Archive of February 16, 2005

Gomez becomes first Mexican-born U.S. Archbishop

San Antonio, Texas, Feb 16, 2005 (CNA) - Last night at the San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, Texas, Archbishop Jose Gomez was installed as the first Mexican-born Archbishop in U.S. history.

The 53-year old Monterey, Mexico native first made headlines four years ago when he was installed in the Archdiocese of Denver as the U.S.’s first Mexican-born bishop.

Of his time in Colorado, Archbishop Charles Chaput was reported as saying, “I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the impact he had on all of us.”

Apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo installed Gomez on behalf of Pope John Paul II before a full house which included 30 bishops, 2 cardinals, and over 200 priests. Cardinal James Francis Stafford, major penitentiary of the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary was among those in attendance, as was Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, Archbishop of Lima, Peru.

Setting what will likely become a theme for his episcopate, Gomez told those gathered that the Church could no longer afford to argue among itself. “Those days are over”, he said, “The world is changing, and it needs a Catholic witness like never before.” 

Gomez spoke passionately about the vocation of the priesthood itself, saying, “Our service is never a job and never a profession.  Those are words that describe a hireling, a shepherd who works for pay… our vocation is much more radical than that.” 

“A good father”, he continued, “loves without counting the cost.  A good husband loves as Jesus loved us from the cross.  And a good priest does the same.  He leads his people in the truth of Jesus Christ, faithful to the teachings of Christ’s Church and obedient to the needs of the people Jesus died to save.”

Gomez expressed his gratitude to outgoing Archbishop Patrick Flores who served the Archdiocese for 25 years. He added that while he cannot replace Flores, he prays, “for the grace to continue his work and service with the same generosity and dedication and hopefully for many years to come.”

Archbishop Gomez’s installation concluded with a traditional mariachi-style fiesta following the Mass at San Fernando Cathedral.

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Fatima visionary leaves us with a great example of faithfulness and obedience, says Pope

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2005 (CNA) - Yesterday, a message from the Holy Father was read at the funeral of Sister Lucia, the last survivor of the three children who witnessed apparitions of Mary at Fatima, Portugal in 1917.

Pope John Paul II’s message was sent to Bishop Albino Mamede Cleto of Coimbra, Portugal, which he read at Sister Lucia’s funeral. She died in Coimbra on Sunday at the age of 97.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, archbishop of Genoa, Italy, presided at the funeral Mass as the Pope's special envoy.

The Pope wrote in his message that, "For Lucia, the visit by the Virgin to her and to her cousins Francesco and Jacinta, at Fatima in 1917, was the beginning of a special mission to which she remained faithful to the end of her days.”

Sister Lucia leaves us an example of great faithfulness to the Lord, and of joyous obedience to His divine will."

The Holy Father emotionally recalled his various meetings with the Sister Lucia and "the ties of spiritual friendship which strengthened over time. I felt myself supported by the daily gift of her prayers, especially during difficult moments of trial and suffering. May the Lord give her ample reward for the great and hidden service she offered the Church.

"I like to think”, he said, “that Sister Lucia, in her transit from earth to heaven, was welcomed by the One whom she saw at Fatima so many years ago. May the Most Holy Virgin now accompany the soul of this devoted daughter to the beatific encounter with the divine Bridegroom."

The Vatican reported that on the eve of her death, the Holy Father had sent a fax to Sister Lucia in which he expressed his closeness and gave assurances of his prayers that she might "experience this moment of pain, suffering and sacrifice with the Paschal spirit" of death and resurrection.

John Paul II met Sister Lucia, a Carmelite nun, on three occasions, all on May 13 in the years 1982, 1991 and 2000.

Their first encounter took place exactly a year after the attempt on the Pope's life in St Peter's Square in which he almost died. On that occasion, the Pope went to Fatima to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for saving him, and ordered that, as a sign of gratitude, the bullet found in his jeep after the assassination attempt be set in the crown of the image of the Virgin of Fatima.

The 1991 meeting took place on the tenth anniversary of the assassination attempt, and the last occasion on which the Pope and Sister Lucia met personally was on May 13, 2000.

It was on this last visit that the Holy Father beatified her cousins, the shepherd children Francisco and Jacinta, and Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano read a message concerning the much speculated third secret of Fatima.

