Archive of November 24, 2004

Pope encourages youth to make Christ center of their lives

Vatican City, Nov 24, 2004 (CNA) - At the end of today’s general audience at the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican Pope John Paul II exhorted the youth present to make Christ the center of their lives and to participate generously in building His Kingdom.

Recalling that last Sunday the Church celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King the Holy Father turned his attention to a group of 3000 Italian youths and said "May Jesus always be the center of your life! May He be the light and guide of every decision that you take; participate generously with your witness in building up His Kingdom of justice and peace."

The Pope catechized on the Christological hymn in Saint Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, in which  "the glorious figure of Christ, heart of the liturgy and center of the entire life of the Church," is extolled.

He explained that Christ, the “first-born of all of creation,' is, as God, also "superior to all of creation” and therefore, by the “shedding His blood on the Cross, Christ 'reconciles and restores peace' with creation, the heavens and the earth.”

The Pope said that the Christ “brings them back to their original condition, recreating the original harmony, willed by God according to His project of love and life.”

“Creation and redemption are, therefore, connected like stages in the unique event of salvation," said John Paul II.

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U.S. Congress acts to save the Mt. Soledad Cross - atheist blames ‘Jihad Jesus Republicans’

Rancho Santa Fe, Nov 24, 2004 (CNA) - The United States Congress has acted to save a  43-foot tall cross atop Mount Soledad in San Diego, whose removal had been the subject of an atheist’s 15 year long legal battle, by designating the land on which it stands and the granite memorial walls surrounding it, a national veterans memorial.

San Diego area Congressmen, Reps. Duncan Hunter, R –El Cajon, and Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Escondido, inserted the memorial designation as part of a spending bill awaiting approval by President Bush.

Phillip Paulson, the atheist who’s legal battle was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told the San Diego Union-Tribune that “Jihad Jesus Republicans need to understand that the separation of church and state has kept this country from getting into religious wars."

San Diego attorney Charles LiMandri, Director of the Thomas More Law Center’s western regional office who has led the effort to save the Mt. Soledad cross said Congress was not unconstitutionally endorsing religion because it intended to honor veterans in the same manner as the crosses at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Those who want the Mt. Soledad cross removed erroneously base their case on the metaphor ‘separation of church and state,’ a phrase nowhere in the Constitution,” said Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center.

“This cross and memorial, soon to be officially designated a national veterans memorial is constitutionally permissible,” he said. “It’s time to stop government by the ACLU and for the ACLU.”

President Bush is expected to sign the bill within the next few weeks.

According to the congressional designation, once the City of San Diego donates the land to the United States, the Secretary of the Interior shall administer the Memorial as a unit of the National Park System, giving the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association the right of continued maintenance of the cross and surrounding granite memorial walls and plaques.

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Bishops' official applauds passage of federal bill that includes pro-life measure

Washington D.C., Nov 24, 2004 (CNA) - An official with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has praised Congress for passing the Hyde-Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment Saturday.

The amendment, part of an omnibus-spending bill, provides protection against discrimination for hospitals and health care providers who decline to provide, pay for, or refer for abortions.

"We applaud Congress' recognition that hospitals and other health care providers should have a right to choose not to be involved in destroying life," said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq., director of Planning and Information for the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

Ruse pointed out that hospitals in Alaska, New Jersey, and New Mexico have been discriminated against because of their pro-life policies.

Current federal law already protects "health care entities" from having to perform or provide for abortions. The Hyde-Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment was needed because current law had been misinterpreted to protect only individual physicians and training programs, leaving hospitals, health plans, nurses, and other health care participants without protection, Ruse explained.

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Catholic schools seeking new strategies to remain open in Rochester

Rochester, N.Y., Nov 24, 2004 (CNA) - Catholic schools of the Diocese of Rochester have announced a series of new strategies to keep their Catholic schools open and tuition costs low.

Four Catholic diocesan schools are slated to close in Monroe County in upstate New York this year, reported the Democrat and Chronicle.

Since 1995, several of Monroe County's Catholic elementary schools have lost more than 50 percent of their student populations.

