Vatican City, Jan 6, 2005 (CNA) - Pope John Paul II today called on the youth of the world to converge in Cologne, Germany, for the 20th World Youth Day this August.
“I invite the youth of Germany and their contemporaries around the world to begin their spiritual journey toward this important meeting to discover in Christ, as the Magi did, the will of God,” he said during the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square this morning on the Feast of the Epiphany.
The Pope made the link between the Epiphany and the upcoming youth event.
“‘We have come to adore him’ (Mt 2:2). These words of the Magi that we have heard today in the Gospel reading are the theme of the next World Youth Day,” he said. Earlier reports have stated that the Pope is planning to attend the international youth event.
The Pope expressed once again his faith and belief in young people. “Children are the present and the future of the Church,” he said. “They have an active role to play in the evangelization of the world and, with their prayers, they contribute to saving and bettering it.”
Washington D.C., Jan 6, 2005 (CNA) - Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has pledged $25 million in aid for the victims of the devastating tsunami that hit southeast Asia the day after Christmas, leaving more than 150,000 people dead and millions homeless.
CRS staff is working throughout the devastated region, conducting assessments and collaborating with local partners in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia to establish the most effective measures of response. Food and water are also being distributed.
Although CRS pledged $25 million for emergency relief efforts, only $11 million has been raised to date.
In an effort to raise these remaining $14 million, parishes in dioceses throughout the United States will have a special collection for victims during masses this weekend.
Canadian dioceses will also hold a special collection this weekend. Funds raised in Canada will be channeled to Asia through Development and Peace, the Canadian bishops’ emergency-aid and development agency.
Vatican City, Jan 6, 2005 (CNA) - During the Angelus today, Pope John Paul II prayed for the children who died in the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia Dec. 26. He prayed as well for the children, suffering from hunger and sickness, and those who have been abducted and exploited, especially for the ignoble purpose of human trafficking.
The Pope also recognized those who work to defend, care for and advocate for children, and singled out in a special way the Pontifical Society of the Holy Childhood.
Recalling the importance that Jesus gave to children during his preaching ministry, the Pope cited the Gospel passage: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child, will never enter it” (Mk 10:15).
He invoked Mary, who on the Feast of the Epiphany, calls all people to adore the Christ Child with the spirit of children.
Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 6, 2005 (CNA) - The Diocese of Orange announced the largest settlement in history with victims of clergy sexual abuse Jan. 3. Bishop Tod D. Brown negotiated the $100-million settlement, which was finalized Dec. 2 but placed under a court seal for one month.
The settlement resolved 90 lawsuits that included allegations against 31 priests, 10 lay personnel, one religious brother and two nuns. The earliest allegation dated to 1936; the latest was 1996.
The settlement, which was in negotiations for two years, surpassed the $85-million settlement the Archdiocese of Boston agreed to pay 552 plaintiffs in 2002.
It also allows for the release of confidential documents from diocesan personnel files after a judge's review. The first records could be released within two months.
"Let this be what everyone remembers from today: that nothing is more important than the protection of our children and our youth," said Bishop Brown at the announcement of the settlement. "I seek their forgiveness, I hope for reconciliation and I know that they have now begun their healing process."
Mark Curran, one of the plaintiffs, said that he forgives the church. "Today, I sit with you next to my brother in Christ, who has practiced his faith – not just with the money, but I see the compassion of Christ in this man," he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
“We have kept our commitment to the victims of these crimes by compensating them, with the help of our insurers, at a level that is, in our view, significant, generous and compassionate,” said the bishop in a written statement. “For us as a church, it is also very, very costly. But such a settlement will allow us, chastened, to move forward with all the good works we do.”
The settlement stipulates that the diocese will pay half of the settlement; its eight insurance companies will pay the other half.
The bishop said the diocese was motivated to come to a settlement to protect the diocese from bankruptcy and spare Catholics and those who care for the Church “the sordid details of these crimes,” which would have been publicized in the media had the cases gone to trial.
“We are ashamed that the crime of sexual abuse took place in our church and are determined that it will not happen again,” he said. Efforts will continue to make church environments safer and “to educate everyone about the horror of childhood sexual abuse in our society,” he added.
