Archive of January 26, 2006

Gearing up to celebrate Catholic schools

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2006 (CNA) - Catholics across the country are encouraged to celebrate the quality education Catholic schools offer during Catholic Schools Week, which begins on the last Sunday of January and runs from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4.

This year’s theme of the annual event is “Catholic Schools: Character. Compassion. Values.” The National Appreciation Day For Catholic Schools is Feb. 1

During this week of recognition, schools will plan special celebrations and community events. In past years, schools have organized, among other things, open houses, fairs and liturgies.

Catholic Schools Week and the National Marketing Campaign For Catholic Schools is a joint project between the National Catholic Educational Association and the U.S. bishops’ conference.

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Faith leaders form coalition against Massachusetts’ financial disclosure bill

Boston, Mass., Jan 26, 2006 (CNA) - Non-Catholic religious leaders in Massachusetts have sided with the Archdiocese of Boston against a state bill that would require religious denominations and congregations to publicly disclose their finances and real estate holdings.

Religious leaders said they understand why Catholic laypeople may be frustrated with archdiocesan leadership and want them to disclose their finances, but said people need to work within their own denomination and not look to the government to resolve their internal issues, reported the Boston Globe.

The religious leaders vowed to fight this bill in the Legislature and, if necessary, in the courts. The Episcopal Church, for example, said it would sue to overturn the law on constitutional grounds.

''There are nothing but good intentions behind this measure, and there is sympathy for the problems that people are trying to address. But the bill doesn't address the problems,” Andrew Tarsy, regional director of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, told the Globe.

“It brings the state inside religious communities in a way that is unprecedented in Massachusetts. It's good intentions and bad law, and they're glossing over really big issues," he was quoted as saying.

''If you listen to the debate, you see that a number of very distressed Roman Catholic laity, who are legislators, are inappropriately using the arm of government to deal with the internal concerns of one particular church," Rev. Diane Kessler, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches told the Globe.

''There is a real danger, that the courts have recognized over the years, in abusing power and intruding on the affairs of religious communities," she said. Her council is an umbrella organization of Protestant and Orthodox Christian churches.

The religious leaders have formed a coalition against the bill, which includes the state's four Catholic dioceses; the leaders of the mainline Protestant and Orthodox Christian churches; the Unitarian Universalist Association, the First Church of Christ, Scientist; the Islamic Council of New England; the Salvation Army; the Seventh Day Adventist Church; the Assemblies of God; several Jewish organizations, and Vision New England, which represents hundreds of independent evangelical churches.

The bill was endorsed by Senator Mary Walsh. It was approved by the Senate 33 to 4 in November. But Governor Mitt Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has threatened to veto the measure. Since then, support for the measure seems to be dwindling, reported the State House News Service.

Prior to the vote, Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston had unveiled a plan to begin annual disclosure of archdiocesan finances, starting this spring.

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NBC dumps ‘Book of Daniel’

, Jan 26, 2006 (CNA) - The cancellation of the new television show “The Book of Daniel” is “good news for Christians and bad news for those who get their jollies trying to disparage them,” says the Catholic League.

NBC-TV announced its decision yesterday to cancel the controversial television program about an Episcopalian priest and his dysfunctional family and church community. Numerous NBC affiliates across the country had received message from their viewers to cancel the offensive program.

“The decision to air this show about a totally dysfunctional Christian family was another example of Hollywood’s agenda,” said Catholic League president Bill Donohue.

However, the league’s director of communications, Kiera McCaffrey, had an opportunity to preview the first two episodes and share her conclusions with Entertainment Tonight that she “couldn’t be offended by it because it’s more moronic than anything else.”

TV critics had said “The Book of Daniel” is “the best thing to hit TV this season,” “wildly entertaining and superbly cast” and “refreshingly intelligent.”

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Bishops of Scotland call for promotion, protection of family

, Jan 26, 2006 (CNA) - The bishops of Scotland have issued a pastoral letter on family life to the country’s 500 parishes, criticizing the recent same-sex union legislation and calling on society to promote the family.

Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow wrote the letter on the bishops’ behalf, saying that Scotland’s recent same-sex union legislation diminishes the special status of marriage, reported the Scotsman News.

