Archive of December 9, 2004

Bishop Wilton Gregory, former USCCB President, new Archbishop of Atlanta

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II has named the Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory, untill now Bishop of Belleville, as the sixth Archbishop of Atlanta.

Bishop Gregory has served as Bishop of Belleville, Illinois since February 1994 and recently completed a three-year term as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop Gregory will be installed on Monday, January 17, 2005. He replaces The Most Reverend John F. Donoghue, who is retiring after serving the Archdiocese since 1993. No announcement was made regarding a successor for Bishop Gregory in Belleville.

Born December 7, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois, Bishop Gregory attended Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary. Three years after his ordination to the priesthood he began graduate studies at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute (Sant’ Anselmo) in Rome, where he earned a doctorate in Sacred Liturgy in 1980.

He was ordained a Priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago on May 9, 1973, and was ordained a Bishop on December 13, 1983, after serving as an associate pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glenview, a faculty member at Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, and a Master of Ceremonies to Cardinals Cody and Bernardin.

Bishop Gregory was installed as the Seventh Bishop of Belleville on February 10, 1994.

From November 2001 until November 2004, Bishop Gregory served as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops following three years as Vice President under Bishop Joseph Fiorenza.

During that time Bishop Gregory also served on the USCCB Executive and Administrative Committees and on the Administrative Board.

Responding to the appointment, the bishop said, "I welcome the opportunity to serve the people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. I am deeply grateful to the Holy Father for his confidence and support. While I will serve more Catholics in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, I cannot imagine how I could shepherd better people than those I have found in southern Illinois. The people of the Diocese of Belleville will always have a secure place in my heart and prayers. I hope they remember me in theirs."

Bishop Gregory  will head a news conference at 1:30pm ET today.

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Canada’s Supreme Court issues ‘opinion’ but not ‘ruling’ in favor of same-sex marriage

Ottawa, Canada, Dec 9, 2004 (CNA) - The Supreme Court of Canada issued its judgment this morning on same-sex marriage, stating that the federal government has the right to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

The court emphasized that it was issuing an opinion and not a ruling, and that the judgment on the constitutionality of the federal bill does not make same-sex marriage law.

The court also stated that religious groups and officials cannot be forced to perform same-sex marriage if it is against their beliefs.   

The judgment also recognized that while the definition of marriage is federal jurisdiction, the solemnization and registration of marriage is provincial, and individual provinces can decide not to register same-sex marriage by invoking the notwithstanding clause

However, the court refused to say whether the traditional definition of marriage – between one man and one woman – violates equality rights.

The court noted that the federal government has already accepted lower-court judgments, which state that excluding same-sex couples from legal marriage is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said he would move ahead to table a bill sometime before Christmas.

The federal Conservatives and several pro-family Liberal MPs are expected to wage a bitter final battle to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Pro-family groups expect Prime Minister Paul Martin to keep his election promise and put the bill to a free vote in the House of Commons.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is expected to issue a statement later today.

Should the legislation pass, Canada would join Belgium and the Netherlands in allowing gays to wed.

Judges in six provinces and one territory have already approved same-sex marriage.

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National Shrine Rector Named West Virginia Bishop

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II has named Msgr. Michael J. Bransfield, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston.

Bishop-elect Bransfield, 61, was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia May 15, 1971 by the late John Cardinal Krol.

A Philadelphia native, the bishop-elect was educated in the Philadelphia archdiocesan school system and conducted his studies for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, Pa., where he received a master’s degree in divinity. He later earned a master’s degree in philosophy from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

The bishop-elect was assigned to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception as Director of Liturgy in 1980 and was named its Director of Finance in 1982.  He became the National Shrine’s tenth executive director in 1986.

Pope John Paul II named Bishop-elect Bransfield a Prelate of Honor in 1987.  He was made the Shrine’s first rector in 1990 when the Pope designated the Shrine a Basilica.

Bishop-elect Bransfield will become the eighth bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, a diocese that encompasses the state of West Virginia, succeeding Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt.  His episcopal ordination and installation is scheduled for Feb. 22, 2005, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

In a message posted at the National Shrine's website, Bishop-elect Bransfield said: “I am honored and deeply grateful to the Holy Father for entrusting me with the pastoral care of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.”  

“I look forward to serving the faithful of West Virginia, and to growing with them in holiness and grace.  I ask their prayers for me and pledge my fervent prayers for them. Wheeling-Charleston is a vast diocese with a long and noble history.  I look forward to discovering more about it and to becoming a part of the fabric of its community,” he said.

