Archive of April 28, 2005

L'Osservatore Romano publishes new Papal coat of arms

Vatican City, Apr 28, 2005 (CNA) - The official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, published today the new coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI, which includes all of the elements in the episcopal coat of arms of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Archbishop of Munich and Freising and leaves out the traditional pontifical tiara, replacing it with a mitre.

The Holy Father also added his pallium to the coat of arms.

According to Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, an expert in heraldic insignia and the designer of the new coat of arms, “Benedict XVI has chosen a coat of arms rich in symbolism and meaning, in order to put his personality and papacy in the hands of history.”

Benedict XVI added to his coat of arms the pilgrim’s seashell, the symbol of the Way of Santiago.  The shell has various symbolic meanings, the principal of which is taken from a famous legend about St. Augustine and his encounter with a young boy on the beach who was using a shell to pour seawater into a hole.  It also refers to the emblem of the pilgrims who traveled along the Way of Santiago towards the Shrine of St. James in Spain.

The coat of arms also includes an image of the “Moor of Freising." The Moor’s head, facing left and crowned, appeared on the coat of arms of the old principality of Freising as early as 1316. 

On the top right of the coat of arms is a figure of the “Bear of Corbinian," which refers to the legend of Bishop Corbinian, who preached the Gospel to Bavaria and is considered the spiritual father of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

According to tradition, when the bishop was traveling to Rome, a bear mauled his pack animal.  Bishop Corbinian forced the bear to carry his supplies on its back to Rome.  Once there, he let the bear go free.

The Pontiff’s coat of arms also includes two keys in the background, symbolizing the Petrine ministry of the popes.

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Colorado Senator regrets ‘Antichrist’ comment

Washington D.C., Apr 28, 2005 (CNA) - Yesterday, freshman Colorado senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) said that he regrets referring to the Christian group Focus on the Family and it’s founder James Dobson as the “Antichrist.”

The senator made the comment referring to the heated battle over President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees, lambasting groups like Focus on the Family for their involvement in the battle.

Salazar said in a written statement that, "After being relentlessly attacked in telephone calls, e-mails, newspapers and radio stations all across Colorado, having my faith questioned, and having my wife's business picketed as part of these attacks, I spoke about Jim Dobson and his efforts and used the term 'the Antichrist.' "

He now regrets the comment saying, “I meant to say this approach was unchristian, meaning self-serving and selfish."

Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family’s vice president for government and public policy was shocked by the charge.

"That's about as bad as you can get . . . it's very offensive. The Antichrist is exactly what the term indicates, the embodiment of everything that opposes Christ. It leaves us speechless."

He added: "It's a person, very powerful, described in the Book of Revelations at the end of the age (who) rises up against Christ and everything Christ stands for …Christ ultimately defeats the Antichrist and reigns on earth.”

Many believe that some judicial nominees have been blocked by Senate Democrats because of their religious beliefs.

Republicans have threatened to change senate rules to block filibusters, which some senators have employed to extend debate on the nominees indefinitely.

Religious groups have accused Salazar of lying in his campaign promises to give qualified judicial candidates an up or down vote, by supporting his party’s filibuster tactics.

A recent statement from Focus on the Family accused Salazar of "overheated rhetoric" and "trying to take attention away from his failure to keep his campaign promises."

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Theologian hopeful Benedict XVI will explore women’s contribution to the Church

Washington D.C., Apr 28, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI cannot change the Church’s position on abortion, birth control or women’s ordination because they flow from the core teachings of the Catholic faith, but Catholics can expect him to engage in the extensive conversations that may be necessary for understanding these teachings, says theologian Pia de Solenni.

In the Washington Post, de Solenni addressed the labels placed on Pope Benedict as someone who is “conservative” and against women’s equality in the Church.

“This is the man who was considered liberal as a professor and conservative as a Church leader,” said de Solenni in his defense. “His thinking has not changed substantially, but the perceptions of him have. We can rest on the perceptions that others have created, or we can encounter him for who he really is.”

In her column, titled “Our Role in the Church”, she commented on Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s document "On the Collaboration of Women and Men in the Church and in the World", which was released last year.

The theologian says the document was written to address the ongoing questions of men's and women's roles in a way that the differences between the sexes could be seen in a positive light. The document also stated that sex differences are an essential component of human identity.

