Archive of January 11, 2006

L.A. cathedral cancels Christian unity event

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 11, 2006 (CNA) - The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles on Monday canceled a Christian unity conference that it was to host later this month after realizing that the main speaker was a controversial self-proclaimed mystic who the Catholic Church cautions against.

In a letter to sponsors, Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik explained that what they had initially presented as a Christian unity conference had turned out to be a forum for Vassula Ryden, a Greek Orthodox laywoman who has attracted worldwide attention as well as criticism, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Vatican statements in 1995 and 1996 caution Catholics against following Ryden, the monsignor pointed out in discussions with sponsors. They advise bishops not to provide any opportunity in their dioceses for the dissemination of her ideas.

A leading Greek Orthodox priest, Fr. John Bakas, also pulled out of the Jan. 28 conference, saying: "Everything is very suspect.”

According to the Times, Msgr. Kostelnik said the decision, faxed to sponsors Monday, was final and returned a $3,000 donation to the cathedral and a $200 deposit for food service. Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, has agreed with the decision.

Sponsors are now scrambling to find another venue. They claim cathedral officials had all the information ahead of time.

The conference had already been advertised in Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Press releases were also issued, saying that Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant leaders would discuss "a new era of relations" at the conference.

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Ignited by Truth Catholic Conference

Raleigh, N.C., Jan 11, 2006 (CNA) - A Catholic conference next month is open to all people who want to learn about the Catholic faith, not just Catholics.

The fourth annual Ignited By Truth Catholic Conference, Feb. 17-18, will feature nationally and internationally known Catholic authors and lecturers.

George Weigel, papal biographer and senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., will speak on “Our Role in the New Evangelization.”

Stephen Ray, a convert to Catholicism, will share his conversion story and speak on the theme, "Peter: The Rock, the Keys and the Chair." He is the host of the popular "Footprints of God" video series and best selling author of "Crossing the Tiber" and "Upon this Rock."

International lecturer, philosopher and former college professor Alice von Hildebrand will speak on "The Privilege of Being a Catholic Woman in Transforming the Culture." She has authored "By Love Refined," "By Grief Refined," and a biography of her late husband and theologian, Dietrich von Hildebrand, entitled "The Soul of a Lion." She has also been a frequent guest on EWTN.

Dr. Jacques Mistrot, a pioneer in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery in Wake County who performed the very first heart bypass surgery at Rex Hospital, will speak on "Stem Cell Research: Illuminating the Way of Truth." After retirement, he has done medical missionary work in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Haiti and St. Lucia.

Discounted registrations are now available: $25 per adult and $10 per student. There will be special talks for students age 10 and up, given by George Weigel and Dr. Von Hildebrand.
Group discounts are also available.

The conference will be held at Cardinal Gibbons Catholic High School in Raleigh, North Carolina.

For more information, go to:

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Archbishop Levada questioned on Portland sex abuse cases

Portland, Ore., Jan 11, 2006 (CNA) - The highest-ranking American at the Vatican, Archbishop William Levada, was deposed for seven hours Monday when lawyers questioned him on how the Diocese of Portland handled sex abuse allegations when he served as bishop there from 1986 to 1995.

The archbishop then served the Archdiocese of San Francisco for 10 years before being named prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in August 2005. Prior to his departure for Rome, he was served with a subpoena to appear in court, reported the Associated Press.

In 2004, Portland became the first Catholic diocese in the United States to declare bankruptcy due to sex abuse lawsuits seeking more than $155 million in damages. About 150 of those suits are still pending.

Plaintiffs' attorney Kelly Clark told the AP that Archbishop Levada was articulate and that it was "a remarkably uncontentious deposition." Clark was reportedly prevented by a court order from discussing any specifics from the deposition.

In a Dec. 30 order, Judge Elizabeth Perris limited the scope of questioning to the archbishop’s knowledge of Church policies and procedures in dealing with sex abuse claims. Lawyers were forbidden from questioning Archbishop Levada about his work in Rome with the Congregation, where his tasks include reviewing abuse allegations against priests, reported the AP.

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Party favoring family values, marriage takes lead in Canadian polls

Ottawa, Canada, Jan 11, 2006 (CNA) - According to polls issued Wednesday, the Conservative Party of Canada is leading all other parties as citizens gear up for the federal election Jan. 23.

Today’s poll indicates that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are ahead of Paul Martin’s Liberals by 10 percentage points nationally, showing signs of the possibility of a majority Conservative government.

