Washington D.C., May 30, 2005 (CNA) - Pro-family voters can now voice their belief that marriage is the exclusive union of one man and one woman with a bumper sticker. A pro-family organization announced that it is distributing one million such bumper stickers for free in order to promote a national grassroots campaign to protect marriage.
The Alliance for Marriage and Spalding Group, a campaign marketing company, recently launched the bumper sticker campaign.
The Alliance for Marriage is the driving force behind the movement to democratically protect marriage under American law. It drafted an amendment, which President George W. Bush endorsed in 2004.
The goal of the campaign is to pass the amendement to the U.S. Constitution.
The bumper sticker is part of a product line, including yard signs, placards, bumper stickers, buttons and t-shirts, available for purchase at www.AFMStore.com.
Washington D.C., May 30, 2005 (CNA) - A man in an advanced stage of Multiple Sclerosis wrote a letter to President George W. Bush, urging him to veto legislation that supports embryonic stem-cell research.
Last week, legislators voted in favor of a bill that would allow federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, which requires the destruction of the human embryo. Bush announced his intention to veto the bill.
“I want to support your vow to veto any legislation supporting embryonic stem-cell research,” said Mark Pickup in his letter. Pickup is a Christian advocate for people with disabilities and the founder of HumanLifeMatters.
In his letter, Pickup argued that embryonic stem-cell research “offers the least promise for developing therapies.
“With limited research dollars to develop therapies for diseases and degenerative conditions, it makes little sense to put funding toward areas of least promise and most problematic,” he wrote. Pickup noted that the most promising research derives stem cells from other sources, such as adult bone marrow and umbilical cord blood.
“Much of the world looks to America for moral guidance and example,” stated Pickup. “Research that takes human life flies in the face of universal human rights and the unalienable right to life.”
Pickup is scheduled to deliver the keynote address to the U.S. National Right to Life Prayer Breakfast in Minneapolis, June 17 at 7:30 a.m. He will speak on the threat of euthanasia and assisted suicide to people with serious degenerative diseases.
For more information, go to www.HumanLifeMatters.com
Chicago, Ill., May 30, 2005 (CNA) - For the first time in 14 years, the Archdiocese of Chicago is laying off workers at its diocesan pastoral center due to an ongoing, multimillion-dollar budget deficit, reported the Chicago Tribune.
Church officials said Thursday that 40 positions would be cut by July. Some people will be offered early retirement, but the remainder will be layoffs. Some workers, mostly laypeople, have already been notified that their jobs will be cut, said the report.
The pastoral center's $495-million budget had an $8-million deficit last fiscal year, and officials hope the latest cuts will be enough to settle the problem.
The archdiocese says its financial troubles appeared before the legal claims were paid out to victims of clergy abuse, including the $18.2 million paid out last year. Officials say the archdiocese has been pumping millions of dollars into struggling parishes for years in an effort to keep them open.
In recent years, the archdiocese avoided layoffs by dipping into endowments, but officials say this is no longer feasible.
"The archdiocese closed schools and parishes in recent years," archdiocesan Chancellor Jimmy Lago told the Tribune. "Likewise, the pastoral center and the central service agencies must continue to streamline to enable us to divert more resources to existing parishes, schools and essential ministries."
St. Paul, Minn., May 30, 2005 (CNA) - Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis on Saturday ordained the largest number of priests in years.
Fifteen men, aged 25 to 48, were welcomed into the priesthood during a nearly three-hour mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul. More than 3,000 people attended, reported the Star Tribune.
The class of 2005 is more than double the size of the average of six and the second-largest group to be ordained this year after Chicago’s 16. It also reflects a national trend toward older, better-educated seminarians, many of them not native Americans. Some hailed from Vietnam and India.
Fr. Thomas Wilson, director of vocations for the archdiocese, said he believes the large number of ordinands is the fruit of prayer for vocations. Many of the ordinands also said they were inspired by Pope John Paul II.
Michael Izen, 38, admitted to the Star Tribune that he got a little teary-eyed at the laying on of hands.
Izen grew up in a Catholic family of six children. He is the first priest in the family ever. He had worked as a systems analyst in the consumers markets group at 3M for nine years, had bought a home and dated a "great Catholic woman” for four years.
But Izen gave up all of that to follow his call.
In his first gesture as a priest, Izen blessed his nephew, Jack, and niece Gabrielle, 4.
