Boston, Mass., Dec 5, 2005 (CNA) - Close to 100 Catholic leaders have signed and sent a letter to Archbishop Sean O’Malley of Boston, demanding that Catholic Charities uninvite pro-abortion Boston City Mayor Tom Menino as the honoree of its Christmas fundraising dinner, Dec. 9.
The signatories, mostly prominent business people and grassroots leaders, cite a 2004 document of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which says Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of fundamental Catholic moral principles.
The letter begins by commending the archbishop for withdrawing from the dinner honoring the pro-abortion Catholic politician but asks him to take further action, reported Deal Hudson in the e-letter “The Window”.
The letter also urges the archbishop to replace Fr. Bryan Hehir, the head of Boston's Catholic Charities, with new leadership if the priest refuses to name a new honoree.
"It is time to put 'Catholic' beliefs and teachings back into Catholic Charities of Boston," reads the letter.
The mayor said the people who were calling for him to be uninvited were motivated by "animosity" and lacked "charity." Menino interpreted the archbishop’s withdrawal from the dinner as necessitated by the U.S. bishops conference, reported Hudson.
In a Boston Globe article, Menino said: "The Church should teach to the faithful but should not interfere in issues that involve the civil rights of the entire population." He also said: ''When the Pope speaks on doctrine that is absolute. I don't think choice and gay marriage are doctrine."
The two activists, whose protest spurred the archbishop's actions, are C.J. Doyle of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts and Carol McKinley of Boston's Faithful Voice.
Beijing, China, Dec 5, 2005 (CNA) - Sixteen nuns, who were defending a church building from attacks, were severely wounded when 40 uniformed young men armed with sticks raided the church and beat them.
The U.S.-based China Aid Association, citing "reliable sources," said the young men rushed into a Xi'an City church Nov. 22 at about 6 p.m. Two hours later, a bulldozer started tearing down the church.
China Aid said officials from the government's religious affairs bureau came to the site, and the destruction was halted until the next evening.
The nuns suffered severe wounds, including eye injuries and broken legs. Four remain in hospital.
China Aid described the attackers as "government-hired gangsters."
Nonprofit organizations have repeatedly documented attacks against Catholic and Protestant churches in China that are not officially registered with the government.
Amman, Jordan, Dec 5, 2005 (CNA) - Catholic Patriarchs of the East have condemned terrorism and affirmed the right of the Palestinian people to live side by side with Israel.
The patriarchs took this position in a statement issued Dec. 2 at the conclusion of their 15th annual conference at the Latin Church in Amman.
Patriarch Michael Sabah read the final statement, saying that misunderstandings about religion and the absence of real democracy are the reasons related to terrorism in the region. The statement made specific reference to the recent terrorist attacks on three hotels in Amman. The statement also said occupation and all other forms of violence must end between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
It underlined the right of Iraqis to live in peace and security, noting the importance of international efforts to end this humanitarian tragedy
The people of the Arab region suffer from hunger, frustration, unemployment, and occupation, said the statement. It urged Christians to cooperate with all sides to spread values of freedom, democracy, pluralism, human rights, tolerance, mutual respect, justice, and peace.
Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2005 (CNA) - While millions of Americans are rightly lobbying for an end to the death penalty, which has sanctioned the execution of 1,000 people since 1976, what ought to be done regarding abortion, which has taken an average of 1,000 lives every seven hours since Roe v. Wade? Ethicist Nikolas Nikas, Esq., asked this provocative question in an opinion piece in last week’s National Review Online.
The president and general counsel of the Bioethics Defense Fund noted that the 1,000th sanctioned execution took place in the U.S. Dec. 2, “despite the opposition of tens of millions of American citizens.” The public interest legal organization advocates for human rights on the issues of cloning and embryonic stem-cell research, abortion and assisted suicide.
Nikas said executions have taken place in the U.S. since the 1976 Supreme Court decision that sanctioned the death penalty “despite the overwhelming evidence …, establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that such acts, immoral to the core, only serve to corrupt civil society and do nothing to solve the nation's most pressing social concerns.”
He noted, however, that this same number is reached several times every day when it comes to abortion. About 1.3 million babies are aborted each year in the U.S., which is about 3,500 each day, he said.