The Conservatives are also leading the Liberals in Quebec — by a few percentage points in the largest metropolitan area, Montreal, and by more than 10 percentage points in outlying and rural areas. The Bloc Québécois still holds the majority in the province but has slipped considerably in the last week.

The Conservative platform says it promotes “Canadian and family values.” Harper is on record for saying that, if his party formed the next government, he would revisit the same-sex marriage issue in Parliament and put the legislation to a free vote.

He would institute a childcare program that would allow families to choose whether they would like to send their young children to daycare or to stay home to raise their pre-school children. In both cases, parents would receive financial support.

Harper also said he would rehaul the way in which judicial appointments are made to the Supreme Court. Currently, appointments are made by the Prime Minister alone. Harper is proposing that judges be nominated and go through a Parliamentary review process.

Critics have said that Harper’s proposed budget is slightly more favorable for the working poor and middle class families than the Liberal’s plan.

Grassroots lobby groups have also risen up during this election campaign. The group VoteMarriageCanada was formed in the fall by former MP Pat O’Brien, who left the Liberals over the same-sex marriage issue, and former Alliance MP Grant Hill. The two are traveling across the country and urging Canadians to vote according to their values rather than party allegiance.

O’Brien said the nonpartisan organization is working to elect a pro-marriage Parliament so that the current law, allowing same-sex marriage, can be reversed and traditional Canadian values can be restored.

During a stop in Montreal last week, O’Brien recounted how the Liberal government made a mockery of the Canadian democratic system by ramming through Bill C-38, even though 67 percent of Canadians were not in favor of changing the definition of marriage.

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Pope could make himself presentation of his first Encyclical

Rome, Italy, Jan 11, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict could make himself the presentation of his Encyclical on Charity "Deus Caritas Est," before it is presented in the Vatican press room, according to the Italian agency ASCA.

Again according to the agency, this could take place before or during the Congress promoted by Pontifical Coucil Cor Unum and Caritas, next January 20 and 21, which will be held on the theme of Charity.

The Congress will count on the participation of important Church personnalities, among them Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Francis George, and President of Cor Unum Archbishop Paul  Joseph Cordes.

Asca mentiones that in any case, the Encyclica will be made public before January 25, and on that day, the Pauline magazine "Famigli Cristiana" will publish the entire text of the Encyclical. For the occasion, Famigli Cristiana will print a million copies and a special edition that will cost a euro extra.

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Christ’s victory not warlike, says Pope, but offers world freedom from evil

Vatican City, Jan 11, 2006 (CNA) - In his weekly audience given earlier today at the Vatican, Pope Benedict reminded some 8,000 listeners that the victory of Christ was not political or warlike, but rather an “intervention of freedom against evil.”

The Holy Father continued his ongoing catechesis on the Psalms today, this time speaking about the first part of Psalm 143, which he called "The king's prayer for victory and peace."

Calling on his audience to bear in mind the historical context in which the Psalm was written, Pope Benedict said that it was clear "that the king who appears no longer has the profile of a Davidic sovereign.”

Noting that “the Hebrew royal line had ended with the Babylonian exile of the sixth century BC…he represents the luminous and glorious figure of the Messiah, whose victory is no longer warlike and political but an intervention of freedom against evil."

The Pope said that while the hymn begins with a string of praises exalting the greatness of the Lord, before His omnipotence "the psalmist, despite his regal dignity, feels weak and fragile.”

“He makes a profession of humility,” Benedict pointed out, “describing himself as a 'passing shadow' ... immersed in the flow of fleeting time and marked by the limits of his status as a created being."

The major question, the Holy Father said, is, "why does God concern Himself and think of such a poor and lowly creature?”

The answer comes by “the great bursting forth of the divinity; this so-called theophany is accompanied by a series of cosmic elements and historical events that all tend to celebrate the transcendence of the supreme King of life, the universe and history."

Benedict cited the early Christian writer Origen who, in a commentary on this psalm, wrote that, "Lord, you cannot save the misery that is man if You do not take that misery upon Yourself. ... You came down, you lowered the heavens and stretched out Your hand from on high, you deigned to take upon Yourself the flesh of man, and many believed in You."

The Holy Father ended his address with a note of hope, saying: "The psalm, which began with our discovery of being weak and far from divine splendor, reaches a surprising conclusion: near us is the God-Emmanuel, Who for Christians has the loving face of Jesus Christ, God-made-man."

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Pope encourages Christian unity, strong families, care for the marginalized

Vatican City, Jan 11, 2006 (CNA) - Following his weekly audience, given today at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI personally greeted many of his 8,000 listeners, encouraging Christian unity, strengthening of families and comfort for victims of terror and the marginalized.

