, May 5, 2005 (CNA) - Earlier today, Pope Benedict XVI made his first trip outside Rome in a brief visit to the papal summer residence, Castel Gandolfo.
The Holy Father traveled by Italian Air Force helicopter to the mountainous lakeside town for a three-hour visit, where he was greeted by hundreds of locals waving white and yellow flags.
The Vatican announced that the visit included a brief meeting with the town mayor, an appearance at a window facing the village’s main street for a blessing, and a walk through the grounds of the papal residence before being flown back to the Vatican in the early evening.
Pope John Paul II had made the retreat well-known by spending numerous weeks during Rome’s scorching summer months there, where he welcomed many friends and dignitaries, including President George Bush and his wife Laura in 2001.
The Vatican also announced today that the Pope’s schedule includes a meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki on Friday and a visit to two of Rome’s basilicas, St. John Lateran, and St. Mary Major, on Sunday.
Syracuse, N.Y., May 5, 2005 (CNA) - Religious sisters across the Hawaiian islands are abuzz with excitement following the confirmation by the Diocese of Syracuse, NY that Kalaupapa missionary Mother Marianne Cope would be beatified at the Vatican on May 14th.
The Vatican rescheduled the ceremony to be held one day earlier than originally planned before the election of Pope Benedict XVI.
Along with Mother Marianne, Spanish Sister Florentina Nicol Goni, known as Mother Ascension del Corazon de Jesus, and founder of the religious order, Dominican Missionaries of the Rosary, will also be beatified.
18 nuns and 65 lay people from Hawaii are scheduled to travel to Rome to witness the historic event.
Pope Benedict will not perform the beatifications, as was done by John Paul II. Instead, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes will oversee the process.
Clearwater, Fla., May 5, 2005 (CNA) - Angering many members of the pro-life movement, the West Pasco, Florida Bar Association recently honored Circuit Court Judge George Greer, who ordered the starvation of Terri Schiavo in February.
Joan Nelson Hook, president of the association told the AP that, “We admired his ability to sustain the pressure not to follow the law…I don't think anyone could ever say his decisions were unlawful."
Father Frank Pavone however, head of the group Priests for Life, who was with Schiavo for many of her last hours, said that "On the night before Terri Schiavo died, I said to the national media that Judge Greer was a murderer.”
“I repeat that today," he said.
“Terri”, he continued, “was not dying until she stopped receiving food and water. Once deprived of that sustenance, she died. It does not require any legal or medical expertise to recognize that as murder. Nobody who has lost the basic capability to understand that should be honored."
The bar association presented Judge Greer with the award by almost unanimous decision.
Added Hook: "We admired his ability to sustain the pressure not to follow the law. I think that shows his character.''
Colorado Springs, Colo., May 5, 2005 (CNA) - In light of recent allegations of religious insensitivity against non-Christians, the Air Force Academy announced Tuesday, the implementation of a new task force to investigate the charges.
Barry Lynn, executive director for Americans United for Separation for Church and State, who held an independent investigation recently said, "There is a clear preference for Christianity at the academy, so that everyone else feels like a second-class citizen."
Following a letter sent to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld urging an immediate and thorough investigation of a reported 55 incidents of religious intolerance in four years, the school has now implemented a mandatory “sensitivity training” course for all students, faculty and staff.
Although the problem is centered around the predominant Evangelical Christian population at the school, Catholic groups are also feeling the increased scrutiny.
Approximately 90% of cadets at the Academy are Christian as are many teachers and staff members.
Tuesday’s announcement of the task force was made by Acting Secretary of the Air Force, the Honorable Michael L. Dominguez, who said that the group will look into the school’s religious respect and tolerance policies and whether the “practices of the USAFA chain of command that either enhance or detract from a climate that respects both the ‘free exercise of religion’ and the ‘establishment clauses’ of the First Amendment.
A spokesman for the Academy, Lt. Col. Laurent Fox, said that, "Should the team turn up any additional issues or problems during their visit we will take immediate action to address them."
The Air Force said that the task force would be lead by Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady and is expected to give a preliminary report in May 23rd.
Chicago, Ill., May 5, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI is fully aware of the sex-abuse scandal in the U.S. Church and was instrumental in the Vatican’s response to the crisis more than a year ago, when he served in the curia as Pope John Paul II’s key aide, said the USCCB’s former review board president, Judge Anne Burke.
Burke was chosen by the U.S. bishops to investigate the priest sex-abuse scandal on the review board. In an interview with CBS, Burke said she traveled to Rome in January 2004 to meet with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and to offer Vatican officials the full story of the sex-abuse scandal.
Cardinal Ratzinger spent nearly three hours with Burke, who said she thinks he was “surprised at what we had to tell him.”
