Archive of October 13, 2005

Bishops Synod announces closing document: how to live out the Church's Eucharistic mission

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2005 (CNA) - Yesterday afternoon, as the 11th General Synod of Bishops began to draw to a close in Rome, Cardinal Angelo Scola, relator general of the Assembly presented the "Relatio post disceptationem", or "Report after the Discussion," to over 200 bishops and delegates present. The 2-part document focuses on the new ways to teach the faithful about the nature of the Eucharist, and proper, liturgical means to live out that instruction.

Noting first, that the late John Paul II wished the Synod to focus on the theme: "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church," the cardinal said that the document is not so much "a synthesis, but rather a collage of the interventions, due to the vastness of the themes dealt with and the sensitivities involved."

The introduction of the Relatio, he said, shows "the basic orientation that emerged, in a general sense, from the interventions: overcoming any dualism between doctrine and pastoral care, between theology and liturgy."

The first part, called, "Educating the People of God to Faith in the Eucharist," contains five chapters.

The first, discusses the myriad difficulties encountered by Christians today in believing and celebrating the Eucharist. The cardinal noted that the serious responsibility of pastors in evangelization and new evangelization also emerged in this chapter.

The second chapter outlines the essential contents of the "great mystery" of the Eucharist and lays out the main points arising from the need to educate believers in an integral Eucharistic faith.

Chapter three highlights the great importance given, during the discussions, to the bond between the Eucharist and the seven Sacraments.

The document's fourth chapter looks at the subject of the Eucharist and the priestly people, specifically the rediscovery of the faithful's own sense of belonging to the Church.

This chapter also notes the role of bishops, priests, permanent deacons and special ministers of Communion, parishes and small communities, family, consecrated life, and youth in the Eucharistic mission of the Church.

The fifth chapter then, discusses the fact that to fulfill its missionary mandate, the Church must also be deeply eucharistic.

In part two, called: "Eucharistic Action," there are four chapters relating to the structure and suggested reforms of liturgy, the beneficial influence of Vatican II on the life of the Church, and suggestions for greater focus on 'ars celebrandi' and 'actuosa participatio.'

17 questions close the Relatio, which will now be discussed by Working Groups. Regarding those, Cardinal Scola said that the "work that now awaits all the Synodal Fathers is the most delicate part, the part from which the propositions will emerge, which we will offer to the discernment of the charisma of Peter's Successor."

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Help Catholics live pious, robust faiths, Synod observer tells bishops

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2005 (CNA) - Speaking to the sixteenth assembly of the 11th General Synod of Bishops yesterday afternoon at the Vatican, Leonardo Casco, President of the Honduran, "Alianza Para la Familia" group, urged priests and bishops to joyfully encourage the faithful to live lives of "demanding and robust faiths", particularly in this time of overwhelming ignorance of Church teaching. 

"Given", he lamented, "that reality tells us that a huge number of Catholics in the world today have no exact knowledge of the doctrinal principles of the faith they profess, living what could be called (to use a fashionable term) 'light' Catholicism, it would appear indispensable, 40 years after the conclusion of the Vatican Council II, to find ... a formula giving the lay faithful basic doctrinal, ethical and moral formation."

He also encouraged a new "awareness of the importance of belonging to the unique Church of Christ and the pride, in a positive sense, of being Catholic."

Casco stressed that he considers it "equally necessary that bishops and priests should have no hesitation in joyfully proposing to the lay faithful a life of demanding and robust faith," saying that this would not only refer to "insisting on attendance at Sunday Mass, but also in recommending daily practices of piety, ranging from the offering of works in the morning, to praying the Angelus and the Holy Rosary, to - and why not? - daily Mass whenever possible."

"On the basis of my personal experience," the head of the family group said, "I can say that when these practices of piety are continually proposed and carried out, without respite and without fatigue, the fruits are harvested almost immediately, leading the lay faithful to live in an atmosphere of faith which improves them as much in their personal as in the supernatural lives."

Casco summarized his address to the assembly, labeling it "a call to infuse, with renewed enthusiasm, the lay faithful with the committed spirit of the early Christians, that is to say: recourse to prayer and sacrifice, the daily practice of fundamental norms of piety, and insistence on the duties and rights of all those faithful to apostolate."