Sr. Elizabeth Meegan, schools superintendent of the Diocese of Rochester, said the drop in enrollment is caused by demographics. The birth rate is low and the city is also experiencing a decline in population, which directly impacts school enrollment. Even city schools are set to close in the next few years.

But the biggest factor for enrollment decline is cost, said Sr. Meegan. Many parents cannot afford to pay the $3,000 tuition for Catholic education. 

In order to keep the operating costs, or cost-per-pupil, down, the diocese announced Nov. 12 that it will close and consolidate four schools: Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. John the Evangelist in the city, St. John the Evangelist in Greece and St. Helen in Gates.

Some parents are upset by the closures and don’t think consolidation will really help enrollment woes. But diocesan officials say it’s the only way to save Catholic education in the county.

To try to combat the loss of students due to the cost, the diocese also introduced a new financial plan for next year similar to what some Catholic high schools use.

Parents will now be asked to submit their financial information to an outside company that will review it and determine how much financial aid the family needs.

The idea of a sliding tuition scale, according to income, isn’t popular among some parents. Some are protesting by sending their children to Catholic schools that are run by religious communities and not run the diocese.

Sioux City's Catholic schools are also planning on adopting a sliding tuition scale based on income for the 2005-2006 school year if a fundraising goal of $550,000 cannot be collected by Feb. 1.

Still, Sr. Meegan believes the school consolidation and new financial process would result in lower tuition for a lot of families.

There are 5,200 students in Monroe County’s Catholic diocesan schools.

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Kid can give thanks to God on Thanksgiving… thanks to watchdog legal group

, Nov 24, 2004 (CNA) - Responding to legal advice from its attorneys, after complaints from an outraged parent, Lincoln-Franklin Elementary School in Garwood, New Jersey, retracted their decision to censor the word ‘God’ from a fifth grader’s Thanksgiving poem before displaying it in the school’s hallway.

"Pilgrims thank God for what they were given Everybody say . . . happy Thanksgiving!" read the poem, which had initially been deemed to offensive to place on display in its original form.

"This is exactly the kind of religious discrimination- based upon misinterpretations and misapplications of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause-that runs rampant in our nation's schools," said Jared N. Leland, Media and Legal Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. "Had the poem read 'Pilgrims thank turkeys for what they were given', the school would have displayed the poem without alteration, " he said.

"The freedom of private religious expression must be preserved. It's unconstitutional for the government to censor what one's thankful for, whether it's God, family, or the feast," Leland said.

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EWTN announces special Christmas programming

, Nov 24, 2004 (CNA) - EWTN will air exclusive coverage of special live events and related programming for Advent and Christmas on television, radio and the Internet from St. Peter’s Square in Rome and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Catholic University of America's Annual Christmas Concert from the National Shrine in Washington, D.C., will air Dec. 19 at 1:30 p.m.

The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration will usher in the joyful season of Christmas in the much-loved seasonal favorite, Christmas with the Nuns of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. Recorded at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, the sisters will perform such standards as O Holy Night, The Coventry Carol, Gesu Bambino, and more. The program will air Dec. 20 at 10 p.m.

Midnight with the Pope from St. Peter's Square will air live Dec. 24 at 6 p.m.

Urbi et Orbi from St. Peter's Square: The Pope's Christmas Message to the World will also air live Dec. 25 at 6 a.m.

Solemn Mass of Christmas from the EWTN Chapel in Irondale, Alabama, will air live Dec. 25 at 1 a.m. The Solemn Christmas Day Mass from the national shrine will air live Dec. 25 at 12 p.m.

Cousins in Christ Family Christmas features songs celebrating the birth of our Savior and a collection of favorite Christmas hymns including Silent Night, Away in a Manger, O Holy Night and Joy To The World and many others.  This musical Catholic family celebration features several members of EWTN's Angel Force crew and will air on Dec. 22 at 8 p.m.

Popular seasonal favorites such as Candy Maker's Christmas, The Legend of the Three Trees, Miracle of Marcelino, The Legend of the Christmas Flower, and Our Lady of Guadalupe and Miraculous Mexico are just a few of the many Christmas programs that will also air during the month of December.