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Same-sex ‘marriage’ to become law in Canada by end of December, says justice minister

Ottawa, Canada, Dec 9, 2004 (CNA) - Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said the federal government will move quickly to legalize same-sex marriage by the end of December should the Supreme Court of Canada rule today that denying marriage rights to same-sex couples is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court is expected to announce its ruling on the matter latter today.

Cotler told reporters Wednesday after a Liberal caucus meeting that the government expects the Supreme Court to uphold Lower Court decisions that found the current definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman unconstitutional.

In 2003, Lower Courts in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec legalized same-sex marriage, which prompted the Liberal government of then-prime minister Jean Chretien to draft a law to legalize the unions. In July 2003, he referred this bill to the Supreme Court, asking it to decide whether Parliament could change the definition of marriage under the constitution.

The court is expected to respond to three questions: whether the definition can legally be expanded to include gays and lesbians; whether religious leaders are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights from having to marry same-sex couples; and, whether the existing opposite-sex requirement for marriage is constitutional.

Under the draft legislation, religious institutions would be allowed to define marriage as they like and would not be required to perform same-sex marriages.

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Respecting cultural differences must be balanced by protection of universal values, says Pope

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2004 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II’s Message for the 91st World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2005, made public today, insists on the duty of Christians to aid migrants in their struggle to integrate and to actively support the building of a society open to cultural dialogue, while at the same time firmly maintaining the heritage of universal and inalienable values.

"Integration,” begins the Pope,  quoting the Instruction "Erga migrantes caritas Christi" (The love of Christ towards migrants) “is a lengthy process that aims to shape societies and cultures, making them more and more a reflection of the multi-faceted gifts of God to human beings.”

”In this process,” he explained, “the migrant is intent on taking the necessary steps towards social inclusion, such as learning the national language and complying with the laws and requirements at work, so as to avoid the occurrence of exasperated differentiation."

"By introducing themselves into a new environment, immigrants often become more aware of who they are, especially when they miss the persons and values that are important to them,” he said.

The Pope insisted that “in our society, characterized by the global phenomenon of migration, individuals must seek the proper balance between respect for their own identity and recognition of that of others.”

“Indeed,” he underscored, “it is necessary to recognize the legitimate plurality of cultures present in a country, in harmony with the preservation of law and order, on which depend social peace and the freedom of citizens."

"It is essential to exclude on the one hand assimilationist models that tend to transform those who are different into their own copy, and on the other, models of marginalization of immigrants, with attitudes that can even arrive at the choice of apartheid," explained the Holy Father.

“There is need for "dialogue between people of different cultures in a context of pluralism that goes beyond mere tolerance and reaches sympathy,” he said. “We should encourage instead a mutual fecundation of cultures."

Christians, said the Pope, "can also recognize in the various cultures the presence of 'precious elements of religion and humanity'. ... It will, of course, be necessary to combine the principle of respect for cultural differences with the protection of values that are in common and inalienable, because they are founded on universal human rights."

Christians must continue to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, "in respect for the conscience of others," he states.

"They must above all listen to the cry for help that comes from a multitude of migrants and refugees,” said the Pope, “but they must then foster, with active commitment, prospects of hope that will herald the dawn of a more open and supportive society.”

“It is up to them in the first place to make out God's presence in history, even when everything still seems to be enveloped in darkness," he concluded.

There are 175 million migrants in the world, 56 million in Europe, 50 million in Asia, 41 million in North America, 16  million in Africa and 6 million in both Latin American countries and the Caribbean and in Oceania, noted the Pope.

The United States in the country with the highest number of migrants with 35 million people coming from an estimated 40 countries.

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Pro-family organizaton responds to California Attorney General on “freedom of conscience attack”

Sacramento, Calif., Dec 9, 2004 (CNA) - A leading pro-family organization, Campaign for Children and Families, issued a response to California Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s announcement yesterday that he will sue to block the Hyde-Weldon conscience amendment in the recently-passed federal spending bill which prohibits government entities from punishing doctors who won't do abortions, saying that Lockyer is ignoring the right to “freedom of conscience.”

Randy Thomasson, president of CCF stated: "Imagine you're a baby doctor.  You've said the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm, and now Bill Lockyer is forcing you to participate in killing an unborn child in a bloody abortion procedure.  What ever happened to a person's 'right to choose' to have a conscience?