"The law has created a fiction of marriage by implicitly basing such legislation on a sexual engagement,” the letter reads. "While some say it is no business of the state to interfere in what consenting adults do, it is equally arguable that it is not wise of the state to accord civil partnerships privileges reserved until now to married couples.

"Nothing is more fundamental to the common good than the stability of family life,” he said. "This is a time when marriage and the family are in crisis, with many of our social ills traceable to this cause. Therefore, we must be at the forefront of promoting family life."

The letter urges society to help protect and promote families by assisting young married couples to find affordable accommodation, offering them marriage preparation, and conciliation services.

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Christian unity necessary for successful spread of Christ’s light to world, says Pope

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2006 (CNA) - Last evening at Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, Pope Benedict closed the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with a vespers reflection on the profound need for Christian unity in order to effectively spread the Gospel and Christ’s message of salvation throughout the world

The theme for the week has been: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."

Speaking to a large crowd, the Holy Father said that "the aspiration of all Christian communities and of each individual faithful to unity, and the strength to achieve it, are gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

He added that this aspiration goes “hand in hand with an ever more profound and radical faithfulness to the Gospel. We realize that conversion of heart lies at the base of ecumenical commitment."

The Pope also noted his new Encyclical--released yesterday and titled, "Deus caritas est," or “God is Love,” saying that “Upon this firm rock the entire faith of the Church rests.”

“Fixing our gaze on this truth, the peak of divine revelation,” he added, “divisions, while maintaining their painful magnitude, appear surmountable and do not discourage us."

"True love," he explained, "does not cancel legitimate differences, but harmonizes them into a higher unity, one that is not imposed from outside, but that from within gives form, so to say, to the whole."

Necessary Mission

Pope Benedict told the crowd that "the longed-for achievement of unity depends, in the first instance, upon the will of God, Whose design and generosity surpass man's understanding, even exceeding his requests and expectations.”

“By relying on divine goodness,” he said, “we intensify our common prayer for unity, which is a necessary and highly effective instrument."

“Unity”, the Pope concluded, “is our shared mission; it is the condition necessary for the light of Christ to spread more effectively all over the world, that men and women may be converted and saved."

Noting soberly, that much remains to be done in building this unity, he added: "Let us not lose faith, rather let us resume the journey with greater energy. Christ goes before us and accompanies us. We rely upon His unfailing presence; from Him we implore, humbly and tirelessly, the precious gift of unity and peace."

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Pope Benedict: Courage, prayer required for rebuilding Christian unity in Europe

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2006 (CNA) - Earlier today at the Vatican, Pope Benedict met with preparatory members of the European Ecumenical Assembly. He chose the occasion to tell his listeners that the Christian mission will only be fruitful and “enlightening” if Christians have the courage to decisively continue “down the path of reconciliation and unity.”


The meeting comes on the heels of the closing ceremonies for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which concluded yesterday.


Pope Benedict began by telling the group that their visit “provides a further occasion to shed light upon the links of communion that bind us to Christ, and to renew the will to work together, so that full unity may come as soon as possible."


He then greeted the representatives, who come from European ecumenical organizations, pointing out that they had begun their European ecumenical pilgrimage, “which will culminate in the gathering at Sibiu, Romania, in September 2007 - from here in Rome…site of the preaching and martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul.”


He called this choice “extremely significant because the Apostles were the first to announce the Gospel to us, that Gospel which, as Christians, we are called to proclaim and bear witness to in today's Europe."


The Pope also noted the theme for the group’s upcoming spiritual itinerary - "the light of Christ illuminates everyone. Hope of renewal and unity in Europe," saying that in order for the process of unification of the continent to be fruitful, Europe must "find room for the ethical values which make up part of its vast and well-consolidated spiritual heritage."


"Nonetheless,” the Holy Father pointed out, “our presence as Christians will prove incisive and enlightening only if we have the courage to continue decisively down the path of reconciliation and unity.”


He went on to stress that “Everyone must show such strength ... because we all have a specific responsibility towards the ecumenical progress of Christians on our continent and in the rest of the world.”


Reflecting on the collapse of communism in the previous decades, the Pope said that "Since the fall of the wall dividing Eastern and Western Europe, the meeting between peoples has become easier ... and a need is being felt to face the great challenges of the present time in a united fashion, beginning with the challenges of modernity and secularization."


In closing, Pope Benedict added that, "experience amply demonstrates that sincere and fraternal dialogue generates trust, eliminates fears and preconceived notions, removes difficulties and opens the way to serene and constructive dialogue."