Vatican City, May 30, 2005 (CNA) - On Saturday, Pope Benedict told members of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Burundi, in Rome for their "ad limina" visit, that through the Gospel they must “tirelessly” call their people, ravaged by recent war, to forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Speaking in French, the Holy Father first recalled Archbishop Michael A. Courtney, murdered in December 2003 while serving as the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to Burundi.
"He was faithful,” the Pope said, “even to the point of sacrificing his life to the mission with which the Holy Father had entrusted him in the service of your dear country, and of the local Church."
The Pope also noted that the five yearly "ad limina" visits which bishops make to the Vatican, and the corresponding reports they present, highlight "the Catholic Church's active role in promoting peace and reconciliation in your country, especially during this election period."
"The suffering occasioned by the war”, he said, “during which, we must recall, many Christians bore heroic witness to their faith - cannot conceal the desire to work, for Christ and in His name, towards fraternity and unity among everyone."
On this theme, the Pope encouraged pastoral work and diocesan synods, which work toward “announcing the Gospel, to healing memories and hearts, to favoring solidarity among all citizens, eliminating the spirit of vengeance and of resentment, and tirelessly calling for forgiveness and reconciliation."
Recalling Pope John Paul II’s post synodal Apostolic Exhortation ‘Ecclesia in Africa,’ of ten years ago, Pope Benedict expressed hope that this document would become "a Magna Carta of your commitment to the mission with which you have been entrusted, in communion with the other local Churches."
He called on the bishops to pastor their people carefully "so that they experience ever more intensely the requirements of their Baptism. Many of them know extreme poverty and interior distress, and are tempted to return to ancient practices not purified by the Spirit of the Lord, or to sects."
For this reason, he said, "solid Christian formation is necessary, without neglecting efforts of enculturation, especially in the field of translating the Bible and the texts of the Magisterium."
The Pope concluded his visit by giving thanks "for the apostolic commitment shown, often in difficult conditions, by priests, and male and female religious in your dioceses, both locals and those who have come from other areas.”
“Nor do I forget the catechists,” he said, “worthy helpers in the apostolate, or all the faithful who participate in the development of human beings and of society within the ambit of the Church's activity of social promotion, and her service in the world of education and health care."
Denver, Colo., May 30, 2005 (CNA) - The international lay apostolate, Christian Life Movement (CLM), has announced the launch of a new website, which the group hopes will further its mission of promoting the Gospel.
The group, whose Soladitium Christianae Vitae, and Marian Community of Reconciliation communities are active in the U.S., hopes that the new series of web pages will allow the Church at large to learn more about the 40,000-member apostolate and help members stay better connected with one another worldwide.
Founded in 1985 in Lima, Peru, by Luis Fernando Figari, and approved by the Holy See in 1994, CLM was born as a gathering of numerous people and evangelistic initiatives into one ecclesial body.
Now present throughout the world, both Archbishop Francis Stafford and Archbishop Charles Chaput welcomed the group to the U.S. by way of the Archdiocese of Denver. The consecrated male community was formally established in 2003.
CLM is active in the Church by means of initiatives ranging from education and missionary activity to media services and pro-life work. The group is hopeful that its new Internet presence will significantly further its influence on the Church in Peru and worldwide.
The new website can be found at: www.clminternational.org.
Vatican City, May 30, 2005 (CNA) - The Bishops Conference of Ecuador has released a statement expressing full support for Archbishop Raul Vela of Quito, who is engaged in a conflict with two parish priests who have declared themselves to be “followers of liberation theology.”
The conflict began at the beginning of May at the parish of Santa Maria del Inti, which located in a southern Quito neighborhood known as “Lucha de los Pobres” (“Struggle of the Poor”).
Two priests of Spanish origin at the parish, Father Luis Molina, 58, and Father Miguel Angel Olmedo, 38, both from the Diocese of Jerez in Spain, opened a self-sufficient school, completely independent from the parish and the Archdiocese of Quito.
Together with the “non-denominational” school, the priests began to carry out pastoral work centered exclusively on social justice, ignoring the sacramental life of the parish, including the Mass.
Responding to the numerous irregularities, Archbishop Vela named a new pastor for the parish and requested the Spanish priests return to their dioceses. Fathers Molina and Olmeda responded by mobilizing their followers against the archbishop’s request.
In their statement, the bishops of Ecuador note, “We are aware of the problem that has developed at the parish of Santa Maria del Inti” and they underscore that “in a Diocese, the Bishop is responsible for starting, taking away and guiding the pastoral work of priests, religious and laity for the carrying out of the mission entrusted by Christ.”
