Vatican City, Sep 1, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI expressed his hope that “all people who believe in the one God will unite to deplore all forms of violence and cooperate to restore peace in the troubled land of Iraq,” as he presented his condolences following the deaths of hundreds of people during a stampede on a Baghdad bridge.
Benedict's secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, sent a telegram to the Vatican's envoy in Baghdad urging him to pass on the pope's "sincere condolence" to civil and religious authorities as well as to the families.
At last count, 953 people were killed in Baghdad when a crowd of Iraq Shiite pilgrims, in a religious procession to a nearby mosque for a religious ceremony, stampeded off a bridge, as the rumor spread through the crowd of a possible terrorist attack.
Most of the dead are women and children. They either died in the crush or drowned in the Tigris River.
In the telegram, the Pope asked Archbishop Fernando Filoni, apostolic nuncio in Iraq, to express his “sincere sorrow” to government and religious authorities, the victims’ families and the entire population.
The Pope entrusted the victims to the divine mercy of God. He assured the people of his prayers so that the country many “finally be restored in a climate of reconciliation and mutual trust.”
Vatican City, Sep 1, 2005 (CNA) - More than 400 people from 98 countries, among them 98 bishops, will meet in Rome this month for an international biblical conference on the theme, Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church. Organizers are also expecting participants from other churches and religions to attend.
The conference, from Sept.14 to 18 at the Aurelia Convention Center, is organized to mark the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the conciliar document Dei Verbum (Word of God), which was approved shortly before the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council in 1965.
Dei Verbum “brought a growing awareness of the importance of Sacred Scripture,” said Cardinal Walter Kasper, Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. It also promoted biblical study and research,” he said.
Organizers say the conference is not a look-back at the last 40 years, but an occasion to discuss fundamental problems and challenges that must be faced in the 21st century with an inspired biblical outlook, which takes into consideration the ecclesial context, ecumenical dialogue, dialogue with various cultures and religions, with society and with the world.
The conference will offer 18 presentations and discussion groups. Major subjects include: exegesis, catechism and liturgy, ecumenical dialogue, its relation with Judaism, interreligious dialogue, the challenges presented by new religious movements and the growing problem of fundamentalism, the question of religious values in a secular context, and the themes of justice and peace in the globalized world.
Some of the main speakers include Cardinal Kasper, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini and Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria.
One of the most important innovations of the Second Vatican Council was to reaffirm the central role of the Bible for the Church and for the world.
Cardinal Kasper’s office and the Catholic Bible Federation organized and sponsored the conference. Pope Paul VI founded the Catholic Bible Federation after the Second Vatican Council. It is composed of 300 institutes in 127 countries. Its goal is to promote and co-ordinate biblical study and ministry based on the Bible at the international level.
Participants will have a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI.
Baton Rouge, La., Sep 1, 2005 (CNA) - Armed with only two changes of clothes, New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes--along with hundreds of thousands of refugees, most likely now homeless after the scourge of Hurricane Katrina--spent yesterday in ministry to the frightened and devastated evacuees of the city of New Orleans.
The Baton Rouge Advocate reported that he, and fellow bishop, Robert W. Muench of Baton Rouge spent Wednesday in ministry throughout Louisiana’s packed makeshift shelters.
Bishop Muench was moved by the outpouring of service and volunteerism from young and old alike. "In the midst of this disaster”, he told the Advocate, “we are seeing a great deal of goodness that people are demonstrating to their neighbor and a great deal of care in that we see the work of God to have a neighborly response to one another."
As of Tuesday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had not yet been able to contact any of the bishops in the areas affected by the storm but said a request had come in for a massive nationwide collection to be taken up to aid victims.
That effort is currently underway for as is, what Catholic Charities USA has called one of its largest aid efforts ever to help the devastated Gulf coast region.