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Pope John Paul II sent letter of encouragement to Sister Lucia day before her death

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2005 (CNA) - According to the Portuguese Catholic news agency, Ecclesia, Bishop Albino Cleto of Coimbra, Portugal, revealed this week that Sister Lucia, the Fatima visionary who died last Sunday, received a message from Pope John Paul II the day before her death.

Bishop Cleto, who was at Sister Lucia’s side together with her Carmelite sisters during the final moments of her life, said Sister Lucia read the Holy Father’s message that was sent last Saturday in which he encouraged her to pray in order to be able to “live this moment of pain, suffering and offering with the spirit of Easter.”

Sister Lucia was the last surviving witness of the apparitions of our Lady of Fatima, which took place beginning on May 13, 1917.  She died at the age of 97 and was laid to rest at the Carmelite monastery where she lived.  A year from now her remains will be transported to the Shrine of Fatima.

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US bishops urge congress to decide budget based on dignity of the person

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2005 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops have urged Congress to think of the needs of the poor here and abroad when they consider the national budget. They made their call in a Feb. 11 letter, signed by USCCB president Bishop William Skylstad, to U.S. senators and representatives.

"As pastors, we believe that a fundamental moral measure of our nation's budget policy is whether it enhances or undermines the lives and dignity of those most in need," Bishop Sklystad wrote.

"Sadly, political pressure has left poor families missing in the national debate and without a place at the table,” the letter stated. “Our nation needs a genuinely bipartisan commitment to focus on the common good of all and on the special needs of the poor and vulnerable in particular.”

The bishops told Congress that preserving an adequate safety net for the poor, assisting people to move from joblessness to employment, increasing access to education and health care, protecting refugees and promoting human development in poor countries “are fundamental moral obligations of a responsible society that must be met alongside other priorities like homeland security and military expenditures.”

The bishops said Americans must work for the common good and “insist that adequate federal revenues be available to help meet these basic needs.”

The bishops also warned of a rising national deficit, saying it would “seriously limit” the nation’s ability to meet its “moral obligations to respond to basic human needs” here and abroad.

“Our nation also has international responsibilities that require increased investments in promoting peace and security as well as international development,” they said.

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Seattle archdiocese removed from lawsuit

Seattle, Wash., Feb 16, 2005 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Seattle is no longer a defendant in a lawsuit filed by an Idaho man, who accused defrocked priest John Cornelius of molesting him years ago, reported the KOMO News Service.

Judge Paris Kallas said Feb. 11 that the archdiocese and the Sulpicians, the order that ran St. Thomas Seminary, should not be part of Timothy McKenna's suit.

McKenna said Cornelius molested him from 1969 to 1975, when Cornelius was a student at Mount Angel Seminary near Portland, Ore., then later when he was a seminarian at St. Thomas Seminary in Kenmore, and later as a priest in the archdiocese. The abuse began when McKenna was about 10 years old. 

The archdiocese argued that it should be removed from the case because the abuse had occurred over a period of many years and not in the Archdiocese of Seattle.

Brad Moore, McKenna's attorney, told KOMO that the judge’s decision was based on the fact that McKenna was not in the protective custody of the church at the time of the abuse. The judge also said the abuse would have happened whether or not the church made Cornelius a priest since Cornelius was a family friend.

Moore said he planned to file an appeal. He and McKenna are still deciding whether to proceed with the suit.

Seattle Archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni said: "We regret any harm to Mr. McKenna or any victim of clergy abuse. ... We take our responsibility to reach out to victims pastorally very seriously."

Cornelius was permanently dismissed from the priesthood in September.

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Montana Bishops speak out in favor of bill abolishing death penalty

, Feb 16, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop George Thomas of the Diocese of Helena, speaking on behalf of both he and Bishop Anthony Milone of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, spoke out Monday in favor of a new bill before Montana lawmakers which could eradicate the death penalty statewide.

House Bill 561 would replace the death penalty in Montana with life imprisonment and no chance of parole for those crimes currently punishable by death.

Bishop Thomas, in a statement to lawmakers noted that while Catholic social teaching acknowledges that, “the state has the right to take the life of persons guilty of extremely serious crimes”, that “this principle cannot be overshadowed by the Church's consistent belief in the dignity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death.”

He also cited Church teaching that, “If ... non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good, and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person."

The bishop concluded his statements by asking the House Judiciary Committee, “to favor the higher ground provided by this bill and take ‘the road less traveled' and send this bill to the full House for further debate and ultimate approval.”