The bishops also note that the presence of the two Spanish priests is in violation of Canon Law, as “there is no agreement between the Archbishop of Quito and the Bishop of Jerez (Spain), on whom the two priests depend and to whom a request has been sent that they return to their Diocese.”
The bishops lamented as well the fact that the two priests reject “the Ecuadorian expressions of popular piety: novenas, carols, devotion to the saints as examples of Christian life,” and they criticize both priests for “neglecting the Sunday Mass, whose unrenounceable and universal value was emphasized recently by Pope Benedict XVI.”
“With funds from a Spanish non-governmental organization, the priests have founded a school,” the bishops note, but “we do not understand why two priests have decided that no religious instruction, not to mention catechesis, can be given at this school, despite the fact that it functions as the parish rectory.”
“In this context the injuries against the Archbishop of Quito and his collaborators do not cease from displeasing us. We support his effort to bring a solution to the problem, especially for the benefit of the poor.”
“Just as in any other human endeavor, external impositions in the field of religion are not acceptable, much less when accompanied by attitudes that lead to confrontation,” the statement concludes.
Known to their followers as simply “Jose” and “Miguel,” the priests have rallied their supporters in opposition to the changes by Archbishop Vela. “They are putting liberation theology into practice in order to give us a voice and a place in society without class distinctions,” said Marcia Toca, member of the Parish Council.
However, Msgr. Vicente Eguiguren, spokesman of the Diocese of Quito, noted that certain types “liberation theology have been condemned by the Church, those that substitute the role of Jesus Christ by making men the saviors and liberators.”
Asunción, Paraguay, May 30, 2005 (CNA) - By an overwhelming majority, the Paraguayan House of Representatives rejected a controversial bill last Thursday that would have opened the door to abortion and homosexual unions.
The bill was rejected by a vote of 57 to 6, with 3 abstentions, without debate and with only the bill’s sponsor, Carlos Filizzola, speaking in favor.
Pro-life leaders and both Catholic and Evangelical church officials watched the vote closely and praised the rejection of the bill.
According to Father Juan Claudio Sanahuja, director of the “Noticias Globales” news agency, “Today’s results, unthinkable just a few days ago, show once again that when all the social forces unite and exercise pressure on their representatives with a resounding ‘no’ without compromise or consensus in favor an illegitimate lesser evil, it’s possible to block the social reengineering of the culture of death.”
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, May 30, 2005 (CNA) - As the Dominican Republic prepares to debate the possible legalization of abortion through the revision of the penal code, Archbishop Ramon Benito de la Rosa y Carpio of Santiago de los Caballeros and President of the Dominican Bishops’ Conference has called for a national campaign against abortion and its decriminalization.
The archbishop called on people to stop abortion, saying, “The family that unscrupulously supports a crime against someone indefensible” is like “a murderer who has no compassion for adults either.”
Those who have abortions, he said, “profane a tiny body of Christ that should be allowed to live, to be born, to grow and to develop.”
A congressional committee that is considering the bill will hold public hearings on the legislation on Wednesday.
The Church is demanding that abortion still be considered a crime and be listed as an attack on life, while a coalition of feminist groups are calling for it to be decriminalized.
The proposed revision currently has abortion classified as “the illegal interruption of pregnancy” and includes it as an act constituting an attack on life.
Vatican City, May 30, 2005 (CNA) - Receiving a group of bishops from the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Pope Benedict XVI voiced his energetic support for the efforts of the Italian bishops to defend life, especially in regards to an upcoming referendum on assisted reproduction.
“The relationship between Italy and the Christian faith is today profound and alive. Certainly that form of culture, which is based on purely functional rationality and which contradicts and tends to exclude Christianity and the religions and moral traditions of humanity in general, is present and operative in Italy just as in all of Europe,” the Pontiff noted.
Nevertheless, he added, in Italy, “the Church maintains a primary presence among peoples of all ages and conditions, and therefore in the most diverse situations she can propose the message of salvation that the Lord has entrusted to her.”
The Holy Father spoke extensively about the centrality of the Eucharist, “the soul and secret energy of the Church, the source of efficacy for our apostolates.”
But later he noted that “a central question that demands our greatest pastoral attention is that of the family. In Italy, and even more so than in other countries, the family truly represents the fundamental cell of society and is profoundly rooted in the hearts of young generations, and it takes on multiple problems, offering support and remedies to equally different situations.”
Nevertheless, Pope Benedict observed that “even so, in Italy as well the family is exposed, in the current cultural climate, to many risks and threats of which we are all aware.”
