Vatican City, Sep 10, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II will meet tomorrow with various U.S. bishops on the occasion of the third anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on U.S soil.
The Pope met with a group of American bishops today at the Apostolic Palace in Castelgandolfo – in Rome on their ad limina visit – in anticipation of tomorrow’s commemoration.
Vatican Radio transmitted the reflections of Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, who noted that the United States and the world has suffered a lot of fear during these last few years.
“The role of the Church is to offer to the world a great hope, a great trust – the hope and trust that come from the Gospel,” said the Cardinal. “Believers receive their peace from Christ,” he said, “therefore His promise of peace is more significant than ever. Thus, in the end, we don’t despair: we face a great challenge, the perennial challenge of the Church.”
In this context he reiterated that “the challenge is to trust in the mercy of the Lord and to commit ourselves in prayer and in action, but always with the trust that comes from Jesus Christ.”
Vatican City, Sep 10, 2004 (CNA) - Vatican observer Sandro Magister issued a post scriptum concerning news of the turnover taking place in the running of the basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. The Benedictine monks were to hand over the basilica to the new monastic community, the Fraternity of Jesus, but the Holy See has reversed its decision.
According to Magister, the reversal was made after the highest ranking Benedictine Abbot, Wolf D. Nokter, met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state and assured him that he would immediately strengthen the Benedictine presence at the basilica with young monks from monasteries around the world.
In addition to the abbot’s assurances, the discouraging results of Vatican investigations into the history of the Fraternity of Jesus – Magister cites the unsatisfactory results of their charge of the Church of All Saints in Florence since the year 2000 – have influenced the Vatican’s decision, Magister added.
Rome, Italy, Sep 10, 2004 (CNA) - According to the Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, who visited the the Holy Father this week, Pope John Paul II is “active and in command,” much more so than the bishop had expected.
Bishop Wuerl, who was told that the Pope would not be able to ask any questions because he has difficulty speaking, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that "to formulate words takes him a little longer, but he was clearly in command of the audience… I was very pleasantly surprised to find that he was as active as he was."
Expecting to have to do all the talking because of the Pope’s struggle with Parkinson’s disease, the Archbishop was surprised when "he reached out and touched my hand to stop me and asked about Bishop Wright," Wuerl said.
Cardinal John Wright, who was the former bishop of Pittsburgh and prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, was a close friend of the Pope, then bishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow.
The Pope asked Bishop Wuerl about the date of the death of Cardinal Wright, the 25th anniversary of which was marked by the Pittsburgh diocese this year.
, Sep 10, 2004 (CNA) - The Oregon Catholic Conference is expected to support a ballot that would ban same-sex marriage when its board meets today, reported The Oregonian.
Measure 36 on the Nov. 2 ballot would amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, and it would recognize marriage only between a man and a woman.
The Church’s support of this ballot comes as no surprise since Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland has been outspoken about the sanctity of the sacrament marriage – as the union of one man and one woman – from an early on in the same-sex marriage debate.
In a column in the diocesan Catholic Sentinel April 15, the archbishop wrote that marriage "no longer involves two persons, but three, husband, wife and the Lord…There simply is no sacramental marriage without a man and a woman."
The Oregon Catholic Conference represents the state's 425,000 Catholics. Its board includes Archbishop Vlazny, Bishop Robert F. Vasa, Bishop Kenneth Steiner and Fr. Dennis O'Donovan.
The Catholic Church will be joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in supporting the measure. The Mormons already issued a statement Wednesday saying their church "favors a constitutional amendment preserving marriage as a lawful union of a man and a woman." There are 139,507 Mormons in Oregon.
Other Christian denominations support same-sex marriage and are taking a stand against the ballot measure.
, Sep 10, 2004 (CNA) - American Life League is outraged that the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters in Michigan made a financial donation to a pro-abortion political group.
“There is never any justification for supporting a group that maintains a clear litmus test for the killing of preborn children through abortion,” said Joseph M. Starrs, director of American Life League’s Crusade for the Defense of Our Catholic Church.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters made a $200 contribution to Emily’s List, the nation’s largest political network dedicated to electing women to public office. Most of the candidates who are endorsed by Emily’s List are staunchly pro-abortion.
“There is absolutely no reason for any Catholics, especially an order of Catholic sisters, to support such a group,” Starrs added.
