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Archive of October 28, 2005

Churches continue major relief efforts for hurricane survivors

Washington D.C., Oct 28, 2005 (CNA) - Nearly two months after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, religious groups continue to feed, clothe and house survivors, and they are committed to providing aid for as long as necessary.

Shelley Borysiewicz of Catholic Charities USA told the Washington Times her group has raised a record $63 million to support the disaster relief work of its local agencies, $31 million more than what it raised after 9/11.

Its 70 local agencies have concentrated on getting refugees into housing that could become permanent, such as vacant apartments or in buildings owned by the group.

For example, it has resettled 130 refugees in St. Louis through its Adopt-a-Family housing program, which pays the first month's rent and utility costs for up to six months, and helps families find other necessities. The agency in St. Louis also organized a job fair. A similar resettlement program exists in Los Angeles and Lansing, Mich. It has provided medical care and prescription medicines.

Temporary housing for hurricane refugees is a major component of the relief services that religious groups provide. By the end of September, relief workers estimated that 500,000 people had taken refuge in housing provided by faith-based institutions, reported the Times.

Borysiewicz says Catholic Charities expects to be providing aid to the families for the next three to five years.
 
Joe Conway of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief said he expects the same. He said his organization has provided more than $11 million worth of in-kind labor since the hurricanes.

The Southern Baptists have been cooking meals for the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and their own relief efforts since the hurricane hit, totaling more than 9.3 million hot meals up to Tuesday. They have also provided more than 65,000 mobile showers for those without water and a variety of other services, including childcare and debris removal.

Nearly 16,000 volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have also volunteered to clear storm debris in Louisiana and Mississippi. Demand for these services is high, and many people have been quoted fees of $25,000 for the same work the Mormons are doing for free, reported the Times.
 
Numerous other churches across the country have been fundraising to help meet the needs in the stricken Gulf Coast. Some have even sent trailers filled with nonperishable food, bottled water and other staples to hurricane victims.

About 500 Samaritan's Purse volunteers have also has provided medical teams to care for refugees in shelters and will buy 300 mobile homes for displaced families. It has also donated $25 million toward home repairs.

The churches’ contributions have not gone unnoticed. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Sept. 26 it would reimburse churches and other religious groups that have provided food, emergency shelter, medical aid and supplies to hurricane victims.

The Times reported that FEMA officials said this would be the first time the government has made large payments to religious organizations for assisting in the aftermath of a domestic natural disaster.

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Catholic Charities opposes budget measure, supports parental notification

Sacramento, Calif., Oct 28, 2005 (CNA) - Catholic Charities of California announced Oct. 26 that it will oppose Proposition 76, which drastically changes the California budget process, and support Proposition 73, the Parental Notification Initiative.

It says Prop 76 would introduce “autopilot functions” in the budget that would automatically limit services for the poor.

"Rather than set down these automatic regulations, we encourage the Governor and the Legislature to work together to address the very real fiscal challenges faced by California," said Steve Pehanich, executive director of the board of directors.

At the same time, the organization voiced its support for Proposition 73, the Parental Notification Initiative, which would require that parents be informed before their underage daughters get an abortion. 

"Children can't leave school property for a field trip without parental permission, but they can leave in an unknown person's car and undergo an abortion without permission or notification," said Pehanich. "Where is the logic in that?"

Currently all medical procedures except abortion require parental involvement, from tattoos and body piercings to receiving an aspirin or cold medicine at school.

"It is illogical to acknowledge the necessity of involving parents in important decisions about their children, but exclude one procedure. An abortion has the potential of imposing a deep emotional impact and a child should not have to go through that without a parent's knowledge," Pehanich pointed out.
 
"Government policy ought to affirm and encourage the growth of parent-child relationships, recognizing that the vast majority of parents place the well-being of their children above any other consideration" said Pehanich.

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Nonprescription morning-after pill harmful, USCCB tells FDA

Abuja, Nigeria, Oct 28, 2005 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops are urging the Food and Drug Administration to reject all applications to make Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill, available over the counter.