Most recently, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has ordered the evacuation of everyone remaining in New Orleans as floodwaters and lawlessness continue to rise. That effort has temporarily been put on hold however, as gunshots have reportedly been fired at army helicopters helping with the evacuation.
Los Angeles, Calif., Sep 1, 2005 (CNA) - The California bishops are urging Catholics in the state to vote in favor of a proposed law that would require health professionals to notify parents of a minor 48 hours before she obtains an abortion.
Proposition 73 will appear on the November 2005 ballot. It states: “The People of California have a special and compelling interest in and responsibility for protecting the health and well-being of children, ensuring that parents are properly informed of potential health-related risks to their children, and promoting parent-child communication and parental responsibility.”
“We hold that both the young woman’s welfare and society’s common good are best served when family communication is promoted in public policy,” said the bishops, lending their support to the bill. A minor faced with such a serious situation needs her parents, their love, wisdom, counsel,” they said.
“In addition, society’s common good is enhanced when family integrity is honored and parental responsibility is respected,” the bishops added, citing the importance and prime function of the family in raising children as expressed in the Catechism.
The bishops said Catholics must work with public authorities “to ensure that the family’s prerogatives are not usurped.”
Orange, Calif., Sep 1, 2005 (CNA) - Moral issues not addressed in the Constitution, such as abortion, gay rights and the death penalty, should be debated and settled by Congress or state legislatures, not by the courts, said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
"I am questioning the propriety, indeed, the sanity, of having a value-laden decision such as this made for the entire society ... by unelected judges,” he told a packed auditorium Monday at Chapman University.
According to a report by the Associated Press, Scalia blasted these “judge moralists” and the political aspects of judicial appointments.
"Each year the conflict over judicial appointments has grown more intense. One is tempted to shield his eyes from the upcoming spectacle,” he was quoted as saying in a veiled reference to the upcoming debate on the nomination of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court.
He also criticized the current concept of the “living Constitution,” on which Senators have based their appointment of politically “moderate” or “mainstream” judges, in a sense privileging political bent over credentials.
"What in the world is a moderate interpretation of a constitutional text?” Scalia asked rhetorically. “Halfway between what it says and what we'd like it to say?" he offered to laughter and applause.
Scalia was at Chapman University to assist at the law school’s tenth anniversary celebrations.
Fargo, N.D., Sep 1, 2005 (CNA) - A Fargo, North Dakota judge has decided not to allow past allegations of priest misconduct in the trial of a woman attempting to sue the Diocese of Fargo for gender discrimination.
Testimony continues today in the trial of Melissa Enebo versus the diocese of Fargo over allegations that the diocese discriminated against her because, as she says, she was a woman, and had a baby outside of wedlock.
Enebo, a Lutheran, lost her job as diocesan finance assistant in June of 1999.
Benjamin Thomas, an attorney for the diocese sought to show that Enebo was, in fact, treated fairly and that she was well aware of a diocesan policy regarding behavior inconsistent with Catholic teaching.
He argued that not only was Enebo aware of the policy and charged with explaining it to other employees, but she was given numerous chances to reconcile with the Church before she was fired.
Thomas said that Enebo, on numerous occasions, refused to try and change her unmarried living situation with the child’s father and is, in effect, asking the diocese to ignore its own rules.
“Now she has sued her employer and wants to be rewarded for breaking those rules,” he said.
Judge John Irby shot down an attempt earlier in the day to bring past allegations of priest misconduct into the trail citing the fact that, under Church Law, priests aren’t considered employees of a diocese and that allowing the evidence would be to prejudicial.
To further show the court that Enebo was not discriminated against, Thomas cited a male employee of the diocese who was similarly warned about a potentially scandalous living situation. That man, Thomas said, changed his situation and was able to keep his job.
The Diocese of Fargo maintains that, contrary to Enebo’s charges, she was not fired for being pregnant but for continuing to live unmarried with the father--an act out of harmony with Church teaching.
