Vatican City, Dec 10, 2004 (CNA) - John Paul II met with bishops from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, this morning in his last encounter with U.S. bishops making their "ad limina" visit, and told them that the “pain and scandal of recent years [is] both 'a sign of the times' and a providential call to conversion and deeper fidelity to the demands of the Gospel.”
The Pope said that the ad limina visits over the past eight months have been both "a source of consolation" and a time to "share the deep pain which you and your people have experienced in these last years, and I have witnessed your determination to deal fairly and forthrightly with the serious pastoral issues which have been raised as a result." He underscored the bishops' duty of "building up the Church in communion and mission."
"I leave two charges to you and your brother bishops," said the Holy Father. “The first is a fraternal encouragement to persevere joyfully in the ministry entrusted to you, in obedience to the authentic teaching of the Church.”
The Pope said that “in her own way, the Church in the United States has been called to begin the new millennium by "starting afresh from Christ" and by making the truth of the Gospel clearly the measure of her life and all her activity.”
"In this light,” he continued, “I once more praise your efforts to ensure that each individual and group in the Church understands the urgent need for a consistent, honest and faithful witness to the Catholic faith, and that each of the Church's institutions and apostolates expresses in every aspect of its life a clear Catholic identity".
The Pope said that "the second charge is a heartfelt appeal to keep your gaze fixed on the great goal set before the whole Church at the dawn of this third Christian millennium: the proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of humanity."
"'The Church in America must speak increasingly of Jesus Christ, the human face of God and the divine face of man', devoting the best of her efforts to a more compelling proclamation of the Gospel, the growth of holiness, and the more effective transmission of the treasure of the faith to the younger generation," said the Holy Father, citing "Ecclesia in America."
In conclusion the Pope noted that the “two urgent tasks” of the Church in the U.S. are "the need for an evangelization of culture in general" and "the need for Catholics to cooperate fruitfully with men and women of good will in building a culture of respect for life."
Read the Pope’s full speech to the US Bishops: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=49
Ottawa, Canada, Dec 10, 2004 (CNA) - The Supreme Court of Canada may have issued its judgment on same-sex marriage, but the debate isn’t over yet, said the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
The Supreme Court released its long-awaited judgment on the constitutionality of a federal draft bill on same-sex marriage yesterday.
The 19-page judgment states that the federal government has the right to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples and that religious officials are protected “from being compelled by the state to perform civil or religious same-sex marriages that are contrary to their religious beliefs.”
In a statement, the bishops noted that the judgment also states that freedom of religion prevents “the compulsory use of sacred places for the celebration of such marriages.”
However, the bishops also noted that the Supreme Court did not answer the question about whether the current definition of marriage, which has an opposite-sex requirement, is constitutional. This, say the bishops, is a question that Parliament must now decide in “a full, informed and vigorous debate.”
“The forum for discussion now moves from the courts to Parliament,” they said.
“As pastoral leaders of the Catholic community in Canada, we intend to be part of this debate,” the bishops said, encouraging all Canadians to participate in the debate as well.
“In particular, we call on lay Catholics, especially those who have the experience of marriage, to play an active role,” they said.
The CCCB has participated actively in the debate since its beginnings, speaking out on the issue and urging Canadians to participate in letter-writing campaigns. The bishops submitted a brief in 2003 to a parliamentary hearings committee. They also presented a brief before the Supreme Court in October.
“As the committed and stable relationship of a man and a woman, marriage is basic to the stability of society and family life,” the bishops reiterated in their statement yesterday. “In so far as it is a social institution, marriage is concerned with the common good, not individual rights.”
The bishops asked that the debate be followed by for free vote in the House of Commons, “so that all members may vote according to their conscience.” Prime Minister Paul Martin has already guaranteed that a free vote would be held.
“The Catholic Church will continue to celebrate the sacrament of marriage as the union of a man and a woman,” the bishops affirmed.
“We expect freedom of conscience and religion to be respected by federal, provincial and territorial governments, so that no one is compelled to act contrary to his or her beliefs,” they stated.
Denver, Colo., Dec 10, 2004 (CNA) - Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver has urged his faithful to “scrub” the expression “Happy Holidays” from Catholic vocabulary.
“We don’t celebrate a generic excuse for gift-giving,” he wrote in hislatest column, published in the Denver Catholic Register. “We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.”