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Cardinal Kasper to make historic trip to Armenia, Georgia, Eastern Orthodox churches

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican has announced that Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Unity, will head up a Holy See delegation traveling to Armenia for an historic meeting of the joint international commission for theological dialogue between Catholics and Eastern Orthodox.

The meeting is the third of its kind to be hosted by the commission, and will be held at the Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin, Armenia, from January 26 to 30.

The group’s first meeting took place in Cairo, Egypt in 2004, and the second in Rome last year.

Catholicos of all Armenia, Karekin II, has invited two delegations, one Catholic, headed by Cardinal Kasper, and one Orthodox, which will be led by Metropolitan Amba Bishoy of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

According to a statement released today, the program will include "three themes for study and dialogue, all related to the central theme of the Church as communion: bishops in the apostolic succession; the relationship between primacy and collegiality; and the working and ecclesiological importance of synods at the local and ecumenical level."

It also stated that following the Armenia trip, Cardinal Kasper, will visit the Republic of Georgia from January 31st to February 4th.

He will be accompanied by Fr. Jozef M. Maj S.J., an official at the oriental section of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

The Georgia visit will be the first by a president of the Pontifical Council in 15 years. It comes in response to an invitation by Bishop Giuseppe Pasotto, apostolic administrator of Caucasus of the Latinsto, visit the local Catholic community.

A meeting with His Holiness Ilia II, Catholicos Patriarch of all Georgia, primate of the Georgian Orthodox Church, is also scheduled for the Cardinal.

He is slated to deliver a talk on relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, on the February 2nd Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, preside at a Eucharistic celebration in the presence of local faithful, and participate in an ecumenical prayer at the cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Cardinal Kasper will conclude his trip with visits to an ecclesiastical academy, as well as many of the major shrines and monastic centers of the Orthodox Church.

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London court authorizes abortion for minors without parental consent

London, England, Jan 26, 2006 (CNA) - The High Court of London has ruled that girls under the age of 16 can obtain an abortion without the consent of their parents. The ruling comes as the United Kingdom posts the highest rate of adolescent pregnancies in Europe.

Judge Stephen Silber wrote the ruling in the case of Susan Axon, a divorced mother of five, whose 16 year-old daughter is pregnant.  Axon went to court in November to contest a law which allows girls under 16 to receive confidential advice on abortion.  She had argued that 20 years ago she herself obtained an abortion and that she felt “guilty, ashamed and depressed for many years” and that today she regrets her choice.

Nevertheless, Judge Silber ruled that in forcing a girl to reveal her intention to have an abortion to her parents “she might, by so doing, make a decision that she later regrets or she might seek the assistance of an unqualified abortionist.”

Axon said she was “disappointed” by the verdict and that “having endured the trauma of abortion I brought the case to ensure that medical professionals would not carry out an abortion on one of my daughters without first informing me."

Anne Weyman, director of the Family Planning Association of the United Kingdom, said she was pleased with the ruling.  "Compulsory parental notification of their visit would have been a disaster, leading to young people staying away from services and risking unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections".

Public health minister Caroline Flint also welcomed the ruling, saying: "This judgment confirms that our guidance is fully in line with the law.”   She did admit that it was “a very difficult issue.”

According to official statistics, there were 185,000 abortions in the UK in 2004.  Some 3,760 were obtained by girls under the age of 16.

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Spanish government to push homosexual agenda at World Social Forum

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 26, 2006 (CNA) - A Spanish government official in charge of working with NGOs has announced he will advance the Zapatero administration’s proposals for Latin America, including gay “marriage,” at the upcoming World Social Forum in Venezuela.

Pedro Zerolo, who is also in charge of immigration issues for the Spanish government, will make known his government’s proposals at the Forum, which include the legalization of homosexual unions and the promotion of “a plural, diverse and equal society.”

Zerolo, who called Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero a “rainbow” president, praised the Spanish government’s agenda for the meeting and said he expected it to coincide with that of other leaders in Latin America, such as Michelle Bachhelet of Chile and Evo Morales of Bolivia.

During his visit to Venezuela, Zerolo plans to meet with Spanish citizens living there to explain the government’s plan to allow those who are homosexuals to contract matrimony.