Bishop Brown held a prayer service that evening at Holy Family Cathedral. He offered prayers in thanksgiving for the settlement, for reconciliation, healing and restoration of trust.
The implications of this settlement for the other 800 clergy abuse lawsuits pending in dioceses across the state are unclear. Plaintiffs are now urging other bishops to follow the example of the Orange diocese.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, under the leadership of Roger Cardinal Mahony, faces more than 500 lawsuits. The archdiocese is currently in settlement negotiations. Trial dates for some of these cases are expected to be set at a hearing on Friday.
Tempe, Ariz., Jan 6, 2005 (CNA) - On November 23rd, a group of 17 Arizona-based students returned from a three-week long trip to Northern Ireland to spread the message of their faith.
According to the Archdiocese of Phoenix, “Leaders of Youth Arise North America, a six-month school of evangelization based in Tempe, plugged into existing ecumenical programs that are working to end years of violence and hatred between Catholics and Protestants.”
The Youth Arise participants range in age from 18-30 and come from across the country to participate in the six-month program, which climaxes with the mission trip. During their six months, the students participate in theological and spiritual formation, daily prayer, daily mass and Bible study. According to the Archdiocese of Phoenix, “In exchange, participants sacrifice personal freedoms for the sake of communal living. They share dormitory-style rooms and rely on Youth Arise to meet their personal needs, expenses included in the school’s $6,000 tuition.”
David “Q” Quintana, one of the staffers the youth worked with in Belfast said Youth Arise’s love for the Church “is quite helpful for the work here in West Belfast because most of the young people here aren’t that Christian or that Catholic.”
While in Ireland, the group worked in some of the most impoverished areas of Belfast and it’s suburbs, organizing and assisting with retreats and other activities for youth of the area, both Protestant and Catholic.
“You’re looking up to these guys and seeing how Christ has worked in their lives and maybe they’ll [Irish students] want Christ to work in their own lives as well,” said 16-year old Blaine Douglas, one of the local youth. “I don’t think it matters that they’re Catholic,” he added.
The school was formed 4 years ago in response to Pope John Paul II’s call for a New Evangelization by “bolstering Catholics’ knowledge of the Church and encouraging a personal relationship with Christ.”
San Antonio, Texas, Jan 6, 2005 (CNA) - While some seminaries across the country are closing their doors, Assumption Seminary in the Archdiocese of San Antonio is expanding.
Enrolment has steadily increased at the bilingual seminary throughout the 1990s and especially in the last four years, said Fr. Larry Christian.
“In the late 1970s, there were 25 students. We’re double where we were 20 years ago,” the rector told CNA. He expects enrolment will continue to increase.
Maximum accommodation at the seminary is currently 55, but the new expansion will allow for 100. The seminary will decommission one of its old buildings and the new facility will offer housing for 80 students, four faculty suites a chapel and a common space.
The seminary currently has 52 seminarians – 41 are in residence and 11 are in their pastoral internships and living in parish rectories.
Only 11 are from the Archdiocese of San Antonio. About 50 percent of the students are American; the others are foreign students from Spanish-speaking countries, said Fr. Christian. Ten men are expected to be ordained in 2006.
Established in 1915, Assumption Seminary offers priestly formation in English and Spanish, and training that caters to the needs of dioceses to minister to an ever-growing Hispanic population.
“The growth of the Hispanic influence in this diocese means that seminarians will need training in this area,” said Fr. Christian.
“The Hispanic population is growing throughout North America,” he added. “An increasing number of bishops (throughout the country) are sending their seminarians down to be trained in serving Hispanic communities.”
The seminary launched a $13-million campaign to fund the project in mid-November. Half will be used for the building project. The remaining $7.5 million will be used to establish an endowment fund for the institution. Close to $3 million has been raised to date.
The now retired Archbishop of San Antonio, Patrick Flores, committed $1 million to the seminary expansion project. The funds, which were raised through the annual Archbishop’s Appeal, will be distributed in $100,000 increments over 10 years.
Archbishop-designate Jose Horacio Gomez, who will be installed as the new Archbishop of San Antonio on February 15 at the San Fernando Cathedral, has already expressed that promoting priestly vocations will be one of his pastoral priorities.
The new building for the seminary should be completed in three years.