“If averaged out over a 24-hour period, the 1,000th victim of abortion occurs approximately every seven hours of every day, 365 times a year!” he stated. “Every hour, approximately 146 unborn boys and girls are deprived of the most basic of all human rights: the right to exist.”
“So, if 1,000 dead from capital punishment since 1976 deserves to be marked, what should we as a society do to mark the approximately 37,000,000 dead from abortion in that same period?” Nikas asks, inviting readers to ponder the issue. “If capital punishment should be abolished for ending the life of 1,000 human beings, then what should we do with the practice of human abortion that kills millions?”
Vatican City, Dec 5, 2005 (CNA) - On Sunday, before his weekly Angelus prayer, delivered from the window of his private study, Pope Benedict stressed the need for religious freedom, noting the long road a head toward this right being universally recognized.
As he marked the second week of Advent, the Pope said that "the ecclesial community, as it prepares to celebrate the great mystery of the Incarnation, is called to rediscover and deepen its relationship with God. ... God awaits a response of love.”
“…over these days,” he continued, “the liturgy presents us with the perfect model of such a response in the Virgin Mary, whom we will contemplate next Thursday, December 8, in the mystery of the Immaculate Conception."
Highlighting the fact that Mary "is an example for believers who's lives are spent searching for God," the Pope observed that, "to this theme, as well as to that of the relationship between truth and freedom, Vatican Council II dedicated careful attention."
This, he pointed out, resulted in the Declaration "Dignitatis Humanae", on religious freedom.
This fundamental human right, the Pope said, "derives from the special dignity of man who, among all the creatures of the earth, is the only one capable of establishing a free and conscious bond with his Creator."
"Vatican Council II thus reaffirms the traditional Catholic doctrine according to which man, in as much as he is a spiritual creature, can know truth and, thus, has the duty and the right to seek it.”
“On the basis of this supposition,” Benedict added, “the Council insists on religious freedom, which must be guaranteed both for individuals and for communities, while respecting the legitimate needs of public order."
The Holy Father stressed the fact that, as it hits its fortieth birthday, this conciliar teaching "is still highly pertinent.”
“In fact,” he said, “religious freedom is still far from being effectively guaranteed everywhere; in some cases it is denied for religious or ideological reasons; at other times, though recognized on paper, in reality it is obstructed by political power or, in a more underhand way, by the cultural ascendancy of agnosticism and relativism."
The Pope closed his remarks calling "for all men and women to be able to fully realize their religious vocation, which is inscribed in their very being."
He also noted, after the Angelus, that December 9 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Disabled Persons. On this occasion, he said, "I invite everyone to ever greater efforts in support of integrating disabled persons into society, the world of work and the Christian community, recalling that all human life is worthy of respect and must be protected from conception to its natural end.”
He guaranteed his own support and prayer to this cause and to “all those who dedicate themselves to this immense task."
Vatican City, Dec 5, 2005 (CNA) - On Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI met with representatives of Latin American family and life groups, to whom he stressed the value of human life in the face of new ethical issues, and the need for faithfulness, and openness to life within marriage.
The group was made up of presidents of the Latin American Episcopal Commissions for the Family and Life, meeting in Rome over the weekend. The meeting was promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Family, headed by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo.
Recalling the great interest of his predecessor, John Paul II, on the pastoral care of the family, Benedict said that "for my part, I share this same concern which to a large extent affects the future of the Church and of peoples."
"Your duty as pastors," he said, "is to present the extraordinary value of marriage in all its richness; as a natural institution, it is 'the heritage of humanity.'“
“At the same time,” he added, “its elevation to the great dignity of Sacrament must be contemplated with gratitude and wonder, as I myself recently pointed out when I said that 'the value of Sacrament that marriage assumes in Christ means that the gift of creation was raised to the grace of redemption.”
The grace of Christ is not external to man's nature, it causes it no harm, but, in elevating it beyond its own limits, liberates and restores it'."
The Holy Father went on, saying that “the total commitment of husband and wife, with its particular characteristics of exclusivity, faithfulness, duration in time and openness to life, lies at the basis of that community of love and life that is marriage.”
