Archive of September 8, 2005

Pope Benedict: Church in Mexico must provide ‘Integral formation’ in all areas of the Church; for all ages

Vatican City, Sep 8, 2005 (CNA) - Meeting at his summer residence of Castelgandolfo earlier today, Pope Benedict told visiting prelates from the Mexican bishop’s conference that the Church in Mexico must accompany all members of society--especially the young--in sifting through new challenges in an increasingly pluralistic society.

The Pope told the bishops, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit, that "the Mexican nation came into being as a meeting of peoples and cultures, their nature and character marked by the living presence of Jesus Christ and the mediation of Mary."

"Today,” the Holy Father said however, “Mexico is experiencing a process of transition characterized by the appearance of groups that, in a more or less ordered fashion, seek new areas for participation and representation.”

He said that “Many of them, with particular force, advocate claims in favor of the poor and of those excluded from development, especially indigenous people."

"The profound desire to consolidate democratic, economic and social culture and institutions that recognize human rights and the cultural values of the people, must find an echo and an illuminating response in the Church's pastoral activity," Benedict encouraged the prelates.

The Pope particularly stressed the necessity of "integral formation in all areas of the Church," which, he said, is "particularly necessary for the young" because in abandoning the Church after the sacraments of initiation "they find themselves in a society marked by growing religious and cultural pluralism.”

“Moreover”, he continued, “they face, at times alone and disoriented, currents of thought according to which man achieves fullness through technological, political and economic power, with no need of God or even against God. For this reason it is necessary to accompany young people, to invite them enthusiastically so that, integrated again into the ecclesial community, they take up the commitment of transforming society as a fundamental requirement of following Christ."

"In the same way," the Holy Father said, "families need adequate accompaniment in order to discover and experience their dimension as 'domestic church.' The father and mother need to receive formation to help them become the 'first evangelizers' of their children."

New culture; new challenges

The Pope noted that "the Church in Mexico reflects the pluralism of the society itself, which is composed of many differing realities, some of them very good and promising, others more complicated. Faced with this situation, and while respecting local and regional realities, bishops must favor organic pastoral processes that give greater meaning to expressions deriving from mere tradition or custom."

"Because we find ourselves”, he pointed out, “in a new culture marked by the means of social communication, in this area the Church in Mexico must take advantage of the collaboration of the faithful, the education of so many men and women of culture, and the opportunities provided by public institutions."

Concluding, the Pope stressed that "Bringing the face of Christ to this media environment requires serious formative and apostolic efforts that cannot be delayed and that require a contribution from everyone."

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Cuban cardinal outraged by pro-U.S. charge

Havana, Cuba, Sep 8, 2005 (CNA) - The leader of the Catholic Church in Cuba, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, rejected as "truly outrageous" a Communist government official's charge that Cuban bishops served the interests of the United States.

Cardinal Jaime Ortega, archbishop of Havana and president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Cuba, said statements made last week by Cuba's envoy to the Vatican, Raul Roa, were "insulting."

Ortega was most annoyed by Roa's remark that Cuban priests are closer to the people and the socialist work of the government, while some bishops are "closer to the people in Miami, the Cuban emigres. Ambassador Roa uses disrespectful and sometimes offensive language never before employed in public by a Cuban ambassador to the Holy See," the cardinal said in a statement.

Ties between the church and Cuba's one-party state have been tense since the early days of Castro's rule. Following his 1959 revolution, as Cuba steered toward Soviet Communism, priests were expelled and churches closed.

Relations reached a high point with the historic visit by Pope John Paul II in 1998, but have since declined due to continued restrictions on the church's activities.

Ortega, who was sent to a labor camp for his religious beliefs as a young priest, has criticized Castro's social and economic policies for undermining family values and causing an exodus of Cubans.

But the archbishop has kept the church out of politics and resisted calls from dissidents that it adopt a more critical stance, declaring in 2002 that the church would not play the role of a "opposition party that does not exist in Cuba."

Roa said the Catholic Church hierarchy served Spanish colonial rule and, after the Spanish-American war of 1898, continued in the service of a foreign power, the United States.

"His opinions about the Cuban bishops and their distance from the priests are unacceptable and false," the cardinal said.

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Vatican congress to discuss scripture in the life of the Church; celebrate 40th anniversary of Dei Verbum

Vatican City, Sep 8, 2005 (CNA) - Later this month, Biblical scholars and Episcopal leaders from around the world will descend on Rome to explore the role of Sacred Scripture in the life of the Church in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Vatican II document, Dei Verbum--the Church’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.