Erik Schiedermayer, head of the Montana Catholic Conference commented to CNA that while House Bill 561 still needs to make it out of committee and into the House, that he and others are very excited.  “This might be the session where we abolish the death penalty in Montana.”

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Canadian Jesuits lose to Wal-Mart

Guelph, Ont., Feb 16, 2005 (CNA) - The Canadian Jesuits lost their decade-long battle with Wal-Mart last month when a municipal board ruled that the U.S.-based department store chain could build a megastore next to a well-known Jesuit retreat centre.

The Ontario Municipal Board rejected the Jesuit arguments that the spiritual values invested in their historic farmland and retreat centre would be compromised by the hustle and bustle that a Wal-Mart would bring to the neighborhood, reported the Catholic Register.

The board ruled that Wal-Mart is free to build a new shopping centre next to the Jesuits’ 240 hectares of farmland, north of Guelph. The store would also be between Catholic and Protestant cemeteries. Wal-Mart expects the 12,000-square-foot store to open in 2006.

The board decided that religious values could not be part of the urban planning process, reported the Toronto diocesan newspaper.

The Jesuits believe the increased noise and traffic in the neighborhood will make spiritual direction, liturgies and meditation difficult, but they have no intention of leaving their property.

“The Jesuits are committed to Guelph. We’ve been here a long time and we’re committed to staying,” said Fr. Jim Profit, SJ, superior of the local community.

The Jesuits have been living on the farm since 1913. It once included the Canadian Jesuit novitiate. It is now a world-renowned retreat house, with a two-hectare organic vegetable garden, 100 cattle. It also includes Orchard Park, which was once Ignatius College, but is now rented out as commercial space.

The Residents for Sustainable Development, which had opposed Wal-Mart on environmental grounds, has not yet decided whether it would test the board’s decision in court.

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Bishops Conference of Venezuela calls for aid for flood victims

Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 16, 2005 (CNA) - The secretary of the Bishops Conference of Venezuela, Bishop Jose Luis Azuaje is calling on Venezuelans and the country’s institutions to collaborate in continuing to provide emergency assistance to various regions of the country that have been hit by heavy rains.

Bishop Azuaje said, “In moments of such anguish and confusion the Venezuelan people need to know the true magnitude of what has happened because the lives and futures of many people, families and whole communities are at risk.”

The bishop added that through the Catholic Charities network, the Church in Venezuela has collaborated in the assistance for those affected in the seven provinces that are in a state of emergency.

Archbishop Trinidad Valera of Vargas said that many parishes, schools and religious communities have responded to the call for help and that Catholic Charities in the United States and Germany have sent more than $52,000 dollars to Venezuela.

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Bishops prepare to celebrate 50th anniversary of CELAM

, Feb 16, 2005 (CNA) - A group of bishops from Chile, the United States, Canada and Colombia are meeting in Bogotá this week to prepare for the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Latin American Bishops Conference (CELAM), which will take place in May in Lima, Peru. 

CELAM reported that Cardinal Francisco Errázuriz of Santiago, Chile, and President of the body, Bishop William Skylstad, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Brendan O’Brien, President of the Bishops Conference of Canada, and 13 other participants are attending the two-day meeting.

The bishops intend to discuss Catholic media in light of the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America and other issues of relevancy in the United States, Canada and CELAM.

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Argentinean bishops warns condoms won’t stop AIDS

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 16, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Joaquin Piña Batllevell of Iguazu, Argentina, said this week measures proposed by authorities to combat AIDS, such as the distribution of condoms, “many times are neither the most adequate nor the most effective.”

In his message titled “The Fight Against AIDS,” the bishop recalled that according to UN data, three million HIV victims died in 2003, while the number of those infected is believed to be 42 million.

Bishop Piña warned that although Africa is the most affected continent, countries such as Argentina are not exempt from this pandemic.  He said that for this reason it is urgent that adequate methods be applied.

He lamented that “despite many speeches,” authorities only know how to distribute condoms, and as a result “each day there are more people infected and more unwanted pregnancies.”

“Could it be that safe sex is really not that safe?” he asked, warning that perhaps “because of so much propaganda young people say, let’s try it,” or they do not think about the consequences when they see it is so easy to do.

Sex-ed and AIDS

Bishop Piña said sex-ed for young people is necessary but when it is not done correctly “it can be a weapon that turns against us.”  He added that rather than talking to them about sexual initiation, young people should be “educated about love and responsibility.”

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