Encore times for all programs are available on the network's Web site:

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Largest mosque in the US raises concerns about radical Islam

Boston, Mass., Nov 24, 2004 (CNA) - An already underway $22 million project in Boston to build what will be the largest mosque in the US is under fire. The Islamic Society of Boston, who have commissioned the project, have been linked with ties to Islamic radicalism, though it insists that it does not tolerate muslim extremism, reports CBN News.

CBN News report that the “connections go right to the foundation of this mosque and the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB).”

They point out that the founder of the ISB, Abdurahman Alamoudi, is in federal prison after pleading guilty to involvement in an assassination plot on the Saudi crown prince that was planned by Libyan leader Moammar Ghadafi. The ISB, however, notes that it hasn’t had any relationship with Alamoudi for several years.

Dr. Yusef al-Qaradawi has also been listed as one of the ISB’s directors in the past, and ISB claims he is a respected Muslim scholar. This claim, however, flies in the face of evidence that he has praised Palestinian suicide bombers and urged Iraqi Muslims to kill American soldiers.

Qaradawi, who in 1995 told his followers, "We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America!" was almost barred from entering the UK. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, referring to him in July this year said that “we want nothing to do with people who support suicide bombers in Palestine or elsewhere, or support terrorism.”

Boston College professor Dennis Hale, who heads Citizens for Peace and Tolerance, a group that wants the Islamic Society of Boston to come clean about its ties to radical Islam, calls the ISB “a smokescreen.”

"This is a mosque that combines Wahabbi theology, Muslim Brotherhood politics and lots of money, and that's a very dangerous combination. Everywhere in the world where that's been found, bad things happened," said Hale.

Osama Kandil, a trustee of the society, has been linked by the government to two charitable groups, Taibah International Aid Association and SAFA, which act as fronts to raise money for terrorist activity

Terrorism expert Stephen Scwartz points out that Taibah had been shut down by the Bosnian government after 9/11 because of it’s terrorist activity. “The SAFA group,” he said, “is a group that operates in the United States… and is essentially a financial conspiracy to support extremist activity all over the world.”

An affidavit unsealed in federal court in Virginia last year said financial activity by the Safa Group "evidences a conspiracy. . .to route money through hidden paths to terrorists and to defraud the United States," he said.

The bulk of the money for the new mosque, reports CBN News,  has come from private individuals in Saudi Arabia, a cause for serious concern according to most international terrorism experts.

The mayor’s office and The Boston Globe newspaper, says CBN, have ignored any concern about the mosque, who bought the plot of land from the City of Boston for only a quarter of its actual value.

Real estate developer Steve Cohen, a member of Peace and Tolerance said of the sale that “so many citizens are asking the question, why does this mosque, which is preaching such abhorrent views, and has access to millions of dollars raised in Saudi Arabia, why is this mosque being subsidized by the city of Boston?”

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More aid needed to achieve Millennium development goals, says Vatican at UN

Vatican City, Nov 24, 2004 (CNA) - Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly on the Millenium Declaration which was signed in September of 2000, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the UN, noted that while commitments taken by member states to link development and human rights were encouraging, the aid given to date has fell far short of what members had promised.

Masgr. Migliore said that it was “encouraging to hear from previous delegations of their commitment to development that has a human face. Indeed, forging links between human rights and development, and recognizing basic freedoms and equality before the law, eliminate many violent conflicts that threaten hopes for the realization of economic and social rights."

However, "scarce economic aid and international economic conditions have not allowed the poorest countries to achieve the most important targets in education, health and access to water and sanitation."

The archbishop pointed out that total official aid fell far short of "the long-agreed aid goal of 0.7% of national income.”

“The ability of the poorest countries, mostly found in Africa, to obtain export and fiscal revenues is dwarfed by rich countries' export subsidies and by tariffs levied on African exports, sometimes ten times higher than those levied on goods traded within OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries," he said.

Msgr. Migliore concluded that "enlightened leadership is expected from the United Nations" which must "help ensure that important new ideas see the light of day, rather than being sidelined" and that "steps will be taken to make national and international governance more consistent."