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Priest shortage stems from crisis of faith, ignorance of the infinite, not celibacy, say Bishops

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2005 (CNA) - Speaking to reporters at a press conference today following the presentation of a new working document for the General Synod of Bishops, currently being held in the Vatican, bishop delegates said that priest shortages in many parts of the world are not the result of celibacy, as many suggest, but of a crisis of faith and a misunderstanding of the divine.

Present in the Holy See Press office were the Synod's three president delegates, Cardinals Francis Arinze, Juan Sandoval Iñiguez and Telesphore Placidus Toppo, as well as Archbishop John Patrick Foley, president of the Commission for Information of the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, and Bishop Sofron Stefan Mudry O.S.B.M., vice-president of the same commission.

Asked why, given the lack of priests in some regions, the solution of priestly ordination of married men was still being put in doubt,  Cardinal Toppo told reporters that "the real problem is a crisis of faith, the lack of priests is a symptom of that crisis."

Likewise, Cardinal Sandoval cited other reasons for the shortage of priests, namely, "a lack of faith, secularization, and the closing of the window onto infinity."

Ukrainian Bishop Mudry added that, despite the fact that Eastern Catholic Churches admit married priests, this does not solve the problem because "they also have to dedicate time to their families ... and its is difficult for them to move to another area to continue their mission, if their bishop so requests."

The question of celibacy and of a lack of priests has been steadily discussed throughout the course of the Synod, as have other controversial questions like reception of the Eucharist for some non, and estranged Catholics.

Speaking on divorced people being permitted to communion, Cardinal Arinze said that the Church "shows compassion to these people who are suffering, and although they cannot partake of communion - because their position does not reflect the image of unity between Christ and the Church (bridegroom and bride) - they continue to be members of the Church."

As to the question posed by some Synod Fathers of greater homogeneity of enculturation, Cardinal Toppo stressed that this "is essential, and is the expression of a people's faith." Cardinal Sandoval added: "what is important is that hymns, dance, color, etc., help to encourage interior life, to unite oneself with the Lord, and that the ceremony does not become merely a show for entertainment."

Cardinal Arinze said added that he was particularly struck by the desire of Synod participants to more fully transmit the faith to their flocks and "to 'ars celebrandi,' that the faith upon which the people of God have fed in the church may accompany them when they leave the building, and encourage them to share what they have received with others."

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Federal Judge rules Holy See is sovereign state, lawsuit unlikely

Louisville, Ky., Oct 13, 2005 (CNA) - As three men, claiming that the Vatican covered up priestly sexual abuse, continue to push a lawsuit against the head of the Catholic Church, a federal judge in Kentucky has ruled that the Holy See is a sovereign and independent state which enjoys immunity from lawsuits as mandated by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976.

Under the Act, foreign states can only be sued in U.S. courts only under certain, very strict provisions, and only if it can be determined that they have engaged in commercial or harmful activities in the United States.

Judge John G. Heyburn II of the U.S. District Court in Louisville ruled Friday, to the chagrin of some, that the Vatican is an independent state, and not simply a religious organization as the plaintiffs had claimed.

The alleged victims, who claim that they were abused as far back as 1928, have decided to push ahead with the case and serve the Vatican with official court documents.

The Immunities Act requires that court documents be served to Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, and translated into Latin--the official working language of the Holy See.

The plaintiffs plan to comply, but many doubt that the case will come to fruition.

Judge Heyburn’s ruling is also expected to play some role in a similar lawsuit by a Texas group against Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. Although no ruling has yet been made, the U.S. State Department has urged that the case be dropped because the Pope enjoys immunity as head of a foreign state.

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National Right to Life confident in Bush’s Supreme Court pick

Washington D.C., Oct 13, 2005 (CNA) - As religious and pro-life groups continue to grapple with small bits of information from which to form an opinion about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, the National Right to Life committee has come out in support of the president’s personal counsel, citing his good record of appointing quality judges to the bench.

Last week, David N. O'Steen, executive director of the group said that, "President Bush has an excellent record of appointing judges who recognize the proper role of the courts, which is to interpret the law according to its actual text, and not to legislate from the bench.”

“We believe”, he added, “that Harriet Miers is another nominee who will abide by the text and history of the Constitution."

The group cited Marvin Olasky, editor of World magazine, who had spoken to Nathan Hecht, a Republican member of the Texas Supreme Court, and an elder at Mier’s home church in Texas.

The close friend of Miers said that "her personal views are consistent with that of evangelical Christians," and said that he and Miers "went to two or three pro-life dinners in the late 80s or early 90s."

