Vatican City, Jun 13, 2005 (CNA) - During the recitation of the Angelus in St. Peter´s Square, Pope Benedict underscored the importance of Sunday as the Day of the Lord and asked every Catholic family to accept the invitation of Christ to attend Sunday Mass with their children, thus helping them to discover the value and importance of the Eucharist for their lives.
The Pope also reminded the faithful present that “Sunday Mass must never be felt as an imposition or weight, but rather as a need and a joy,” for “gathering together with our brothers and sisters, listening to the Word of God and being nourished by Christ sacrificed for us is an experience that gives meaning to life and brings peace to the heart. We Christians cannot live without Sundays".
The Pope also recalled the importance of First Communion, “a truly festive occasion for the parish community that welcomes its littlest ones to the Lord’s Table for the first time.”
In this context the Holy Father announced his plans to meet on October 15 with young Italian children who are preparing for their First Communion, to give them some personal instruction on the Eucharist. "This will be a fitting and beautiful occasion to repeat the essential role that the sacrament of the Eucharist plays in the formation and spiritual growth of children," the Pope said.
Concluding his remarks, the Holy Father entrusted the meeting to the Virgin Mary, “that she may teach us to always love Jesus more, through the constant meditation on His Word and the adoration of His Eucharistic presence, and that she may assist us in helping young generations to discover the ‘precious pearl’ of the Eucharist, which gives true and full meaning to life.”
Phoenix, Ariz., Jun 13, 2005 (CNA) - Arizona's three Catholic bishops support the principles of a state ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriage and may issue a pastoral statement on marriage “when the appropriate time presents itself,” reported the Arizona Daily Star.
A state ballot initiative, banning same-sex marriage, was introduced last month. The amendment would also forbid different jurisdictions within the state from recognizing any legal status for unmarried couples. Health benefits for unmarried couples and the city's domestic partner registry would be nullified.
The three bishops — Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix and Bishop Donald Pelotte of Gallup — attended press conferences, announcing the ballot initiative.
But the Arizona Catholic Conference has said that while the three bishops support the principles of the amendment, they have not yet endorsed it, reported the Daily Star.
"We are considering a pastoral statement on marriage when the appropriate time presents itself," Bishop Kicanas said after meeting Wednesday with the other bishops.
"We don't have any opposition to the marriage amendment. The caution would be that rhetoric used is always respectful and not demeaning to any human beings," Bishop Kicanas reportedly said.
Bishop Kicanas explained that marriage is a "faithful and exclusive lifelong union of a man and woman" and deserves legal protection. Any non-heterosexual union that is made the legal equivalent of marriage is not appropriate, he stated.
More than a year ago, the state Court of Appeals ruled that heterosexual marriage promotes the state's interest in procreation and raising children in stable families and that homosexuals have no fundamental legal right to marry. The state Supreme Court upheld that decision.
Bishops Kicanas and Johnson do not believe the proposed amendment would prohibit government agencies from offering "reciprocal benefits" to unmarried people, including relatives, who live together.
“The bishops share the concern that the rhetoric is civil, and we express our concern for people of all sexual orientations, but we also need to preserve the unchangeable definition of marriage," Bishop Johnson was quoted as saying. "Reciprocal benefits can be extended to anybody in any relationship. It wouldn't be based on a civil union per se. It will give status to same-sex partners, as well as, for example, someone living with their elderly mother."
San Jose, Calif., Jun 13, 2005 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of San Francisco has agreed to a $21-million settlement with 15 people who said they were sexually abused by priests in the 1960s and 1970s.
According to a report by Knight Ridder Newspapers, the settlement includes 10 victims of the late Fr. Joseph Pritchard, pastor at St. Martin of Tours parish in San Jose during the 1970s. At that time, San Jose was located within the diocese of San Francisco. The Diocese of San Jose was only created in 1981.
More than two-thirds of the settlement will come from insurance policies, and the archdiocese said none of the money would come from parish or school funds. The settlement works out to an average of $1.4 million per plaintiff.
There are still more than 100 claims against the archdiocese, including 10 more claims involving Pritchard.