“For the vast majority of Americans, Christmas has a distinctly religious, Christian identity rooted in Scripture. Publicly ignoring this fact isnot a form of ‘inclusion’ or ‘tolerance.’ On the contrary, it’s a deliberate act of intolerance and exclusion against Christians,” he wrote.
He said lumping Christmas together with seasonal celebrations devalues and marginalizes the sacred nature of Christmas, and reduces Christian influence in society.
He commended Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper for his decision to maintain the “Merry Christmas” lights on City Hall, after citizens protested a former decision to remove them. He said such an incident would have baffled American Catholics only one generation earlier.
“Public institutions and leaders have the obligation to respect the beliefs of the people they serve. Publicly acknowledging and revering Christmas for what it really is — a time of both secular and religious celebration penetrated by Christian meaning — in no way imposes anyone’s church on anybody,” he said. “Rather, to not show public respect for the religious identity of Christmas is a form of bigotry against most American voters.”
The archbishop reflected on 2004 as a “year of surprises for American Catholics and other Christians,” referring to the “hostile public debate” over “The Passion of the Christ,” the divisive political campaign, and “Scrooge-like attempts” to cut the word “Christmas” from public discourse.
“No other religious community would be subjected to this kind of treatment — and remember, American Christians are in the majority,” he said.
The archbishop said there is a simple lesson in all of this for Catholics: “Separating our personal religious faith from our public life andactions doesn’t work. All that results is a smaller and smaller space where our religious beliefs are safe from criticism.
“Living that way is not discipleship,” he concluded, calling on his faithful to stand up and be counted. “That’s not the courage and confidence Jesus called us to when He told us to be ‘leaven in the world’ and to ‘make disciples of all nations.’”
Vatican City, Dec 10, 2004 (CNA) - In a speech given by Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, today in Minsk, Belarus, he said that in order for Europe to continue to be a community that thrives on veritable values, Christianity must confront secularism, indifference and unbelief among Europeans.
A summary of his speech on "Christianity and the Challenges of Secularism, Unbelief and Religious Indifference," hosted by the Orthodox Church and organised by the Saints Cyril and Methodius Theological Institute was published by the Pontifical Council for Culture this morning.
“True values have their source in God,” says the summary. “The natural law can be found at the basis of all values, which are universal but lived out in different cultures."
"In order to combat relativism, secularism and indifference, producers of grave social problems and deniers of the values of truth, of the dignity of the human person, and of the inspiration of beauty,” it continues, “due attention must be given to the meeting between the Gospel and cultures.”
“The faith is still a factor for Europe in the restoration of values through both lungs of Christianity, particularly through Christian culture," it concludes.
Vatican City, Dec 10, 2004 (CNA) - The seventh International Congress on the Pastoral Care of Circus and Amusement Park Workers organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, will take place in Rome from December 12 through 16 will take place.
The meeting, whose theme is "Welcoming Circus and Fair Workers, from diversity to the coexistence of differences," will be attended by hundreds of priests, laypeople, and some bishops.
Some famous international circus artists will perform during the breaks and afternoons and will give testimonies about being Christian in the workplace.
After words of welcome by Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, president of the dicastery, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary, will present the congress.
Talks are scheduled by Msgr. Bruno Maggioni, professor of the Faculty of Theology of Southern Italy, Bishop Lino Belotti, president of the Italian Episcopal Commission for Migration, Fr. Dominique Joly, O.F.M. (France), and Fr. Sergio Ferrera Varela (Spain). On Thursday, December 16, participants in the congress will be received by the Holy Father.
Ottawa, Canada, Dec 10, 2004 (CNA) - After a Supreme Court judgment yesterday, the Canadian Liberal government is intent on legalizing same-sex marriage. This, despite the fact that most Canadians would want to live in traditional families, a new study reveals.
In a 2003 national survey by University of Lethbridge sociologist Reginald Bibby, 58 percent of the 2,093 adults questioned said they consider the "ideal" family arrangement to be a married man and woman, with at least one child, the Globe and Mail reported.
Many unmarried couples, both heterosexual and homosexual, with or without children also share that conviction, reported Today’s Family News. Teens had the same view of marriage and families, with 90 percent saying they plan to get married, have children, and stay with the same partner for life.
Of those polled, 53 percent were currently part of a traditional family and nine percent were married to a person of the opposite sex but have no children.