While the Catholic Church denounces abortion in all circumstances, the sisters claimed that they made the donation in order to help women in the political process and not to make a political statement about abortion. “Supporting a group that promotes abortion never helps women,” said Judie Brown, president of American Life League.
“We would expect both the Archdiocese of Detroit and the religious superiors of the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters to address this scandalous action immediately,” said Brown.
, Sep 10, 2004 (CNA) - A new film, to be released next month, debunks the notion that homosexuality is a fixed sexual orientation. “I Do Exist!” documents the lives of five individuals who at one time identified as homosexual but have since left the homosexual lifestyle.
Churches, colleges, and schools across the U.S. are scheduled to screen the film Oct. 9-11 in an effort to counter "National Coming Out Day," an event celebrated by homosexual groups, reports AgapePress.
However, the producer, Dr. Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College, admits it will be difficult to get the film shown in high school health classes and public universities, where homosexuality is viewed as normal, legitimate behavior.
Throckmorton says his film conveys a message that is often censored by the media and homosexual activist groups.
The researcher says that Coming Out Day promotes the notion that “the only healthy response to same-sex attraction is to 'come out' as homosexual and embrace a homosexual identity.
"The film,” he says, “gives the narratives of these individuals who've chosen a different path, one that is consistent with traditional Church teaching concerning sexuality."
“I Do Exist!” includes commentary by Dr. Robert Spitzer of Columbia University and Dr. Mark Yarhouse of Regent University.
Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2004 (CNA) - More than 10 percent of Americans live in poverty, says a report issued by the U.S. Census Bureau Aug. 26, and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development has set out to do something about it.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), a program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is one of the largest private funders of self-help programs for poor and low-income people in the U.S.
It offers funding to community-based, self-help projects that are initiated and led by poor and low-income people.
But last month, it also launched a national public awareness program to educate Americans about the facts related to poverty in the U.S., and solutions that work.
“The new census numbers are a wake-up call to all Americans, poor and non-poor alike, to work together, with typical American spirit and creativity, in order to develop more effective policies that can eradicate the root causes of poverty in the wealthiest of nations,” said Fr. Robert J. Vitillo, executive director of CCHD.
The nation’s official poverty rate rose from 12.1 percent in 2002 to 12.5 percent in 2003, representing an increase of 1.3 million people. That brings the total of Americans living in poverty to 35.9 million. The new figures represent the third straight year of increase in the ranks of the nation’s poor.
“If all those living in poverty in the United States were to populate a single state, it would be our largest—bigger than California,” he pointed out. “As a nation, there is an urgent need to focus our attention on Poverty USA, America’s forgotten state.”
For more information, go to: www.povertyusa.org
Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2004 (CNA) - Roughly four-in-ten Americans (39%) say they have a favorable impression of Islam, while about as many (37%) say they have an unfavorable view.
The balance of opinion has not changed substantially in the past year (39% favorable in July 2003). But there are significant differences of opinion among religious groups, with white Evangelical Protestants having a much more negative view of Islam than white Catholics, Mainline Protestants or secular Americans.
In a new poll, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Americans were asked if Islam is more likely to encourage violence, how many Muslims are anti-American, and whether the Islamic religion is more likely to encourage violence among its believers.
The results of the poll, released Thursday, September 09, 2004, can be found online at http://pewforum.org/publications/surveys/islam.pdf
, Sep 10, 2004 (CNA) - In statements to the Catholic News Agency, the Secretary General of the Bishops Conference of Brazil, Bishop Odilio Scherer, clarified the position of the Conference on the issue of AIDS, saying the bishops are “in completely agreement with the Holy See” and that they do not support the use of condoms.
The bishop denied reports by the director of the UN AIDS Program, Peter Piot, who said this week that “the Brazilian Church is more open to issues related to AIDS than the Church in other countries of Latin America, such as Argentina and Chile. In other countries the Church is more rigid regarding, for example, issues such as the use of condoms.”
Piot also said he asked “Brazilian Catholic leaders to speak with their colleagues in other countries” and he said that “Bishop Odilio Scherer promised us that the issue of AIDS would be discussed at the upcoming Latin America Bishops Conference in Bogota.”
Bishop Schere told CNA that Piot only made a courtesy visit the Bishops Conference on August 31, during which he asked about the Church’s collaboration in the prevention of AIDS.
“The Bishops Conference does not take part in government programs, but only in those that do not conflict with the ethical convictions of the Church, and of course do not involve the use of condoms,” the bishop stated.