One month later, her committee released its report and recommendations. In a March 2004 letter, Cardinal Ratzinger echoed the committee’s suggestion that the bishops examine their role in the scandal. Pope John Paul II followed up in April, urging the bishops to start listening to lay people the way Cardinal Ratzinger had listened to Burke.
“What better position can we be in the Catholic Church today? To know that the [current] Pope read [the report], talked to us and followed through,” Burke told CBS.
Burke speculates that January meeting may have laid the foundation for the conversation Pope Benedict had with Francis Cardinal George last month about the sex-abuse scandal and the bishops’ authority to deal with abusive priests.
The U.S. bishops are expected to meet and discuss this issue at a Chicago meeting next month.
Washington D.C., May 5, 2005 (CNA) - President George W. Bush has invited all U.S. citizens to join in observing the National Day of Prayer today and “to give thanks, each according to his or her own faith.”
The National Day of Prayer is observed annually on the first Thursday of May.
“Since our Nation's earliest days, prayer has given strength and comfort to Americans of all faiths,” the president said in his proclamation for the National Day of Prayer. “Our Founding Fathers relied on their faith to guide them as they built our democracy. Today, we continue to be inspired by God's blessings, mercy, and boundless love.”
The president referred to the country’s great presidents, such as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, and to the way they led the nation in prayer.
The National Day of Prayer allows Americans to “humbly acknowledge our reliance on the Almighty, express our gratitude for His blessings, and seek His guidance in our daily lives.”
The national day also calls on U.S. citizens “to reaffirm the role of prayer in our society and to honor the freedom of religion,” Bush said.
“As we face the challenges of our times, God's purpose continues to guide us, and we continue to trust in the goodness of His plans,” he concluded.
For more information on the National Day of Prayer, go to: http://www.nationaldayofprayer.org
Washington D.C., May 5, 2005 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will hold its spring meeting at the Fairmont Chicago June 16-18.
The packed agenda includes the revised Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the 5th Edition of the Program of Priestly Formation, adaptations of the Order of Mass, a statement of renewed commitment to Catholic elementary and secondary schools, and a pastoral letter on World Missions.
The bishops will spend a half-day in prayer and discussion on the theme of Evangelization and Catechesis.
, May 5, 2005 (CNA) - A new study indicates that a majority of doctors, who identify themselves as Catholic, support birth control, homosexuality and the distribution of condoms, but they oppose embryonic stem-cell research, reported the Long Island Press.
The study shows that 87 percent of Catholic doctors responded that they would prescribe birth control pills when medically appropriate. Ninety percent support the distribution of condoms in developing countries. Half of Catholic doctors say a homosexual lifestyle is “morally acceptable.”
Among their Protestant cohorts, 45 percent (non-Baptist) say homosexuality is morally acceptable and only 10 percent of Baptists say the same.
However, when it comes to embryonic stem-cell research, only 27 percent of Catholic doctors support it, compared with the overall 49 percent.
Doctors of all religions expressed overwhelming approval to adult stem-cell research.
HCD Research along with the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion conducted the poll.
Ottawa, Canada, May 5, 2005 (CNA) - Canada’s same-sex marriage bill passed second reading in the House of Commons yesterday, moving it one step closer to becoming law.
Members of Parliament voted 164 to 137 to send the legislation to a parliamentary committee for review. The bill now goes to public hearings before third and final reading.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Canadian Catholic Student Association are among the many pro-family organizations that have requested to appear before the committee.
The CCCB had issued a statement last month, urging the parliamentary committee to go across the country and to hear from parties representing a cross-section of Canadians. The committee had stated that it would hear from a narrow range of legal witnesses in Ottawa on technical aspects of the bill only.
The Liberal government has announced its intention to pass the bill by June 23. However, the bill may die on the table if a spring election is called. The Conservative Party has threatened to topple the minority Liberal government this month with a no confidence vote.
Some Liberal members of Parliament have admitted that they would approve if the bill dies before a vote.
Despite the bill’s progression in the House of Commons, recent polls have suggested that slightly more than half of Canadians disagree with same-sex marriage.
Last month, about 20,000 Canadians gathered on Parliament Hill to demonstrate against same-sex marriage. Canadians have also been organizing local demonstrations.
More than 2,500 people gathered to demonstrate in Edmonton May 1, reported the Canadian Press. Similar to the Ottawa demonstration, numerous religious and cultural groups were represented.
One of the speakers was Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary, who has been called before the Alberta Human Rights Commission for his pastoral letter, published in January, in which he spoke out against homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
"The time has come for the government of Canada to use its coercive power to legislate that a couple being married must be a man and a woman," the bishop told the cheering crowd.
"This is not a fascist statement,” he said. “This is not anti-homosexual, but it is the Christian teaching on the primordial status of marriage and family life."
Organizer David Fletcher thanked the Prime Minister for managing “to awaken a nation, a nation that is now filled with righteous anger.”
