Archive of January 31, 2005

Holy Father to suspend audiences due to “flu-like symptoms”

Vatican City, Jan 31, 2005 (CNA) - This morning, Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls stated that, "the Holy Father, due to flu-like symptoms which began yesterday, has been advised to suspend the audiences scheduled for today.”

Despite the Holy Father’s sickness however, the Vatican reported that the 2005 Pontifical Yearbook was presented to him.

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New Catholic statistics show worldwide growth in church

Vatican City, Jan 31, 2005 (CNA) - This morning the Holy Father was presented with the Pontifical Yearbook, also known as the "Annuario Pontificio" for 2005, which shows updated statistics of Catholics around the world.

The Vatican published today some highlights of the information included in the new edition.

In 2004, the Pope erected ten new episcopal sees and one apostolic vicariate. Six metropolitan sees were created, and a total of 171 bishops appointed.

The number of baptized faithful rose from 1,071 million in 2002, to 1,086 million in 2003. As for the geographical distribution of Catholics, the note highlights the fact that 49.8 percent of them live in the Americas, 25.8 percent in Europe, 13.2 percent in Africa, 10.4 percent in Asia and 0.8 percent in Oceania.

According to the new statistics, there are 405,450 priests (268,041 diocesan and 137,409 religious), and the total number of priests in 2003 increased with respect to the year before.

The number of priestly ordinations also went up from 9,247 in 2002 to 9,317 in 2003. However, the number of seminarians in philosophical and theological seminaries fell from 112,643 in 2002 to 112,373 in 2003.

The numbers of seminarians divided by continent are as follows: the Americas 37,191, Asia 27,931, Europe 24,387, Africa 21,909, and Oceania 955.

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Pope reminds annulment officials to seek truth, not expedient solutions

Vatican City, Jan 31, 2005 (CNA) - On Saturday, in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the dean, prelate auditors, officials, and lawyers of the tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Vatican office which oversees worldwide requests for annulments, for the inauguration of the judicial year.
The Holy Father, who traditionally receives the group in late January, reflected this year on the moral dimension of the activity of judges in ecclesiastical tribunals, "especially regarding their duty to abide by the truth about marriage, as it is taught by the Church."

"Individual and collective interests," said the Pope, "can, indeed, induce the parties to resort to various kinds of falsehood and even corruption with the aim of obtaining a favorable sentence.”

There is no immunity from this risk, even for canonical hearings which seek the truth concerning the existence or non-existence of matrimony."
John Paul II highlighted the fact that, "in the name of supposed pastoral requirements, some voices have been raised to propose declaring the annulment of unions that have failed completely.”

“To obtain this outcome,” he said, “it has been suggested using expedients to maintain outward procedural appearances, and hide the absence of a true judicial process. In this way, there is a temptation to impose and find proof for a decree of annulment in contrast with the most elementary principles of the Church's norms and Magisterium."
The Holy Father went on: "The objective juridical and moral danger of such behavior is clear, and it certainly does not constitute a pastorally valid solution to the problems raised by matrimonial crises."
The Pope recalled how in various addresses to the Roman Rota, he had referred to the "essential relationship that its proceedings have with the search for objective truth.”

“Responsibility for this falls,” the Pope said, “in the first place, on bishops, who by divine law are the judges of their communities." Bishops must also "consider the suitability of members of the tribunals ... and assess whether the sentences are in conformity with right doctrine."

The Pope stressed that a judge must be "convinced that the truth exists," he must "resist fear of the truth," and not allow himself to be "conditioned by feelings of false compassion, or by false trends of thought, though they be widespread.”

He knows that unjust sentences never constitute a true pastoral solution, and that the judgment of God on his own actions is what counts over eternity."
John Paul II pointed out that a judge must "keep to canonical laws, correctly interpreted," without "separating the laws of the Church from magisterial teachings, as if they belonged to two different spheres of which the first is the only one to have juridically binding force, while the second is merely for guidance and encouragement. Such an approach reveals a positivist mentality."  

"One important moment in the search for truth is that of the preliminary investigation and hearing." On this subject, the Pope added that, although prompt judicial proceedings are "a person's right, nonetheless a false rapidity, at the expense of truth, is even more seriously unjust."

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Mixed commission for sexual abuse cases to reconvene today

Vatican City, Jan 31, 2005 (CNA) - Today, the mixed commission for the examination of norms in the cases of priestly sexual abuse against minors began work again today.

On Saturday, Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls noted in a declaration that the commission would meet in the Vatican today and tomorrow and continued with the following comments:  

"The commission is made up of delegates from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and representatives from dicasteries of the Roman Curia.
"The aim of the commission is to study the application of norms, approved on December 8, 2002, 'ad experimentum' for two years, and to evaluate guidelines for the future in the context of the universal law of the Church."

