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Archive of September 5, 2005

Pope calls on worldwide Church to participate in preparatory process for Bishop's Synod

Vatican City, Sep 5, 2005 (CNA) - On Sunday, during his noontime Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict XVI challenged Catholic faithful to participate in the preparatory phase of the upcoming worldwide Synod of Catholic Bishops "with prayer and reflection" and stressed the need for devotion to the Eucharist in the daily life of the Church.

The synod will conclude the Year of the Eucharist, instituted by Pope John Paul II in October of 2004 "to reawaken among Christian people faith, wonder and love for this great Sacrament that constitutes the true treasure of the Church."

Thousands of faithful were on hand yesterday as the Holy Father reiterated that the focus of the synod will be: "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church."

The Pope also praised the central role of the Eucharist at last month's World Youth Day in Germany, specifically recalling Saturday night's vigil at Marienfeld, "which had its culminating moment in the adoration of the Eucharist."

"I trust", the Pope said, "that, thanks to the commitment of pastors and faithful, participation in the Eucharist becomes ever more assiduous and fervent in all communities. Today, I would particularly like to call on people to sanctify with joy the 'day of the Lord,' Sunday, the holy day for Christians. In this context, I wish to recall the figure of St. Gregory the Great. ... That illustrious Pope made an enormously important contribution to the promotion of the liturgy in its various aspects and, in particular, to the correct celebration of the Eucharist."

The Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution set forth in 1965 by Pope Paul VI for the purpose of unity and discussion among the Church's shepherds throughout the world.

The bishops gather periodically to consult with the Pope and to discuss pastoral needs in the Church and how best to spread the Gospel message in the face of a changing world.

Following each Synod, the Pope makes an apostolic exhortation, or a statement which unites the bishops with the pope, as head of the Church.

Canon Law states that "The Synod of bishops is that group of bishops who have been chosen from different regions of the world and who meet at stated times to foster a closer unity between the Roman Pontiff and the bishops, to assist the Roman Pontiff with their counsel in safeguarding and increasing faith and morals and in preserving and strengthening ecclesiastical discipline, and to consider questions concerning the Church's activity in the world."

The authority of a Synod is different than that of an Episcopal council in that it discusses desires and issues with the Holy Father but does not necessarily seek to solve them. There is no distinct ecclesial power given to the Synod and in the rare case where there is, it is up to the Pope to ratify any decisions made by the group.

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Bush nominates Catholic Roberts to succeed Rehnquist as Chief Justice

Washington D.C., Sep 5, 2005 (CNA) - In a move some watchers had been anticipating, and many pro-life groups had been hoping for, President George Bush this morning nominated Judge John G. Roberts as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court--succeeding Judge William R. Rehnquist who died of thyroid cancer on Saturday.

Roberts, a Catholic, had been slated to complete his confirmation hearings this week as successor for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. With his announcement, the president also called on the Senate to speed the process along and confirm Roberts before the high Court reconvenes on October 3rd.

The last time the Supreme Court faced two empty seats at once was in 1972, when two judges retired in the face of terminal illness--an event which produced the nomination of Rehnquist to the court. He was later made Chief Justice in 1986 by then President Reagan.

Roberts has recently undergone much-criticized scrutiny by many Senators over the effect of his Catholic faith as a judge. Many have deemed this an unconstitutional "religious litmus test" and have called for a fair assessment of Robert's abilities as a judge.

Although Robert's senate critics have expressed that they've found little in his record to deny the nomination, with the heightened position as Chief Justice, senate democrats especially have promised increased standards and vigilance in the confirmation process.

Speaking alongside President Bush in the Oval Office this morning, Judge Roberts said: "I am honored and humbled by the confidence the president has shown in me.

He added that he is "very much aware that if I am confirmed I would succeed a man I deeply respect and admire, a man who has been very kind to me for 25 years."

President Bush added that "He's a man of integrity and fairness and throughout his life he's inspired the respect and loyalty of others...John Roberts built a record of excellence and achievement and reputation for goodwill and decency toward others in his extraordinary career."

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Pope Benedict: John Paul's final months 'likened him ever more to the suffering Christ’

Vatican City, Sep 5, 2005 (CNA) - At the outset of Sunday's Angelus prayer at his summer residence of Castelgandolfo, and as the Church prepares to conclude the 'Year of the Eucharist', Pope Benedict XVI praised the memory of his successor, John Paul II,  recalling the late Pope's own love and devotion to the Eucharist and his likeness to the suffering Christ during the final days of his life.

