Archive of August 12, 2005

Birthplace of Pope Benedict XVI to be turned into museum

Berlin, Germany, Aug 12, 2005 (CNA) - The home where Joseph Ratzinger was born in the small Bavarian town of Marktl am Inn will be turned into a museum dedicated to Pope Benedict XVI, town officials said. 

The mayor of Marktl am Inn, Hubert Gschwend, announced the municipal council approved a proposal to turn the house into a museum, after the current owner of the property, Claudia Dandl, announced her intention to sell building. 

The council’s decision was an effort to keep the house from being acquired by other interested parties, including an American casino that offered to pay more than $200,000 for an old car that was once owned by the Pope.

 Although the first right of purchase belongs to the municipality, the market price of the house could make that economically unfeasible.

 Thus, in order to protect the use of the historic house, which has become the focus of hundreds of pilgrims and visitors, the municipality established a provision that the new owner must turn it into a museum, either as a private or a public venture.

 Pope Benedict was born in the 18th century home on April 16, 1927, and since his election to the papacy, the small town of 2,700 inhabitants has become a popular tourist site.

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Mass. State Senate seeks to regulate church funds; many decry as violation of church and state

Boston, Mass., Aug 12, 2005 (CNA) - Massachusetts State Senator Marian Walsh is leading a charge demanding that religious organizations publicly disclose their financial books to the attorney general--an act which many call a flagrant violation of the separation of church and state and an attempt to bully the already battered Catholic Church in Boston.

At a hearing in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood Wednesday, supporters of the proposed bill, which included members of some of the area’s most vocal dissident Catholic groups, listened to testimony about the clergy sexual abuse scandal and rebellion over the closing of local parishes.

They think that the Church, like other secular charitable organizations, should have to file and disclose its financial statements with the state.

Others however, including the Massachusetts Council of Churches, which represents some 1,700 Orthodox and Protestant churches, the Massachusetts Family Institute, and the Catholic Action League, think that the bill will trample religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

Laura E. Everett, of the Council of Churches told the Boston Globe that, ''This legislation will constitute unwarranted intrusion and excessive entanglement in the lives of all churches."

35 Massachusetts lawmakers back the bill, which would require the state’s religious organizations and churches to annually file financial statements and a list of real estate holdings with the attorney general.

According to the Boston Globe, Edward F. Saunders, head of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, opposes the bill ''mainly on the issue of separation of church and state."

“The bill was being presented” he said, “as a mere reporting bill and it's much, much more than that. By eliminating the religious exemption, it subjects all religions to second-guessing of the internal operations of that religion by the attorney general, to the point where, by various steps, he could go in and change the decisions of the head of any religious organization."

According to a spokesman, also quoted in the Globe, Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly was similarly concerned about too much state involvement on church finances.

''The attorney general certainly believes there's a real need for more openness and transparency on the part of religious institutions . . . particularly when it comes to their financial information," said spokesman Corey Welford. ''His concern has been how this bill plays out after enactment."

An editorial in the Boston Herald said that while it’s understandable that Catholics are frustrated with the Church and have a right to know where funds are going, the state government has no business doing the same.

The editorial cited Senator Walsh who told the Globe “that if the Catholic Church is closing parishes while sitting on waterfront property, ‘maybe we should learn what their revenue is, what their salaries are, what they're paying their PR firm.’”

“As a Catholic,” the Herald continued, “Walsh has a right and a duty to demand that information of her church. As a state senator, she does not.”

John Garvey, dean of the Boston College Law School said in a Globe editorial that, “it is not the government's business to take sides in internal church disputes. You can imagine a legal system where it does…Our First Amendment forbids any such arrangement. When we talk about separation of church and state, this is what we mean -- that it is none of the state's business to say how churches are run.”

“The Constitution”, he said, “favors an arrangement that leaves churches financially independent: The government does not support them; it should not inhibit their efforts to support themselves, and it should not get involved in reviewing how they spend their money. That is a matter for churches and their members to resolve among themselves.”

