Archive of January 17, 2006

Vatican announces final plans for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Vatican City, Jan 17, 2006 (CNA) - Tomorrow, the worldwide Church will begin a weeklong celebration calling for prayer and increased awareness of the need for Christian unity around the world.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, organized jointly by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches, begins tomorrow and will be celebrated through January 25th.

This year’s theme, inspired by the Gospel of Matthew, will be; "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."

Organizers of the event have chosen an ecumenical group from Dublin, Ireland to prepare the texts which will be used for prayer and reflection. 

According to the World Council of Churches, the Ireland group was chosen, in part, because of the ongoing struggle between Catholics and Protestants which has wracked the northern part of that country with violence for decades.

Only now, they pointed out, is the process of peace and shared identity in Christ, slowly starting to take root.

The Vatican also announced today the particular themes which will be explored on particular days throughout the week including, “United through the presence of Christ, ‘One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism;’” “Building Christian unity with Jesus in our midst - daily ecumenism, ‘You also ought to wash one another's feet;’” and “Praying together in Jesus' name, ‘The Lord waits to be gracious to you.’”

Themes for the latter half of the celebration will include, “From the past to the future - forgiveness and healing of memories Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy times seven,’” taken from the Jesus words in the Gospel of Matthew; “God's presence among us: a call to peace. ‘The Lord is with us;’” “Mission in Jesus' name. ‘So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost;’” and “Recognizing and welcoming God's presence in the other in Jesus' name,
’Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’”

On January 25th, the last day of the celebration, faithful will be asked to meditate on the theme: “One in hope, "On that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me, and I in you," taken from John 14:20.

Each of the days takes their theme from Scripture.

On Wednesday, January 25th, the last day of the Week of prayer and Feast of the Conversion of the Apostle Paul, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Vespers and mark the close of the 2006 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Although, the Vatican noted, January is the traditional period for celebrating the week of prayer, in the southern hemisphere, Churches will sometimes seek other periods such as the time of Pentecost, which, they said, is a symbolically significant date for the unity of the Church, and was suggested by the Faith and Order movement in 1926.

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Reclaiming college culture, 1200 students attend weekend FOCUS conferences

Denver, Colo., Jan 17, 2006 (CNA) - On Saturday evening, most of Denver, Colorado was enthralled by the Denver Broncos football team and their impressive playoff toppling of the reigning Super bowl champion New England Patriots. In the nearby suburb of Broomfield however, nearly 700 college students were enthralled by a different sort of victory--as they adored Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

The weekend event, titled “This is Eternal Life” was sponsored by the burgeoning Fellowship of Catholic University Students--a campus ministry program, born in 1997, and currently active on some 27 college and university campuses across the U.S.

The weekend hosted Mass, adoration of the Eucharist, numerous speakers and stressed the victory of Christ over sin and death.

According to Matthew McCartney from FOCUS’ national office, the yearly conference--a staple for many students, and one which had grown to almost 2,000 attendees last year--was broken up into three regional conferences in an effort to make the event more accessible to more students.

FOCUS held an east coast version of the Denver conference simultaneously in Jersey City, New Jersey this weekend, attended by almost 500.

Next weekend, they will host the third and final of the series in Chicago. Upwards of 900 students are expected at that conference, FOCUS said.

During the Denver weekend, students heard talks and breakout sessions on themes ranging from ’No Guts, No Glory’, given by Sean Dalton, the Archdiocese’s director of youth and young adult ministry, to the late John Paul II’s Theology of the Body on human sexuality, given by popular speaker Mary Beth Bonacci.

Likewise, workshop themes ranged from a question and answer style vocation panel, featuring priests, nuns and religious, to a talk discussing John Paul II’s thinking on environmental stewardship.

Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput--a strong supporter of the FOCUS movement--was on hand to celebrate Mass on Saturday morning.

In a testimony to the power of the conference, which is now in its 8th year, the largest single group in attendance traveled nearly 800 miles from Carroll College in Helena Montana--and doesn’t even have a formal FOCUS program. 

Boyd Wetzel, who is a junior and plays football for Carroll, said that despite not having a formal program on their campus, the group thought it “really important” to make the trek “to show how much we love God.”

Stephanie Parnow, a junior at Carroll from Spokane, Washington helped to organize the trip. She said that “students need the leadership and encouragement that FOCUS missionaries bring.”

University of Colorado senior Rachel Quicksall agrees. She won FOCUS’ female student of the year award and told CNA that, after four years of attending the conference, she finds herself “always learning new things.”