"With what devotion", Benedict said, "did he celebrate Mass, the focal point of each of his days! How much time did he spend in silent, adoring prayer before the tabernacle! In his final months his illness likened him ever more to the suffering Christ."

"It is striking to think that, at the moment of his death, he found himself uniting the offer of his own life to that of Christ in the Mass being celebrated next to his bed. His earthly existence closed in the octave of Easter, in the very heart of this Year of the Eucharist in which his great pontificate gave way to mine."

The Holy Father expressed his joy "that I, from the beginning of this great service the Lord has asked of me, reaffirm the centrality of the Sacrament of the real presence of Christ in the life of the Church and of each individual Christian."

The year of the Eucharist was inaugurated by John Paul II in October of last year in an effort to increase love and devotion to the Sacrament and stress the Church's need for its spiritual nourishment.

The late Pope had said that "In the wake of the Vatican II Council and the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Year of the Eucharist should be a strong time to encounter Christ, present in this sacrament of His Body and His Blood.”

“In this mystery", he continued, "[Christ] brings about sacramentally His paschal sacrifice that redeemed mankind from the slavery of sin and established the divine Kingdom of love, justice and peace."

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Pro-lifers mourn death of Chief Justice Rehnquist, ponder two open Supreme Court seats

Washington D.C., Sep 5, 2005 (CNA) - In the wake of the death of Chief Supreme Court Justice William R. Rehnquist at his Virginia home Saturday night, pro-life groups across the country are mourning for his loss and praying fervently for his successor on a Supreme Court heatedly divided on right to life issues.

Rehnquist, who was the last remaining member of the court who handed down the infamous Roe vs. Wade decision, was widely acclaimed as a strong voice for the dignity of life.

Although the judge was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last October, his death in light of Supreme Court judicial nominee John Robert's confirmation hearings this week, came as a surprise to many. President Bush has now opted to nominate Robert's to fill Rehnquist's shoes as Supreme Court Justice--a move sure to please pro-life groups.

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) noted that Millions of pro-life Americans are now mourning the death of Rehnquist. NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson pointed out that the 80-year old judge had "dissented from the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion on demand in 1973. He consistently voted to allow elected lawmakers to decide when and how to protect unborn human life, most recently as one of four dissenting justices who said that states should be allowed to ban partial-birth abortion." 

Fr. Frank Pavone, president of Priests for Life said that, "Throughout his career, Chief Justice Rehnquist was a strong defender of the Constitution. He strictly applied the Constitution and exercised proper restraint by supporting the right of legislatures to settle political matters rather than abuse the power of the Court by legislating his own personal beliefs."

He added that, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Chief Justice Rehnquist. Our country and our movement will remember him fondly.

Fr. Pavone also expressed full confidence "that the President will replace him on the Court with someone who will live up to the high standards that he has set for judicial restraint and strict application of the Constitution."

Jan LaRue, of Concerned Women for America said that "We have lost a noble American who loved and served his country with great honor and distinction. His continued service as he endured aggressive and debilitating treatment for cancer was an inspiration."

"Chief Justice Rehnquist", she said, "never deviated from his strong pro-life interpretation of the Constitution and the right of the states to regulate abortion and ban partial birth abortion...He considered Roe v. Wade as an affront to the Constitution--a position shared by most constitutional scholars, pro-life and pro-choice."

Judge Rehnquist was one of two dissenting votes in the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision and wrote on the court's doctrine of abortion, that "To reach its result, the Court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment."

The Supreme Court is currently split 6-2 in favor of upholding national abortion laws but split in a much tighter 5-4 in favor of partial birth abortion--something many life-advocates think can be overturned.

Yesterday, the Rev. Rob Schenck, head of the National Clergy Council led a prayer vigil on the steps of the Supreme Court both thanking God for Judge Rehnquist’s presence on the court and praying for his successor.

This morning, President Bush nominated Judge John Roberts, who was set to be confirmed to the seat of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor later this week, as Rehnquist's replacement and new chief justice.

He also called on the Senate to Confirm Roberts before the Court reconvenes on October 3rd.