This morning in the Vatican press office, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, presented the theme of the congress; "Holy Scripture in the Life of the Church," and discussed plans for the event, which will be held in Rome from September 14 to 18.

Also present this morning were: Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni-Narni-Amelia, president of the Catholic Biblical Federation (FBC); Alexander Schweitzer, secretary general of the federation in Stuttgart, Germany, and Msgr. Juan Usma Gomez, the pontifical council delegate for relations with the FBC.

The congress is being jointly organized by the Catholic Biblical Federation and the pontifical council.

Cardinal Kasper announced that 400 people from 98 countries are expected to participate in the congress, and that all presidents of the world's Episcopal conferences and of the synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches have been invited to attend.

Likewise, fraternal delegates from Churches and ecclesial communities in dialogue with the Catholic Church, as well as members of the FBC, and representatives from dicasteries of the Roman Curia will also be present.

A new enthusiasm for Holy Scripture

The cardinal said that one of the goal’s of the congress is to “consider the road we have traveled in the light of the decisions and recommendations of the (Second Vatican) Council: Is ecclesiastical preaching nourished and regulated by Holy Scripture? ... How can the biblical formation of pastoral ministers and agents be improved? How far have we got with the translations of Sacred Scripture from the original texts? What is the state of ecumenical collaboration in the biblical field?"

Msgr. Usma added that the congress "will alternate between theology, history and pastoral activity." The objective, he said, "is to institute and reinforce dialogue about the Word of God, on the Word of God, and with the Word of God."

Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Catholic Biblical Federation which was founded in 1969 to promote the spread of the Bible in the light of the guidelines of Vatican Council II, noted that the aim of the congress is not so much to examine the scientific aspects of Dei Verbum, but rather, to "dwell on the pastoral elements present in the conciliar document."

He said that, despite the fact that over the last four decades the Bible "has returned to the hands of the faithful," Holy Scripture is still little known and read.

He cited research which was recently conducted in Italy, France and Spain which showed that for many people "the Bible is still a book chiefly reserved for the clergy." Another major problem, he added, is that "many Christian communities, above all in the South of the world, still do not have the Bible translated into their language."

Bishop Paglia recalled Blessed John XXIII who, in taking possession of the Basilica of St. John Lateran as bishop of Rome, affirmed that one of the priorities of his pontificate would be "to encourage all manifestations of the book, everywhere and without pause."

"We hope”, he said, “that the congress will encourage a new enthusiasm for Holy Scripture."

Alexander Schweitzer, secretary general of the FBC which, the Vatican noted, is active in 127 countries with 312 affiliated institutions, explained that the congress will concentrate on three principal speeches.

One, he said, will be delivered by Cardinal Walter Kasper on the theological aspects of Dei Verbum, another by Bishop John Onaiyekan on the developments of the last 40 years, and a final by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini on the role and pastoral utility of the Bible today.

"All other contributions and discussions”, he said, “will take place in the form of round table discussions."

During the first full day of work, participants will explore the theme of "the Word of God in human words," and will focus on topics like the relationship between biblical exegesis and pastoral care, enculturation, and the Bible and the media.

September 16, the group announced, will be dedicated to questions associated with the pastoral use of the Bible in such fields as catechesis and the liturgy, and Saturday September 17, the final day, will be dedicated to the question of ecumenical dialogue with the theme of "Sacred Scripture and Christian Unity."

During this day, the congress will look at relations with Judaism while mindful of the theme "the Bible, Holy Scripture for Jews and Christians." They will also discuss inter-religious dialogue, and to the Word of God in the world today.

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Pope appoints new Synod participants

Vatican City, Sep 8, 2005 (CNA) - This morning the Holy See Press room announced the names of the bishops apointed by Pope Benedict XVI to the 11th general assembly of the Synodf of Bishops.

Pope Benedict XVI has named 36 participants to join in the deliberations of the Synod of Bishops, which will meet in October to discuss the Eucharist. .

The Pope's list included 4 bishops from mainland China, including 2 bishops of the "underground" Church there-- although one of the "underground" bishops is also recognized by the Beijing government. Vatican sources indicated that they are hopeful the Chinese bishops will be allowed to attend the October sessions in Rome. The invitation to the "underground" bishops was the first such gesture since the Communist takeover in China, and a clear sign of the Vatican's desire to improve relations with that regime.