The group is meeting again this week to deal with remaining issues of the Dallas Charter which are said to still be at odds with Canon Law.

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Pope prays that worldwide solidarity shown in tsunami disaster will serve as source of hope

Vatican City, Jan 31, 2005 (CNA) - On Friday, a message, dated January 22, from the Holy Father to Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," and the Pope's envoy to Southeast Asia was published.

The message asked the Archbishop "to convey the assurance of my concern and my closeness in prayer to all affected by the (tsunami) tragedy and its aftermath." The archbishop is visiting Indonesia from January 29 to February 1 and will be in Sri Lanka from February 2 to 4.
In his Message, John Paul II noted that "the enormous devastation and loss of life associated with the recent earthquake and tidal wave in Southeast Asia has been followed by a remarkable outpouring of sympathy throughout the world, together with a massive mobilization of humanitarian aid.” 

I am deeply grateful for the efforts of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and numerous international Catholic charitable agencies to contribute to the relief of the peoples struck by this immense natural disaster."
"I pray," he wrote, "that the solidarity shown by our brothers and sisters throughout the world will prove a source of encouragement, perseverance and hope to everyone in the great work of rebuilding that lies ahead.”

I likewise urge the followers of the different religions to work together in offering comfort and assistance to those in need.  May this catastrophe lead, by God's grace, to a future of greater generosity, cooperation and unity in the service of the common good on the part of individuals, peoples and nations."
"I hope," the Holy Father closed, "the Christian community will be led to a deepened trust in God's mysterious providence and an ever closer union to the Lord Jesus in the mystery of His suffering and resurrection. Upon the civil authorities and all engaged in the relief efforts I invoke the divine gifts of wisdom and strength."
A communiqué from Cor Unum notes that the aim of the trip to Asia by Archbishop Cordes, who will bring the Pope's Message to the devastated populations, "is to witness in person to the closeness and solidarity of the Pope and the Church to all those suffering from the tsunami and, at the same time, to contribute to coordinating the multiple initiatives of Catholic agencies working in the territory since that dramatic December 26."
The archbishop, who is accompanied by council under-secretary, Msgr. Giovanni Dal Toso, will also meet with religious and civil authorities, as well as with Caritas and the Catholic NGOs (non-governmental organizations) present in these countries. He will celebrate several Masses for the repose of the souls of the deceased victims.

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“Even the young can be peacemakers”, says Holy Father

Vatican City, Jan 31, 2005 (CNA) - Before praying the Angelus yesterday, the Pope greeted numerous children and young people from Italian Catholic Action present in St Peter's Square, who are concluding their "month of peace."

John Paul II recalled how, "in today's Gospel, Jesus says 'blessed are the peacemakers.' Even the young can be peacemakers!”

“They too”, the Pope said, “must be educated in dialogue and learn to 'overcome evil with good,' as I reminded everyone in the recent Message for the World Day of Peace. Injustice must be overcome with justice, lies with truth, vengeance with forgiveness, hatred with love."  

“This lifestyle”, he continued cannot be improvised, but calls for education from infancy. An education made up of wise teachings and, above all, of appropriate family models, in school and in all areas of society.”

Parishes, oratories, associations, movements and ecclesial groups must become ever more privileged places for this education of peace and love, places to learn and grow together."
The Holy Father called on "Mary, Queen of Peace, to help the young, who desire peace so much, to become its courageous and tenacious constructors."
After praying the Angelus, the Pope recalled that today is the World Day of Leprosy. "In the poorest areas of the world this illness, though curable, continues to strike millions of people, including many children.”

“I send special greetings”, he said, “to all these brothers and sisters, which I also extend to all those who, in various ways, assist them.  I hope that the commitment of the international community will manage to eliminate this social scourge completely."
Prior to concluding, the Pope listened to a message of peace read by a boy and a girl from Catholic Action. The children then released two white doves in a symbol of peace. One of the doves flew back into the Holy Father's study and the Pope himself sought to make it leave, but it came back in. In the end, one of the Holy Father's assistants managed to release the dove.

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Pope appoints prominent U.S. clergy to Congregation for Catholic Education

Vatican City, Jan 31, 2005 (CNA) - On Saturday, the Vatican made public that the Holy Father appointed prominent Americans, Bishop Allen Henry Vigneron of Oakland, and Fr. David M. O'Connell, C.M., president of the Catholic University of America as consulters to the Congregation for Catholic Education.

The appointments are part of some 20 other figures who the Holy Father has appointed worldwide to the Congregation.

The Congregation for Catholic Education is currently headed by Polish Cardinal Zenon Grocholewsky and its secretary is Canadian Archbishop Arthur Miller.