"What Canadians want is a traditional marriage," Bibby told the Ottawa Citizen. "But they're not getting it." The study revealed that only half of all men and women could expect to marry before they turn 50, and more marriages are failing. But for all that, marriage and family continue, as the Citizen stated, "to be of paramount importance to Canadians, and our hopes and dreams are traditional."
Washington D.C., Dec 10, 2004 (CNA) - Pro-life demonstrators, who were arrested at a Kansas City intersection in June 2001 because of the complaints of passers-by that their graphic signs of an aborted unborn child were offensive, are hoping, after losing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Kansas City police in a district court and then an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, that their First Amendment complaint will be heard by the Supreme Court.
In an interview with CNS News, Francis J. Manion, senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), who represent the demonstrators, said that "this is an important case involving the constitutional rights of those who oppose abortion to be able to speak out freely without being punished."
According to the ACLJ the 8th Circuit ruling contradicts precedents set by First Amendment rulings by the Supreme Court which protect offensive speech.
Manion said that the cops allowed the demonstrators to stay “if they put the offensive signs” away, even though the entire demonstration was legitimate: "What you had was the cops deciding, just at the behest of random passersby, what could or could not be said or displayed on that street corner. And that's clearly unconstitutional," he said.
He asserted that "the constitutional right to free speech lacks all vitality if it can be suppressed for so flimsy a reason as that the content of the message ... is distracting or disturbing to motorists… rare indeed is the [demonstration] that will not annoy and distract some passersby."
The police officers had "observed that traffic was heavy and was being affected by the demonstration," and then charged the demonstrators with violating regulations which say it is “unlawful for any person to ... stand ... either alone or in concert with others in a public place, in such a manner so as to [o]bstruct any public street, public highway."
When the police dropped the charges, the demonstrators filed their lawsuit in which the district court decided that the officers "had reasonably interpreted the ordinance as prohibiting conduct that distracted motorists and thereby obstructed a public street by impeding the safe flow of traffic." The First Amendment "does not entitle citizens to create safety hazards," they said.
When the district court decision was upheld by the Appeals court, Judge C. Arlen Beam, saying that his colleages had created a "heckler's veto" which allowed the government to restrict free speech because of someone’s objections to it, issued a dissenting opinion.
"The Constitution", said the Judge, “does not allow a small group of passersby to censor, through their complaints, the content of a peaceful, stationary protest," Beam stated in his dissent. "The First Amendment knows no heckler's veto, even in an abortion case."
Minneapolis, Minn., Dec 10, 2004 (CNA) - The bells will ring this Christmas at the Cathedral of St. Paul.
There was fear in September that the five bells, which needed repair, would not be ready for Christmas. But the cathedral struck a deal with the French company Paccard Bells and Chimes Foundry, which made the bells and agreed to have the repairs done in time for Christmas, reported the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.
A routine inspection had found cracks in the metal yokes that hold the bells, which weigh from 1,500 pounds to more than three tons. The yokes, which weigh up to 1,000 pounds, are being repaired today.
The cost of repairs is $40,000, and fund raising is under way.
The late Msgr. Ambrose Hayden, who served as rector of the cathedral for 26 years, led a fund-raising campaign to first install the bells in the cathedral’s 150-foot-tall south bell tower in 1986.
Since then, the bells toll every quarter-hour between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., and before mass.
The cathedral’s Christmas Eve festival of readings and carols at 10:45 p.m., and the midnight mass at the St. Paul Cathedral will be broadcast live on local television, KSTP-TV, Channel 5.
Rome, Italy, Dec 10, 2004 (CNA) - The movement to take “Christ” out of Christmas has spread to Catholic Italy’s public schools, sparking a national debate. The Vatican has spoken out, urging Christians to maintain and respect their traditions and identity.
An elementary school in the northern city of Treviso decided last week to substitute the traditional Nativity play this year with Little Red Riding Hood so as not to offend Muslim children. The school's traditional Nativity scene was scrapped as well, reported Reuters.
This was the latest in a series of similar events in recent weeks. In a school near Milan, the word "Jesus" in Christmas song was substituted with the word "virtue." In Vicenza, an annual contest for the best Nativity scene in schools was canceled.
"Are we losing our minds?" Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli of the populist Northern League reportedly said. "Do we want to erase our identity for the love of Allah?"
"It is a perfect example of how not to respect the presence of different people, in this case our Muslim brothers, by annihilating our own identity," Bishop Agostino Marchetto, head of the Vatican's department for migrants, told reporters. "We have to accept others but others have to accept our identity.”