The list includes several prelates from the Roman Curia; and representatives of the episcopal conferences that unite the bishops of Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. The priests who lead two lay movements-- Opus Dei and Communion and Liberation-- are included, as is the head of the Jesuit order. And the Eastern Catholic communities are represented, with prelates from the Syro-Malabar, Maronite, Ukrainian, and Melkite churches. A full list appears below.

The 11th general assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be held from October 2 to 23. The theme for the bishops' discussions-- "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church"-- was chosen by Pope John Paul II (bio - news) and confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI. The full list of participants named by Pope Benedict to the Synod includes:

Roman Curia:

  • Card. Jozef Tomko, President of the Pontificate Committee for the International Eucharistic Congresses;
  • Card. Edmund Casimir Szoka, President of the Government of the State of the Vatican;
  • Card. Jorge Arturo Medina Estévez, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine worship and Sacraments;
  • Card. Jean-Louis Tauran, Archivist at the Vatican Library;
  • Card. Francesco Marchisano, Archpriest of de la Patriarcal Basílica of the Vatican;
  • Card. Georges Marie Martin Cottier, Theologian of the Pontifical Household;


  • Mons. Paul Verdzekov, Archbishop of Bamenda (Camerún);
  • Mons. John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja (Nigeria), President of the symposium of the Episcopal Confernce of Africa and Madagascar (SCEAM);
  • Mons. Menghisteab Tesfamariam, Bishop of Asmara (Ethiopia);


  • Card. Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of  Québec (Canadá);
  • Card. Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, Archbishop of  Santiago de Chile, President of the Latin American Episcopal Council  (CELAM);
  • Card. Miguel Obando Bravo, Archbishop Emeritus of  Managua (Nicaragua);
  • Mons. Stefan Soroka, Archbishop of Philadelfia for the Ucrainians (US);
  • Mons. Cyrille Salim Bustros, Bishop of Newton for the Greco-Melkitas (US);


  • Card. Paul Shan Kuo-Hsi, Bishop of Kaohsiung (Taiwan);
  • Card. Ivan Dias, Archbishop of Bombay (India);
  • Mons. Joseph Powathil, Archbishop of Changanacherry for the Siro-Malabars (India);
  • Mons. Joseph Mohsen Béchara, Archbishop of Antélias for the  Maronites (Lebanon);
  • Mons. Oswald Thomas Colman Gomis, Arzobispo of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Secretary General of the Federation of the Asian Episcopal  Conferences;
  • Mons. Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Archbishop of  Hong­ Kong;
  • Antonio Li Duan, Archdiocese of  Xi'an (China);
  • Luca Li Jingfeng, Diocese of Fengxiang (China);
  • Aloysius Jin Luxian, Diocese of Shanghai (China);
  • Giuseppe Wei Jingyi, Diocese of  Qiqihar (China);


  • Card. Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of  Cologne (Germany);
  • Card. Adrianus Johannes Simonis, Archbishop of Utrecht (Netherlands);
  • Card. Vinko Puljic, Archbishop of Vrhbosna (Sarajevo);
  • Mons. Francesco Cacucci, Archbishop of Bari-Bitonto (Italy);
  • Mons. Amédée Grab, Bishop of  Chur, President of the Coucil of the European Episcopal Conferences;
  • Mons. Jean-Louis Bruguès, Bishop of  Angers (France);
  • Mons. Arthur Roche, Bishop of Leeds (England);


  • Card. George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney (Australia);
  • Mons. Denis George Browne, Bishop of Hamilton en New Zealand, President of the Federation of Episcopal Conferences of Oceanía. 


  • Mons. Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, Prelate of  the Personal Prelature for the Opus Dei;
  • P. Julián Carrón, President of the Fraternity of Comunión and Liberation;
  • P. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., General Superior of the Society of Jesus.

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Spokane diocese, parishes appeal federal court decision

Seattle, Wash., Sep 8, 2005 (CNA) - The Diocese of Spokane and the diocesan Association of Parishes (AOP) have filed separate appeals of a federal bankruptcy court decision that would have allowed churches to be sold to pay for settlements of sex-abuse cases, reported the Seattle Times.

Judge Patricia Williams ruled Aug. 26 that parish churches are owned by the diocese and can be sold to pay settlements to sex-abuse victims.