"Instead of behaving like a lawyer for the wealthy abortion groups, Lockyer should immediately draft legislation to conform California to the new federal law,” said Thomasson.

“California doesn't have to lose any federal funds,” he explained. “Abortions would still occur in California, but the state would cease and desist from forcing doctors and nurses to horribly kill unborn children against their own conscience."

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“Icon for immigrants” given a home in parish church known as haven for immigrants

Eagle Pass, Texas, Dec 9, 2004 (CNA) - A life-sized statue of Christ found floating in the Rio Grande last year has been donated to Our Lady of Refuge church in Eagle Pass after having spent a year in the police departments evidence room.

The statue had become an icon for the many undocumented immigrants who wade across the river to enter the U.S., noted Laredo Catholic Bishop James Tamayo, Associated Press reports.

The statue is to be housed in a new chapel at Our Lady of Refuge, which has become a haven for immigrants, and will be loaned periodically to two other churches.

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HLI urges Bush administration to rescind population-control policy

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2004 (CNA) - An international pro-life organization called upon the United States government to revoke its radical population-control policy at a press conference this morning.

Human Life International (HLI) says the three-decades-old population-control policy is based on nothing more than a myth and the time has come to rescind the Kissinger Report 2004: A Retrospective on NSSM-200.

“Recent articles in Newsweek and Parade magazines demonstrate that the ‘need’ for population control is nothing more than an over-hyped myth,” said Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of HLI. “The time has come for U.S. government policy to formally acknowledge this same basic truth.”

Fr. Euteneuer said for the past 30 years, billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have gone to fund United Nations population-control programs and anti-life organizations in developing countries. “This, too, must come to an end,” he said.

Leaders from several of the 13 nations, targeted by the National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM-200), were on hand to tell reporters of the repercussions of this policy on their countries.

HLI also claims that the policy was justified by a secret agenda.

NSSM-200 justified the radical population control methods by claiming it would prevent developing nations from becoming politically powerful; protect U.S. investments in these countries; maintain U.S. access to these countries’ natural resources; and limit the number of young people in these countries, who are more likely to challenge existing social and political norms.

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Vandals target Jesus statue

, Dec 9, 2004 (CNA) - A Catholic church in Delaware was vandalized Dec. 6, for the third time in recent weeks. This time, a bronze statue of Jesus was decapitated. The representations of two children, also part of the statue, were also vandalized.

Detective Scott O'Bier told Action News that he doubts St. Edmund Church was the direct target of the crime. If it were, that would make the desecration of the statue a hate crime. Instead, O'Bier thinks partying teenagers are responsible.

The pastor, Fr. Ray Forester, told Action News that he plans to leave the decapitated statue in plain view until the church finds the money to replace or restore it.

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Sister celebrates 100th birthday with joy

, Dec 9, 2004 (CNA) - Sr. Mary Martin dePorres McKenna’s 100 years witness to a life of faith, joy and service.

The Sister of the Blessed Sacrament celebrated her centenary yesterday, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, at St. Elizabeth Convent in Bensalem, with a mass and a birthday party.

State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo attended the celebration and presented her with a citation from the State House of Representatives for her life's work.

Prior to entering the religious community, founded by St. Katharine Drexel in 1891 to serve the Native and African Americans, Sr. McKenna served New York’s poorest of the poor alongside Russian Baroness de Hueck and Dorothy Day.

Day founded the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933 and De Hueck was an aristocrat who escaped from Russia and worked with the poor in the slums of Toronto, where she founded Friendship House. She later established Friendship Houses in New York, Chicago and other cities.

According to a profile of Sr. McKenna in the Bucks County Courier Times, these women served as role models for Sr. McKenna, who, in the early 1930s, was a secretary at a Manhattan real estate firm. By 1937, the 33-year-old realized that she had found her life's work and entered the convent.

While she has trouble hearing and poor eyesight, Sr. McKenna’s mind is sharp. She can tell tales of growing up the sixth of nine children in a happy, faith-filled home, where the family prayed and ate every meal together. She retired from her work 20 years ago and spends much of her day praying in the convent chapel.

Sr. McKenna, the only one in her family still living, shared some words of wisdom with the Bucks County Courier Times. "We're all saints in the making," she said, and "There's no recipe for growing old. It's all up to God."

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Christian opposition leader threatened for helping family members of political prisoners in Cuba

Havana, Cuba, Dec 9, 2004 (CNA) - The Cubanet news agency denounced the Cuban government this week for threatening a leading Cuban dissident for attempting to help family members of political prisoners.