The Catholic Church in Boston was entangled in one of the first and arguably the most massive waves of the priestly sexual abuse scandal which began in the early 2000’s. Archbishop Sean O’Malley, who arrived in Boston two years ago to help rebuild the church, has reportedly sold some $200 million in church holdings to help pay for the cleanup.

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Pro-gay marriage church shown the door in Archdiocese of New Orleans

New Orleans, La., Aug 12, 2005 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of New Orleans has decided to terminate the lease on space being used by a local church which openly supports and encourages gay “marriage.”

The Metropolitan Community Church of Greater New Orleans was relieved of its 12-month lease within the archdiocese-run Lazarus Project complex, which provides hospice care to AIDS patients.

Rev. Dexter Brecht, leader of the Metropolitan church, says that he believes that homosexuality is one of the sexes created by God, and actively blesses gay unions.

This teaching is in direct conflict with Catholic doctrine which says that acting on homosexual tendencies is an offense against natural law. It was this head on contradiction, which the archdiocese says, led to the termination of the three month old lease.

The Associated Press cited Reverend William Maestri, an archdiocesan spokesman who said that failure to act could suggest indifference or even support on the part of the Catholic Church.

The text of the lease made it possible for the archdiocese to terminate it with 90 days notice.

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral rector resigns

, Aug 12, 2005 (CNA) - Monsignor Eugene Clark, who has been rector of New York’s historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral since 2001, submitted his resignation Thursday, strongly denying  allegations that he had been carrying on an affair with his secretary.

A statement from the Archdiocese of New York said that Cardinal Edward Egan accepted the resignation, which Msgr. Clark “offered…for the good of Saint Patrick's and the Archdiocese.”

It added that "he will not be celebrating Mass or the sacraments publicly until this matter has been resolved."

The Archdiocese said that Monsignor Clarks’s resignation was voluntary, and was not required because he had not done anything illegal and is still contesting the charges.

Msgr. Clark has long been considered a strong proponent of orthodoxy and the moral reclamation of the U.S.

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Youth ministry expert says teens are on the front lines of the culture wars

Steubenville, Ohio, Aug 12, 2005 (CNA) - Bob Rice knows teens. The long time youth minister and professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville has been on the cutting edge of ministering to Catholic teens for years and recently said told a conference of youth ministers and catechists that, "The devil has decided to make youth his number one priority.”

Rice, who is also a popular speaker and musician spoke to some 300 religious educators at Franciscan University’s St. John Bosco conference on July 20th - 24th warning that countless teens are caught in the “culture of death.”

Noting that the average teen spends at least 6-8 hours a day interacting with T.V., radio, or the internet, all of which are under scrutiny for what many call depleting moral standards, he told the educators that "Youth ministry must be primarily evangelistic because the Church herself is primarily evangelistic."

He added, according to the University, that “85 percent of teens reject the idea of absolute truth; 50 percent of teens who attend Church weekly have no moral objection to cohabitation; 25 percent use drugs; and 50 percent consume alcohol.”

He encouraged the conference attendees to seek out what is good in youth culture and try to use it for evangelization. "Music drives teen culture," he said. "We have to find what is good and positive in their culture and lift it up."

He also stressed however, that the most important tool catechists can use are the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Bible.

Rice noted that a youth minister’s personal sanctification is key in successful ministry. "Youth ministers must keep a relationship with God, first and foremost, and invest in their own prayer lives and spirituality," he said, adding that they need divine assistance from prayer and the sacraments.

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Activist walks from New Haven to NYC in effort to inspire priests

, Aug 12, 2005 (CNA) - Edward Thomas Coll, who recently completed a 5,000 mile walk around the northeastern U.S., calling for an increase in vocations to the priesthood, is now walking his way to New York City, in an effort to inspire priests and encourage prayer for them.

Coll, who has run for Governor of Connecticut and for president, told the Connecticut Post that he thinks “one of the reasons we're not getting more priests is that too many of the laity are not helping."

It’s his hope to wake them up.

Coll is calling for Catholic families to encourage their sons to look into the priesthood. He would also like to see prayer allowed back in public schools and wants people, as the Post reported, “to turn off the television and open up the Bible.”