In its appeal Sept. 6, the diocese argued that Judge Williams erred by not giving canon law sufficient weight in determining parish ownership and by not considering all the evidence offered by the diocese about who owns parish churches, said the diocese’s attorney Shaun Cross.

The AOP is a separate organization, created by pastors and parish administrators of the diocese last fall. It includes all parishes in the diocese. The primary work of the AOP is to work in collaboration of the diocese and to defend of the canonical independence of parishes and their assets.

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Quebec passes law eliminating Catholic instruction in public schools

Quebec City, Canada, Sep 8, 2005 (CNA) - School’s back in. But in Quebec public schools, Catholic and Protestant religious instruction are on their way out.

While most people were thinking about summer holidays, Quebec’s provincial government quietly passed a bill on June 15 that will eliminate Catholic and Protestant religious instruction in the province’s public schools by 2008, reported the Catholic Times of Montreal.

The Ministry of Education did not issue a press release notifying the public. As well, no reports appeared in the English-language secular press.

A new program on ethics and religious culture will replace the current Catholic, Protestant and moral instruction program in 2008.

Schools can offer Catholic and Protestant religious instruction until then, but the law stipulates that a school may decide to replace it with an ecumenical program before that time.

Even faith-based private schools will have to offer the new program as of 2008. They may continue to offer confessional instruction, but only as an additional course, the minister’s press attaché told the Montreal newspaper.

Education Minister Jean-Marc Fournier presented Bill 95 in May, saying that it would better respond to “the current social challenges and the needs of Quebec youth today.”

However, parents and citizens groups, and the Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops rallied against the bill. A committee in favor of maintaining religious instruction in public schools submitted a petition of more than 60,000 signatures to the provincial government.

At the beginning of June, the citizens’ committee and the Quebec bishops also presented a brief to a parliamentary hearing committee, which had been set up to hold public consultations on the bill.

The bishops said confessional instruction in public schools should be maintained because religious instruction is an important part of a child’s formation. Christianity is also a significant aspect of Quebec heritage and children must learn about it in school. They also argued that the new program would likely conflict with the values Christian parents are teaching their children at home.

However, none of these arguments or petitions proved to be persuasive. “The hearings were merely a façade,” Jocelyne St-Cyr told the Catholic Times. St-Cyr heads the committee in favor of maintaining religious instruction in public schools. “The minister thinks that he has respected democracy but he has not.”

Brief history of Catholic instruction in Quebec

Quebecers have received Catholic and Protestant religious instruction in public schools for more than 150 years. It was even guaranteed as a right in Canada’s founding document—the British North America Act of 1867.

However, in 1997, the Quebec government sought an amendment to the Constitution, requesting to opt out of this legal assurance, and the Supreme Court of Canada granted the request.

Since then, the Quebec government has been slowly phasing out religious instruction through a series of successive laws, despite repeated promises to Catholic and Protestant parents that religious instruction would be maintained.

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Church obtains temporary restraining order against protesting attorney

Albany, N.Y., Sep 8, 2005 (CNA) - The Holy Cross Roman Catholic church in Albany N.Y has obtained a temporary restraining order against an attorney who it said harassed parishioners and publicly accused a pastor of sexual abuse, the church said Wednesday.

According to the Albany Times Union, the temporary restraining order signed by state Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Spargo on Tuesday bars protesters from trespassing on church and school property and orders they remain 100 feet away from entrances. A hearing on a permanent injunction is scheduled for next week on Tuesday. The order was provided against attorney John Aretakis, who has brought several sex-abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany in recent years.

In a statement released Wednesday, the church said Aretakis has been involved in at least three confrontations with parishioners and neighbors at the church since June when he and a small group began picketing Sunday masses and leafleting cars.

Rev. Doyle has filed complaints with the lawyer disciplinary agency against Aretakis, who maintains offices in New York City and Albany, saying that the lawyer has made false allegations against him.

Earlier this month, an internal investigation by the church found "no reasonable cause" for the allegations against Maher and he remains a priest in good standing, according to the statement.

Although he claims that Diocese investigations are incomplete, Aretakis has failed to provide the names of alleged witnesses who allegedly support claims made by himself and his client against the clergy.

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Canadian bishops express sympathy, recall history between Louisiana and Canada

Ottawa, Canada, Sep 8, 2005 (CNA) - The Canadian bishops expressed their deepest sympathy to the American bishops over the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, offering prayers and solidarity.