Roberts has received what many call unwarranted scrutiny for his Catholic faith--something many see as an unwarranted religious litmus test.

Although Roberts hasn't publicly expressed his own views on abortion, the potential presence of two new pro-life judges on the court could have huge ramifications for the future of abortion practices in the U.S.

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Catholic children donate to help children in hurricane-stricken region

Washington D.C., Sep 5, 2005 (CNA) - Catholic students will have the opportunity to help children in the hurricane-stricken region through Child to Child: A Catholic Campaign to Aid Education.

Organized by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), the campaign will ask the 6.6 million students enrolled in its member schools, as well as religious education members, to donate $1 or as much as they can give.

The funds will be used to purchase school supplies or support other educational needs in Catholic schools and religious education parish programs. Some schools have already offered schooling for students displaced by the hurricane.

"We know that there are many programs underway to provide relief and rebuilding in this region," said NCEA president Dr. Karen Ristau. "Our goal is to give children the chance to help other children by providing resources like books, computers, paper or pencils."

NCEA will also act as a clearinghouse to share ideas and information about how dioceses, schools and individuals can help each other.

For more information on the campaign, go to: http://www.ncea.org

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Massive reconstruction of diocesan infrastructure needed in Katrina’s wake

Washington D.C., Sep 5, 2005 (CNA) - Dioceses in the Gulf Coast have faced unparalleled devastation from Hurricane Katrina and will need massive reconstruction, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, once the clean up is done.

Bishops from dioceses in Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama communicated with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), giving indications about the extent of the damage and how dioceses had been affected.

Bishop Thomas Rodi of Biloxi, Mississippi, reached the USCCB by cell phone and said 20 percent of the diocese's churches and a third of its schools have been destroyed. Every rectory, school, convent and diocesan building sustained moderate to severe damage, he said. He was working from his office where there was no water or electricity.

USCCB president Bishop William Skylstad had tried to communicate with all the bishops; some, however, could not be reached.

"All the bishops of the United States are concerned for the number of church personnel who are isolated, working under great adversity, and perhaps not even aware that the whole country is praying for them," he said. "We don't even know if all of them are safe."

Bishop Skylstad pointed out that most of the affected dioceses are Home Mission dioceses, “which struggle to survive under the best of conditions" and rely on the financial support of other dioceses to fund basic pastoral life.

What to do, then, when faced with the massive cost of reconstruction in the months and years ahead?

In his cyber-column “The Window”, Deal Hudson reports that reconstruction of Catholic infrastructure in the Archdiocese of New Orleans alone could easily cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hundreds of millions needed

Hudson cites Pat O'Meara, who specializes in financial advisory work for the Catholic Church, who said the average cost of rebuilding a high school could go up to $25 million and a grade school could go as high as $10 million. At this rate, if half only have of the diocesan Catholic schools would be replaced, it would cost about $287,000,000, Hudson estimates.

In addition, the cost of building an inexpensive parish church could range from $5 million to $9 million, and restoration of a more elaborate or historic structure could cost up to $20 million or more.

While a lot of the money would come from diocesan insurance coverage, in most cases the plan only includes the cost of rebuilding the structure and not the foundations, Hudson points out.

In the meantime, inland dioceses, in a show of extraordinary charity, have “adopted” the dioceses that were most affected by the hurricane, Hudson reports.

The Diocese of Baton Rouge adopted the Archdiocese of New Orleans; the Diocese of Jackson adopted the Diocese of Biloxi; and the Diocese of Lafayette adopted the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. They will offer temporary office space and equipment, computers, telephones and the help of local diocesan staff.

Catholic schools in the Diocese of Baton Rouge are preparing to double their class size and take in students from the Diocese of New Orleans. They are also offering housing to displaced families.

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Pope Benedict expresses solidarity with Hurricane Katrina, Iraqi bridge victims

Vatican City, Sep 5, 2005 (CNA) - Following Sunday's Angelus at his summer residence of Castelgandolfo, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his prayer and support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and the subsequent floods, which devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast last week.

The Holy Father prayed specifically for the dead and their families, the injured, the homeless, the sick, children and the elderly.

He also blessed "those involved in the difficult work of rescue and rebuilding," and said that he had entrusted Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," to share the Pope's solidarity and closeness with victims of what is being called the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.

