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Archive of August 31, 2005

Pope issues telegram to victims of Hurricane Katrina

Vatican City, Aug 31, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI said he was “deeply saddened by the tragic consequences” of Hurricane Katrina, which pummeled the state of Louisiana this week, leaving mass destruction and a yet unknown number of  dead.

Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano issued the telegram on the Pope’s behalf.

He said the Pope assured all those affected “of his closeness and prayer” and “commends the deceased to the loving mercy of Almighty God.” He also invokes a blessing on all those who grieve the loss of their loved ones.

The Pope said he is praying for rescue workers and all those who are providing assistance and is encouraging them in their efforts to bring relief and support.

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US Bishops announce national collection for Hurricane Katrina relief

Washington D.C., Aug 31, 2005 (CNA) - As the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina continues to unfold along the U.S. Gulf coast, The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced a nationwide collection to be taken up for victims of the disaster.

In a message sent Tuesday to all U.S. bishops, Bishop William Skylstad, head of the Conference asked that a special collection be taken up in the nation’s 195 dioceses in a spirit of “fraternal support to our brother bishops at this tragic time.”

Bishop Skylstad noted that while most of the bishops in that area are still unreachable due to downed phone, internet and communication lines, the USCCB had received a request for the collection.

“The devastation and destruction by Hurricane Katrina”, he wrote, “is being felt in many dioceses of the United States, but most especially in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.”

“As the storm proceeds north through Tennessee and Kentucky”, he continued, “even more people will be affected. Millions of people are in need of assistance and Catholic Charities will be among the primary responders.”

He noted that, “Catholic Charities USA, working with the local diocesan Catholic Charities, has a professional and well developed system of reviewing the needs and providing help where it can accomplish the most good.”

Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans, Louisiana and parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida during its devastating journey earlier this week.

Currently, much of New Orleans is underwater and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco  has ordered all those still remaining in the city--most huddled in the Louisiana Superdome for refuge--out as soon as possible.

No official death toll has yet been offered and rescue workers say that they’ve had to pass over the dead just to reach the living on time. Some estimates put the cost of the disaster at over $25 billion.

Bishop Skylstad added: “The media coverage has made it abundantly clear that the needs will be great, and long lasting. At this time there is the possibility of more hurricanes coming in the next several weeks. I therefore ask you to please consider taking up a collection in your diocese for the relief of the victims of the hurricanes of this season.”

The USCCB added that special gifts or collections can be sent to:

2005 Hurricane Relief Fund
Catholic Charities USA
PO Box 25168
Alexandria, VA 22313-9788

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Holy See to publish document on admittance of homosexuals to seminaries

Rome, Italy, Aug 31, 2005 (CNA) - The Congregation for Catholic Education, headed by Cardinal Zenon Grockolewski, will publish a document clarifying the Church’s policy on the admittance of persons with homosexual orientations to seminaries.

According to sources at the Vatican, the document could be released next month and will prohibit seminaries from accepting candidates with a homosexual orientation.

The new document would do away with the “de facto” policy adhered to in some seminaries, especially in the United States and central Europe, which only require that the candidate be capable of living celibacy, without distinguishing between normal candidates and those with a homosexual orientation.

The document will point out that because seminarians live and study in close proximity with one another, it would be an act of injustice both toward the person with a homosexual orientation and toward normal seminarians to allow such an individual to enter the seminary.  While the text will be pastoral in nature, it will be based “on the clear teaching of the Church on this issue (of homosexuality) and on recent events in the Church,” sources told CNA.

Although the official date of its publication has not been announced, the document could be released shortly before the Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Archbishop J. Michael Miller, initiates apostolic visitations of 220 seminaries in the United States in mid-September.

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Pro-life, human rights advocate nominated Assistant Secretary of State for Population issues

Washington D.C., Aug 31, 2005 (CNA) - In an announcement due to be made public tomorrow, President George Bush has nominated Ellen R. Sauerbrey, a vocal pro-life and women’s rights advocate, who is U.S. Representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, as the new Assistant Secretary of State for U:S Population Issues.

