Archive of October 27, 2005

Historic document on inter-religious relations turns 40, experts gather to discuss future prospects

Vatican City, Oct 27, 2005 (CNA) - Today at the Vatican, religious leaders from around the world are gathering to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Vatican Council II Declaration “Nostra aetate”, translated, “In Our Time”, which sought, among other things, to root out Christian anti-Semitism.

The event, which is being organized by the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, began this morning with a discussion about the particular initiatives and ecumenical events which have characterized the world since Vatican II.

The participants also discussed the development of religious relations between Catholics and Jews and looked at ways to further reciprocal understanding and cooperation between the two faiths.

This afternoon, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, Rabbi David Rosen, international director for inter-religious affairs of the American Jewish Committee, and Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop emeritus of Paris, France, will evaluate the document and consider its prospects for the future.

According to the Vatican, various representatives of international Jewish institutions with which the Holy See commission has worked over these years, as well as members of the Roman Curia and of the diplomatic corps to the Holy See will also take place in the afternoon session.

Pope Paul VI established the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews in 1974 as an organization distinct from, though part of, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The commission, currently led by president Cardinal Walter Kasper, vice president Bishop Brian Farrell L.C, and secretary Fr. Norbert Hofmann S.D.B, aims to promote and encourage relations between Jews and Catholics worldwide, while collaborating with other Christian communities.

Cardinal Kasper said in a recent Vatican Radio interview that the history of Christian-Jewish relations has been "very difficult, complex, torment, even painful." Even today, he said, "we are only at the beginning of the beginning."

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Miers withdraws Supreme Court bid, some pro-lifers breathe sigh of relief

Washington D.C., Oct 27, 2005 (CNA) - Last evening, Harriet Miers, President Bush’s controversial pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, submitted her withdrawal from the running amid heavy criticism, particularly from religious and pro-life groups.

President Bush said that he reluctantly accepted the withdrawal but commended Miers.

He said that it had become clear that “Senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House – disclosures that would undermine a President’s ability to receive candid counsel.”

Critics however, say that because Miers was never a judge, and few of her opinions are public knowledge, there simply wasn’t enough material to determine what kind of Justice she would be.

One pro-life group, Concerned Women for America, called for Miers withdrawal as recently as yesterday. Jan LaRue, chief council for the group said: "We believe that far better qualified candidates were overlooked and that Miss Miers' record fails to answer our questions about her qualifications and constitutional philosophy."

"In fact,” she added, “we find several aspects troubling, particularly her views on abortion and a woman's 'self-determination,' quotas, feminism and the role of judges as social activists. We do not believe that our concerns will be satisfied during her hearing."

Rev. Rob Schenck, head of the National Clergy Council said today that, "We should be grateful to Miss Miers for making a painfully difficult decision. In many ways, this was her ultimate service to the President and to the country. We pray God's very best in her life and for her future."

"We will now”, he said, “prayerfully support a new nominee that will unequivocally fulfill President Bush's promise to appoint judges who strictly interpret the Constitution instead of single-handedly amending it."

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Holy See secretary of State, Msgr. Lajolo undertakes visit to Russia.

Moscow, Russia, Oct 27, 2005 (CNA) -

The Secretary for the relations with States of the Holy See, Msgr. Giovanni Lajolo, is on a official visit to Moscow since yesterday, he will stay there until Sunday. A visit that intends to give witness to the sympathy of the prelate and the Holy See for the Russian people, under strain through the harrowing tragedies of Beslan and more recently of the bombing in Nalcik.

He is to meet Friday with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and hold a separate session with Metropolitan Kirill, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church's foreign relations department.

The Vatican released transcripts of interviews Lajolo gave to two Russian news outlets; he arrived in Moscow on Wednesday and called for upgrading diplomatic relations with the Kremlin.

In these interviews, he prelate expounded on the current difficulties in the relations between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox , and about a hypothetical visit of Benedict XVI to the Russian Federation. He saw it as a  significant ecumenical event that would require a thorough preparation.

But according to the Prelate, the Pope "will never undertake a visit to Russia, that, rather than contributing to a better understanding and concord, could be a motive of tension and discontent."

In the field of the relations of the Holy See and the Russian  Government, Msgr. Lajolo, continued: "It seems evident to me that the current status of the reciprocal representations in Moscow and the Vatican doesn't correspond to the weight which the Holy See attributes to its relations with the Moscow government, nor in the position which the Holy See -- with its 174 apostolic nunziatures and another 20 representatives to international organizations -- has in the world," Lajolo was quoted as saying. "Rather, I think both the parties should work to progress onto full diplomatic relations."

The Holy See and the Soviet Union established official ties in 1990, but they fell short of full diplomatic relations. The Vatican says it and Russia have "relations of a special nature" in which the Kremlin maintains a mission with an ambassador in Rome and the Vatican a papal nuncio in Moscow.

