be transported miraculously to Loreto during the night of December 9-10, 1294. However, it is more generally agreed today that it was transported there in pieces by Crusaders on their return from the Holy Land.  Construction of the basilica at the Shrine of Loreto was begun in 1469 and additions made over the centuries.

In a letter written in 1993 the Holy Father expressed his prayer that the Holy House, "which has taken such an active part in the life of Christians during most of the last millennium, may continue to be during the third millennium one of the highest Marian pulpits of Christianity".

Many faithful around the world have a devotion to the Madonna of Loreto, and there are numerous shrines around the world dedicated to this nearly 700 year old devotion.

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Catholic Church, Evangelical Christian team up against stem-cell research in CA

San Francisco, Calif., Sep 3, 2004 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a wealthy evangelical Christian are the major funders to date of a campaign against a California ballot measure that would fund stem-cell research and cloning in the state, reported The Associated Press.

Each contributed $50,000 this week to separate campaign groups, which have raised $115,000 combined. Ballot measure supporters have raised about $12 million.

The measure, which is listed on the Nov. 2 ballot as Proposition 71, would have the state borrow $3 billion to pay for the controversial research.

"We believe life begins at the moment of conception," said USCCB spokesperson Sr. Mary Ann Walsh. "Stem-cell research involves the taking of a human life."

As a result, the USCCB contributed $50,000 to a new campaign committee, called Californians Against Loan and Clone, created by the Catholic Church of California.

Evangelical Christian Howard Ahmanson Jr. made a $50,000 contribution to the official opposition campaign group called Doctors, Patients & Taxpayers for Fiscal Responsibility.

As heir to a savings and loan fortune, Ahmanson finances many Christian organizations and non-denominational think tanks, including the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which disputes much of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, reported the AP.

Some women's groups also oppose the research because of its insatiable need for fertilized eggs, most of which are now donated by fertility clinics with surplus supplies.

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Catholic Charities USA brace to help hurricane victims

Washington D.C., Sep 3, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic Charities USA has launched a campaign in anticipation of the devastating effects of Hurricane Frances, which is expected to land in Florida Friday afternoon. The southern state was recently subjected to Hurricane Charley.

Catholic Charities USA has been commissioned by the U.S. Catholic bishops to represent the Catholic community in times of domestic disaster and respond with emergency and long-term assistance.

Donations can be made by calling a toll-free number (1-800-919-9338) or online on a secure server at: Contributions can also be mailed to: Catholic Charities USA, PO Box 25168, Alexandria, VA, 22313-9788.

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New Canadian Supreme Court judges said to favor same-sex marriage

Ottawa, Canada, Sep 3, 2004 (CNA) - Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin appointed two judges to the Supreme Court of Canada, whose past rulings indicate that they favor same-sex rights.

The appointments of Justice Louise Charron and Rosalie Abella were approved by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson Aug. 30.

Canadian pro-family organizations are upset with the decision. They say the two appointment are simply Martin’s way of filling the court with judges who support same-sex marriage and of pushing through same-sex marriage legislation, which the Liberal government had presented to the Supreme Court for judicial review last year.

The Supreme Court is expected to come back with a judgment on the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage bill in October.

The 58-year-old Abella has been an outspoken supporter of same-sex rights. While on the Ontario Family Court, she wrote a judgment that said the word “spouse” in the Income Tax Act includes same-sex partners.

Charron, 53, wrote the majority judgment in a case that allowed same-sex couples to receive alimony while serving on the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler told a press conference that the two judges were selected based on merit and not on the basis of ideology. He also denied that the two women justices were selected to increase female representation on the nine-member Supreme Court. These two appointments bring the number of female judges to four.

The Canada Family Action Coalition and Real Women of Canada both denounced the appointments in written statements. They accused the government of appointing two radical activists, who will use the law to shape Canadian social policy.

“These two judges from the Ontario Appeal Court have a long history of injecting themselves into the media spotlight for radical decisions on matters of fundamental social policy,” said the Canada Family Action Coalition.

According to Real Women of Canada, both judges are “known to be in support of the gay agenda,” and their appointments “seal the fate of the same-sex marriage reference case,” in Canada to be heard in October.

Abella and Charron succeed Justices Louis Arbour and Franck Iacobucci.

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Church prepares to mark Patriot Day, Sept. 11

Washington D.C., Sep 3, 2004 (CNA) - Masses, rallies and a dedication of a memorial are among the events planned for dioceses and parishes in the United States and at North American College in Rome to mark Patriot Day, Sept. 11.

The annual event, which was established in 2002, commemorates those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Some celebrations will also incorporate honoring the victims into the dioceses' annual Blue Masses, which honor all police, fire and emergency medical technicians.

After the Blue Mass in the Archdiocese of Miami, a monument will be dedicated to Franciscan Fr. Mychal Judge, the New York Fire Department chaplain who died administering last rites to attack victims at the World Trade Center.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, will hold a memorial event at Sacred Heart Church in Albuquerque, which had incorporated two 20-foot steel beams from the World Trade Center into the Memorial Bell Tower.

Across the Atlantic, students and faculty at Rome's North American College will participate in a Patriot Day Mass at the U.S. military cemetery in Nettuno, Italy.

For eyewitness accounts from priests who were at the terrorist sites in 2001, refer to “We Were There … Catholic Priests and How They Responded in Their Own Words,” at

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Bishops of Sudan issue plea for international help to stop genocide

Rome, Italy, Sep 3, 2004 (CNA) - The Bishops of Sudan have asked the United Nations and the international community to pressure the government of Khartoum to disarm Islamic militias and to immediately intervene in the African nation.