He first expressed "heartfelt greetings" to visiting students and teachers from the ecumenical institute of Bossey in Switzerland.

He told them: "I hope that your visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, together with your meetings, will be a stimulus to strengthen your commitment to the vital task of promotion of unity among Christians."

The Pope also addressed some words to the Italian Federation of Therapeutic Communities, whom he encouraged "to continue in the work of providing support and shelter for victims of drugs and marginalization", and to a group of Russian children from North Ossetia, who were victims of a 2004 terror attack on their school.

Finally, Benedict  expressed his encouragement specifically for those in the crowd who were young, sick, or newly married.

He said, "May the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which brought the Christmas period to a close, stimulate you so that, in recalling your own Baptism, you are ready to bear joyful witness to faith in Christ in all situations: in health and in sickness, in the family, in the work place and everywhere else."

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Can intelligent design be taught as philosophy? California parents file suit over high school course

Lebec, Calif., Jan 11, 2006 (CNA) - A group of parents in a small California school district, north of Los Angeles, are trying to squelch a local high school course which seeks to teach Intelligent Design alongside other origin of life theories, not as science--but as philosophy.

Although a Federal District Court in Pennsylvania ruled last month that while they thought it unconstitutional to teach intelligent design in a public high school science class, members of both sides said it may be appropriate to teach the theory in a philosophy or social studies class.

Intelligent design, the burgeoning theory which suggests that the universe is too complex to have been created at random, and that an active creator lies at its genesis, has garnered considerable attention--both supportive and critical--in recent months.

The group of parents--all residents of rural Lebec, California--who are being represented by the group, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, are suing the local school district and saying that the course is not objective, but advocates intelligent design as truth.

According to the New York Times, Superintendent John Wright wrote a letter responding to complaints of Americans United in which he said: "Our legal advisers have pointed out that they are unaware of any court or California statute which has forbidden public schools to explore cultural phenomena, including history, religion or creation myths."
The Frazier Mountain High School course, the name of which has been changed from ‘Philosophy of Intelligent Design’ to ‘Philosophy of Design’ because of parental complaints, was approved by the district’s board of trustees in a 3-2 vote earlier this month.

The course description distributed to parents and the class’s 13 students reads: "This class will take a close look at evolution as a theory and will discuss the scientific, biological and biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin's philosophy is not rock solid."

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USCCB: Korean Cloning hoax shows that good ethics necessary for good science

Washington D.C., Jan 11, 2006 (CNA) - On Thursday, a South Korean investigation found that scientist Hwang Woo-suk and his discredited research team had no real evidence to prove their claims that they had cloned human embryos for their stem cells.

Yesterday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said that the hoax demonstrates that a lack of ethics in the scientific field only produces bad medicine, and bad science.

Richard M. Doerflinger, Deputy Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities called the debacle "the most obvious symptom of a field where ethical concerns were dismissed in the pursuit of alleged miracle cures," and said that "good ethics is a necessary and integral part of good science and good medicine."

In a statement released yesterday, Mr. Doerflinger pointed out that “after almost a decade of intense effort by teams around the world, it seems no one has been able to take even the first step needed to derive treatments from human cloning.”

He also cited the Washington Post, which reported on January 10th that the hoax also means that “the highly touted field of embryonic stem cell research is years behind where scientists thought it was.”

Asking how long our society will “insist on exploiting more hundreds of women, and creating and destroying many more thousands of helpless human lives, in pursuit of this mirage”, the deputy director called on lawmakers to step up to the plate, and enact tougher laws.

He stressed that "Lawmakers can best respond to this scandal by enacting a complete ban on human cloning, as called for by the United Nations, and by increasing government support for stem cell research that is both medically promising and morally sound."

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Pope meets with Children who survived siege in School in Beslan

Vatican City, Jan 11, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI met Wednesday with 30 children who survived the 2004 school hostage siege in Beslan, Russia, greeting them and posing for a photo with them. 
The children, all wearing blue baseball caps, attended the pope's 90-minute public audience in the Vatican's audience hall as part of a weeklong visit to Italy.
After the audience, the children headed into the private meeting with the pope. After their time with Pope Benedict, which included a group photo, the children toured the famed Vatican gardens.
Italy's civil defense department, which had sent rescuers to Beslan during the hostage crisis, brought the children to Italy for a weeklong trip, which also included visits to the Colosseum, a soccer match in Milan and a trip to Venice.
The children survived the three-day September 2004 assault on the Beslan school, in which 331 people, 186 of them children, were killed by terrorists demanding that Russian troops withdraw from the nearby republic of Chechnya.

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