NRTL also noted, according to various press accounts, that “Miers donated $150 to Texans United for Life, a Dallas-based pro-life group, and she was listed as a ‘bronze patron’ in the group's dinner program.”

While reactions to the nominee are currently mixed--and this time, not along party lines--many pro-lifers are skeptical, saying that they would have liked to see a nominee who has more clearly and vocally stood up for life.

As the U.S. Senate has yet to announce when their probing process will begin, one thing is clear: the Miers debate is far from over.

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Archdiocese of Los Angeles discloses 155-page report on priestly sexual misconduct

Los Angeles, Calif., Oct 13, 2005 (CNA) - In an act of good faith, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles posted on its Web site Wednesday a document that includes summaries of the confidential files of 126 priests accused of sexual abuse.

An appeals court ruling last month made it possible for the archdiocese to post the files, but they were only expected to go public in several weeks, reported The Associated Press.

The 155-report on priestly misconduct is an addendum to the archdiocese’s Report to the People of God: Clergy Sexual Abuse Archdiocese of Los Angeles 1930-2003, published Feb. 17, 2004.

The addendum has three main sections. The first provides information on the programs the archdiocese has implemented to protect children and how it is dealing with reports of abuse.

The second section consists of a list of 26 priests with allegations of sexual abuse against them that have come to the archdiocese’s attention since the Appendix to the Report was last updated.

The last section discusses the civil lawsuits against the archdiocese and discloses information from the clergy files.

The 2004 report was released “as an essential part of the archdiocese’s ongoing effort to promote healing and reconciliation for victims, their families, and the entire Church community,” reads the introduction to the addendum. It also deals with how the archdiocese’s handling of the problem evolved throughout the decades “without attempt to excuse mistakes that were made.”

"I think what we have here is a church that is embarrassed, that is contrite, that is ashamed of what happened in the past and is committed to reforming it to the extent that it is humanly possible to do so," archdiocesan attorney Michael Hennigan told the AP.

A total of 245 priests have been accused of abuse in Los Angeles. Of these, about 30 remain in ministry because the allegations were not credible, Hennigan said.

Hennigan told the AP that the archdiocese expects nine cases to go to trial in the next year before the archdiocese's 12 insurers agree to a global settlement. Some attorneys have speculated the settlement could be more than $500 million.

The full document can be downloaded at:

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Latin American founder: faith demands an honest anthropological and cultural perspective

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2005 (CNA) - The founder of the Sodalite Family and other ecclesial movements, Mr. Luis Fernando Figari, addressing the bishops this week gathered in Rome for the Synod on the Eucharist, said the faith demands an honest anthropological and cultural perspective, as well as vigilance so that the nostalgia for the infinite and the reconciliation of man are not overshadowed the substitutes offered by the world.

During his remarks, Figari described some of the fundamental issues related to the Eucharist, such as the need to deepen “the appreciation of the loving and freely offered sacrifice of the Son of Mary, the awareness of what the miracle of the Real Presence means, of how the aspect of the Sacramental Sacrifice is lived out, the participation in Sunday Mass, the relationship between Penance and Communion, the Adoration of the Lord Jesus who remains present in the Most Holy Sacrament as Emmanuel, the ars celebrandi and spiritual communion as some thing valuable in itself and the response to painful pastoral situations.”

Likewise, describing the current state of the word, the Peruvian lay founder said that the impact “of functional agnosticism, secularization and many other negative currents that characterize the ‘culture of death’ spur us on to a growing and more fervent new evangelization ad intra Ecclesiae in the face of evident difficulties.”

“The faith,” he continued, “is the foundation that allows us to draw close to the Eucharist and thus it deserves special attention.  It demands an honest anthropological and cultural perspective, as well as attentive vigilance of the process by which the nostalgia for the infinite and the fourfold reconciliation of the human person are not overshadowed by the various substitutes proposed by the ideologies and usages of our times.”

Later on, Figari stated that faith in the gift of the Eucharist “should lead us to constant wonder and to exclaim, ‘My Lord and My God!”

Lastly, the founder of the Sodalite Family said that just as in previous ages, our age has its own challenges to the Christian life and to evangelization.  “But with the help that comes from God, they are not insurmountable.  We must be aware of our frailties, and from there we must open ourselves to the light and strength that comes to our aid, and thus live and witness our hope to the world.”