She also said that this year’s gathering left her inspired “to go back on to campus and not be afraid to share the Gospel”; in essence, as she put it, “to be a fool for God.”

No room for Lay-Z-Boys

Dr. Jonathan Reyes, FOCUS’ Vice President, told the students during his closing Sunday morning talk, that if they want to combat what the late John Paul II has coined as the “culture of death“, they need to stay “spiritually awake.”

“All the enemy wants you to do”, he said, “is sleep,” or in other words, to be lazy in their faiths.

He told the students that instead, they “must do those activities which we know are fundamentally true,” like going to Mass, praying regularly and “resolving today to do the fundamental task that you’ve been called to,” namely, preaching the word of God.

“There is a war on for your minds”, Reyes told the group, “and [with today’s media] our culture has unprecedented means of getting into your heads.”

Before a closing Mass Sunday morning, Reyes closed his talk and sent the students back to their campuses with this warning: “The world will try to tell you that this was a dream and the reality is your lazy boy…Don’t listen to it.”

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Despite loss at polls, ballot measure raised awareness about abortion industry

Los Angeles, Calif., Jan 17, 2006 (CNA) - The educational campaign leading up the vote on Proposition 73, California’s parental notification initiative, has had many positive results despite the fact that the proposition lost the vote by a slim margin of 5.6 percent, says one of the proposition’s authors, Katie Short.

In a comment, written for an upcoming newsletter of Life Legal Defense Foundation, Short says: “For the first time in decades, we had a public debate in California about abortion. Abortion and abortion providers were in the spotlight, and they didn’t like it.”

Due to the public debate, many more people now know that parental notification is not required for minors to have an abortion in California, Short said.

“School policies allowing minors to leave campus secretly for ‘confidential medical services’ are once again in the spotlight, and parents are more aware of how their rights have been taken from them,” she wrote. Many people were shocked to learn this, she noted.

Short says the proposition also exposed “the abortion industry’s complicity in shielding sexual predators, both inside and outside the clinics.”

“For the first time the public heard about how abortion clinics violate the mandated reporting laws by failing to report obvious cases of statutory rape and sexual abuse of minors by older men. … how secret abortions enable sexual predators to continue their crimes,” she stated.

The media also paid attention to the scandal of shady abortion practitioners sexually preying on vulnerable women seeking secret abortions, such as abortionist Laurence Reich.

Planned Parenthood revealed itself not as an advocate of “women’s health” but of unrestricted abortion on demand, said Short, pointing out that the organization and its out-of-state affiliates poured millions of dollars into the campaign to defeat Proposition 73.

“Planned Parenthood put on a ventriloquist act, pretending to speak on behalf of parents who ‘just want my daughter to be safe,’ it was clear that there were very large business interests at stake in defeating Prop 73,” Short wrote. Planned Parenthood has no problem with young girls engaging in sexual activity, she said.

Short also expressed her commitment to working toward getting parental notification on the ballot again. “Proposition 73 was the beginning, not the end of the campaign for parental notification in California,” she said.

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Bishop Loverde honors Dr. King, calls for more African American priests

, Jan 17, 2006 (CNA) - Yesterday, as Americans celebrated what would have been the 77th birthday of civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Arlington, Virginia’s Bishop Paul S. Loverde called on faithful to "stand in solidarity with our African American brothers and sisters to honor a great man, a prophet."

Bishop Loverde was on hand to celebrate Mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in nearby Alexandria. The Church’s 240 seats were packed with a standing room only crowd of both African American and white worshipers.

"Like Samuel,” the Bishop said in his homily, “Dr. King heard the Lord's voice, which called him to cry out against injustice, violence and racism…He pointed toward a future where all people would live together as brothers and sisters, regardless of race, color or creed."

Bishop Loverde also stressed the need for more black priests to serve in the 400,000 member diocese. Currently, there are only two African American priests, and one is in retirement.

St. Joseph’s parish was established in 1915--partially through the help of Philadelphia’s St. Katherine Drexel--to minister to the city’s African American population. Today, it is home to around 500 parishioners.

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Bishop apologizes for ‘failings’ re priest who likely murdered two

Hudson, Wis., Jan 17, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Raphael Fliss of Superior apologized Sunday for the way he handled the situation involving a local priest, who a judge ruled likely killed two funeral home workers nearly four years ago and later committed suicide.

"I know that ultimate responsibility for much of what has taken place rests upon my shoulders,” the bishop said before 700 people at St. Patrick's Church in Hudson, reported the Associated Press. “I am the one who must be held accountable for the lack of proper supervision and for all else that I failed to see, heed and act upon."