“As the bishops of Italy,” the Holy Father added, “you have united your voices to that of John Paul II, especially in defending the holiness of human life and the value of the institution of marriage, as well as in promoting the roll of the family in the Church and in society, calling for economic and legal measures that sustain young families in the generation and education of their children.”
The Pope later expressed his support for the Italian bishops regarding “the imminent referendum on the assisted procreation law: because of your clarity and firmness, your commitment is a sign of pastoral solicitude for each human being, who can never be reduced to a means, but is always an end, as our Lord Jesus Christ teaches in his Gospel and as human reason itself tells us.”
The bishops of Italy have advised voters to abstain from participating in the referendum that would legalize assisted reproduction. The Pope told them, “I am close to you in word and in prayer, trusting in the light and grace of the Spirit who works in consciences and hearts.”
Vatican City, May 30, 2005 (CNA) - On his first official apostolic trip outside of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Bari yesterday for the closing of Italy’s 24th Eucharistic Congress where he stressed that Christians need the Eucharist and the Sunday obligation to “find the energy necessary for the path they must follow.”
In his homily for the closing ceremonies of the congress, themed, ‘Without Sundays, We Cannot Live,’ the Holy Father told the crowd of 200,000 that, "We need this Bread in order to cope with the fatigue and weariness of the journey. Sunday, the day of the Lord, is the right occasion to draw strength from Him Who is the Lord of life.”
He added that, “The precept of the feast day is not, then, simply an obligation imposed from outside…[but] a need for Christians.”
Pope Benedict concelebrated Mass with prelates of the Italian Episcopal Conference yesterday morning in the "Marisabella" esplanade in the Southern Italian city.
Following the Mass he prayed his traditional Sunday Angelus with the gathered faithful.
During the homily, the Pope recalled that the theme of the Eucharistic congress "takes us back to the year 304, when the emperor Diocletian prohibited Christians, on pain of death, from possessing the Scriptures and from coming together on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist.”
“In Abitene, a small town in what is today Tunisia,” he said, “49 Christians" were arrested one Sunday as they celebrated the Eucharist, "in defiance of the imperial proscription. ... Following atrocious tortures, they were put to death."
Like the martyrs of Abitene, the Holy Father continued, it is not easy for Christians of this century "to live like Christians. ... The world in which we live [is] often marked by unbridled consumerism, by religious indifference and by a secularism closed to all forms of transcendence."
Referring to the Mass readings which recalled God’s "gift of manna," to the Jewish people in the desert, the Pope said, "The Son of God, having been made flesh, could become Bread, and thus act as nourishment for His people on their journey to the promised land in heaven.”
Bari, Italy, May 30, 2005 (CNA) - During his apostolic trip to Bari yesterday morning to close the 24th Italian Eucharistic Congress, Pope Benedict XVI promised his “full commitment” to reestablishing “the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers."
Speaking on the need Christians have for the Eucharist and the Sunday celebration, the Holy Father told the gathered 200,000 that the Christ who we encounter in the Sacrament of the Eucharist "is the one and same Christ present in the Eucharistic bread all over the world.”
“This means”, he said, “we can encounter Him only together with everyone else. We can only receive Him in unity."
He said that "The consequence of this is clear--we cannot communicate with the Lord if we do not communicate with one another. ... For this it is necessary to learn the great lesson of forgiveness: do not let resentment gnaw at the soul, but open your hearts to the magnanimity of listening to others."
The Pope continued on this theme of the Eucharist as "the Sacrament of unity," expressing profound sadness that the Eucharist itself is a cause of division among Christians.
"Even more so then, supported by the Eucharist,” he said, “we must feel stimulated to tend with all our strength towards that full unity that Christ so ardently anticipated in the Cenacle.”
“Here in Bari,” he continued, “the city that holds the bones of St. Nicholas, a land of meeting and dialogue with our brother Christians of the East, I would like to reiterate a fundamental commitment: my desire to work with all my energy to reconstituting the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers."
He acknowledged that, “to this end, expressions of good intentions are not enough. Concrete gestures are needed. Gestures that enter into souls and move consciences, calling everyone to that interior conversion that is the prerequisite for all progress on the road of ecumenism.”
“I ask you all”, he implored, “to start decisively down the road to that spiritual ecumenism which, in prayer, opens the doors to the Holy Spirit, Who alone can create unity."
Before praying the traditional Sunday Angelus prayer with the faithful, the Pope said that, "Our hearts are full of gratitude, to God and to all those who have worked for the realization of such an extraordinary ecclesial event, particularly meaningful because it takes place in the Year of the Eucharist, which has had in the Congress its most outstanding moment."