Vatican City, Sep 1, 2005 (CNA) - Today, the Vatican released Pope Benedict XVI's prayer and mission intentions for the month, which stress the importance of religious freedom and of the continuity of the Gospel message within new and growing churches worldwide.
The Holy Father's general prayer intention is "That the right to religious freedom may be respected by the governments of all peoples." This comes amid tensions in many countries over totalitarian governments restricting religious practices. Some think that China has particularly been on the pope's mind as underground churches faithful to the Magesterium continue to be harassed, and in some cases, tortured by the government.
The Vatican added that Pope Benedict's mission intention is: "That the proclamation of the Christian message in the new Churches may ensure its thorough insertion into the existing cultures."
San Francisco, Calif., Sep 1, 2005 (CNA) - Domenico Bettinelli has been named editor of The Catholic World Report (CWR), America’s leading Catholic news magazine and Ignatius Press’ flagship journal. After 12 years with CWR, retiring editor Phil Lawler will become editor emeritus, and will continue to be an active presence and will occasionally write for the magazine.
Bettinelli, 36, has worked with Lawler since 1995, first as assistant editor and then as managing editor of The Catholic World Report. He has also been managing editor of Lawler’s web news service CWNews.com. Bettinelli is a native of Boston and holds a theology degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH.
Bettinelli plans to continue delivering the same hard-hitting news and investigation that is CWR’s trademark.
“While the person of the editor is changing, the mission of CWR is not,” Bettinelli said. “We will continue to look at news of the Church and the world with the same unwavering commitment to the truth and the Gospel.
“With the election of a new Pope, the Church’s continuing efforts to recover from the clergy sex-abuse scandal, the challenges of new sects in Latin America, the increasing ascendance of secularism in Europe, the rise of radical Islam worldwide, as well as the oppression of religion in many countries around the globe, there is plenty of journalistic work to be done. CWR will remain the source for the fearless reporting and analysis that has become our signature.”
Although the retiring Lawler will still be involved with the magazine, he plans to focus on writing a book about a subject that has preoccupied him throughout his adult life: the collapse of Catholic culture in his native Boston. He will also continue as publisher and editor of the Catholic World News website.
Father Joseph Fessio, S.J., the publisher of Catholic World Report, thanked Lawler for his service as editor and for his ongoing presence with the magazine as editor emeritus.
Lima, Peru, Sep 1, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican Secretary of State has asked the bishops’ conferences of Latin America to be on the alert against a campaign by “Catholics for a Free Choice” (CFC) to gather signatures of religious leaders in an attempt to support the concept of “reproductive health”-- a euphemism for abortion-- at the upcoming United Nations summit.
From September 14-16 the Millennium +5 Summit will be held in New York, during which heads of state will discuss the proposals and goals set at the Millennium Summit of 2000.
CFC is taking advantage of the opportunity to gather as many signatures as possible for a statement that endorses the concept of “reproductive heath” according to the documents issued after the Cairo population summit and the Beijing summit on Women. At these two summits, “reproductive health” meant abortion as a family planning method, and for this reason the Holy See and delegations from many other countries strongly rejected the concept.
Responding to the Holy See’s request, the Bishops’ Conference of Brazil put out its own statement calling on bishops around the world to be vigilant against attempts to coax them into falling into the trap of signing the document and discrediting the action of the Church and the Holy See in defense of life.
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 1, 2005 (CNA) - Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñiguez of Guadalajara, Mexico, announced the beatification of Anacleto Gonzalez Flores and eleven companions, all martyrs, who died defending the Cristeros uprising against the Masonic persecution of 1926-29.
According to Cardinal Sandoval, the announcement was expected in March of this year but was postponed because of the death of Pope John Paul II.
Anacleto Gonzalez Flores was born into a large and poor family in Tepatitlán in the Mexican state of Jalisco on July 13, 1889. His love of culture and his desire to gain an education in order to defend the faith against the anti-clerical attacks of the Masons led him to become a lawyer in 1922, the same year in which he married.