“Today,” he said, “we must announce with renewed enthusiasm that the gospel of the family is a way to human and spiritual fulfillment, in the certainty that the Lord is always present, in His grace."
‘Children express wealth of a family’
The Pope then went on to address a number of life-related issues, including embryonic stem cell research and abortion, noting that new attitudes are putting the fundamental right to life into question.
“The elimination of the embryo”, he said, “is being facilitated, as is its use in the name of scientific progress which, in not recognizing its own limits and not accepting all the moral principles that enable the dignity of the person to be protected, becomes a threat to human beings themselves."
Benedict also noted that "in Latin America, as elsewhere, children have the right to be born and to grow up in the bosom of a family founded on marriage," and emphasized that children are an expression of the wealth of a family.
"For this reason," he said, "it is necessary to help everyone to realize the intrinsic evil of the crime of abortion which, in attacking human life at its beginnings, is also an act of aggression against society itself.”
“Consequently,” he pointed out, “politicians and lawmakers, as servants of the social good, have the duty to defend the fundamental right to life, the fruit of God's love."
Concluding his address, the Pope said that "there can be no doubt that pastoral work in such a delicate and complex field involving so many different disciplines and dealing with such fundamental questions, calls for the careful training of" those who administer it, as well as of the lay people who "dedicate their energies to serving families."
Vatican City, Dec 5, 2005 (CNA) - On Saturday, Pope Benedict met with his second group of Polish bishops, in Rome for their ad limina visit, whom he charged with renewed pastoral care for priests, seminarians, religious and the laity.
This morning, the Pope received the second group of prelates from the Conference of the Polish Episcopate, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.
In his remarks to them the Pope stressed the importance of the new evangelization which, he said was one of the major themes and first initiatives of his predecessor, John Paul II.
"Under his guidance”, Benedict said, “we entered this new millennium of Christianity, with an awareness of the constant validity of his call to a new evangelization."
Stressing the primary role of bishops in the duty of evangelization, the Pope pointed out that they are also responsible for "quality of formation in seminaries."
He asked them to bear in mind "not only future priests' intellectual formation for their impending duties, but also their spiritual and emotional formation." Therein, he urged the prelates to implement new guidelines laid down in the recently-published document by the Congregation for Catholic Education concerning candidates for the seminary and priesthood.
"It is important," the Holy Father said, "that the process of spiritual and intellectual formation does not end with the seminary. Constant priestly formation is necessary.”
He then recalled that “in Polish dioceses ... courses, retreats, spiritual exercises and other meetings are organized, during which priests can share their pastoral problems and successes."
He told the bishops that they must "listen attentively to priests and help them in their difficulties," before thanking God for the numerous vocations in Poland and calling on priests to "undertake missionary service or pastoral commitment in countries where there is a lack of clergy."
Religious and laity
Pope Benedict then turned to the pastoral care of the laity, as well as male and female religious and consecrated, who he said, “represent a source of great wealth for the Church.”
In this context, he called on the prelates to specifically watch over female religious communities.
"Nuns who undertake various services in the Church”, the Pope said, “merit supreme respect, and their work must be recognized and appreciated correctly. They must not be denied adequate spiritual support or the possibility of intellectual development and growth in the faith. ... And I particularly call upon you to take to heart the wellbeing of the contemplative orders."
Turning then to the laity, the Pope said that "one of the chief aims of the activity of the laity is the moral renewal of society, which cannot be superficial, partial and instantaneous.”
“One specific task of the laity”, he said, “is participation in public and political life. ... The Church does not identify herself with any one party, political community or political system; she does, however, recall that lay people in public life must bear courageous and coherent witness to Christian values, which have to be affirmed and defended when they are threatened.”
“They must do so publicly,” he stressed, “both in political debates and in the communications media"
"Dialogue undertaken by the Catholic laity on political questions," the Holy Father added, "will prove effective and of service to the common good when it is founded on love for truth, a spirit of service, and united commitment in favor of the common good."
Following the Holy Father's address, Krakow’s Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz took the stage to address the Pope.
"There is a reason”, he said, “for which we would like express our gratitude…and that is your adherence to the person and the work of Servant of God John Paul II.”