Costa Mesa, Calif., Jan 6, 2005 (CNA) - Parents in the Diocese of Orange County have threatened to pull their children from a Catholic school and to seek the Vatican’s intervention after school officials have refused to meet their demands.
Some parents have accused the diocese of violating Church teaching by allowing a homosexual couple to enroll their two children in a Catholic school. They say the boys’ attendance in the kindergarten of St. John the Baptist School in Costa Mesa is part of the homosexual community’s efforts to change the Church, reported the Los Angeles Times.
The group demanded that the school only accept children of families that follow Catholic teachings. But school officials rejected the demand.
Superintendent Fr. Gerald M. Horan said the parents’ demand is a “slippery slope” that would lead to the expulsion and ban of children whose parents divorced, used birth control or married outside the Church, he said.
Catholic League president William Donohue agreed with Fr. Horan, adding that the most important element to consider is the spiritual well-being of the children in question.
“On a prudential level, it makes no sense to single out kids for retribution whose parents are gay,” said Donohue. “What should be done about kids who were born out-of-wedlock? Should we expel kids whose parents are cohabiting or are known adulterers?
“Priests have often been asked by morally delinquent parents to baptize their children, and in most instances the priests have rightfully obliged,” he continued. “Now just as the priest is in no way condoning the moral delinquency of the parents, school officials at St. John the Baptist are in no way condoning the lifestyle of the gay parents. And in both cases, the spiritual well-being of the kids is, or should be, the paramount concern.”
Sacramento, Calif., Jan 6, 2005 (CNA) - A new bill proposed last month would oblige pharmacists to fill prescriptions for birth control and other abortifacients, even if it is against their moral and religious convictions. The bill was proposed by California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys.
About a dozen states have passed laws granting pharmacists the right to refuse filling such prescriptions. If the new bill were passed, California would be the first state to would require pharmacists to dispense contraceptives.
"A pharmacist's job is to fill the prescription that a doctor prescribes for a patient," said Levine, who is also working on a bill to legalize doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.
Pharmacists For Life International said pharmacists should retain the right to make decisions based on their beliefs and clinical judgments.
"If you want to take away the pharmacist's dispensing authority, the pharmacist's ability to make clinical decisions, you won't need any pharmacists out there," Karen Brauer, the organization’s president, told the Los Angeles Daily News.
Brauer opposes birth control pills because she does not think they are safe for women’s health. "Birth control serves to make women sexually available to men at the convenience of men," she added.
Assembly Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, disagrees with the bill, stating that it is up to the free market to determine what sells inside a business, including pharmacies, and not the government.
Denver, Colo., Jan 6, 2005 (CNA) - Bob Lemming is serious about encouraging kids to choose chastity, and with good reason. His three sons will soon be reaching the age where they are faced with the same difficult questions facing teens and young people today.
“They’re starting so young”, Lemming said, referring to teens that regularly come to him asking if there is any redemption for their sexual mistakes. “It’s about the heart”, he said, “Christ came to forgive.”
That message, and that of the Denver-based group, Pure by Choice, which Lemming directs, seems to be taking root. Last year, their annual youth rally drew over 4,000 participants to the Denver University campus and this year they plan to fill the 8,000-seat capacity Denver Coliseum.
Lemming noted that, last year “many youth for the first time committed to purity and several thousands re-committed their values and stood with others throughout the state.”
This year, the February 27th rally will feature comedian and abstinence speaker Keith Deltano and South African Christian rock band Tree 63.
According to Lemming, “multi-denominational churches and community organizations in Colorado came together about 8 years ago to organize an annual sexual purity rally. Pure by choice was organized in 2003 to take the movement to the next level by creating a large state wide rally, workshops for parents and youth leaders and helping to connect youth, parents and youth leaders with abstinence resources.”
More information on Pure by Choice can be found at www.purebychoice.com
Madrid, Spain, Jan 6, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Joseph Parthan of the Diocese of Surat Thani in Thailand said the Church in that country is preparing to assist in getting aid to the tsunami victims in regions that lie beyond the reach of government institutions.
Speaking to the Salesian News Agency, Bishop Parthan said religious and lay volunteers will be providing psychological and material support to victims, helping to collect information and to provide urgent medical care.