The bishop apologized for his “failings, omissions and lack of attentiveness to the entire responsibility that is mine. Truly, I wish I could turn the clock and calendar back and be given another opportunity to do it all much better," he reportedly said.

This was the first time the bishop spoke with Hudson parishioners about the situation with their former priest, Fr. Ryan Erickson, 31, who hanged himself about a year ago, a few days after police questioned him in the 2002 murders of Daniel O'Connell, 39, and James Ellison, 22. O’Connell was a parishioner at St. Patrick’s.

In October, St. Croix County Circuit Judge Eric Lundell ruled there was probable cause that Erickson shot the two men at the O'Connell Family Funeral Home. District Atty. Eric Johnson said evidence suggested O’Connell found out the priest was sexually abusing someone, was providing alcohol to minors, or both, reported the AP.

The bishop admitted Sunday that he had received complaints about Erickson, but said he also got “more letters praising him than condemning him." In retrospect, Fliss said, he should have appointed a group to discuss the complaints.

The bishop promised better evaluation of priests and improved communication with parishes to resolve complaints.

O'Connell's mother, Janet O'Connell, said the bishop was irresponsible by not addressing problems with the priest before the murders.

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Chilean bishops send congratulations to country’s new Socialist President

Santiago, Chile, Jan 17, 2006 (CNA) - The President of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, Bishop Alejandro Goic Karmelic of Rancagua, together with Cardinal Francisco Javier of Santiago and other bishops, met with the President-elect of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, on Monday to congratulate her for her election as head of the Chilean government.

During the meeting, Bishop Goic assured President-elect Bachelet of “the support of the Church in all that pertains, because we believe that her government should be a very good government because that will be good for Chile.”  “From our perspective as pastors we are going to pray that the government be successful and so that hopefully with the new government, as we approach the bicentennial anniversary, even the most dispossessed people of our country can resolve their problems at least in part,” Bishop Goic added.

Bishop Goic also noted that Bachelet’s victory speech was “very inclusive and revealed part of her personal life and her interior attitude and profound capacity to love and forgive in response to the personal dramas she has experienced.  The emotional memory of her father, whose closeness she said she felt, was also something that touched us deeply.  For us that was an expression of faith,” he continued.

Cardinal Errazuriz said the bishops were pleased with the election because the Chilean people have chosen someone who is “a symbol of coming together for Chileans, a symbol of peace among us, of a reconciled country.  Someone assailed by hatred but who preferred to overcome that hatred through understanding, tolerance and—as she said—and ‘why not say it, through love’.  I think she is a sign of great hope.”

Likewise the cardinal noted that in some sense “Chile has expressed the recognition and gratitude it has for women.  Chile has lived it through the action of women at home, through the raising of children, through the transmission of culture and faith. And I hoped that in some way those values would be expressed in a spiritual maternity with regards to the country, and that what women have been to our country both in public and professional life, what they have done up to now, would be recognized.  I think she is also a sign of the value of women in our country.”  Lastly, Cardinal

Lastly, Cardinal Errazuriz said he hoped the closeness Bachelet feels with the poor, the marginalized and the family “would be expressed in the many areas in which she is looking out for the good of persons who, up to now, may have felt marginalized.”

President-elect Bachelet thanked the bishops for the visit and their good wishes.  “We are all Chile and I am the President of all Chileans,” she said.

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Archbishop laments widespread belief among Catholics that Church is “irrelevant”

Madrid, Spain, Jan 17, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Braulio Rodriguez of Valladolid, Spain, said this week Catholics do not know what the Church is and that it was “sad” that many consider it to be an “old and irrelevant structure.”

In his weekly pastoral letter, the archbishop lamented that Catholics do not see the Church “as Mother, as the bosom that has given them life in Baptism and Confirmation and where they encounter the Eucharistic Christ.”  The Church “is the one that saves them from relativism and confusion,” he explained.

Referring to the personal theological contribution of Pope Benedict XVI to the analysis of Vatican II, Archbishop Rodriguez said it was “interesting, clarifying and of great service to the present-day Church.”  “Everything depends on the correct interpretation of the Council, the correct key to reading it,” he noted, since “two contrary interpretations have squared off, that of a rupture, on the one hand, and that of a renewal in the continuity of the only Church given by the Lord, on the other.”

In conclusion, the archbishop expressed concern at the effect interpretations of the Council as a rupture with the past have on the faithful, saying they do not lead to communion or evangelization.