“In the first place,” he continued, “we would like to say thank you for your discreet, competent and faithful collaboration throughout such a rich and important pontificate. We can only imagine how precious your wise advice was to John Paul II, both in the most difficult theological questions and in matters concerning the daily life of the Universal Church.”
He also thanked the Pope “for the delicacy with which you accompanied your dear predecessor in the final days of his sickness and for your testimony as dean of the College of Cardinals during the funeral,” adding that no one could forget “your continuous recollection of the teaching and example of John Paul II in your speeches and pastoral activities.”
The Archbishop likewise expressed his gratitude “for the decision to reduce the time for the opening of the cause of beatification of our beloved Pope…Thank you, Your Holiness!"
Archbishop Dziwisz closed his brief address by extending a heartfelt invitation to the Pope to visit Poland.
The Church there, he said, is "anxious to welcome you. We all await your visit to our country and to the Church that loves you and supports you with constant prayer. You may be certain of these sentiments.”
“As you know,” he said, “the beloved John Paul II never sought to bind people to his own person, but to Peter's Successor. Our people unhesitatingly understood this concept; they do not cease to love the late Pope, but they equally love the one who succeeded him.”
Lastly, the Archbishop told the Pope that “it is above all young people who ask us to tell Your Holiness that they want to meet you during your visit to Poland. I would be honored if this meeting were to take place in Krakow."
Vatican City, Dec 5, 2005 (CNA) - On Saturday, Palestinian president, Mahmud Abbas met with Pope Benedict XVI, who called for an end to violence in the tension-ridden Holy Land.
Following their 20-minute meeting in the Pope‘s private library, Abbas invited the Holy Father to visit the Holy Land, saying that he would “be very welcome in Jerusalem and all the holy places."
The Palestinian leader later told reporters that the Pope “responded positively” to his invitation but did not indicate a possible visit date.
Israeli president Moshe Katsav also invited the Holy Father to visit the Holy Land during his visit last month.
In a statement released today, Vatican Press Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that during "the course of the cordial meeting, consideration was given to the situation in the Middle East. Particular emphasis was laid on the need to integrate all elements of the Palestinian people into the peace process.”
Some speculate that this was a reference, on the Pope’s part, to violent extremists who have been blamed for widespread terrorism in the region. Last week, violence marred national Palestinian elections.
Abbas noted in his statements to journalists that the Pope, with "his symbolic weight ... can carry out a decisive role for peace."
Navarro-Valls said that the Pope also addressed “difficulties faced by Catholics in Palestine, and… their contribution to Palestinian society.”
During the meeting, one of the members of the Palestinian delegation presented the Pope with a document, which Abbas said was created by inhabitants of Bethlehem, in an effort "to express the ties of friendship and spirituality that link the Vatican and the people of Bethlehem, dear to Christians as Jesus' birthplace."
In 1982, Pope John Paul II met with then-Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat--the first of many such meetings which sparked protests and violent outrage on the part of Israelis and the worldwide Jewish community.
Nevertheless, the late Pope worked tirelessly to champion the plight of Palestinians, while working to increase healthy relations with Israel.
It is the hope and expectation of many, that Pope Benedict will continue to build and nurture this difficult balance.
Melbourne, Australia, Dec 5, 2005 (CNA) - On December 9th, Jon Stanhope, Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory will deliver the annual Rerum Novarum lecture for the Melbourne Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace. The problem? He publicly favors abortion.
Many members of Australia’s pro-life community think the Stanhope is an inappropriate choice for a speaker at a Catholic event due to his vocally pro-abortion stance.
Jeremy Stuparich, Executive Director of the ACT Right to Life Association agrees.
He told CNA that “Mr. Stanhope's Government has indeed removed almost all restrictions on abortion from the statute books in the Australian Capital Territory…and established a bill of rights that specifically excludes unborn children.”
He added that Stanhope “personally voted in favor of these measures.”
Many bishops in the U.S. have taken measures to remove vocally pro-abortion politicians from speaking engagements at Catholic events. This has been met with both praise and anger from various groups.