In an Oct. 27 letter to the FDA, Mark Chopko, USCCB general counsel, said Plan B “is one instance of a drug in which over-the-counter availability, either generally or to a subpopulation, would be injurious to many—children and adults, as well as health care providers and professionals.”

On August 26, the FDA invited public comment on the circumstances under which an active ingredient may be simultaneously marketed in both prescription and over-the-counter form. The notice of proposed rulemaking came in response to an earlier proposal to make Plan B available over the counter to persons over the age of 16.

Chopko included the USCCB’s five reasons for their opposition. First, if Plan B became available over-the-counter, it would make it easier for minors to obtain the drug without a physician’s or parent’s involvement.

“A minor could procure the drug indirectly through a non-parental adult, or might obtain it directly as a result of lax enforcement by the pharmacy, misrepresentation, or theft,” the bishops argue.

The bishops also fear that girls and women will use the pill multiple times, rather than as directed, to the detriment of their health. Third, over-the-counter availability will undermine efforts to encourage parents’ participation in decisions affecting the health of their dependent minor children.

Fourth, over-the-counter availability does nothing to educate women about the drug and its implications. As such, it may put into question whether a user’s consent will be truly informed.

“Girls (and many adult women, for that matter) may be unaware that in some circumstances Plan B can have an abortifacient effect by interfering with the survival of a newly conceived human being,” the bishops said. “Over-the-counter use … will only increase the likelihood of continued ignorance about the drug’s mechanisms, which in turn affects whether consent to its use is truly informed.

Finally, over-the-counter availability “will likely compound the pressure already being placed upon health care providers and professionals to violate their conscience.” The bishops noted that the question has already been raised about whether or not pharmacists could refuse to sell the drug according to their conscience.

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Orthodox-Catholic consultation reviews relations between churches

Washington D.C., Oct 28, 2005 (CNA) - More than a dozen clerics and theologians gathered in Washington last week to consider and discuss the advancements in Orthodox-Catholic relations, in particular in the last 40 years.

The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation held its 69th meeting Oct. 20-22 at Georgetown University. It was co-chaired by Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati and Bishop Savas of Troas, the Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. Bishop Savas substituted for Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh, who is still recovering from a recent fall.

Fr. Brian Daley, SJ, began the session with a public lecture entitled “Forty Years of Orthodox-Catholic Relations.” He provided the history and significance of the consultation’s achievements in recent decades.

Participants continued their reflection with an examination of two texts. The first was the 1991 Agreed Statement of the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue in France entitled, “The Roman Primacy Within the Communion of Churches.” The second was an article by Jean-Marie Tillard, “The Mission of the Bishop of Rome: What is Essential, What is Expected?”

In the second theological session, participants heard a paper by Fr. Thomas FitzGerald, “The Orthodox-Oriental Orthodox Theological Dialogue,” and one by Fr. Ronald Roberson, “The Contemporary Relationship of the Catholic Church with the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Assyrian Church of the East.” Rev Nicholas Apostola presented a paper, entitled “Primacy in a Pluralistic Context”, on Saturday morning.

Numerous issues were addressed during an information session Friday evening, including the announcement of readiness of the Orthodox Church to resume the International Dialogue; developments in relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia; the transfer of the headquarters of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from Lviv to Kiev; the election of Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem; the possible visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Constantinople; and the inclusion of two Greek Catholics in the “Synaxis of the Carpathian Saints” issued by Metropolitan Nicholas of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese.

Four new members were also welcomed. The new Orthodox members are Dr. John Barnet, associate professor of New Testament at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y., and Rev Dr Theodore Pulcini, associate professor of religion at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The new Catholic members are Sr. Susan Wood, SCL, professor in the department of theology at Marquette University, and Vito Nicastro, associate director of the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs in Boston.

The 70th meeting of the Consultation is scheduled for June 5-7, 2006, in Boston.