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Lincoln priest appointed Bishop of Wichita

Wichita, Kan., Jan 31, 2005 (CNA) - On Friday, the Holy Father announced the appointment of Michael Jackels, a priest from the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska who will take over the 25-county Diocese of Wichita, Kansas on April 4th.

Rev. Kenneth Borowiak, editor of the diocesan newspaper in Lincoln said that Jackels will be “a very good fit for the Diocese of Wichita.”

“He's very orthodox, and that diocese has a great tradition for being faithful to the teachings of the church", Borowiak continued.

The 50-year-old Jackels, who is a native of South Dakota will replace Bishop Thomas Olmsted who the Pope recently appointed as Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix.

Since 1997, Jackels has worked in Rome on for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office which deals with Church teaching on faith and morals.

On Friday, at a press conference held in Wichita, the bishop to be said he was eager to take on his new duties as the leader of nearly 117,000 Catholics and 91 parishes.

"I am honored by the Holy Father's choice”, he said, “and by the confidence he has placed in me, but also humbled by it."

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Catholic schools celebrate their strengths

Chicago, Ill., Jan 31, 2005 (CNA) - Catholic Schools Week will include more celebration than usual for St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic School. The school in Prospect Heights, Ill., was one of  250 nationwide to win a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award from the U.S. Department of Education in November.

Kristine Cohn, regional representative of the U.S. education secretary, will present the award to the school this week during a 7 p.m. mass Wednesday, reported the Daily Herald.

The selection process for the award depends on test scores and results. St. Alphonsus Liguori scored in the top 10 percent nationally.

Catholic Schools Week began last Friday and will run until the end of this week. The annual event is an opportunity for Catholic schools across the country to introduce themselves to their communities by holding open houses, student fairs and tours.

This year's theme, set by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Catholic Education Association, is "Faith in Every Student."

Other activities include Teacher Appreciation Day and Parent Appreciation Day. The latter recognizes the sacrifice parents often make to send their children to Catholic schools.

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Archbishop O'Malley launches Catholic Schools Week in parish

Framingham, Mass., Jan 31, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Sean O'Malley launched Catholic Schools Week in the Archdiocese of Boston Jan. 29 with a mass at St. Tarcisius Catholic Parish. It was the archbishop’s first visit to the parish.

Reflecting on his own Catholic education, the archbishop told parishioners that Catholic schools teach more than just reading and writing. They also teach children how to live a good life and how to be truly happy, reported Milford Daily News.

In his homily, the archbishop urged people to avoid a life of superficiality and to learn the difference "between having fun and being happy."

Speaking on the Gospel passage on the Sermon on the Mount, Archbishop O’Malley urged parishioner to “follow Jesus up the mountain."

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Archbishop Burke defrocks three St. Louis priests accused of abuse

St. Louis, Mo., Jan 31, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Raymond Burke announced Friday that he has defrocked three priests of his archdiocese, who were accused of sexual abuse years ago.

In a written statement, Archbishop Burke said he began the proceedings for laicization last year against Michael McGrath, Donald "Fr. Duck" Straub and Robert Yim in light of "credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor against them."

The archbishop took the action after careful examination of each allegation and "for the welfare of all children and for the welfare of the church," the archdiocese said in a statement.

The three men have been notified of their dismissal. None of them have been criminally charged, reported the Associated Press.

"Archbishop Burke expresses his deepest regrets to all who have been harmed by these priests and to anyone who has been abused by a member of the clergy," the archdiocesan statement said.

The archbishop also reiterated his concern for the welfare of all children.

McGrath was suspended from the priesthood in 1997, after working as a priest in St. Louis since 1975. One of his 18 accusers included a former Marine, who was found dead in March 2003 in a St. Louis hotel room. McGrath, 59, has been blamed in the alleged suicide.

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Hindu fundamentalists destroy monastery cross and make death threats to nuns

Rome, Italy, Jan 31, 2005 (CNA) - In a statement sent to the Fides news agency, the Bishops Conference of India denounced a group of Hindu fundamentalists who broke into the convent of the Teresian Carmelites in Ambernath, where they destroyed parts of the building and left death threats against the nuns.

The statement said the act took place on January 23 at 2am, when extremists entered the convent under cover of night, destroyed a cross and caused other damage, and left written threats against the nuns including, “Now it’s the cross’s turn, next it will be your heads” and “Leave or you will suffer the consequences.”

The nuns, whose convent is located in the city of Munbay, said it was not the first time they have threatened with harm and pressured to leave the area.

Sister Dian, the community’s superior, stated, “The sisters heard noises and when they saw the men they were afraid for their lives.  It’s the first time we have received these kinds of threats.  We are very upset.  We don’t know who these criminals are; we just know that they said they belonged to a Hindu group.”

