Vatican City, Jul 1, 2005 (CNA) - This morning, the Vatican announced Pope Benedict XVI’s prayer intentions for the month of July, which reaffirm his often stated commitment of the Church to unapologetically and compassionately reach out to the world with the Gospel.
His general prayer intention for the month is, "That Christians be sensitive to the needs of everyone, without ever hiding the radical requirements of the Gospel message."
The Vatican also noted that the Pope’s mission intention is: "That all the baptized be committed, each in their own state of life, to transforming society by permeating the mentality and structures of the world with the light of the Gospel."
Valencia, Fla., Jul 1, 2005 (CNA) - In his weekly letter, Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia, Spain, decried the “controlled demolition of marriage from within by the laws reforming the Civil Code,” and he warned that “the State has no right to demolish marriage from within.”
Referring to the law allowing gay “marriage” and “express divorce,” the archbishop called it “an atrocity” and noted that “time will lay bear the primary and the secondary effects of this rash and unjust decision.”
In his letter, the archbishop recalled that marriage “is a relationship between one man and one woman that merits the recognition and appreciation of all societies, for the survival of the human race depends on it”.
“If everything is marriage, nothing is marriage,” he noted, adding that “changing the structure of marriage and at the same time opening it up to everyone is a contradictory slight-of-hand that destroys this institution.”
The archbishop also denounced the “grave restricting of freedoms” posed by the existence of certain groups that have been awaiting such reforms in order to “prohibit speaking of marriage as a union between a man and a woman and in order to characterize as ‘homophobic’ anyone who speaks of marriage in these terms.”
Washington D.C., Jul 1, 2005 (CNA) - In light of this week’s Supreme Court ruling and a heated national debate on the use of religious monuments in public buildings, many Christian groups are excited about the possibility of new displays honoring the Ten Commandments.
The Supreme Court ruling held that a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capital could remain while, two Kentucky courthouses would be forced to remove framed versions of the Biblical Laws from their properties.
Some say that the ruling paves the way for Ten Commandment displays to be erected in nearly 100 cities across the nation.
Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition, said,
"We see this as an historic opening, and we're going to pursue it aggressively."
While disappointed with the Kentucky decision, Mahoney said that the Texas side, it "open[s] up a whole new frontier" for preserving the United States' "Christian heritage."
While many like Mahoney, are excited about new opportunities the ruling provides, others are simply confused by the Supreme Court’s non-specific decision. The ruling said that the context of the displays was key to determining their legality.
In Texas, the Ten Commandments were part of a larger display portraying the history of law in civilization. In the Kentucky courthouses however, the justices determined that they were by themselves, thus displaying a preference for Judeo-Christianity.
In Boise, Idaho, a Ten Commandments display similar to the one in Texas was removed from a public park and relegated to a local Episcopal church because it was seen as violating the separation of church and state,
Brandi Swindell, director of the Keep the Commandments Coalition of Idaho is arguing that in light of the Supreme Court decision, the Commandments should be replaced in the city’s Julia Davis Park, where they sat all but unnoticed for decades.
Boise’s mayor, David Bieter however, told the Washington Post that he’s not convinced. “Our frustration is,” he said, “it's very difficult to tell what kind of display would be constitutional" in light of the Supreme Court's split decisions.
South Bend, Ind., Jul 1, 2005 (CNA) - The rector of St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend disagrees with his fellow priest’s assertion that homosexual orientation is “a beautiful part of God's plan” and “a healthy act of God and nature.”
Fr. Michael Heintz wrote a response in the South Bend Tribune to Fr. Edward Reutz’s June 23 contribution to Michiana Point of View.
“Despite Ruetz's assertion that Jesus ‘never condemned the lifestyle,’ there is a clear and constant teaching within the Scriptures and the Catholic tradition in opposition to homosexual activity,” Fr. Heintz pointed out.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, he said, is clear on homosexuality.
“While the Church certainly distinguishes between homosexual orientation (which I believe is not, in the vast majority of cases, something chosen by an individual) and homosexual activity (which I believe is intrinsically disordered and also within the capacity of an individual freely to choose), those who are homosexual are encouraged and supported by the Church and its sacraments to live — no less than heterosexual individuals are — a chaste life,” wrote Fr. Heintz.
The rector said the Church calls all people, regardless of sexual orientation, to holiness.
“There is ample evidence in early Christianity that this call was taken quite seriously and that there were certain ‘lifestyles’ and even occupations which were considered simply incompatible with the Gospel,” Fr. Heintz wrote.
“There is no doubt that Jesus reached out to those on the fringes of society,” he concluded. “But at the same time it is equally clear that he invited those whom he touched to entrust themselves to him and to emend their lives; that call is no less real — and no less demanding — today.”
New amendment would protect attacks on religion by ‘intolerant people’
WASHINGTON D.C.— A constitutional amendment that would protect public expressions of faith and religion was introduced, after a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling removed the Ten Commandments from a Kentucky courthouse, reported CNSNews.com.
Buoyed by pro-family groups, more than 100 congressmen proposed the Religious Freedom Amendment.