“I’m not an armchair activist” he said, referring to both his political campaigns, which he said were a way to get poverty into the public discussion, and to his call to start walking.

According to the Post, Coll expects the latest trek, which he started Thursday, to last about a week given the hot weather and his 3mph speed. Around his neck, he carries a large sign which reads, "Prayer Walk for Priests Honk, Wave, Pray."

In 1990, Coll says he had something of a vision, in which he saw the good and bad which had occurred in his own life and was occurring in the U.S.

"I don't know why I got this calling,” he says. “Nevertheless I got a very dramatic call. The message was, 'Do something.'“

That “something” led to the 13-year long 5,000 mile walk which he said was aimed at getting people’s attention.

Coll says that his mission for priests has not been deterred by the priestly sexual abuse scandal, which he believes is not as widespread as people think.

He told the Post that he thought it unfortunate that so much of the good work that priests do simply does not get out into the press.

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Jewish leaders praise “historic steps” of Pope Benedict XVI

Cologne, Germany, Aug 12, 2005 (CNA) - Representatives of the Jewish community that will welcome Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to a Cologne synagogue said the gesture by the Holy Father would be a historic step for Jewish-Christian dialogue.

During his upcoming visit to Germany, Benedict XVI will visit the synagogue of Cologne to remember victims of the Holocaust together with Rabbi Nathaniel Teitelbaum.  The Pope will be accompanied by Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, and the President of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Karl Lehmann.

A synagogue representative said that with the first papal visit to a Jewish temple in Germany, where Nazism took place, Pope Benedict XVI has given “a first sign in the Jewish-Christian dialogue.”

Among those participating in the event will be Israel’s Ambassador to Germany, Shimon Stein, German Interior Minister, Otto Schily, the Prime Minister of the northern Rhineland, Juergen Ruettgers, and the president of the Central Committee of Jews in Germany, Paul Spiegel, as well as political leaders and leaders of the Lutheran Communion.

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Statue of Mary a symbol of peace for Japan

Nagasaki, Japan, Aug 12, 2005 (CNA) - A popular statue of the Virgin Mary in Nagasaki, Japan, has been given a new home in the city’s Cathedral of Urakami.  Cathedral officials recently opened a new chapel to house the wooden statue, which has become a symbol for peace and for the struggle to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

The chapel was opened to public on the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which put an end to World War II.

The Cathedral of Urakami was originally located less than a mile from where the bomb exploded and was completely reduced to rubble.  Inside the Cathedral was a wooden statue of the Virgin Maria, which had been crafted in Italy and sent to Japan as a gift in 1920.

Father Isamu Hiranu, a priest at the Cathedral, said the statue of the Blessed Mother “was discovered in unusual circumstances, with the Cathedral reduced to ashes, which is enough to think of it as a miracle.  And her such sorrowful appearance seems to show that the Virgin Mary is bearing all of the suffering of the victims.”  “Many survivors of the atomic bombing believe that this tragedy was the will of God and that the lives of the victims were given up in order to prevent more senseless sacrifices,” he added.

“This statue is a symbol that broadcasts to the world the importance of faith and the need for peace in the world, but it also shows all of the horror of the atomic bomb,” Father Hiranu said.

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President of Brazil acknowledges government crisis in letter to bishops

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 12, 2005 (CNA) - The President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva,” has sent a letter to the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil gathered for the annual meeting in which he acknowledged the seriousness of the crisis facing the government because of rampant corruption.

In recent weeks corruption scandals have rocked the Brazilian government, forcing President Lula to fire several high-level officials.  So far the Brazilian leader has not been implicated in the investigations.

“We are being severely hit by a political crisis. With all frankness I wish to affirm that I am fully aware of the gravity of the situation we are experiencing,” the letter indicates.

The president said he was hopeful that “this might be a process of purification for political life in the country and for the affirmation of democratic principles.”  He also acknowledged that “we cannot frustrate the expectations of our people, especially of those most poor.”

The bishops announced this week that at the conclusion of their gathering they would issue a document on the current political crisis in Brazil.

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