In a statement, Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco again expressed his sincere apologies to the abuse victims and said he hoped the settlement would "facilitate the process of healing for these victims" and set the standard for settling remaining cases.
All sides were reportedly pleased with the settlement.
Memphis, Tenn., Jun 13, 2005 (CNA) - The newest priest for the Diocese of Memphis studied at the seminary as the sex abuse scandals in the Church in the United States erupted.
But Fr. Richard “Joey” Kaump told the Jackson Sun that during that challenging time he never wavered from his calling to the priesthood.
The 35-year-old member of the Knights of Columbus was ordained Saturday and will serve in his first assignment as associate pastor at St. Louis Church in Memphis.
Prior to entering the seminary, Fr. Kaump repaired air conditioners and volunteered as a youth minister, founding QUEST, a retreat program for teens. He said he believes it takes integrity, prayer, compassion, commitment, honesty and love to be a good priest.
The young man said he realized he wanted to become a priest by reflecting on what made him happy. “The only times I was really happy was when I was volunteering in the church. Whenever I was at church, I was at peace and really happy. I wanted to make it a lifestyle,” he said. “I wanted to grow closer to God and help other people grow closer to God.”
Kaump told how his mother, a non-Catholic, was at first surprised by his decision to become a priest, but both his mother and father encouraged the vocation.
Boston, Mass., Jun 13, 2005 (CNA) - New York-based cable giant Comcast has refused to run a public service announcement on abstinence on several of its channels, claiming that the ad is not appropriate for young viewers.
A Comcast senior manager determined that Catholic Social Services’ 30-second spot is not appropriate for the 6-to-9-year-olds who watch the Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and the Family Channel, reported the Boston Standard-Times.
The spot will run on MTV, Sci-Fi Channel, FX, Comedy Central and E! Entertainment Channel in seven communities in Massachusetts.
Arlene McNamee, executive director of Catholic Social Services, said she was rendered "a little speechless" by the company's decision.
The spot features only phrases that flash up on the screen as teenagers speak them. The phrases include: "I thought she was using protection," "I thought I would feel like a man;" "I thought I'd never catch anything bad." It ends with the words: "Before you decide to have sex, do some serious thinking and take action. Care enough to wait."
"Is talking about abstinence that controversial?" McNamee was quoted as saying in the Standard-Times. McNamee argued that the ad was appropriate since research indicates that 9-year-olds are engaging in sexual activity. The ad would also reinforce abstinence for kids who are not sexually active, she said.
Comcast sales manager Ben Handel had e-mailed the decision to Liz Isherwood of Moore & Isherwood, the public relations company that created the spot.
Handel wrote that the spot was flagged for having "content that may be counter to Comcast or specific network policy" and it was sent to a senior manager to review.
"There's no racy language, nothing suggestive,” Isherwood told the Boston paper. “I personally don't understand their decision."
"I mean, you can have people who are barely dressed on MTV and have lyrics that are sexually suggestive in nature, but you can't talk about abstinence?" McNamee asked. "It's just crazy."
Seoul, South Korea, Jun 13, 2005 (CNA) - South Korea’s leading stem-cell researcher, Hwang Woo-suk, has agreed to meet with the country’s top Catholic leader, after the Church in Korea publicly condemned his research, calling it “life-taking.”
Hwang said Sunday that he was willing to discuss the controversy surrounding his research with Catholic leaders. “If necessary, I will meet them in person and learn from them,” Hwang was quoted as saying by the Yonhap News Agency.
The Diocese of Seoul responded that same day with a press release, indicating that Fr. Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk would meet Hwang “to share his thoughts on the issue,” reported the Korea Times.
The scientist, who made international headlines last year by creating the world's first cloned human embryos, is currently in Houston, participating in the Stem Cell Policy and Advocacy Summit. Last month, Hwang announced that his team had produced embryonic stem cells that genetically match injured or sick people.
On Saturday, Cheong issued a statement, which said: “Professor Hwang's work carries serious repercussions, because it hurts life even if it is to find cures for incurable diseases.’’
Cheong’s statement caused a heated debate on the Internet. The diocese then issued a second statement clarifying that the Church is not against all stem-cell research, but embryonic stem-cell research, which necessitates killing human life at its initial stages.