The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), the U.S. and Canadian bishops jointly sponsor the event. Since its establishment in 1965, the Consultation has issued 22 agreed statements, which are available at: http://www.usccb.org/seia/dialogues.htm

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12 year-old girl writes paper on sex-ed for teens

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 28, 2005 (CNA) - “I would like to know how they fool people” begins a paper by 12 year-old Mercedes Eugenia Cardinali in which she questions the prevalent sex-ed programs in Argentina.

In her paper, which won third place in a literary contest in Buenos Aires, Mercedes wondered why children are taught about “methods of abortion and the use of condoms” in schools and why “each Friday or Saturday night, adolescents tend to engage in sexual relations with someone they do not know, making sure a baby is not conceived and trusting completely in contraceptives.”  She said such faith in contraception is the “cause of the ignorance inside of each person, since research has shown that these methods are not 100% effective.  Whether you believe it or not, they do not protect you from AIDS or from getting pregnant,” she continued.

Referring to abortion, Mercedes wrote that although “for some people it is very easy, after reading a book on the subject I would never do it” because abortion is nothing less than the “killing of a child, because he cannot escape from the womb, and he is much more vulnerable because his body has not yet fully developed.”

The 12-year old Mercedes just finished seventh grade and said that her sole intention in writing the paper was to get people to listen and “reconsider if at one time they thought about using these methods” and to clarify that issues related to sexuality and abortifacient contraceptives should be understood at an early age.  “The best thing is to get married with the person you truly love, both for their physical beauty and their way of thinking,” she wrote, so that when “you want to have sexual relations, you can find the person who knows how to say yes at the altar, and then it won’t matter if you get pregnant; rather, you and your spouse will be happy.”

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Report on immigration: world religious should help to overcome cultural differences

Rome, Italy, Oct 28, 2005 (CNA) - During the presentation of a report on “Immigration and Globalization,” the President of Caritas Italy, Archbishop Francesco Montenegro, said religious communities should help immigrants overcome possible cultural differences in the countries where they settle.

“The different religions should not divide but rather they should help people to overcome the eventual cultural counter positions and neutralize the disintegrating force of ideologies,” the archbishop said, speaking of the new geography of the world’s religions.

The 2005 Caritas Report on Immigration Statistics notes that the flow of immigrants is a part of the globalization process that calls for the creation of an society open to the co-existence of various cultures in the countries of destination. 

The European Commissioner of Justice and Freedom, Franco Frattini, underscored that the report brings out “the notable influence immigrants have in all sectors of public and economic life” in Europe.

In the case of Italy, the report notes that out of every 10 immigrants, 4 our Romanian.  Significant numbers of immigrants are also coming from Albania, Morocco and Poland.  Close to half of the immigrants are Christian (20.3% Orthodox, 22.6% Catholic), while Muslims make up 33%, Jews .3% and those who practice Eastern religions 4.3%.

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Communion for divorced and remarried “closed case,” says cardinal

Rome, Italy, Oct 28, 2005 (CNA) - In an interview published Thursday in the Italian daily La Reppublica, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said the issue of no Communion for the divorced and remarried is closed.

“The case is closed. There is no doubt.  The divorced and remarried cannot receive Communion.  It makes no sense to raise hopes that the position will be changed,” he said.

The cardinal noted that these cases represent “painful and dramatic situations, and they are a wound that we make our own.  But everything has been considered with pastoral prudence and clarity of teaching.”

Those who have divorced and entered into a new union do not have “ a true marriage,” the cardinal maintained, “and they are in an objective situation that is against the will of God and does not allow for them to approach Communion.  Therefore I don’t think it is acceptable to discuss this issue as if it were an open question, as if the doors were left open for the future, creating hopes of a possible change.”

The cardinal said that from a doctrinal perspective the reason is clear.  He noted the different biblical passages on marriage and referred to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states, “The Church does not have the power to go against divine wisdom.”  He also recalled Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, in which he called for greater pastoral care for those in such situations, while at the same time reiterating that such unions are a violation of the commandments.