On national television Wednesday, Camillo Cardinal Ruini of Rome said traditional Nativity crèches must be respected.
"These things can seem small but the spirit behind them is radically wrong and can have very heavy consequences on our young people," he said.
Hamed Shaari, head of a major Islamic cultural institute in Milan, said it was "senseless" to change the words of a Christmas song that has 2,000 years of tradition behind it.
"It's great that people are aware of our feelings but traditions should be respected. This way, we can respect ours as well," he said.
Islam is the second largest religion in Italy. There are 57 million people in Italy; one million are Muslims.
, Dec 10, 2004 (CNA) - Two judges are expected to rule next week in separate cases on whether the Christian Nativity scene can be displayed in public.
The Thomas More Law Center filed the two cases, one in New York City and the other in Bay Harbor Islands, Fl., over policies that deny the public display of the Christian Nativity while permitting the display of symbols of other religions.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the center, said these two cases “demonstrate the kind of hostility and double standard being used by officials to deny Christians the right to publicly celebrate one of their holiest seasons.”
In New York Dec. 13, the center will present oral argument in its case against the New York City Department of Education.
The center had filed a federal lawsuit, challenging a New York City policy that encourages and permits the display of the Jewish Menorah during Hanukkah and the Islamic star and crescent during Ramadan, but prohibits the display of the Christian Nativity during Christmas.
An appeal was filed after Senior U.S. District Court Judge Charles Sifton ruled that the city’s policy was permissible because it was an accommodation of “multiculturalism” and “an attempt to diversify the season and provide non-Christian holidays with parity.”
In Florida, U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga is expected to rule on a request for a temporary restraining order that would to allow a Christian resident to display the Nativity alongside existing Jewish Menorahs in Bay Harbor Islands.
The emergency request was filed as a part of a federal lawsuit against the Town of Bay Harbor Islands for displaying exclusively Jewish religious symbols while prohibiting a similar display of the Christian Nativity.
The town had decorated the lampposts on its main street with Jewish Menorahs and stars of David and allowed a Jewish synagogue to display its Menorah at the town entrance. However, the town denied a Christian resident permission, for the second consecutive year, to display her Christian Nativity scenes.
Town attorneys defended their policy, saying the Menorah is a secular symbol and not a religious one like the Nativity.
Wellington, New Zealand, Dec 10, 2004 (CNA) - On the passing of the Civil Union Bill into law today in New Zealand, Family Life International, New Zealand called it a “sad day” for the country and stated that the Parliamentary decision “makes an absolute mockery of due democratic process and will have many negative implications for future generations.”
“Because of the drastic changes that this law will bring about,” reads the statement, “those who proposed this legislation had the obligation to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it will not be detrimental to traditional marriage, the foundational relationship of all healthy and thriving societies.”
“Instead of satisfying this obligation the supporters of this legislation set about a campaign of miscommunication in regards to the actual design and implications of this Bill, by falsely claiming that it would grant legal rights that it simply does not grant,” it continues.
The statement says that the Select Committee ignored or dismissed the thousands of submissions opposing the law as either homophobic or plagiarized copies of previous submissions. By doing so the committee “displayed nothing but totalitarian contempt for proper democratic process and the people of this country who made a conscientious effort to have their voice heard.”
Family Life says that the accusations of “bigoted fundamentalist Christian” leveled at opponents of the bill by many Members of Parliament were “nothing more then a vitriolic smokescreen that has been used to avoid answering important questions and to ignore genuine concerns about Civil Union legislation.”
“There will be four victims in the wake of the new Civil Union law,” states Family Life:
1) Homosexual people wishing to extract themselves from the gay lifestyle.
2) Traditional marriage: This law devalues the foundational relationship of any healthy and socially prosperous society by setting up a counterfeit version of marriage which studies have shown to last an average of 2 years.
3) Future generations of New Zealanders, many of whom will without doubt find themselves the children of homosexual parents.
4) New Zealand society: All of the once great societies who have long since passed away have the erosion and blurring of the traditional family as one of the major reasons for their downfall.”
The statement concludes with a call to all New Zealanders concerned about traditional and moral values to use their vote at the next General Election to support politicians with similar concern “ahead of morally, democratically and socially bankrupt minority agendas.”
See Family Life International’s website at www.fli.org.nz