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Group of obstetricians seek legalization of anencephaly abortion in Peru

Lima, Peru, Nov 24, 2004 (CNA) - The Peruvian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (PSOG) plans to send a new “protocol” to doctors this week what would give the green light to anencephaly abortion in Peru.

Although abortion is not illegal in Peru in cases of the life of the mother, the newspaper “Medical Management” reported that the PSOG has drafted this protocol “amidst a lack of guidance regarding legalized abortion at the country’s hospitals.”

The protocol provides orientation to doctors on “how to act when they encounter the case of a fetus that will invariably die due to a hereditary deformation such as a deficiency in the cranium,” that is, in the case of babies with anencephaly.

Anencephaly poses no risk to the life of the mother and in fact, babies who are born with this condition normally die within hours or days after birth, and the condition is not a justification for legal abortion in Peru, which is why the PSOG announcement was a surprise.

The president of the PSOG, Valentin Jaimes, announced the protocol would be presented to members of the society on Wednesday and later will be sent to the Ministry of Health in order for it to be distributed in all of the country’s hospitals.

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Swedish Archbishop calls for revitalization of Catholicism in Europe

Madrid, Spain, Nov 24, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, said this week Swedish and other European Catholics need to recover their pride in belonging to the Church, and he lamented that sometimes Catholics can be too “timid.”

During a visit to the Department of Theology at the University of Navarre, Spain, Archbishop Arborelius said Europeans “lack the courage to bear witness” to the faith, but he expressed his confidence that Catholicism will be strengthened in Europe through the spiritual life.

“It is important to help all the baptized to discover that they live in continual communion with Jesus Christ and that their daily lives are an act of service and adoration,” he said.

The Archbishop said, “The laity should be encouraged to bear witness in their daily environment.  Because the dignity and value of each human being as the image of God is a necessary contribution in a world of consumerism.”

Referring to the role of young people, Archbishop Arborelius said that, “in general, their hearts are open to God and to religion, but each one needs personal help to live according to the Gospel.”

Although today’s world is dominated by individualism, the Archbishop argued that each human being seeks communion and therefore there will be a return to family values.  In this sense, he called on parents to “rediscover their responsibility as witnesses and transmitters of the faith.”

Archbishop Arborelius pointed out that “in order to understand the Europe of today we must know and recognize its Christian history,” and the witness of the Christian life is “more important than ever.”

In addition, he emphasized the persistent interest of Pope John Paul II to defend “the value of each human being, from the moment of conception until natural death, and the unity of all men and women of good will, in support of peace and justice.”

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Bishops evangelize Cuba with comic books on the saints

Havana, Cuba, Nov 24, 2004 (CNA) - Thanks to assistance provided by Aid to the Church in Need, the Bishops in Cuba are now evangelizing the country using small comic books on the lives of Fr. Felix Varela and Our Lady of Charity.

ACN financed the printing of 80,000 copies of the comic book, “Father Felix Varela, the Cuban Saint,” which is being distributed among young people in order to introduce them to “one of the most important men from Cuba.”

The life of Fr. Varela is narrated in the color booklet along with direct quotes and explanations on the life and work of the priest, who Cuban writer Jose Marti called, “the Cuban saint” and the “total patriot.”

The Secretariat of the Bishops Conference of Cuba said the life of Fr. Varela was chosen for the comic book because his example and his teaching represent the best of Cubans and their faith and helped to found and nourish “love of country and the practice of virtue.”

The Secretariat also explained that the comic books are intended to spark interest in knowing more about “that person who knew how to respond, with truth and love founded upon his Christian commitment,” to the challenge of the times in which the Cuban nation and the “dream of freedom” were born.

Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana and President of the Bishops Conference, stated, “The Cuban Catholic is inheritor of the Christian and patriotic thought of Fr. Felix Varela, of his zeal for independence, of his love for Cuba, of his faithfulness to the Church.”

According to the bishops, the comic book will be the inspiration for the new generations of Cubans to fulfill the convictions of Father Varela: “young people are the sweet hope of the nation.”

Aid to the Church in need also financed the printing of 100,000 comic books on the story of Our Lady of Charity, Cuba’s patroness.

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