In an statement today, Ambassador Sauerbrey said that she’s “honored and humbled to be nominated as Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).”

If confirmed by the Senate, the Ambassador noted that her new job “will be directing the humanitarian efforts of the Department of State to provide protection, assistance, and sustainable solutions for refugees and victims of conflict and to advance U.S. population and migration policies.”

She would also “work closely with the UN High commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization of Migration and the International Red Cross, among others, on behalf of emergency victims.”

Likewise, Sauerbrey would be responsible for overseeing a billion dollar budget and assuring that it is spent properly--a position she called, “a daunting opportunity.”

Ambassador Sauerbrey has spoken numerous times to the United Nations on issues of women’s rights across the globe.

She is a vocal advocate for educational, economic and societal advances for women particularly in the third world, and has also spoken staunchly against abortion and mandatory contraception in many of these same countries.

In a recent document entitled ‘Working for Women Worldwide’, the Ambassador said that, “In many countries, women face social and cultural barriers to their advancement, including discrimination, having to balance family life with the need or desire to work outside the home, and the biggest barrier of all — illiteracy. Additionally, women are the targets of sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and domestic violence.”

To this, she said that “The United States is determined to eliminate the repression and oppression of women and children,” and cited President Bush, who said “America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law; limits on the power of the state; and respect for women, private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance."

Sauerbrey added today that she is “grateful to President Bush and Secretary Rice for thinking that I am up to the job.” Once the formal announcement is made, she will face a period of scrutiny by the U.S. Senate to determine whether or not to confirm her nomination.

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Without God, human efforts will fail, Pope says

Vatican City, Aug 31, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict reminded the faithful today during his weekly general audience that only with God’s help will humans succeed in their projects and endeavors.

“A solid society is born, certainly, due to the commitment of all of its members, but it requires the blessings and support of God,” he said from his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. “Instead, God is oftentimes even excluded from human projects and plans.”

“Whatever we do or undertake can only bear fruit if it has God’s blessing. Without the Lord, all our efforts will ultimately fail. With the Lord, we will find prosperity and happiness, our labors will bear fruit, and our lives will be secure,” he said, reflecting on Psalm 126.

The psalm, he said, “is wise and based on reflections of the reality of daily life. One must abandon oneself and his freedom to God so that one’s work may result in something solid and bear fruit. Without God, one’s work is in vain,” the pope said.

Still reflecting on the psalm, the Pope said: “The gift of children is a particular blessing from God, a source of joy and a support, especially in old age. Children are also a blessing for society, giving it a special freshness and future.”

In the Psalm, children represent security, stability and the strength of a large family.

But some societies lack energy and hope today because there aren’t many children, the Pope said, noting a declining birth rate and asking God to bless these societies with new life.

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Schismatic groups calls on Rome to make first move toward reconciliation

Rome, Italy, Aug 31, 2005 (CNA) - The schismatic Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) says the first step toward reconciliation and recognition of the group within the Church should come from Rome.

The Society split with the Church in 1988 when its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, ordained four traditionalist bishops in defiance of the Holy See.

“The Society of St. Pius X prays that the Holy Father can find the strength to bring an end to this crisis in the Church, establishing all things in Christ,” stated Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the Society in a communiqué after a 35-minute meeting with the Pope Monday, reported AGI (Agenzia Giornalistica Italia).

“The meeting was an occasion for the Society to express that it has always been attached, and always will be, to the Holy See,” said the bishop, who was ordained without papal permission.

A spokesperson for the Society repeated this notion in an interview with an Italian newspaper. This first conciliatory step should come in the form of “liberalization of the use of the Missal of St. Pius V,” Fr. Franz Schmidberger told Il Giornale.

While Pope Benedict XVI and the superior of the Society had a “very positive” meeting Monday, the two men did not agree on “the sources of the problem,” the priest said.