"Intolerant people have been attacking the Ten Commandments, the Pledge of Allegiance, voluntary prayers at school, and other religious expression, but this amendment will halt those attacks," said Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) in a statement.
The Supreme Court has sent the clear message to public officials that “they will face an onslaught of expensive litigation unless they remove the Ten Commandments from public property,” he said.
The amendment reads: "To secure the people's right to acknowledge God according to the dictates of conscience: The people retain the right to pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage and traditions on public property, including schools. The United States and the States shall not establish any official religion nor require any person to join in prayer or religious activity."
"Our founders created a country and a Constitution that protected the ability of individuals to freely express their respective religions in public life,” said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md).
“What they opposed was a state religion,” he explained in a statement. “The latest pair of Supreme Court decisions adds to decades of confusion about what seems so simple to most Americans.”
A two-thirds vote in the House and Senate is required to pass the constitutional amendment. Then, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the 50 states.
Toronto, Canada, Jul 1, 2005 (CNA) - The archbishop of Toronto has pledged that the archdiocese’s Catholic schools and social services “are committed to upholding Catholic teaching on marriage” after parliamentarians passed the same-sex marriage bill Tuesday.
Carinal Aloysius Ambrozic made the pledge in his June 29 to the passage of the bill.
“The Archdiocese of Toronto will continue to offer and to insist upon, the Sacraments in accord with the Catholic belief of two millennia,” he said.
His statement reiterated the message issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on the same day the bill was passed, June 28.
The CCCB statement pointed to a “dangerous deterioration” in Canadians’ communal values. It also commented on the “continued refusal by certain political parties and their leaders to recognize and respect freedom of conscience and religion.”
In the CCCB’s estimation, several amendments to the bill do not diminish significant concerns about the protection of freedom of conscience and religion.
“Members of Parliament were forced to follow a political deadline and to vote along party lines [is] an ominous sign of what can be expected in future debates on the application of Bill C-38,” the bishops warned.
Rome, Italy, Jul 1, 2005 (CNA) - In a move that marks the progress made regarding religious freedoms in some Islamic nations, the Gulf state of Qatar has offered land to various Christian churches to build places of worship. The first Catholic church in Qatar is expected to open in 2006, Fr. Justo Lacunza, rector of the Pontifical Institute for Islamic Studies in Rome told AKI.
However, he said, the main exception is Saudi Arabia, which does not allow any official religion other than Islam. He said the armed conflict in Israel and Lebanon puts these two countries at risk as well.
Fr. Lacunza said he will also be watching how freedom of worship and religion are dealt with in Iraq’s constitution, which still has to be drafted.
He said the constitution will not only be important for the Sunni and Shhite Muslims but also for the other minority religious groups in the Gulf country, such as the Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians.
Rome, Italy, Jul 1, 2005 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino, expressed his regret at the disregard for the will of the Spanish people displayed by the government of that country, which approved a measure on Thursday making homosexual unions equivalent to marriage.
“This is an aberration of the principles that stem from nature. This decision does not reflect the true will of the Spanish people,” the cardinal said during the presentation of a report on religious freedom in the world.
While Cardinal Martino reiterated the support of the Holy See for the efforts of the Church in Spain to protect marriage and the family, he said he was not speaking officially for the Holy See.
In Italy, the country’s Minister of Reform, Roberto Calderoli, also reacted to news. “The good Lord made man and woman and with that act he placed the family at the center of creation. What has happened in Spain is the ultimate act against God and nature,” he said.
Konigstein, Germany, Jul 1, 2005 (CNA) - A report on religious freedom in 2004 by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) lists Spain, Cuba and Colombia as countries where religious freedom is in danger.
According to the report released June 30 at the Italian Parliament building, with “violence and persecutions, the state of religious freedom in the world continues to be critical.”
The 414-page report analyzes religious freedom in countries according to alphabetical order and by continent, from Albania to Vanuatu. It was presented to the media by the president of the Italian Parliament, Pier Ferdinando Casini, and Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
According to CAN, “The report is based on direct information, testimonies, official documents, news stories and information provided by human rights organization” and states that “the situation in China is very grave, where 19 bishops were arrested or prevented from exercising their ministry.”
The report also mentions the case of Nigeria, “where Christians are victims of attacks, humiliation, and abuses.”
Regarding Colombia, the report denounces “numerous acts of violence and intimidation against Catholic priests. On February 19, Father Ramon Rodriguez of Paniquita in the province of Cauca, was attacked by rebels and suffered severe wounds to his legs.”
“On March 19, Father Cesar Peña, a priest from a community near Valdivia, was kidnapped by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).” The report mentions as well the kidnapping of Bishop Miseal Vacca Ramirez of Yopal.
In the case of Cuba, the report cites statements by the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, who maintains, “Catholics are not the object of a true material persecution, but rather in a more subtle way, of an attempt to push all activity (of the Church) to the margins of society and politics.” In Cuba, the Church has no access to the media and there is no religious education. In addition, last year local government officials prohibited a parish in the city of Santa Clara from freely distributing medicine and personal hygiene products.