Julio Cesar Bermudez Quintero was threatened in his home on November 30 by a government official for giving a ride to the family members of political prisoner Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia, who wanted to visit him in prison. 

Bermudez Quintero, member of the Christian Democratic Movement of Cuba, stated, “As a member of the opposition and a Christian it is my duty (to help), and whenever they need it I will do it again.”

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“Doctors for Life” organize march against abortion in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Dec 9, 2004 (CNA) - The association Doctors for Life, a group of mainly doctors and medical students from the Autonomous University of Madrid, has convened a massive protest against abortion for this Saturday, December 11.

Doctors for Life, a recently founded organization with the objective of defending the right to life from conception to natural death, together with other pro-life organizations in Spain, has begun organizing pro-life marches, until now unheard-of in the country.

Last October 22, more than 10,000 people participated in a pro-life march in front of the Spanish Socialist Party’s headquarters in Madrid. 

This Saturday, the march will take place near the country’s Department of Health.

According to organizers, “Abortion centers claim, twisting the law, that any unwanted pregnancy poses a risk to the psychiatric health of the mother.  Judges and lawyers are indifferent to this systematic violation of abortion laws, dismissing any lawsuits or complaints that have been brought forth in this area.”

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Thousands attend Mass of reparation in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 9, 2004 (CNA) - Thousands of Catholics in Argentina gathered on the feast of the Immaculate Conception to take part in a Mass at the parish of Our Lady of the Pilar in reparation for an art exhibit which displayed blasphemous works against Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.

The pastor, Father Romulo Puiggari, who presided at the Mass, told the faithful, “Let us commit ourselves to pray and work for a decrease in the offenses that our Lord Jesus receives.”

“The Church lives on a sorrowful, spectacular and magnificent earth, in a time which has all the features of a dark night.  The response of the Church to this dark night is ‘to be love’; only love is credible.”

He said the celebration of the Immaculate Conception was taking place in a “very particular” context because of the blasphemous exhibit, but the episode has resulted in a many Catholics deepening their love for Jesus Christ and the Church.

The parish of Our Lady of the Pilar is next to the old Franciscan convent where the controversial exhibit is being shown.

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Catholic musicians invited to participate in international Marian concert

Rome, Italy, Dec 9, 2004 (CNA) - The 6th International Festival of Christian Music, “The World Sings to Mary,” organized by Radio Kolbe SAT of Schio, Italy, will take place on April 30, 2005, and organizers are now accepting requests to participate.

Catholic singers and musicians are invited to send their submissions on CD, MC, video or DVD, together with three pictures, a biography and contact information, to the following address:  Fabio Angiolin, Via Fermi 6/C, 36015 Schio (VI), Italy, email: [email protected]

The concert will be broadcast via satellite by Radio Kolbe, TV and internet.  Travel expenses and accommodations will be provided by the organizing committee.

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College Students Reach Out to Community For World Aids Day

Boulder, Colo., Dec 9, 2004 (CNA) - Ranked last year by the Princeton Review as the number one party school in the nation, and still reeling from the alcohol-related death of a fraternity pledge earlier this year, the University of Colorado at Boulder has not lately been associated with works of charity.

Students from St. Thomas Aquinas University parish however, have spent the month of November reaching out to their community in faith and service.

The students, part of the nationwide Faithful Citizenship group sponsored by the US conference of Catholic Bishops, collected toiletry and hygiene products for donation to the Seton House, an Aids shelter run by the Sisters of Charity in Denver.

Organizer Lexie Wagner, a junior at CU said she was surprised and pleased by the response of students and parishioners despite a lack of publicity. “It shows that students care about their community and want to give something back”, she said. “We’re trying to live out our faith in service.”

The AIDS drive was part of a statewide project of Faithful Citizenship, a national campaign focused on living out the social teaching of the Church on issues ranging from migrant farm workers to abortion.

Statewide director Jamila Spencer said the group is active on a handful of University campuses around the state as well 59 parishes.

The Aids outreach, which involved education, charitable outreach, like the hygiene drive at St. Thomas Aquinas, and a World Aids Day Mass on December 1st, was the first major statewide outreach by the group. “For our first time out there with our charity and change project, it went really well”, Spencer said.

The three primary pieces of Faithful Citizenship are education, advocacy and charity. Spencer noted that, “these all feed into each other and if they’re to be genuine, must flow from a relationship with the person of Christ.”

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