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ABC program to feature Houston Catholics’ aid to hurricane survivors

Washington D.C., Oct 13, 2005 (CNA) - A new documentary, slated to air soon on ABC, shares the stories of Catholic individuals and communities across the United States, whose Catholic faith propels them to do good works.

“Faith Works: Across the U.S.A. 2005” was produced by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC). It will be offered to ABC affiliates, beginning Oct. 23, to air at their discretion.

The one-hour program is the second installment of the Faith Works series. It features the recent response of the Houston Catholic community to Hurricane Katrina.

In Houston, Hanh Nguyen gives up a vacation in Paris—a college graduation gift from her parents—to help find homes for displaced New Orleans families, and Fr. Mike Amesse of New Orleans’s Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus ministers to his parishioners temporarily housed at the Astrodome.

In Morgan, Minn., a Catholic woman known as the “Garage Grandma” helps anyone who is hungry, sick or in need. Mary Larsen explains how her 30-year “We Care” project, which she operates out of her four-car garage, provides nearly 20,000 lbs of food to more than 150 families each month.

Patty Doyle, executive director of the Chernobyl Children Project USA, explains how host families in Boston continue to provide temporary homes for sick children from the contaminated Chernobyl region while they receive quality health care not available in their homeland.

In East Los Angeles, Jesuit Fr. Greg Boyle speaks about Homeboy Industries, an organization he founded to help young men and women leave gangs and build productive futures.

On Johns Island in coastal South Carolina, Sister of Charity of our Lady of Mercy Mary Joseph Ritter explains how the N.A.I.L.S. (Neighborly Assistance in Living Safely) home-repair program improves the quality of life for families by making their homes safer and more conducive to healthy living.

A list of stations and scheduled air times will be posted on the CCC Web site ( as they become available.

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Catholic radio station honors Terri Schiavo’s parents

Ferndale, Mich., Oct 13, 2005 (CNA) - Michigan Catholic Radio will honor Bob and Mary Schindler, parents of Terri Schiavo, with its 2005 Culture of Life Award this evening.

The Schindlers will speak at WCAR 1090 AM’s seventh anniversary gala at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center about their ongoing advocacy for disability rights through the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, which they established.   

Over nearly 20 years, the Schindlers pursued legal means to preserve the life of their brain-damaged daughter. The fight ended in March, when Terri's feeding tube was removed by court order at the request of her husband, Michael, and over the objections of the Schindler family, who sought to care for Terri themselves.

The evening’s program will also feature video tributes of John Paul II, Terri Schiavo and Fr. Robert Fox of the Fatima Family Apostolate, who is receiving Catholic Radio's Pillar of the Church Award.

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Catholic thought influenced Founding Fathers, expert claims at University of Dallas

Dallas, Texas, Oct 13, 2005 (CNA) - The founding of the United States by mostly Protestant Enlightenment-educated thinkers was subtly influenced by Catholic political thought, claims Scott McDermott of Vanderbilt University.

While colonial leaders did not consciously draw on Catholic political thought, "it is fair to say that they unwittingly reinvented the medieval ideas of popular sovereignty and the natural law tradition, and that they also structured their new governments in a way consistent with Catholic political thought," said McDermott during a recent conference at the University of Dallas.

In fact, McDermott claims that the only Catholic to sign the Declaration, Charles Carroll, brought this Catholic influence to the table, reported the University of Dallas news bulletin.

Since Catholic education was illegal in his home state of Maryland, Carroll received a Catholic education in France from the Jesuits, who influenced Carroll’s political thought in their teaching that man had a right to resist tyranny, McDermott pointed out.

Before the Reformation, people understood common law to be based on natural law, McDermott explained. St. Thomas taught that if a law “conflicts with the law of nature it will no longer be law but rather a perversion of law.” As well, St. Thomas taught that when a ruler becomes a tyrant and forces his citizens to act contrary to natural law sovereignty reverts to the people who must delegate a new sovereign.

Carroll returned to the United States and entered politics after participating in a 1773 newspaper debate on common law, arguing that one must look beyond it to the "clear and fundamental" principles of the English constitution.

His arguments got him noticed by John Adams, who identified Carroll as part of the  pre-revolutionary "mental revolution", during which colonists began to assert their natural rights as human beings rather than as Englishmen.

"The culmination of the American rediscovery of natural law and natural rights is, of course, Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, with its appeal to the ‘Laws of Nature and of Nature's God,’ and its listing of the self-evident natural rights to justify resistance to tyranny," McDermott was quoted as saying.