In a separate interview with the Blagovest-Info news agency, Lajolo said the problems with the Russian Orthodox Church could be surpassed and said the Catholic Church in Russia was ready to look into the misunderstandings.

 Pope John Paul II had long sought to visit Russia, and Pope Benedict XVI has continued his outreach to the Orthodox, saying that unifying all Christians was a "fundamental" priority of his pontificate.

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Catholic parish brings outreach to local bars

Manchester, United Kingdom, Oct 27, 2005 (CNA) - Ste. Marie Parish’s commitment to evangelization is taking them out to local bars.

In an effort to reach out to 20- and 30-somethings who don't go to church, the parish has booked four talks at the Strange Brew Tavern in downtown Manchester, reported the Boston Globe. The idea for their new young adult outreach is borrowed from the Theology on Tap campaign started nearly 25 years ago in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Their first presentation, "Naked & Without Shame," is scheduled for tonight and will deal with sexuality, contraception and sex and marriage. The other talks are scheduled for the following three Thursdays and are entitled "Clothed With Love," "It Ain't Easy Being Catholic Today," and "Put Out Into the Deep." This is the first event like this in the Diocese of Manchester.

Many of the parents of today's younger generation never came to church or gave their children values from that experience, says Fr. Marc Montminy.

Fr. Montminy says he recognizes a “hunger for God” in the younger generation. "So they're looking for something," he said. "And they can't find it, because I know they're looking in all the wrong places."

Parishes have identified young adults as a particularly overlooked demographic in the church. In a 2002 report to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, program administrators claimed the average age of worshippers in the U.S. was between 50 and 65.

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Parishioners do their part in preparing for diocesan synod

Allentown, Pa., Oct 27, 2005 (CNA) - In preparation for its upcoming synod, the Diocese of Allentown has begun gathering input from parishioners on a variety of issues, such as consolidating parishes, developing vocations for the priesthood and financing Catholic schools.

The gatherings, called listening sessions, are implicating members of each of the diocese’s 152 parishes. They are meeting in their deaneries. The Lehigh Deanery, which includes 25 parishes met yesterday. The session for the Northampton Deanery, consisting of 28 parishes, will meet Nov. 3, and the 17 parishes of the Carbon Deanery will meet Nov. 7.

Bishop Edward Cullen has already attended some sessions to simply listen to the people.

Fr. David James, general secretary of the Second Synod of the Allentown Diocese, told The Morning Call that turnout at recent listening sessions has been larger than expected and has included a cross-section of the diocese’s cultural groups.

Fr. James encourages Catholics to continue to come out in large number. Catholics have a duty to express their spiritual needs to church leaders, he said. Canon 212 of Church law makes it a baptismal right, he added.

Ideas expressed at the listening sessions will be recorded and turned over to committees of the synod's 59-member General Preparatory Commission, who will present them when the synod convenes on three Saturdays in fall 2006.

There are six committees, which include restructuring and consolidating parishes, strengthening Catholic family life, recruiting clergy, financing Catholic schools, developing catechetical programs and evangelizing youth and young adults.

Though its recommendations are nonbinding, they are meant to influence the bishop as he sets the course of the diocese. The bishop is expected to issue decrees based on synod recommendations and his vision of the diocese's future on Dec. 8, 2006, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

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London cardinal concludes Year of Eucharist with 40-hour devotion

London, England, Oct 27, 2005 (CNA) - Joined by members of the laity, clergy and religious orders, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor opened a 40-hour devotion before the Blessed Sacrament at Westminster Cathedral today.

The Quarant'Ore will conclude the Year of the Eucharist for the archdiocese, reported the Archbishops House. It will bring together the celebration of the Mass, the Divine Office, a Blessed Sacrament procession and the solemn blessing in Benediction in a continuous time of prayer and adoration.

"The Quarant'Ore is a fitting end to the year of the Eucharist," said the cardinal, just returned from the three-week bishops' synod on the Eucharist in Rome. "There is no better way than to spend time in the adoration of the Lord in this amazing Sacrament."

Along with other cardinals, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor was selected to represent Europe on the Post-Synodal Commission. The commission will reflect on the Synod and present propositions to the Pope.

The cardinal celebrated the mass today and will end the 40-hour devotion with another mass on Saturday evening.

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Married couples celebrate jubilee anniversaries with bishop

Arlington, Va., Oct 27, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Paul Loverde led the Diocese of Arlington in a celebration of the dignity of marriage Sunday at the Marriage Jubilee Mass.

Nearly 180 golden and silver jubilarian couples renewed their wedding vows at the annual event, celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, reported the Arlington Herald.

"You are witness to the dignity of marriage. You are witness that a marriage takes three – husband, wife and Jesus," said Bishop Loverde Arlington. The jubilee mass has been celebrated in the diocese for the last 28 years and is sponsored by the Office for Family Life.

The gathering was very diverse with couples of many ages and nationalities. There were readings in Hispanic, and many of those celebrating wore festive regional costumes.