In addition to his role as Chief Minister, Mr. Stanhope is the ACT’s Attorney General and Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
He has publicly lauded his “commitment to human rights and civil liberties,” saying, “I hold these values very, very dearly.”
His December 9th lecture is entitled “Now, more than ever, a national bill of rights.”
Belleville, Ill., Dec 5, 2005 (CNA) - The firing of four Illinois-based Walgreens pharmacists over their failure to dispense abortion drugs, has sparked a call for a nationwide boycott of the drugstore, and gained the backing of a local Catholic diocese.
The Diocese of Belleville, IL, led by Bishop Edward Braxton, has announced its support for a boycott of the Chicago-headquartered pharmacy, and its implementation of a letter-writing campaign asking local Catholics to do the same.
The pharmacists were fired for failing to comply with the company’s policy of dispensing the controversial morning-after pill, also known as Plan B.
The pill has been heavily disputed by pro-life advocates for causing early-term abortions by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting onto a woman’s uterine wall
According to the Belleville News-Democrat, Ann Polka, manager of the local Project Rachel organization, a post-abortion healing program, said that the firings were “…an unjust action…They are being let go because they couldn't in good conscience dispense the drugs."
She added that "These pharmacists are very courageous…We as Catholic Christians need to stand behind this."
Walgreens officials have argued that they are simply complying to a Illinois state law which requires pharmacists to dispense the drug.
"This (rule)”, Polka said however, “is unjustly imposed on Illinois by (Gov.) Rod Blagojevich. It's puzzling to me that pharmacists do not have a discretionary power."
According to the News-Democrat, Abby Ottenhoff, a spokesperson for the Governor, said that pharmacists are free to work at stores which do not sell the drug.
"They certainly have the right to their personal opinions,” he said “but that cannot get in the way of a woman's right to get the care that her doctor has prescribed for her…If it is approved by the FDA and approved by a doctor, it is not a pharmacist's place to deny access."
Pro-life groups and local Catholics disagree however, and have vowed to fight the policy.
Rome, Italy, Dec 5, 2005 (CNA) - In a column published Monday, Italian analyst Sandro Magister of L’Espresso says Pope Benedict XVI favors a renewed interpretation of the II Vatican Council, unbiased by historical distortions.
According to Magister, “There exists great expectation about what Pope Benedict XVI will say in his homily at St. Peter’s on December 8, exactly 40 years after the end of the Council.” Magister notes that the diverse opinions about how to interpret the Council have given rise to the current strife within the Church. He points out that “on numerous occasions, Joseph Ratzinger has shown he does not share” the vision of those who believe the Council gave birth to a “spirit of reform” that never ends and that constantly breaks with the tradition of the Church.
Magister speculates that the Pope’s homily “will not address the issue from a historical perspective,” but part of what the Pope thinks can be found in the recent essay by Walter Brandmüller of the Committee of Historical Sciences, published—not by coincidence—by L’Avvenire, which is owned by the Italian Bishops’ Conference. The essay underscores “the impossibility of historically and theologically sustaining an interpretation of Vatican II “as a totally new beginning, as if it were ‘super dogma’ that made everything else irrelevant.”
Magister’s complete column can be found at
Vatican City, Dec 5, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI told a group of Venezuelan bishops meeting at the Vatican last week that he was “concerned” about the “ills and unrest” that have befallen the country, and he asked them to “continue standing by those who suffering the most.”
Archbishop Baltasar Porras, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, told the newspaper El Universal that Pope Benedict is perfectly aware of the situation in the country and that he is “concerned about the high grade of polarization and frustration, as well as the attacks against the Church.”
The Pope’s message for the Church in Venezuela comes at a time of political turmoil in the country, as just a few days before parliamentary elections were to be held, a group of candidates—representing the five opposition parties--withdrew from the process citing the lack of guarantees against voter fraud. Reminding the bishops that there should never be “a Sunday without Mass,” the Pope encouraged them to remain constant in prayer and he bestowed his blessing upon the entire nation.
The Pope also sent a special greeting to Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara, who has been the recipient of recent verbal attacks on the part of government officials.
In addition to meeting with the Pope, the bishops also met with other Vatican officials concerning the Church in Venezuela.