Cardinal Lopez Trujillo’s comments came on the heels of statements by Cardinal Waltar Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, who said that more discussion was needed on the issue.

“Cardinal Kasper is an important person, a theologian.  I think he wanted to discuss the pastoral needs of divorced and remarried couples and what he said was not well understood.”

Cardinal Lopez Trujillo noted that Pope Benedict XVI, when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sent a letter to Cardinal Kasper and two other German bishops in which he pointed out that “no modification of this doctrine is possible.”

“The letter was signed by Cardinal Ratzinger and approved by John Paul II.  You cannot put the current Pope in contradiction with Cardinal Ratzinger.  No modification of this doctrine is possible.  The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith never left a door open.  It is not a disputed or disputable question,” he stated.

For this reason, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo does not believe the Pope will reverse the prohibition of Communion for the divorced and remarried in his expected post-synod exhortation.  “The Pope has stated with great clarity that it is not possible for them to approach the Eucharist.  He has said that they should be attended to with mercy.”

Cardinal Lopez Trujillo also explained that the recent Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist “left no room for doubt about the teaching of the Church in their approved proposals.  It is not an open question.  When the Lord commands, the bishops and the faithful must obey.  One should not expect Benedict XVI to go against Pope Wojtyla or against the teaching that has been calmly accepted by the Church, and known to us all.”

Those who have divorced and remarried can receive Communion, the cardinal clarified, “if they promise to live as brother and sister and refrain from sexual relations.”

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Benedict XVI to participate in beatification of Spanish martyrs

Vatican City, Oct 28, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will participate in the concluding rites of the beatification of a group of Spanish martyrs this Saturday at St. Peter’s Basilica.

According to Vatican Radio, the Pope will be present at the end of the beatification of Sister Maria de los Angeles Ginard Marti of the Congregation of the Zealous Sisters of Eucharistic Adoration; Fathers Josep Tápies, Pascual Araguás Guardia, Silvestre Arnau Pascuet, José Boher Foix, Francisco Castell Brenuy and Pedro Martret Moles, of Spain, and Father Jose Juan Perot Juanmarti of France, all of the Diocese of Urgell.

At the request of the Holy Father, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, will preside at the Mass and read the apostolic letter of beatification decreed by the Pope.

After venerating the relics of the new blesseds, Pope Benedict XVI will address those present and impart the Apostolic Blessing.

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Legal protection of all innocent human life, promotion of the dignity of each human person must be ultimate political goal for Catholics, says new document on political action

Phoenix, Ariz., Oct 28, 2005 (CNA) - “The ultimate political goal for Catholics must be the achievement of public policies and laws that result in the legal protection of all innocent human life and that promote the dignity of each human person without exception and compromise”, states a new document setting guidelines for political action.

The document was published today by the Catholic Leaders Conference (CLC). It first reminded the importance of participation in the public debate, asserting a specific Catholic tradition in political action, and values this participation as a moral obligation.
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The first guideline the document stressed is the existence of a  hierarchy between some issues that arise in political debate. Therefore the statements reasserts that “the first obligation of government is the protection of innocent human life from conception to natural death." Therefore setting life issues, such as – direct abortion, euthanasia, and the killing of unborn life for medical research, as non-negotiable

On other issues, the document insists on the importance of Catholic principles such as compassion, justice and charity that would serve as guidelines on issues like taxes, education, foreign policy and immigration reform. It acknowledges that diversity of opinion that could occur as a consequence.

In this respect it reminded the distinction made by the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, to the American Bishops when he stated:  “There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

Finally it states the part the church hierarchy should play in the political realm.” Catholic priests and bishops first and foremost are shepherds of souls. The role of these shepherds is to instruct and to remind voters, candidates and public officials of the moral obligations and social principles that should guide their political action.”