“Lord, increase and consecrate the love which these couples have for one another,” the bishop petitioned. “The wedding rings they once exchanged are a sign of their fidelity," said the bishop.”

After the jubilarians renewed their vows, the bishop presented each couple with a certificate.

"When the bishop asked us to renew our vows, it really was a special moment, paramount to the day of our marriage," said Barbara Nestro, married for 50 years. "My husband, Joseph, and I are ready for many more years of marriage."

The mass was followed by a reception, organized by the Council of Catholic Women.

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Scientologists use misleading stress test to recruit new members in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Oct 27, 2005 (CNA) - The Scientology sect, which boasts of such members as Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta, has set up a recruitment site in the Spanish city of Castello, offering a free stress test to those passing by in an attempt to gain new members.

With a large sign reading, “Do you want to know if you suffer from stress?”, two members of the sect offered passersby a copy of Dianetics—the foundation of Scientology’s doctrine—and a stress test for $12.

The “E meter,” the machine used for the test, indicates whether the stress is a result of work, health or relationships. For greater comfort during the test, members provide volunteers a futuristic looking couch on which to lie down.

“This is not a machine that measures tension, like others, but rather is based on complex mathematical operations too long to explain right now,” said Enrique, a local recruitment leader.

According to a pamphlet recruiters distribute, a course in dianetics costs $36, while continuing on to study how to become a dianetic auditor costs $135, and further studies at the advanced level cost an additional $241.

Ron Hubbard, author of the book Dianetics and founder of Scientology, maintains that individuals can free themselves of mental disorders and phobias by facing the traumatic incidents or “engrams” that block one’s mind.

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Cardinal Sodano hopeful for end of tensions with China

Rome, Italy, Oct 27, 2005 (CNA) - During the inauguration of a new conference center at the Gregorian University in Rome, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, expressed his hope that difficulties between the Catholic Church and the Chinese government would soon be overcome.  Alluding to China’s refusal to allow four bishops to attend the Synod of Bishops, the cardinal said the Holy See hopes “these tensions will end soon.”

“The bishops of the whole world gathered at the Synod were saddened at not being able to meet with their brothers from China, the four brother bishops invited by the Pope,” the cardinal stated.  “Nevertheless, we hope that soon, just has the Pope has written, they can come to Rome and meet with us in a fraternal embrace,” the cardinal added.

“History moves on, and I think we will soon overcome these difficulties,” Cardinal Sodano continued.  The Holy See “has always made know it is prepared to dialogue, to initiate contacts, to begin to explain its traditions.”

The cardinal also noted that “we must always insist on the concept that the Church is one, throughout the world, in all cultures, in all nations, and governments do not have the right to tell people how they must live their faith.”

Taiwan: diplomatic relations in jeopardy

On the other hand, the Minister of Foreign Relations in Taiwan, Mark Chen, acknowledged this Wednesday for the first time that diplomatic ties between Taiwan and the Vatican are “in jeopardy.”

According to Chen, the Taiwanese ambassador to the Holy See is following closely “the signs of a possible worsening of bilateral ties” with the only diplomatic ally of Taiwan in Europe.

In China, where an estimated 30 million Catholics live, the government has demanded that the Vatican break off ties with Taiwan before formal diplomatic relations between Rome and Beijing can be established.

This week, Senegal broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan and reestablished them with China, making it 25 the number of countries that recognize Taiwan.

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Bishops demands investigations into murder of priest in Tijuana

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 27, 2005 (CNA) - Bishop Rafael Romo Muñoz of Tijuana, Mexico, said Wednesday he is not afraid of the results of an investigation into the death of Father Luis Velasquez, who was killed on October 25, because the priest “had nothing negative in his background” and was always a man dedicated to the work of the Church.

“Father Luis Velasquez has nothing negative in his background.  Rather, he was a good man, a promoter of social action and dedicated not only to the parish where he was assigned, but also to his work at the Diocesan Tribunal,” Bishop Romo said during a press conference.

The bishop called on authorities and the general populace to unite in confronting the violence that has swept Tijuana.

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Church conference in Germany underscores importance of Pope in today’s world

Konigstein, Germany, Oct 27, 2005 (CNA) - During the opening of a conference on Pope Benedict XVI, the chaplain of the international Catholic association Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Joaquin Allende, emphasized the importance of the Pope’s presence and work in today’s society.

Father Allende said Benedict XVI is “a Pope for the times in which agreements must give way to convictions” and that therefore Catholics ought to be grateful to the Holy Spirit, “who has given us a Pope with the rare gift of going directly to the mystery of the human person, while at the same respecting his freedom.”

The presence of the Pontiff has been one of the central themes at the annual “Peoples in Europe” conference, taking place in the German city of Passau.

Attendees at the conference include former Czech president Vaclav Havel, former Polish president Lech Walesa, and German president Horst Köhler.

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