He became a history and literature teacher in Guadalajara and in 1925 became president and founder of the “Popular Union of Jalisco.” At the outbreak of the Masonic Mexican Revolution in 1926, Anacleto worked to prevent an armed rebellion against the revolutionaries as he was opposed to resorting to violence against anti-Catholic attacks.
He became a successful leader of the boycott launched by Catholics against the Masonic media and businesses. His example and teaching became a symbol for the Cristero uprising, which resulted in his imprisonment in April of 1927.
He was brutally tortured in an attempt to get him to disclose the location where Bishop Orozco y Jimenez were in hiding. His torturers hung him from the ceiling by his thumbs and used knives to slash his feet.
Unmoved by his heroic resistance, his captors began to slash his body with knives, subjecting him to innumerable and inexpressible tortures. As they began to torture the other companions with him, Anacleto shouted, “Do not mistreat these young men, if you want blood you can have mine!”
Anacleto was let down and struck on the shoulder, resulting in a complete fracture. Nevertheless, he continued to encourage his companions not to give up. He and his companions were sentenced to death for “supporting the rebels.”
Upon hearing the sentence, Anacleto responded, “I will only say one thing, and that is that I have unselfishly worked to defend the cause of Jesus Christ and His Church. You shall kill me, but know that the cause will not die with me. Many will come after me willing to defend it unto martyrdom. I go, but with the confidence that from Heaven I will soon see the triumph of the faith of my country.”
One of the young companions with him asked to make a confession before dying, but Anacleto told him, “No, brother. Now is not the time for confession but for asking for forgiveness and for forgiving! He who awaits you is Father and not judge. Your own blood will purify you.”
Anacleto immediately began to recite the Act of Contrition and was joined by his companions. Upon concluding the prayer, his companions were executed by a firing squad. Still standing despite his pain, Anacleto said to the general in command at the execution, “General, I forgive you from the bottom of my heart. Very soon, we shall see one another before the divine court. The same judge who will judge me will judge you; at that time you find in me an intercessor before God.”
As none of the soldiers had the courage to fire upon him, the general ordered a captain to stab Anacleto with a bayonet.
According to the testimonies of several soldiers who witnessed the martyrdom, after being stabbed Anacleto was able to utter, “For the second time may the Americas hear this cry: I die, but God does not. Long live Christ the King!”
The words “For the second time” were a reference to the same words uttered decades earlier by President Gabriel Garcia Moreno of Ecuador, who was murdered on the steps of the Cathedral of Quito by Masons who were furious that he had consecrated Ecuador to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The military tried to justify the killing of Anacleto and his companions by claiming they were arrested, not for being Catholic, but rather for “conspiracy and kidnapping.” Although the historical record disproves such a premise, it continues to be held by Masonic groups in Mexico.
Bogotá, Colombia, Sep 1, 2005 (CNA) - The President of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro of Tunja, said this week he has not received any response from the Marxist rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) regarding the Church’s proposal to mediate negotiations with the group.
Despite having received no response, the archbishop said he was optimistic. “It’s a good sign because when they see a proposal that is illogical and makes no sense, they respond immediately with a ‘no’ and so this means that they could be considering the proposal and will give a response in due time.”
Regarding the possibility of holding pre-negotiations outside of Colombia, Archbishop Castro added, “It’s not a bad idea to insist on discussions in another country in order to avoid the issue of location and to find a way to establish that humanitarian exchange.”
Likewise, the archbishop called on FARC to “de-politicize” the possible negotiations on the humanitarian agreement (which would allow for the release of hostages), reminding them that the agreement “does not nor should not have anything to do with politics. The humanitarian agreement is independent of any political event taking place as its purpose is to simply save lives and nothing else.”
Archbishop Castro said that while it awaits a response from the FARC, the Church in Colombia would continue “to pray that they will take into consideration the proposal for peace in the country.”