The bishop lamented the “undue interpretation” that was made of Piot’s statements and reiterated that “the position of the Conference is perfectly coherent with that of the Holy See” in all areas.
Regarding the “commitment” to address the subject of AIDS at the next meeting of the Latin American Bishops Conference (CELAM), Bishop Scherer stated that it was only a hypothesis discussed in the conversations with Piot and that it will be proposed if it is so decided.
In December of 2003, the Bishops Conference of Brazil issued a strong statement calling on the Ministries of Health and of Education to discontinue a plan to flood schools with condoms, proposing instead that the government promote a more integral education emphasizing the importance of chastity as a way for young people to fight AIDS.
In their statement the bishops recalled that the Church in Brazil “works for prevention by spreading the values of the Gospel and by being a presence of mercy and promoting life as the highest good."
Havana, Cuba, Sep 10, 2004 (CNA) - This past Wednesday, September 8, feast of the Birth of Mary, Catholics in Cuba celebrated the feast of their country’s patroness, Our Lady of Charity, with nearly 50 processions taking place across the island, while thousands of Cubans in other countries held their own celebrations in honor of the patroness of their homeland.
Although the Cuban government allowed the Bishop of Cienfuegos, Emilio Aranguren, to make a brief statement on local radio, at least four requests to organize celebrations were denied, including that of the Diocese of Santa Clara, according to Orlando Marquez, spokesman for the Bishops Conference of Cuba.
At the shrine of Our Lady of Charity in Cobre, spouses, mothers and daughters of the 75 dissidents currently imprisoned by the Castro regime, all dressed in white, participated in the primary celebration.
The day before, the “Women in White” also marched in procession together with 15,000 people across fifteen blocks of downtown Havana, led by a statue of Our Lady and Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino.
“We decided to come together to pray to our Lady of Charity for freedom and freedom alone for our family members,” said Blanca Reyes, wife of the dissident poet Raul Rivero and promoter of the vigil. Martha Beatriz Roque, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison but was recently released for health reasons, also joined in the prayers.
The participants in the procession in Havana began their walk under an intense sun, while all along the procession route hundreds of faithful dropped yellow flowers from balconies onto the path in front of the pilgrim statue.
The procession ended at the parish of Our Lady of Charity, where Cardinal Ortega called on the faithful to revive family values in the country.
“Often times material necessities smother us and limit us to trying to meet these immediate necessities, making us forget about other values, family values, those that are constant and that raise the spirit,” he said.
As is custom, a replica of the statue of Our Lady of Charity was transported by boat from the Hermitage of Our Lady of Charity in Coconut Grove to the American Airlines Arena, for a Mass in her honor.
Retired Auxiliary Bishop of Miami, Agustin Roman, founder of the Hermitage, accompanied the replica of the Cobre statue, which has been venerated by Cubans in Miami since 1961.
The Mass at the Arena was celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop of Miami Felipe de Jesus Estevez.
“The Cuban people on both shores suffer from fatigue and discouragement,” he said. “We don’t understand why it is taking so long for the necessary changes to come about. We don’t understand why solidarity with those who suffer in Cuba, especially with prisoners of conscience, is so timid and limited. We don’t understand why fear and sorrow are so powerful and paralyzing,” he added.
“Today we proclaim that Cuba also deserves to live in democracy and with human rights, freedom, prosperity and social peace, with all and for the good of all,” Bishop Estevez also said.
The statue venerated by Cubans in Miami, a replica of the original, was secretly transported from the Cuban city of Guanabo, near Havana, to Miami on September 8, 1961.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 10, 2004 (CNA) - A committee of the Argentinean Bishops Conference is urging Argentineans to be generous in a special collection that will be taken up this Sunday to help the country’s poor.
The Committee for Aid to the Regions Most in Need asked the faithful to “be as generous as possible” with the national collection “More for Less,” which will be taken up this weekend in parishes throughout the country.
In a letter addressed to the bishops, the committee recalled that the theme for this year is “Give generously and you will receive a hundred fold.”
“With new statistics and more precise analysis of the pastoral and social reality, the campaign seeks to respond to the dioceses in regions most in need and also to open channels for the many diocesan projects,” the committee said.
Likewise, the committee expressed its desire that “the amount be such that it be an expression of our desire to help one another”.
“It is necessary that all the bishops support this collection and motivate the clergy and the faithful of each dioceses, so that this work of all might continue to grow,” the letter concludes.