“Catholic teaching holds that the differences between men and women are constructive; they contribute to what we do and who we are,” explained the theologian and director of the Family Research Council. “In other words, we should see a person affirmatively as a man or a woman, not a genderless automaton, in everything that person does.”

“I am hopeful that Benedict XVI will continue the conversation to more fully explore the unique feminine gift that only women can provide to the Catholic Church,” de Solenni

The author of the soon-to-be-released book "Different and Equal " wrote of her own personal journey on the place of women in the Church. The American admitted that before her theological studies in Rome, she believed that the Church’s teaching on women was “flawed.”

Yet, her attitudes changed and her understanding of Church teaching grew during her studies and work at the Vatican.

As well, given the Church teaching that men and women are created equally in the image of God and the continued discussion on the contributions of women, de Solenni said, it is becoming increasingly clear that “women's fundamental equality is not compromised because we can't be ordained.”

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China detains seven Catholic priests

Beijing, China, Apr 28, 2005 (CNA) - The Cardinal Kung Foundation released a statement saying that seven priests of the underground Catholic Church in China have been detained following the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

The priests were detained Wednesday at an unauthorized retreat led by Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo in China's northern city of Jinzhou.

The Chinese government only allows state-sanctioned Catholic worship and forbids loyalty to the Pope and the Vatican.

Reportedly, the government had warned Bishop Jia not to conduct any religious activities while John Paul II lay on his deathbed or during the instillation of Pope Benedict XVI. The Cardinal Kung Foundation also noted that the bishop had been under police surveillance for much of the past month.

The Foundation identified the detained priests as, Wang Dingshan, Li Qiang, Liu Wenyuan, Zhang Qingcai, Li Suchuan, Pei Zhenping and Yin Zhengsong.

Bishop Jia, who has refused to affiliate himself with the communist-controlled state Catholic Church for years, has been detained and harassed by the Chinese government numerous times.

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Denver scholar defends Crusades in light of new film

Denver, Colo., Apr 28, 2005 (CNA) - With renewed attention being given to the Catholic Crusades in light of Ridley Scott’s soon-to-be released film ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, Dr. Jay Reyes is urging faithful to understand their complicated history and not be intimidated by those who use the Crusades to “attack Christian history and obscure the real roots of Christian-Muslim conflict.”

Reyes, President of Denver’s Augustine Institute went so far as to say that on a certain level, Christians should be proud of the Crusades.

“It’s hard for us to understand”, he said, “people who loved the land where the Lord had walked that much.”

He said that his goal for the night was not to “whitewash” the atrocities committed during the Crusades, but rather, to help his audience understand the real circumstances of the time and avoid the “simplistic judgments” that he thinks, pervade modern conversations about them.

The lecture room at the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization overflowed into the hallway as people listened to Reyes who explained that modern culture has difficulty understanding the true intentions behind the Crusades, noting that many who participated in them had “their hearts set afire wanting God’s kingdom to be properly honored.”

He blamed modern misunderstanding, in large part, on the “skepticism of our age”, saying that it has become a foolish idea to fight for “religious superstition.”

Dr. Reyes tackled some of the major myths of the Crusades that paint Christians as “naïve or bloodthirsty…who fought a war for their own gain.”

Pointing out four aspects that constitute an authentic Crusade, namely, that it was a pilgrimage; that it was called by a Pope; that it had a military goal of reclaiming Christian territory and defending Christians being persecuted in those places; and that one could gain an indulgence and remittance of debt, Reyes stressed that “this was an age that actually believed that there were sins that needed to be atoned for.”

While there were many atrocities committed during the Crusades, he went on, which should be apologized for, “it shouldn’t make us apologize for the Crusades themselves.”

From what he knows of the yet to be released ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ movie, Reyes quipped, calling it an “unhistorical, historical model” of the Crusades, citing numerous Middle Age scholars who have grave reservations about the film.

Francis Maier, Chancellor for the Archdiocese added that, “the Crusades have become a useful tool for Muslims to intimidate Christians and make us apologize,” and pointed out that the bloody story of Muslims taking the Holy Land from Christians in the first place is too often glossed over.

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German mom jailed for home schooling children

Guetersloh, Germany, Apr 28, 2005 (CNA) - A German mom has been sent to jail for six days and fined $115 US because she and her husband insist on home schooling their children, reports ASSIST News Service.

Home schooling is illegal in Germany. Parents are obliged to send their children to state-registered schools. Parents may not educate their children at home, even for reasons of faith or conscience. Despite this, about 500 German children are home schooled.