In 1776, Carroll sent a letter to John Adams, along with Benjamin Franklin, Fr. John Carroll and Samuel Chase, highlighting the need for independence.

Back in Maryland, when Carroll wrote the state’s declaration, he drew on Catholic corporatism, maintained the natural rights of life, liberty, and property, and appealed to God for the declaration's truth, McDermott said.

McDermott added that Carroll's election to congress on July 4, 1776 also helped convince the body politic that Catholics could be patriots, too.

"The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God, still inscribed in our republican institutions, and still clearly legible on American hearts is the best earthly inheritance our ancestors left us," he was quoted as saying.

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Holy See to issue document on prison ministry

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2005 (CNA) - The President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino, announced this week his dicastery is preparing a document on prison ministry and the troubling human and spiritual condition in which millions of prisoners in the world find themselves.

The announcement came during the Synod of Bishops being held in Rome. Cardinal Martino explained that the document is the result of consultation with 80 experts and prison chaplains from over 30 countries, who described “a troubling picture of the human and spiritual conditions” in which prisoners live and which are contrary to the dignity of the human person.

In addition, the cardinal called on bishops to work to guarantee that “prisoners, who are often denied the right to practice their faith, have access to the Eucharist.”

On the other hand, Cardinal Martino denounced “the dramatic state of extreme poverty in which millions of men and women live” despite the increase of wealth in a globalized world.  He said it was truly a worldwide social issue of concern.

The cardinal noted that addressing the relationship between “the Eucharist and political and social charity” does not add up to politicizing the Sacrament, “but rather…to inspiring the social and political dimension of charity.”

He cited the words of John Paul II and noted that faced with a “new millennium that has begun under the spectrum of terrorism and the tragedy of war, Christians are to called upon more than ever to live the Eucharist as a school of peace, as a way to make amends for the injustices in world.”

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Benedict XVI sends blessings to Cubans, visit to country unlikely

Havana, Cuba, Oct 13, 2005 (CNA) - During a visit to Cuba this month, the Archbishop of Genoa, Italy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, conveyed the blessings of Pope Benedict XVI to all Cubans, but said the chances of a papal visit there were remote.

The cardinal also expressed the Pope’s greeting to Cuban president Fidel Castro during a meeting with the leader last Monday.

Speaking to reporters, Cardinal Bertone said a papal visit to Cuba is “difficult for now.  Everyone is inviting him.  He will make his decisions, but he won’t travel like John Paul II.  It’s impossible.”

The cardinal visited Cuba October 3-10 at the invitation of the Diocese of Santa Clara in order to introduce two of his priests who will be helping out in Cuba.

The cardinal’s tour took him to Santiago, where he celebrated Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity. He also met with the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, as well as with the government’s head of Religious Affairs, Caridad Diego, and with Communist party leader Esteban Lazo.

According to the ANSA news agency, Cardinal Bertone said relations between the Vatican and Havana, now in their 70th year, were “good.”  Relations between the two parties “have never been suspended and that is very significant.  Even during the most difficult periods, dialogue has continued, relations between the Pope’s representatives and the Cuban government have continued, and that is very important,” the cardinal said.

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Chilean government rejects bishops’ recommendations on AIDS prevention campaign

Santiago, Chile, Oct 13, 2005 (CNA) - A top Chilean official said this week the government of Chile will not modify its controversial AIDS awareness campaign, which encourages the use of condoms as the only means of protection against the disease.

Eduardo Dockendorff, a top aide of Chile’s president, made the remarks after meeting with the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, Bishop Alejandro Goic. “The campaign has already begun and is in process, and we have no comments or changes in store,” Dockendorff said.

Although he said he welcomed and respected the opinions of the Catholic Church, Dockendorff argued that the commitment of the government is “to the health of the people.”  Ironically he went on to say that he would not follow the advice of Bishop Goic regarding the need to concentrate the campaign on abstinence or fidelity.

The government’s AIDS awareness campaign is being promoted with the slogan, “With regards to sex and AIDS, I have a position: use a condom.”  Two television networks have already refused to air the government spots, and the Catholic Church is promoting its own initiative, which encourages people to get tested for AIDS as well.

Several days ago, the Permanent Committee of the Chilean Bishops Conference issued a statement entitled, “What kind of society do we want?” in which they explained that limiting the message on prevention to solely the use of condoms is an attack on freedom, because more options are not being presented.

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