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Vatican news agency reveals living nightmare of 860 million children

Rome, Italy, Jan 17, 2006 (CNA) - The Fides news agency has published a study entitled, “Herod: the slaughter of the innocents continues,” denouncing the nightmare endured by 860 million children in the world.

Carried out with information from international groups and data from Catholic missionaries, the study also reveals that in addition to suffering exploitation and prostitution, children face poverty, AIDS, war or abandonment.  “The future is an unknown, the present a nightmare that must awaken the consciences of adults,” the report indicates.

The report also indicates that “211 million children under age 14 are forced to work, of which 120 million do so full time.”  Millions “work in risky conditions, with dangerous machinery, in mining, with no light and little oxygen, or handling toxic materials.”

From the mines of the Ivory Coast, South Africa or Colombia to the sugar cane plantations in Brazil, child exploitation is rampant, although it is the worst in Asia. “At the heart of many forms of exploitation is the fact that in the poorest developing countries, more than 50 million children are not even registered when they are born,” the report states.

The study also denounces the tragedy of “child soldiers.”  Throughout the world more than 300,000 minors are “transformed into merciless killers.”  Recruited when they are between the ages of 10 and 14, “the smallest children are considered by exploiters to be the best candidates for small-arms operations, as they can hide, flee and spy easily.”  Such children are placed on the front lines in order to carry out “suicidal actions, under the influence of drugs in order to overcome fear and kill in cold blood.” 

Another problem denounced by the Fides study is that of street kids, who live off of robbery and the recycling of trash in large cities.  Half of the 120 million street kids live in South America, with 30 million in Asia, although the problem is growing “in the large cities of Eastern Europe.”

In addition, hunger in the world leads to the deaths of more than 11 million children under the age of 5 each year.  In 2005 half a million children under 14 died of AIDS.

The report also mentions human trafficking, which results in more than 1.2 million children under 18 treated as “merchandise.”  It also addresses the issue of the disappearance of orphans, “sold by their very own families in certain regions of Central America to mafias dedicated to the illegal trafficking of human organs.”  4 million girls are bought and sold for marriages, prostitution and slavery.  “The problem of pre-arranged marriages, to which 18 million girls under the age of 18 are subjected to each year, has been denounced by many humanitarian organizations also because of the risk of death for the young mothers,” the report adds.

“Girls represent two thirds of uneducated minors who go on to become illiterate adults.  Currently they number 600 million!”  Some 2 million girls are subjected to genital mutilation, the report indicated.

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Human rights defender harassed by Cuban government agents

Havana, Cuba, Jan 17, 2006 (CNA) - The President of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, who is blind, is denouncing the psychological torture he is being subjected to by agents of the Cuban government, who have surrounded his house since January 12.

In a message sent to CNA, Gonzalez Leiva said the government is trying to force him to leave the country before March 4, when his sentence of house arrest will expire.

“My home is under military siege and I am a victim of violent acts carried out and controlled by soldiers from the Cuban government and from the State Security force of the Ciego de Avila province, where I reside,” he stated.

In his letter González Leiva said he was without water, food and electricity and that phone service is intermittent.  Outside government agents have set up huge speakers which are blasting music into his home 24 hours a day, making it impossible to sleep or rest.  Agents have also organized small bands of delinquents and university students who stand in front of his home and shout government slogans over the massive PA system. 

“They threaten that they will use tanks to enter the house, that they will burn us all, that we are social radicals loyal to the imperialism [of the US],” said Gonzalez Leiva. 

Two other prominent dissidents, Tanisa Maseda Guerra, also of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, and independent journalist Luis Esteban Espinosa, are also holed up with Gonzalez Leiva.

“It’s important that the international press in Havana come to Ciego de Avila so that the world can see the true face of the Cuban government,” he said, adding that he was not afraid and that agents would have to force him to leave his home.  “If I was able to withstand 26 months in prison under daily torture by Cuban soldiers—harassed, beaten, and drugged with chemical substances, because of which I am still sick—I can withstand 26 more months inside my home,” Gonzalez Leiva wrote in his letter.

After thanking the Cuban people and international organizations for their solidarity, the dissident leader noted that “this struggle proves that the government is crumbling.” 

In conclusion, he wrote, “Jesus Christ is with us, he is accompanying us, he is giving us victory and peace.”  He said his resistance would be non-violent and that whatever happens will be solely the responsibility “of the State Security, Cuban soldiers and the Cuban government.”

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