Three professed and two novices currently live at the convent.  They run a home for the elderly and are much loved by the faithful of the parish of Our Lady of Fatima, where the convent is located.

Sister Dian said the nuns called the police and that an investigation into who was responsible and how to prevent other attacks has begun. 

The Order of Teresian Carmelite Nuns, with more than 1,400 sisters in Italy, Germany and Africa, is the oldest feminine congregation in India, founded in 1866 in the Archdiocese of Verapally in Kerala.

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UN feminist committee “recommends” Paraguay legalize abortion

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jan 31, 2005 (CNA) - During its 32nd biannual meeting, the controversial UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women recommended the country of Paraguay review its laws against abortion and opt for a separation of Church and State from an “anti-Christian perspective.”

The Committee was created by the UN to verify the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Its authority has been freely ratified by each nation.

Due to the markedly pro-abortion and feminist leanings of the Committee, numerous pro-life organizations have pressured their respective nations to abstain from ratifying its protocol, which would give the Committee the ability to interfere in internal politics.

According to the news agency Noticias Globales, during the last meeting of the Committee in New York from January 10-28, its “experts” expressed their concern for “the connection between high maternal mortality rates and the criminalization of abortion under national laws that have not yet been struck down.”

According to the Committee, many women obtain clandestine abortions under unhygienic conditions and the mortality of women as a result of unsafe abortions continues to be a very serious problem, and “even more serious is the inaction of the government in this matter.”

The report by Noticias Globales stated, “Quite some time ago feminism took a markedly anti-Catholic turn.  For lesbian feminists, who ignore the natural order that is common to all men and women regardless of their religion, it’s the Church that prevents the ‘development of women’s human rights,’ such as reproductive and sexual rights (abortion, contraception, and homosexuality).”

“For them, the ‘separation’ between Church and State is more a totalitarian attempt to pull up the Christian roots of society through a renewed ideological persecution against Christians,” the report warned.

Committee “expert” Salma Khan expressed “great concern for the high maternal mortality rate, a result of the lack of family planning services and because of illegal abortions” in Paraguay, and she told the delegation that according to the Convention women should have complete access to family planning services,” that is, to unrestricted abortion.

Therefore, she “recommended the Paraguayan government reconsider the legalization of abortion and reform its current legislation.”  Likewise she insisted Paraguay “boost its sex-ed programs and family planning services.”

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Canadian center for Opus Dei completes $10M expansion

Valleyfield, Canada, Jan 31, 2005 (CNA) - Canada’s largest Opus Dei centre recently got bigger. The Manoir de Beaujeu, a retreat and conference centre located 30 miles west of Montreal in the Diocese of Valleyfield, underwent a $10-million expansion that includes a formation center for young women in the field of hospitality management.

This is the second phase of expansion at the Manoir de Beaujeu. The first phase added rooms to the retreat center for a total of 23. Opus Dei is planning to add more rooms in a third phase of expansion, but this has been put on hold due to funding.

The new 45,000-square-foot center houses the Soulanges Hospitality Management Center, which serves the retreatants who come to the Manoir de Beaujeu each year.

The new wing consists of four buildings overlooking a courtyard and includes a large kitchen, a dining hall, an oratory, accommodations for 20 people, a library and a fitness room.

It was completed and functional as of last summer but it was officially inaugurated Oct. 17 by Bishop Luc Cyr of Valleyfield, Quebec Lt.-Gov. Lise Thibault and regional vicar of Canada for Opus Dei Msgr. Frederick Dolan.

While the trend in the French-speaking province is for religious organizations to scale down, Opus Dei says its growing center is responding to the needs of a growing number of people who request spiritual formation each year.

The non-accredited hospitality program, offered to young women aged 15-22, offers a work experience that includes professional, personal and spiritual formation, in line with the teachings of Opus Dei founder St. Josemaria Escriva, who taught that work is a means to sanctification.

Participants are paid minimum wage and taught skills, such as cooking, waitressing, serving, cleaning and laundering.

Due to the new facilities, the program, which has existed on a smaller scale since 1972, can now accommodate up to 10 resident participants. Last summer, seven students from high school to university, spent part or all of their summer there, reported the Catholic Times.

Ten female numeraries, who make up the staff, reside at the center. Numerary is the term used for someone who makes a lifelong commitment to the mission of Opus Dei as a celibate.

The Manoir de Beaujeu is an 1826 seigneurial manor on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. It was purchased in 1965 by the Foundation for Culture and Education, a nonprofit corporation run by Opus Dei members and nonmembers, and entrusted to Opus Dei as a venue for spiritual formation and other activities.

Other Opus Dei centers in Canada are located in Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. There are 700 members of Opus Dei in Canada; 200 in Quebec.

While the Manoir de Beaujeu is unique in Canada, there are several Opus Dei centers like it in the United States and other countries.

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