The Pope also assured his thoughts and prayers which "go to the Iraqi people who last Wednesday witnessed the deaths of hundreds of their fellow citizens - mostly elderly people, women and children - who had gathered in Baghdad for a religious ceremony, victims of an unstoppable moment of panic. May the Almighty touch everyone's hearts so that a climate of reconciliation and reciprocal trust may finally be instated in that troubled country."

Reports say that almost 1,000 people died in the Iraqi bridge stampede when rumors of a suicide bomber began spreading through a crowd of religious pilgrims.

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Decision by Spokane judge will not affect settlements in Seattle, says archbishop

Seattle, Wash., Sep 5, 2005 (CNA) - Last week’s decision by a federal bankruptcy judge in Spokane — that parish assets could be liquidated to pay victims of clergy sexual abuse — will not affect the Archdiocese of Seattle's commitment to continue seeking healing for victims and settlements in all clergy abuse cases, said Archbishop Alex Brunett in this weeks edition of the Catholic Northwest Progress.

Archbishop Brunett said the judge's ruling in the Spokane bankruptcy case requires thorough review by the nation's bishops and their attorneys prior to any response.

He noted that the Vatican has ruled that most assets in individual dioceses cannot be put up for sale to settle claims. The Vatican's ruling confirmed that, under Church law, churches, schools and other investments belong to individual parishes.

He reminded the faithful that each diocese is a separate financial entity, and that claims against one diocese do not affect another diocese.

To date, the Archdiocese of Seattle has reached settlements for 197 cases of clergy abuse over the past 18 years. The insurance companies have covered the majority of the associated costs, including financial settlements, counseling and attorney’s fees. When insurance coverage has been inadequate, the Archdiocesan Self-Insurance Reserve has covered the cost. And when the Self-Insurance Reserve is depleted, funds from the Archdiocesan General Reserve would be used instead.

The archbishop assured all Catholics in Western Washington that every effort is being made to ensure just settlements are reached in all clergy abuse cases and that no funds from the Annual Catholic Appeal and no parish funds have been or will be used to fund settlements.

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Same-sex, unmarried couples should not be allowed to adopt, says Scottish cardinal

Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Sep 5, 2005 (CNA) - Scotland’s top clergyman says the Scottish executive should tread cautiously with recommendations that unmarried and same-sex couples should be given the right to adopt.

“I cannot understand this view. A mass of evidence attests to the instability of unmarried relationships and the chronic instability of same-sex partnerships, yet worryingly our ‘experts’ ignore it,” Cardinal Keith O’Brien wrote in the Sunday Times - Scotland Edition.

Four years ago the Scottish executive launched a review of the adoption system, which has been experiencing a crisis. Currently, 6,500 children are in the care of government, and adoption applications have dropped from 1,000 to 400 in the last 20 years.

An expert group produced a report in June, supported by the Scottish executive, containing more than 100 recommendations and suggestions, including that unmarried and same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt.

The cardinal responded by appealing to Scotland’s 250,000 Catholic families to consider adopting a child.

“Unmarried and same-sex relationships can reasonably be described as existing on a sliding scale of instability,” the archbishop of Edinburgh said. He cited statistics showing that the median length of unmarried relationships is three years and a study done in Sweden indicating that same-sex couples are more likely to split up than homosexual, married couples.

“It is difficult to understand why anyone would consider placing children in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development and is gravely immoral,” he said, having referred previously to the high promiscuity in the gay lifestyle.

He also noted that Denmark, which has had same-sex civil partnerships for 16 years, does not allow same-sex couples to adopt. The same is true for France and Germany. In Sweden only a limited entitlement to adopt exists, if one of the same-sex partners is the birth parent.

Children need mother and father

Children need a male and a female role model in a permanent relationship, and only marriage can provide this, the cardinal argued.

He argued research has shown that children raised by same-sex couples demonstrate a significant increase in low self-esteem, stress, confusion regarding sexual identity, increased mental illness, drug use, promiscuity, sexually transmitted infections and homosexual behavior.

The cardinal noted that Scottish document concedes: “the studies do seem to indicate some differences in the behavior and attitudes of children raised in families headed by gays and lesbians”. Yet, it concludes by asserting: “There is no strong evidence which suggests that gays and lesbians should be excluded from consideration for adoption.”