The report also questions the state of religious freedom in some European countries such as Spain, where “the cordial relationship between the Catholic Church and the State deteriorated after the victory of the Socialist party.”
The report also mentions the Muslim country of Turkey, which is under consideration for membership in the EU and where “respect for religious minorities is very unsatisfactory.”
Manila, Philippines, Jul 1, 2005 (CNA) - Former president of Manila, Corazon C. Aquino called the entire nation this week, to prayer over the scandal and political turmoil caused by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is charged with rigging last year’s election.
“Prayer and prayerful reflection”, the former Chief Executive said, “have never failed me or failed our country. It will not do so now. I repeat, without any embarrassment, my call for prayer and prayerful reflection so that in the days and weeks ahead the steps we take will be the right ones toward truth, justice and peace."
President Arroyo has taken steps recently to diffuse the turmoil surrounding her presidency including publicly apologizing for phoning an election official during last year's vote count, calling it a “lapse of judgment”, sending her corruption-tainted husband into exile, and removing a member of her cabinet accused of tax-evasion.
In a recent statement, Manila’s Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales added his voice to the debate saying, "despite expressions of regret, many remain angry, confused, hurt."
He also added, "Forgiveness does not eliminate the need for justice, nor should it block the search for truth,” and said, "Genuine forgiveness demands more than an apology, and those who seek forgiveness should be ready to be called to accountability."
The archbishop was quick to qualify his strong words however, adding, "any proposed solution to our present situation that relies on or leads to violence is unacceptable," and said "the pursuit of truth regarding the grave charges against leaders and officials should be conducted within the provisions of our constitution."
Use all legitimate means against anti-family laws, Spanish bishops say
MADRID – After approval by the country’s parliament of gay “marriage” and “express divorce,” the Bishops’ Conference of Spain called on the faithful “to oppose these unjust laws by all legitimate means which the rule of law” puts at their disposal.
Calling the situation “tragic and grave,” the bishops expressed hope that “Spanish society would know how to come to the defense of marriage, the family and children,” and they emphasized, “it is necessary to oppose these unjust laws through all the legitimate means which the rule of the law places at the disposal of citizens.”
“We must work so that those rights that have lost protection and have been trampled upon may again be recognized and guaranteed. We must collaborate in the establishing of justice and abstain from all complicity with injustice. For that, we can count on the help of God’s grace, which strengthens our hope,” the bishops stated.
They called the reforms of the Civil Code adopted by parliament “very negative for marriage,” noting that the union between one man and one woman “is no longer recognized by our laws.”
Regarding the reform of the country’s divorce laws, allowing either one of the marriage parties to finalize a divorce three months after a motion has been filed, the bishops lamented that marriage has lost it’s “legal stability” and has been “reduced to a flimsy contract.”
“Our laws, therefore, have ceased to adequately guarantee the rights of parents, children and teachers. At the same time, by leaving the decision of whether or not to remain in a conjugal relationship to arbitrary individual freedom, they leave the marriage bond unprotected and open the legal path for the violating of the rights of the other spouse and of the children,” the bishops maintained.
, Jul 1, 2005 (CNA) - Often mistakenly seen as conflicting entities, the Catholic Church is striving to build up the field of science as students from around the globe begin studies at this year’s summer session at the Vatican observatory south of Rome.
The observatory is located in Castelgandolfo, Italy, on the site of the papal summer residence, where, for the last 20 years, promising young science students have been selected for the rigorous summer program.
This year’s 25-member class was selected from over 200 applicants from around the world, and represents 19 different countries.
Father Chris Corbally, a Jesuit priest from Britain is the observatory's vice-director and dean of its international summer school. He told Reuters recently that, "Science is an important value in human life and therefore it is important to the Catholic Church."
The Church has a long history of dialogue with and support of science. In the late 1700’s in fact, the Vatican was sponsoring three different observatories where scientists were studying the skies.
By 1891, Pope Leo XIII had established an official Vatican observatory near the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. That observatory was moved south to Castelgandolfo in 1935 due to increased light pollution which made the night sky over Rome difficult to observe.
More recently, in 1996, Pope John Paul II said in a “Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences”, that “By your efforts, you will mark out the path toward solutions which will benefit all of the human community. In the domain of nature, both living and inanimate, the evolution of science and its applications gives rise to new inquiries. The Church will be better able to expand her work insofar as we understand the essential aspects of these new developments.”
He also cited his predecessor, Pope Pius XII who, in his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), “affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points.”
Sarah Chamberlain, 25, a Ph.D. from Australia, said in an interview with Reuters: "This place is fantastic. We have very little history in my country but here you just breathe the history.
“There are books written in 1667 by some of the people that I have only read about or have been taught about in first year physics. To be in this place is absolutely fantastic. Galileo walks here," she said.
The month long course welcomes serious students of all faiths. Says Fr. Corbally: "The whole environment of the place invites reflection. But we don't ask what their faith is, or if they have any. What we do ask is what quality of person they are, what enthusiasm they have, what is the promise of continuing in research careers in astronomy or in astrobiology."