After commenting on the situation of his dioceses, which was one of the hardest hid by the tsunami, the Salesian bishop said he has developed a plan to support people affected by the disaster.
“We are preparing a booklet in three languages, Thai, English and Italian, describing what has happened with photographs illustrating the damage caused,” he added.
Regarding children who have been left orphaned by the tsunami, Bishop Prathan said the King of Thailand has offered to help.
He also said the disaster has allowed people to witness the solidarity that exists in the Catholic Church with those who suffer no matter what their race or religion.
The Salesian Order has a large presence in Southeast Asia, which is predominantly Buddhist and Muslim.
Valencia, Fla., Jan 6, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia, Spain, has announced that hundreds of women who chose life rather than abortion for their children will be eligible for full scholarships at Catholic educational institutions.
The archbishop made the announcement during a Christmas visit to a women’s shelter founded and operated by the Servants of the Passion for over 69 years.
The shelter provides assistance to 21 pregnant women and mothers of small children who are poor, lack family support or are victims of abuse. Aurora Gallego, director of the shelter, said its mission is to work to “deepen in women the value of life and their self esteem as persons.”
The scholarships will benefit women at the shelter, their children and those who have been in residence there in the past, totaling more than 15,000 people. Mothers will be able to study at the Catholic University of Valencia, at diocesan schools and other educational centers associated with the Church.
Gallego added that the women currently in residence at the shelter received the news “with much enthusiasm and expectation as many of them wish to get an education and work towards a future in the professional world.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan 6, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Domingo Castagna of Corrientes, Argentina, recalled this week that despite the culture of death which has taken root in society, faith enables one “to see beyond and encourages the possibility of producing good so powerful that it puts a definitive end to evil.”
Making his remarks during a homily at the rotunda of the Virgin of Itatí, Archbishop Castagna added that “the evangelizing action of the Church is focused on overcoming evil with good.” Christians should strive to reach this goal, he said, and he recommended that anything that leads them away from this be given up.
Without separating himself from “the humble place of the Cross and the Tabernacle,” he went on, Christ makes Himself present “in the Church amidst revile, in the poor who are mistreated,” in mothers and children who are abandoned, “in pastors who are attacked for carrying out their evangelical mission,” in the sick and in all those whose human dignity is assaulted.
Havana, Cuba, Jan 6, 2005 (CNA) - Despite heavy restrictions on freedom of speech in Cuba, the magazine “Palabra Nueva” (“New Word”), published by the Archdiocese of Havana, closed out 2004 with a positive evaluation of year and a commitment to continue serving Catholics during 2005.
The Cubanet news agency reported that the magazine’s editors, lead by editor-in-chief Orlando Marquez, spent the last day of the year evaluating their work in 2004, with the help of their own readers who months earlier responded to a survey on various questions.
The magazine has some 50,000 readers with a circulation of about 11,000 copies, and 860 readers responded to the survey.
According to the results, women make up the bulk of the magazine’s readers, 80% of readers are above the age of 30 and the working class demonstrates the most interest in the Catholic publication.
“The occupational level of readers is evenly distributed between 20% who are workers, 18% who are intellectuals, with the rest being stay-at-home moms and retired people, as well as a small proportion of those who are self-employed,” Cubanet reported.
According to Miguel Saludes of Cubanet, the opinions offered by readers “provided a broad view of what people are expecting of the publication,” despite the inconveniences associated with “an environment dominated by fear, distrust and other negative attitudes.”
Responses to the survey included compliments and criticisms, as well as requests for more articles on history, economy, politics, social problems and civil rights in Cuba. There was also a show of support for Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana, for his defense of the family.
According to Saludes, the experience of Palabra Nueva is unique in Cuba. “To assume the task of being a voice in the current reality of Cuba requires responsibility and courage. In addition, being something new in the midst of so much repetition and emptiness demands moderation, competence and initiative,” he said.
During the evaluation, Orlando Marquez, who has received various international awards for his role as editor of the magazine, reiterated the need for charity and truth to be ever present in the pages of Palabra Nueva.
“The presence of these two virtues is essential for Palabra Nueva to continue contributing to the formation of a generation of Cubans founded on love and tolerance,” Saludes concluded.