“This is a staggeringly untenable conclusion,” the cardinal said. “If, as the report acknowledges, the available research is inconclusive, a cautionary approach would be wise.”

“Scotland’s adopted children must not become guinea pigs in some distorted social experiment aimed at redefining marriage, subverting the family and threatening the good of society,” he said. “Denying them the benefits of a mother and a father in a committed marriage will cause great harm to a weak and vulnerable minority we should strive to protect.”

The Scottish executive has launched a public consultation, inviting responses by Oct. 31.

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Catholic League warns against continued portrayal of Roberts as ‘religious extremist’

Washington D.C., Sep 5, 2005 (CNA) - As the ongoing scrutiny of Supreme Court nominee Judge John Roberts continues, Catholic League president William Donahue said critics will likely try to falsely brand the Catholic judge as a “religious extremist.”

“While the red flags noting his attendance at a ‘traditional’ Catholic church with his ‘pro-life’ wife continue to be flown,” Donahue said, “it is unlikely that [Senators] Kennedy, Durbin, Leahy and Schumer will press Roberts too hard about his ‘personal’ views. Instead, they will try to paint him as an extremist. And in doing so, they will pick up on what advocacy groups are now saying.”

Since his nomination earlier this summer, Roberts has been at the center of what many call a “religious litmus test” over his potential appointment--something supporters say is utterly unconstitutional.

Donahue noted that “Americans United for Separation of Church and State, People for the American Way and the Alliance for Justice have all issued reports on Roberts; they have their talking points down well. None of these groups has ever had the slightest interest in defending religious liberty—their entire understanding of the First Amendment provision on religion is centered on talk about a mythical ‘wall’ separating church and state.”

He said that these groups claim to be concerned about protecting so-called “religious minority groups” from “majoritarian” groups like Christians.

“In other words,” Donahue said, “we need to shield the 15 percent of Americans who are not Christian from ‘those’ Christians…Their goal is to paint Roberts as a fanatic because he does not share their fanatical interpretation of the First Amendment. Nice try.”

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Argentine cardinal: defend the unborn unto death

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 5, 2005 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, encouraged Catholics this week to untiringly defend the unborn against abortion even if “they persecute or kill you.”

Amidst a debate in the country over the legalization of abortion being sought by non-governmental organizations and by some members of the government, Cardinal Bergoglio recalled that the faithful have the duty to defend life “from the beginning until the end.”

Catholics should persevere in this mission, he said, even if “they persecute you, calumniate you, set traps for you, take you to court or kill you.”

The cardinal compared the “egoism of the culture of death” with “weeds that begin to grow and invade and kill the trees, their fruit and their flowers. They kill life.”

Likewise, he called on Catholics “to be astute” in defending life and not allow themselves to be made fools of by those who promote the culture of death.

 “No child should be deprived of the right to be born, the right to be fed, the right to go to school.  No elderly person should be left alone, abandoned,” the cardinal said in remarks to a group of pregnant women.

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Magazine in Colombia highlights contribution of the Church to peace process

Bogotá, Colombia, Sep 5, 2005 (CNA) - The Colombian magazine Semana published an article this week entitled, “Work Not Always Understood,” explaining the contribution the Church has made to the peace process in the country and noting the great number of priests killed and others who have been threatened during recent years.

The magazine reports that Colombian priests are often accused of being involved in the “rebellion,” as in the case of Bishop Leonardo Serna Alzate of El Libano and Father Ricardo Lorenzo Cantalapiedra of La Uribe, who were accused of collaborating with illegal rebel groups.

The article points out that “the great majority of the Church’s initiatives with armed groups has had an exclusively humanitarian objective” and it notes the various tasks the Church has assumed throughout the years of unrest, such as establishing a presence in areas of widespread violence and providing assistance for victims of violence and natural disasters.

Regarding the peace agreements signed by the Colombian government and the United Self-Defense of Colombia (AUC), the magazine highlights that “the presence of the Church in the conflict zones, and its experience in attending to the victims has been of such magnitude that today it is unthinkable that reparations to the victims of the AUC, as stipulated by the Justice and Peace Law, take place without the Church, which is familiar with regional problems more than anyone.”

The article also emphasized the various initiatives organized by the Church to aid victims of the country’s decade-long civil conflict, noting that the Church distributes a large part of the assistance received from other countries in the areas of conflict.

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