The jailed mom and her husband belong to a Baptist church. They regard religious instruction at school as too liberal and object to the sex-education program.

Since October, seven other parents in Paderborn County have refused to send their children to public school for religious and ethical reasons. They have been fined $190 US each. The authorities have even threatened the parents, saying they could be taken to court or lose custody of their children if they do not comply with the law.

A Bavarian court in Bayreuth recently fined another two Christian parents $8,500 US and ordered that their eight-year-old daughter must attend a state-registered school. The parents are considering appealing the decision.

Home schooling lobbyists are challenging what they consider to be an infringement of parental rights. They are deliberating whether to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

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Tucson Diocese proposes $20M cap for sex-abuse claims

Tucson, Ariz., Apr 28, 2005 (CNA) - The Diocese of Tucson has filed an amended bankruptcy plan that seeks to limit its payout for sex-abuse claims to $20 million, reported the Associated Press.

Faced with 103 sex-abuse claims, the diocese had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September. A hearing on the amendment is scheduled May 19.

In its filing, the diocese said of the 103 claims, 36 appeared to be invalid; nine were filed by parents of alleged victims; and 32 appeared plausible but require more information.

Diocesan spokespeople say the new plan filed Monday is the only way to ensure that plaintiffs are paid off fairly while preserving the diocese.

In addition to creating a $20-million cap, the plan also proposes a $5.5-million limit to the amount available to pay future claims by people who recover memories of abuse.

The diocese plans to raise the $20 million through insurance settlements, parishioner donations and real estate sales.

Currently, the diocese hopes the fund will be bolstered by a $7-million settlement with Hartford Insurance, which is awaiting court approval, and an estimated $3.2-million property auction scheduled for May 21.

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New bill makes helping youth cross state lines for abortion a crime

Washington D.C., Apr 28, 2005 (CNA) - The House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday, making it a federal crime for any adult to accompany a minor across state lines to have an abortion without her parents’ consent.

A vote on a similar bill is expected in the Senate later this spring.

The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act was passed 270 to 157. The bill closes a loophole by preventing girls 17 and under from going to different states to evade more restrictive laws in their home states that require parental notification for abortions.

The bill also requires doctors to comply with state notification laws, and in some cases to notify the girl's parents in person.

Violators could face a $100,000 fine and a year in jail.

The bill also imposes a 24-hour waiting period for minors who travel to another state for an abortion.

Supporters characterize the measure as pro-family, saying it will prevent abusive boyfriends and others from taking vulnerable young women across state lines to receive "secret abortions" against their will.

They say the decision to have an abortion should rest solely with the parents.

"The overwhelming majority of Americans believe parents should be involved in abortion decisions affecting their teenage daughters," said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Esq., of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. The USCCB official had urged the House to pass the bill.

The bill has the strong backing of the White House, which issued a statement after the bill was passed.

The statement read that the bill "is consistent with the administration's view that parents' efforts to be involved in their children's lives should be protected and the widespread belief among authorities in the field that the parents of pregnant minors are best suited to provide them with counsel, guidance and support."

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Jerusalem rabbi notes positive Jewish reaction to election of Benedict XVI

Rome, Italy, Apr 28, 2005 (CNA) - The Rabbi of Jerusalem, David Rosen, a key player in Jewish-Christian dialogue in recent years, said this week the reaction of the Jewish people to the election of Pope Benedict XVI “has been positive because Benedict XVI’s attitude regarding dialogue and his condemnation of anti-Semitism have always been very clear.”

Speaking to the Italian daily Avvenire, the rabbi stated that the election of Benedict XVI is also cause for hope for everyone, and he expressed his confidence that “this Pope will continue down the path begun by John Paul II.”

Rosen says he does not see any major theological issues that need to be confronted nor does he think much more be expected since the publication of the 1998 document “We Remember.”  He indicated that his greatest hope “is that Benedict XVI would call for the teachings of Nostra Aetate and of subsequent documents to be included in Catholic education, and especially, in clergy formation programs.

Rosen recalled various meetings with the current Pontiff.  “The first time I saw him was 15 years ago, and the last was in Assisi in 2002, during the World Day of Prayer for peace.  In 1994 we organized a congress in Jerusalem which was attended by 600 Christian and Jewish leaders from around the world.”  “Cardinal Ratzinger was the keynote speaker.  I remember perfectly his first words: ‘The history of the relationship between Catholics and Jews has been full of tears and blood.  The need for reconciliation and reestablishing the relationship between them is more urgent than ever’,” he added.