Fr. Schmidberger had accompanied Archbishop Lefebvre’s successor to the meeting at Castel Gandolfo, on August  29. The Pope met with Bishop Fellay upon the request of the Society.

Fr. Schmidberger said there was disagreement since, from the Lefebvrists’ perspective, the problems can be traced to the “deformations born out of Vatican II, and a certain way of understanding ecumenism and religious liberty.”

The priest also justified the controversial decision of Archbishop Lefebvre to ordain the bishops contrary to the decision of the Holy See as “necessary for the good of the Church.”

“We consider ourselves in union with the Church and her tradition, with the rite that has been celebrated for centuries, with all the saints in heaven," he said.

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Priests for Life back California’s proposal to legislate parental notification

, Aug 31, 2005 (CNA) - A new measure in California, which would require parents of a minor to be notified before an abortion is performed, has the support of a NewYork-based national pro-life organization.

Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said he and his organization support Proposition 73, the Parental Notification Act, which will be put to the ballot Nov. 8.

He committed Priests for Life in assisting California residents to understand the measure and its impact.

“We will communicate with Churches, send our speakers into the state to rally voters, and communicate with the media,” he said.

“Our extensive experience with those who have had abortions shows that when someone has an abortion, it affects the whole family,” he commented. “The Parental Notification Act will protect parents' right to know not only what will happen to their daughter, but what will happen to them.”

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Consider work, economy from justice perspective, US bishops urge

Washington D.C., Aug 31, 2005 (CNA) - The United States bishops are calling on people this Labor Day to consider the U.S. economy “from the ‘bottom up’”, in other words, from a justice perspective that has people considering how their economic habits, such as work, investments and spending, affect the poor and vulnerable workers.

In the bishops’ annual Labor Day statement, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said these reflections should be based on the teaching of Pope John Paul II on work and workers.

Pope John Paul said that trade unions have “the Church’s defense and approval,” and that unions are an “indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrial societies,” noted the chairman of the bishops’ domestic policy committee.

His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, affirmed this teaching, insisting it is “necessary to witness in contemporary society to the ‘Gospel of Work,’ of which John Paul II spoke in his encyclical Laborem Exercens.”

“However, on Labor Day 2005, there are some daunting challenges to how we live ‘the Gospel of Work,’ and how we respect the dignity of work and the rights of workers today,” Bishop DiMarzio said.

“In this economy many are moving forward, reaping the rewards of their education, skills and hard work. Others can be left behind, hungry, homeless, or poor, often struggling with rent or paying for decent health insurance.

“Families in the middle can be one lost job, one major illness, one unanticipated setback away from serious economic trouble. As their children grow, parents are faced with balancing the costs of education and saving for their own retirement,” he said.

Bishop DiMarzio pointed to troubling signs that reflect these pressures in the current economy: Growing conflict about the obligations of employers to their workers; full-time workers receiving minimum wage fall below the poverty line; there is insecurity about who will pay pension benefits; immigrants are scapegoats in the difficult economic climate; the Central American Free Trade Agreement passed Congress.

The Catholic tradition offers a different way of thinking about the economy, which the bishops expressed in their statement “A Catholic Framework for Economic Life.”

Catholic teaching states that the fundamental moral measure of any economy is how the poor and vulnerable are faring; that all people, to the extent they are able, have a corresponding duty to work, a responsibility to provide for the needs of their families, and an obligation to contribute to the broader society; that workers, owners, managers, stock-holders, and consumers are moral agents in economic life; and that the global economy has moral dimensions and human consequences, the bishops said in their statement.

“To move forward, our nation needs a strong and growing economy, strong and productive businesses and industries, and a strong and united labor movement,” Bishop DiMarzio said.

“In Catholic teaching, it is up to workers to choose how they wish to be represented in the workplace, and they should be able to make these decisions freely without intimidation or reprisal. When management and union representatives negotiate a contract or settle disputes, they should pursue justice and fairness, not just economic advantage.”

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