“The political goal of  Catholics into politics is to achieve public policies and laws that result in the legal protection of all innocent human life and that promote the dignity of each human person without exception and compromise” it concludes.

To read full text of document: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=97

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Pope Benedict advocates for respect of rights and identity of women, in message for upcoming World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

Vatican City, Oct 28, 2005 (CNA) - In a message made public today, Pope Benedict called for “Hope, courage, love and 'creativity in charity' regarding the widespread phenomenon of migrations.

The message was published for the upcoming 92nd World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated on January 15, 2006, and has the theme of "Migrations, sign of the times."

Among other questions and challenges, Pope Benedict stressed the recent trend of an increasing part of the phenomenon involving women, saying " female emigration tends to become more and more autonomous. Women cross the border of their homeland alone in search of work in another country. Indeed it often happens that the migrant woman becomes the principal source of income for her family. It is a fact that the presence of women is especially prevalent in sectors that offer low salaries.”

Pope Benedict called on  Christians “to dedicate themselves to assuring just treatment for migrant women out of respect for their femininity in recognition of their equal rights."

In another aspect, the pontiff wished to stress the problem of human trafficking, especially women. “In some cases there are women and girls who are destined to be exploited almost like slaves in their work, and not infrequently in the sex industry too.”

As Pope John Paul II did,  Pope Benedict denounced what he touted as “the widespread hedonistic and commercial culture which encourages the systematic exploitation of sexuality. He then vowed for a “whole program of redemption and liberation from which Christians cannot withdraw."

Finally, Pope Benedict gave a message to all Christians regarding this phenomenon, calling for “Hope, courage, love and 'creativity in charity' ..and Christian efforts made to help these brothers and sisters in their suffering.”

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‘Coping with adversity and an unshakable faith in Jesus Christ’, as requirement for Catholic leaders, says Phoenix Bishop Olmsted

Phoenix, Ariz., Oct 28, 2005 (CNA) - “Coping with adversity and an unshakable faith in Jesus Christ,” should be a requirement for Catholic leaders, said Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted during the first working session of the Catholic Leadership Conference(CLC). 

Bishop Olmsted was talking to some 150 Catholic leaders attending  the CLC. The first part of the conference wished to answer to the question “What makes a Catholic leader?”

The Catholic Leadership Conference is an organization aimed at encouraging cooperation and collaboration among leaders of Catholic ministries while providing venues for those leaders to exchange ideas, strengthen personal relationships and take unified action.
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Bishop Olmsted referred at length on the example of Pope John Paul II. “Pope John Paul’s great respect for the human person and his love to God and humanity were, without doubt, how he coped with adversity,” said the Bishop, citing as an example “the fill forgiveness” he showed to the man who tried to assassinate him, Mehemet Ali Agca.

He continued on the adversities, the former pontiff faced through his life. “After loosing his parents at a young age, after suffering the trials of the invasion of his country, John Paul found strength in Christ and his blessed Mother,” he added.

The Bishop also cited the example of St Thomas More and asked the CLC participants: “to face opposition and not to loose heart, is not this the virtue of a Catholic leader? Jesus, in fact, before the threats to his life, responded by asking what is the purpose of his life.. and it was precisely to give it away.”

The Bishop of Phoenix explained later that the second virtue of a true Catholic leader, “the unshakable trust in God's unconditional love” is based on a simple, yet radical conviction: “if God is with us, who can be against us?” “Knowing that the Lord is in our side, we can accept any suffering except sin,” he concluded.

On Thursday, CLC participants discussed, in two separate sessions, How to keep and elect new pro-life legislators,” and “”passing the marriage amendment.”
In another speech, given by Bishop Vasa, he explained how lay people should assume responsibility in the management of local churches, but at the same time explained that such collaboration requires a strong spirit of communion and fidelity to the Church’s teachings.

“Without your commitment and your presence in the world as salt, yeast and leaven, your pastors can do very little to strengthen the Church, and your bishop even less,” Bishop Vasa said.

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