Quebec City, Canada, May 5, 2005 (CNA) - The Quebec government has announced that it intends to cut Catholic and Protestant religious instruction from public schools and to implement a new program on ethics and religious culture by 2008.
Minister of Education Jean-Marc Fournier presented a bill in the provincial legislature yesterday proposing the change, despite the fact that more than 60,000 citizens had signed a petition in favor of maintaining religious instruction in the schools. The petition was presented to the province’s Liberal government March 24.
The Minister of Education said the new program would better respond to “the current social challenges and the needs of Quebec youth today.”
“In a pluralist society like ours, it is important that schools actively contribute to the acquisition, by youth, of the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will serve them personally and socially the rest of their lives,” Fournier said in his press release.
Fournier said the move was “largely supported by a majority of Quebecers.” But a February poll by Leger Marketing indicated that 56 percent of Quebecers favored confessional instruction in public schools; 40 percent were opposed.
The new program, Fournier said, would allow place “for reflection on values and laws, and it would recognize religious heritage as an important part of our culture.”
In order to allow enough time to create and implement the new program, the ministers said the provincial government would renew the notwithstanding clause. This would allow the status quo—which offers parents and students a choice between Catholic and Protestant religious instruction, or moral instruction—to continue for the next three years.
Fournier also announced that certain groups would be invited to present their opinion before a parliamentary committee in the coming weeks.
The provincial Liberal government intends to pass the bill before summer recess at the end of June.
Quebecers have enjoyed Catholic and Protestant religious education for more than 150 years. It was a right that was guaranteed in Canada’s founding document—the British North America Act of 1867.
In 1997, the Quebec government sought an amendment to the Constitution, requesting to opt out of this legal assurance. Catholic and Protestant parents fought against the move.
But the Supreme Court of Canada eventually ruled in favor of the Quebec government. Since then, the Quebec government has been slowly phasing out religious instruction through a series of successive laws, despite repeated promises to Catholic and Protestant parents that religious instruction would be maintained.
Hamburg, Germany, May 5, 2005 (CNA) - The German automaker, Volkswagen has announced that it will build a new version of the famous ‘Popemobile’ to be used by its countryman, Pope Benedict XVI.
The Holy Father will use the white, pick-up-like vehicle for his visits to Germany, including this summer’s World Youth Day celebration in Cologne.
The car is being modeled after VW’s popular Touareg SUV and will be specially outfitted with a bulletproof glass portion in the back.
Brussels, Belgium, May 5, 2005 (CNA) - The recently approved law by the House of Representatives in Spain, with regard to “marriage” among same sex couples, has placed Spain, together with The Netherlands and Belgium, among those countries in the European Union that are most identified with homosexuals. This news has reopened the discussion on the right of homosexuals to adoption, as it is normally recognized for heterosexual couples.
According to a Gallup Institute survey, 42 per cent of the citizens in the European Union agree on the authorization for children adoption versus 55 per cent who do not think the same. Like in the case of homosexual “marriages”, rejection to adoption of children is even greater among citizens from countries known as adherents (the ten countries that joined the European Union last year in May) and the rejection may go up even to 76 per cent of those participating in the survey.
The legislation in the various European countries, with exception of The Netherlands and Sweden, where homosexuals have that “right” recognized since many years ago, have been inclined gradually to grant equal rights to heterosexual and homosexual couples, but still with few outcomes.
In Germany, for instance, heterosexual couples who may want to adopt children must go through an exhaustive exam in which they must proof not only their financial capability, but also their ethical and moral “health”. Up to now the German laws do not permit the adoption of children by homosexual couples.
It is a similar situation in France, because by law adoption is not permitted for same sex couples, although the law recognizes the right of children adoption for a single person, which is not the case in other countries.
In England and Italy, there is not an official registration of homosexual couples, and no adoption right is recognized for them.
Lima, Peru, May 5, 2005 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, warned that relativism is a dictatorship that tries to bring down faith and take away from man the “need to support himself on the truth”.
Last Sunday, during the radio program Dialogue of Faith, Card. Cipriani pointed out that together with Pope Benedict XVI the Cardinals share this concern on the fact that relativism is one of the problems that the world faces today.
The Archbishop highlighted that this view proposes “the modernization” of the Church, which would mean to leave behind those principles that the Church has always defended. For that reason, the Purpurate urged all catholics “to keep their ideas clear” in order to avoid being confused by those who promote such an ideology.
In the same way, the Cardinal remembered that relativism denies the possibility to know the absolute truth, meaning that each person has its own truth.
“This is a great problem because for those who defend this thought, God has not come to us, and His words: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”, are nonesense, he said.
Card. Cipriani added that one of the outcomes is a wrongly understood tolerance, which suggests that “everyone can do whatever he or she wants because everybody is a good person”. He, then, stressed that “relativism destroys not only the capacity of religion but that of the human being who needs to look always for the truth”. He added that man needs to “believe” and not see things according to his own convenience.