“It is with heavy heart that your brother bishops in Canada see the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in the states along the Gulf Coast,” Archbishop Brendan O’Brien of St. John’s wrote last week in a letter to Bishop William Skylstad, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Writing on behalf of the Canadian bishops, Archbishop O’Brien invited Canadians to assist in the recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast by making donations to Catholic Charities USA or Catholic Relief Services.

The president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed particular affection for the ecclesiastical provinces of New Orleans and Mobile, which in 1674 were part of the original territory of the Diocese of Quebec.

In addition, the bishop pointed out, many of Acadian people in the Atlantic province of New Brunswick found refuge in that area when they were expelled from their homeland in the mid-18th century. Furthermore, many of the French explorers and missionaries who crossed through Canada also worked in that area of the U.S.

“For many Canadians, especially Catholics and including your brother bishops here in Canada, that part of your vast land evokes profound emotions,” Archbishop O’Brien wrote.

Canadians can also write a cheque, earmarked for the Hurricane Katrina aid effort, to the Canadian bishops’ emergency aid and development organization, Development and Peace (D&P). D&P will then forward the donations to Catholic Charities USA via the Caritas Internationalis network. The Canadian organization would issue tax receipts to individual donors.

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Schwarzenegger to veto same-sex marriage bill

Sacramento, Calif., Sep 8, 2005 (CNA) - Many pro-family groups let out a collective sigh of relief today as the office of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that the former actor plans to veto a bill which would have allowed for same-sex marriage in the state, citing a respect for “the will of the people.”

AB 849, which passed the State Assembly Tuesday evening, and the State Senate last week, made California’s state legislature the first such body in the country to approve a bill allowing for same sex marriage.

The move outraged pro-family groups who argued that passage of the bill effectively negates Proposition 22, which passed a statewide vote in 2000 with 61% of the population affirming that “Only marriage between a man and a woman be valid or recognized in California."

Many have pointed out that the California State Constitution prohibits lawmakers from repealing or amending voter-approved initiatives.

Gubernatorial Press Secretary Margita Thompson issued a statement today which said that while Gov. Schwarzenegger “believes that gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their relationship”, that he “believes the matter should be determined not by legislative action--which would be unconstitutional--but by court decision or another vote of the people of our state.”

“We cannot”, the statement continued, “have a system where the people vote and the Legislature derails that vote. Out of respect for the will of the people, the Governor will veto AB 849."

Currently pro-family groups are working to put a measure on the 2006 California State ballot which would make marriage between anyone other than one man and one woman unconstitutional.

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Archbishop Chaput: Katrina shows us fragileness of human life; true meaning of Christian discipleship

Denver, Colo., Sep 8, 2005 (CNA) - Reflecting on the days following Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the U.S. Gulf Coast last week, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver wrote Thursday that the tragic events should invite the world to see “what true Christian discipleship and real humanity mean.”

In his weekly column for the Denver Catholic Register, the Archbishop noted that while Catholics in the U.S., and in his own Archdiocese of Denver, had been exceedingly generous in assisting the “parade of human suffering from the Horn of Africa to Southeast Asia” over the past decade, with Hurricane Katrina, that giving takes on a whole new meaning.

“Until now,” he said, “doing the ‘right thing’ — the generous thing — for victims of natural disaster has usually involved foreign faces in faraway places. On Aug. 28 that changed. Now the need for our help is right here at home and overwhelmingly urgent. Nothing like the scope of the Katrina hurricane disaster has ever happened in the United States. The image of refugee Americans wandering through a devastated major metropolis like New Orleans is something utterly new.”

He said that, “Most of us — God willing — will never experience the confusion and suffering we’ve seen these days throughout the battered Gulf states. For that gift of God’s mercy, we need a serious return to humility and gratitude. Everything we have, including life itself, is fragile. It can vanish in a moment.”

“We may think we’re masters of our environment,” he said. “Events have reminded us that we’re not.”

“The very same events,” the Archbishop stressed, “invite us to show the world what Christian discipleship and real humanity mean. The people of the Gulf states are fellow Americans. Many are fellow Catholics. They need our prayers. They also desperately need our financial support.”

Dioceses all over the U.S. are taking up special collections for victims of the tragedy. Catholic Charities USA, working in conjunction with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said it is mobilizing one of its most massive aid efforts ever.

Added Archbishop Chaput: “Those most in need are never strangers. Catholics help the suffering because we love Jesus Christ, and we see his face in theirs. We don’t ask whether the victims are Malays or Sudanese; Christian, Hindu, Jewish or Muslim. We do the work of charity because it’s right.”