Rosen also pointed out the imprimatur and important introduction Cardinal Ratzinger gave to a publication by the Pontifical Biblical Commission on the importance of the Jewish people and their scriptures for Christianity. 

“He said that since Judaism is part of the very roots of Christian faith, it is not in the same category.  This is a very interesting statement.  When I saw him the first time, 15 years ago, we talked a lot about theology.  And suddenly he said, ‘Everything that is of religious significance to you is also so to me, because you are my roots,” Rosen recalled.

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Argentinean archbishop exhorts laity to live Christian life without fear or embarrassment

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 28, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Domingo Castaña of Corrientes, Argentina, said this week that unless one encounters Christ as the true way to follow, “one risks taking paths that only lead to emptiness and disillusionment.”

Archbishop Castaña recalled that Christ, who is “the Way,” must occupy an important place in society, but that this is dependent upon the humble action of believers.

He also exhorted the faithful “to not be afraid or ashamed of publicly acknowledging their unconditional allegiance to Christ.”  Silence about one’s faith, he said, can lead to cowardice and corruption, as well missed opportunities to share the love of God with those who are in search of Him.

“How can we respond to those who complain about the inconsistency of ‘practicing Catholics’ regarding what they profess and what they do?” he asked, answering that in order “to convince those who are estranged from the faith that Christ is the way, He must truly be the way for each of us.”  When they see that we are following the way of Christ, he added, they will be convinced to accept it themselves and will journey with us to the end.

“The simple revelation that Christ is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life,’ should lead believes to bear witness to Him in their relationships with others and in society.  Jesus is the Way, but we need a path that leads to Him and we must follow it.  We must open up that path with our spiritual predisposition and not wait for a miracle to correct our negligence,” concluded Archbishop Castaña.

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Lawyer for archdiocese demands case of murdered Guatemalan bishop be solved

Guatemala City, Guatemala, Apr 28, 2005 (CNA) - Speaking on the seventh anniversary of the murder of Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera of Guatemala City, the lawyer for the Office of Human Rights of the Archdiocese of Guatemala, Mario Domingo, demanded the government determine who was behind the act so that the crime would not remain unsolved.

“We must find out who was materially responsible,” said Domingo.  He noted that no further investigations have been conducted and that three persons considered only accomplices have been imprisoned.

Bishop Gerardi was murdered on April 26, 1998, two days after presenting a final report on the civil war which plagued the country for 36 years.

A trial found Colonel Byron Lima Estrada, his son Captain Byron Lima Oliva, and Father Mario Orantes guilty of complicity in the crime.  All three are serving 20-year prison sentences.

In 2001, Colonel Lima and Capitan Lima, along with Sergeant Obdulio Villanueva, also implicated in the crime, were condemned to 30 years in prison for being “co-authors” of the murder, but a court of appeals ruled the conviction was unlawful and changed it to “complicity,” thus reducing the sentences.  Villanueva was decapitated during a riot.

Just recently the Bishops Conference of Guatemala issued a statement highlighting Bishop Gerardi’s dedication to human rights and his desire for the truth about the civil war to be known in order to help bring about “pardon and reconciliation.”

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Cardinal Carles: conscience is above the law

Barcelona, Spain, Apr 28, 2005 (CNA) - The Archbishop emeritus of Barcelona, Cardinal Ricard Maria Carles, expressed his support for mayors of Spain’s Partido Popular (Popular Party) who are opposing homosexual “marriages,” because the law cannot be above conscience.

In an interview with TV3, the cardinal drew a parallel between the Spanish government’s intention to require adherence to the law on homosexual unions and the actions by German officials during the World War II.  He explained that the concentration camps were a result in part of the fact that some people thought they should “obey the law before their conscience.”

He noted that Auschwitz was not created by criminals, but people “who believed they had to obey the laws of the Nazi government first instead of their conscience.” 

The cardinal also pointed out that “many surely knew they were going against their conscience, that they were killing people,” but they defended “the law above their conscience and Auschwitz was the result.”

In response to approval of homosexual unions by the Spanish congress, a group of lawyers from the Partido Popular announced they would not accept the new law and would exercise “conscientious objection.”

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