“As pastors we cannot ignore the annihilation of an entire ethnic group no matter what its creed, gender or clan,” said the Sudanese bishops, referring to the dramatic crisis taking place in Darfur.

In statements made to the Fides news agency Bishop Macram Max Gassis of the Diocese of El Obeid said, “We are facing a true genocide, we’re not on the verge of a genocide, as the international community continues to insist.”

Reports indicate the violence carried out by Islamic militants, backed up by the Sudanese army, against the civilian population in Darfur has resulted in the deaths of more than 30,000 people and the displacement of over one million.

The Sudanese bishops underscored that “in the last 10-15 years the Sudanese government has never acknowledged the existence of the Darfur rebellion, but it has spread the idea through the media that the unrest in Darfur has been caused by bandits and street gangs.”

Likewise the bishops said that the militants “could not have bought sophisticated weapons and munitions.  First of all, they do not have the funds to pay for these weapons, and second, they do not have the warplanes to be able to bomb the civilian population.”  The bishops also recalled that similar government-backed militant groups have operated in other regions of the country.”

“We ask the United Nations and the international community to exercise pressure on the government of Sudan not only to stop the rearming of the Islamic militants but also to disarm them and bring to justice those who have committed crimes against humanity,” the bishops said.

“If the government of Khartoum does not want to assume its own responsibilities, then we ask the international community to intervene immediately.  Time is a crucial factor in order to save valuable and innocent lives,” they added.

Lastly, the bishops called on the government to open the doors to humanitarian agencies to assist the civilian population, and they asked that both sides “sit down at the negotiating table to find a solution.”

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Portuguese government justifies preventing abortion boat from entering waters

Lisbon, Portugal, Sep 3, 2004 (CNA) - The Primer Minister of Portugal, Pedro Santana Lopes, guaranteed this week that the Dutch abortion boat operated by the feminist group “Women on Waves” will not be allowed to enter Portuguese waters if the group intends to violate the country’s laws that prohibit abortion.

The boat has been anchored about 12 miles off the Portuguese coast by order of the Defense Minister, who said the boat could not approach the shore since the objective of the group is to pick up Portuguese women and take them out to international waters where they can obtain abortions.  Several weeks ago, a Dutch court prohibited the group from performing abortions on the open seas.

Santana said the feminist organization could enter Portugal if its purpose was to dialogue but that he could not permit a foreign organization to violate national legislation, which outlaws abortion.  In Portugal, he added, freedom of expression is allowed as long as it is within the limits of the law and respectful of common sense and ethics.

If they are seeking to perform abortions, he said, “this would be a problem for Portugal, as has been the case in other countries, and the Minister of Defense has taken the preventative measures that were considered appropriate by the corresponding chain of command.”

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Spanish bishop criticized abortion and divorce law

Madrid, Spain, Sep 3, 2004 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Gea Escolano of Mondoñedo-Ferrol, criticized this week a legislative package the Socialist government is seeking to implement in the new legislative session that would make it easier to obtain abortions and would speed up the divorce process in Spain.

Regarding the new laws that would make abortion legal for any reason during the first 12-14 weeks of pregnancy, Bishop Gea Escolano said the issue is about “the greatest crime ever committed in history.”

“We talk about killings, concentration camps, gulags, but really thousands and thousands of children are sacrificed in the wombs of their mothers.  This is so absurd that it cannot be compared with any other genocide in history,” the bishop said.

Regarding the laws on divorce, the bishop said they were the equivalent of “firing a torpedo at the hull of the boat of marriage.” “Legislation of this type will have no positive impact for the good of the family nor for the stability of couples,” he concluded.

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French Catholic schools open doors to Muslim girls expelled for wearing veils

Paris, France, Sep 3, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic schools in France have announced they would be willing to enroll Muslim girls who might be expelled from public schools for wearing traditional Muslim veils, as a law prohibiting the wearing of “visible religious symbols” goes into effect.

The Diocese of Alsacia in eastern France proposed allowing the girls to enroll in Catholic schools, “as long as they respect the rules of the center.”

 The Federation of Catholic Education Centers confirmed afterwards that the offer “is not only limited to that region.”

“In our centers we do not require that religious symbols be left at the door because we believe in education and in asking questions about the fundamental issues of life,” said Gilles du Retail, spokesman of the Federation.  However, “the only requirement will be that the students respect others and not refuse to integrate,” he added.

The absence of Muslim schools means the parents of expelled students will have to pull their kids out of schools altogether or enroll them in distance-learning programs or Catholic schools.

The Minister of Education, François Fillon, attempted to calm tensions saying, “There will be no expulsions on the first day.”  School officials will require the “rebel” students to stay in the library, and a week of negotiations will take place between officials and parents, after which a decision on whether or not to proceed to expulsion will be made.

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Church in world’s largest Muslim country about to become self-sufficient in priests

Rome, Italy, Sep 3, 2004 (CNA) - The Church in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, is receiving enough vocations to the priesthood that in a short time all the Indonesian faithful – 3.5% of Indonesia’s 210 million inhabitants – will be catered for by local clergy.

“The local Church here is self confident and Indonesians are to take over soon from foreign priests,” said Fr Paul Klein, SVD, rector of the SVD (Society of the Divine Word) major seminary in Malang, Java, to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). The seminary has 50 students studying for the priesthood at the present time.

Fr. Klein, speaking briefly on the situation of the Church in a Muslim country said that “dialogue with the Muslims is slowly starting, but there is still a long way to go on the road of tolerance and mutual respect.”

However, he also pointed out that the Indonesian government grants financial aid to publish Bibles and said that “Catholic schools here are very popular, even among Muslims, because of their high educational standards.”

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