The diocese proposed adult stem-cell research as a viable alternative.
A recent poll conducted by Korea’s Ministry of Science and Technology and the Center for Functional Analysis of Genome indicated that 58 percent of South Koreans favor using human ovum for research. Only 5 percent of South Korea’s 48 million citizens profess the Catholic faith.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 13, 2005 (CNA) - The Spanish Bishops Conference has published a statement expressing support and encouragement for the upcoming June 18 protests against a law that would make homosexual unions equivalent to marriage.
Organizers are expecting some 500,000 people to show up and express their support for marriage and the traditional family.
The Executive Committee of the Conference called the protests a “just cause” and noted, “We are dealing with a question of the greatest moral and social transcendence that demands a clear and incisive response from citizens, especially Catholics, through all legitimate means.”
“By making use of their democratic rights to express their disagreement through peaceful protests, the lay faithful are appropriately responding to this challenge,” the bishops state. “It is a legitimate means of carrying out their duty to serve the common good.”
The bishops underscore that the on two occasions the Conference has denounced the legislation that would legalize homosexual marriage and allow for gay couples to adopt children. Such a law would mean the “corruption” of marriage, “a vital and irreplaceable institutional for persons and for society.” The government’s policy is degrading to marriage, which “would cease to be a union between a man and a woman,” the bishops add.
La Paz, Bolivia, Jun 13, 2005 (CNA) - The director of Catholic Charities in Bolivia, Roberto Barja, has announced the activation of emergency plans in order to send food and medicine to people who are suffering from shortages due to the blockades of highways by protests that have crippled the country’s infrastructure.
“Unfortunately the immediately outlook in the country is very serious,” Barja said. Catholic Charities in Bolivia is “in a state of emergency in order to plan for humanitarian assistance to be provided immediately following whatever events unfold,” he stated.
Emergency Commissions have been established to provide food, medicine and electricity to regions that are most vulnerable. Barja also announced that offices have been opened in the cities of El Alto and La Paz near the areas where clashes and protests are taking place.
Barja called on all Bolivians to solidarity with those in need, and he said Catholic Charities in Bolivia is in contact with other international relief organizations in order to obtain additional assistance.
Santiago, Chile, Jun 13, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Hector Vargas Bastidas of Arica, Chile, said this weekend that if the situation in Bolivia worsens, “the Catholic Church in Chile is ready to take in an eventual normal migration of Bolivian citizens.”
“Let us trust in the wisdom of the Bolivian people and their authorities that greater harm will be avoided,” Bishop Vargas said, adding that “faced with a situation that could worsen, as a society we must show a maximum willingness to take in refugees.”
“This is part of basic ethics,” he said, “although I hope the situation doesn’t become extreme.”
The bishop said he was very concerned with “what is happening in Bolivia, a country with so much riches and natural beauty, with so much to give, and such a noble people.”
Bishop Vargas said he was confident in the efforts of the Church in Bolivia to offer mediation in the crisis, and he called for prayers for the Church, that “it might have the minimum guarantees to carry out its work of peace and reconciliation.” “I hope Bolivians can find quickly find solutions that will allow them to develop a plan that will lead towards full democracy, reconciliation in society and progress, because they are causing themselves very serious harm,” the bishop maintained.
“To go in the opposite direction is what the Bolivian people need least, especially the poor,” he said. “We should pray for them.”
Konigstein, Germany, Jun 13, 2005 (CNA) - The Catholic Radio and Television Network in Germany (CRTN), located in Konigstein and affiliated with Aid to the Church in Need, has produced a promotional spot for World Youth Day 2005, which will take place August 16-21 in Cologne.
The ad are being offered to the Catholic departments of public television in Europe as well as to other private Catholic networks and stations and were produced by CRTN, Grassroots Productions and the central offices of WYD.
Versions in English, Dutch, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish are available. Mar von Riedeman, director of CRTN, said, “This is an idea developed for encouraging young people from all over Europe to discover the gift of WYD.” More information on the project can be found at http://www.crtn.org.