Anyone seeking to help can find more information at

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Castro government limits celebration of patroness of Cuba

Havana, Cuba, Sep 8, 2005 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Cuba announced this week that the Castro government authorized 60 processions to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba, but denied permission for another 12 processions.

According to a statement from the Press Office of the Conference, the authorized processions will be taking place in 8 of the 11 dioceses in the country.

The statement also notes that “on this occasion seven requests to celebrate religious processions have been denied for not being “suitable.”

Another five requests were denied the Archdiocese of Camagüey because of “a lack of tradition” in some cases, and because “a procession in the same municipality had already been authorized.”

At the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, Archbishop Pedro Meurice of Santiago de Cuba celebrated Mass on Thursday morning and blessed the Shrine’s new bells, which were donated by the bishops of Italy.  Hours earlier, hundreds of young people processed from the city of Santiago to the Shrine at El Cobre.

On Tuesday Archbishop Meurice told Radio Marti that the number of faithful coming to El Cobre in the days leading up to the feast was “extraordinary,” and he extended his greetings “to all Cubans, wherever they are,” reminding them that the celebration is “a symbol, a sign that we are one people, because we gather together during these days under the protection of Our Lady of Charity.”

One of the most important processions will be led Thursday by Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino in Havana.  The cardinal will also celebrate a Mass.

For decades the government of Cuba outlawed Catholic processions, but after the visit by Pope John Paul II in 1998 the government eased restrictions.

In Miami, where the greatest number of Cubans resides outside of the island, hundreds will gather September 8 at Miami Arena at 7pm for a Mass concelebrated by Archbishop John Clement Favarola of Miami and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Agustin Roman.

In Madrid the Spanish Center for Cubans has organized two Masses.  The main celebration will take place at the Church of Santo Domingo El Real, and the other will take place at the Convent of the Royal Discalced, where there is a statue of Our Lady of Charity that was brought from Cuba by Spanish soldiers after the war of independence.

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Colombian bishops’ proposal for pre-dialogue rejected by FARC

Bogotá, Colombia, Sep 8, 2005 (CNA) - The Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Bishop Fabian Marulanda of Florencia, expressed regret Wednesday at the decision by the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) to reject the bishops’ proposal for a pre-dialogue with the government in order to iron out differences over a humanitarian agreement that would lead to the release of many hostages.

The proposal, which was endorsed by President Alvaro Uribe, was rejected in a statement released by the FARC on the internet.  The rebel group claimed Uribe’s acceptance of the plan was just a way for him to put another obstacle in the path towards an agreement.  The FARC expressed thanks to “the Church and to the president of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference in particular, Archbishop Augusto Castro, for their enormous effort for the release of all prisoners of war,” adding that, “we wish to encourage them to redouble their efforts in that sacred mission.”

“They vouch for the good intentions of the Church,” Bishop Marulanda said, “but in the end they reject the proposal with the excuse that, having been endorsed by the president, they consider it an obstacle to progress on the path to peace.”

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Brazilian government postpones bill on abortion

, Sep 8, 2005 (CNA) - In keeping with a promise made by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to the country’s bishops, the federal government in Brazil announced it would postpone sending a bill up to congress that would legalize abortion.

In August, President Lula sent a letter to the president of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, in which he reaffirmed his commitment to defend life in all of its stages. On Wednesday the federal government decided to postpone bring up the measure, which was scheduled to be brought up for consideration on September 1.

The measure would legalize abortion on demand up to twelve weeks and at any time if the mother’s life were in danger or if a the baby were to be determined to have a malformation deemed “incompatible” with life.

The measure would also allow abortions to be obtained at tax-funded health facilities and would remove any criminal sanctions attached to the procedure, as well as authorize minors to obtain abortions without parental consent.

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Caritas and bishops launch Migrant Week to help Mexicans in the US

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 8, 2005 (CNA) - Caritas Mexico and the Mexican bishops’ Committee on Social affairs have announced the celebration of Migrant Week in order to help the thousands of illegal Mexicans who want to work in the United Sates.

The initiative is part of a bilateral campaign being carried out by bishops of Mexico and the United States in order to achieve an agreement on immigration between the two countries.

During the last four years, the bishops of Mexico have carried out various activities in order to help migrants, such as the national collection by the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico in order to raise funds for the centers of assistance for migrants.

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