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Former colleague at CDF says Pope’s encyclical an invitation to return to basics of Christianity

Rome, Italy, Jan 26, 2006 (CNA) - The Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Angelo Amato, who worked with then Cardinal Ratzinger at the dicastery, said the first encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI, “Deus caritas est”, is an “invitation to return to the basics of Christianity.”

In excerpts from an interview with the magazine Famiglia Cristiana published by Europa Press, Archbishop Amato explained that the Pope has written the encyclical “to re-launch the idea that the Christian God is a God of charity, and he says so at the beginning when he refers to the world and when in the name of God people speak of vengeance, hatred and violence.”

According to Europa Press, Archbishop Amato is “one of the few who have followed the drafting of the encyclical” and that he does not agree with those who do not consider the document “pragmatic,” as it addresses “the central issue of Christianity,” which is “the religion of charity.”

Archbishop Amato said this first encyclical is different from John Paul II’s, Redemptor hominis, because there the late Pontiff described his agenda for his pontificate.  “Benedict XVI, however, explains the essential nucleus of Christianity, that is, charity, love and the reflection of these in the actions of the Church,” he said.

The archbishop also explained that the section of the encyclical that addresses love between man and woman presents “a theology of spousal reality.”  “The Pope compares eros and agape together, he does not exclude one in favor of the other but explains that eros need not enclose itself in selfishness, exclusively for pleasure, but rather must become agape, that is, care for one’s neighbor,” he added.

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Venezuelan bishops demand respect from government to improve cooperation

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 26, 2006 (CNA) - A delegation of Venezuelan bishops who met with President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday told the leader they would like greater mutual respect between the Church and the government in order to foster cooperation between the two.

Bishop Ubaldo Santana, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, read a statement after the meeting in which he said the bishops desire to continue carrying out their work “in complete freedom,” “convinced that the exercise of our ministry contributes to the strengthening of the Church and the Venezuelan people.”

In the statement, the bishops call on the government to refrain from using disparaging language about the Church and “certain bishops,” as effective and legitimate dialogue is only possible by abandoning suspicion and hurtfulness.  They also asked that the Church not be attacked on government radio and television programs and that the person of Jesus Christ “be treated with respect and dignity.”

The bishops said they explained to Chavez that the exhortation the bishops published several days ago was drafted with “careful discernment, in a climate of mutual openness and prayer, and devoid of any complacency or deceit.”

They reiterated their call to Chavez to begin a dialogue with the nation and “to listen with tolerance and respect to constructive criticism” of his administration.  They said they were concerned about increasing public skepticism regarding the honesty and integrity of certain government institutions.

The reestablishing of the lines of communication between the Church and the government is essential, they added, “in order to move forward on important issues such as the right to life, religious education in schools and the arrival of new missionaries” in the country.

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U.S. Experts laud new Papal Encyclical; dismiss criticism of being ‘uncontroversial’

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2006 (CNA) - As  the world begins to sink its teeth into “Deus Caritas est”, the first Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, many experts--on all sides of the political aisles-- are lauding the new work as an essential and critical teaching on the core values of the Church.

Bishop William Skylstad, head of the Diocese of Spokane, WA, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the new document a “profound meditation on the meaning of Christian love and the place of charity in the life of the Church.”

Noting the Pope’s affirmation that “the Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word,” Bishop Skylstad said that “This affirmation puts this service at the very center of the Church’s life, and it follows a reflection in depth on the meaning of love as it appears in Sacred Scripture.”

He added that “Following this fundamental affirmation, the Holy Father also discusses the relationship between charity and justice… [pointing] out that ‘the just ordering of society and the State is a central responsibility of politics.’”

“At the same time,” the bishop points out, “faith and politics – each independent in its own sphere -- meet on the question, ‘what is justice?’” because, as the Holy Father writes, “’faith liberates reason from its blind spots’ and thus helps politics to achieve a just society.”

Some disagreed however, charging the Pope with being too abstract and avoiding specific, problematic moral issues facing the culture.

An article in the New York Times said that “The encyclical…did not mention abortion, homosexuality, contraception or divorce, issues that often divide Catholics. But in gentle, often poetic language, Benedict nonetheless portrayed a tough-minded church that is ‘duty bound,’ he wrote, to intervene at times in secular politics for ‘the attainment for what is just.’”

Father Joseph Fessio, however, President of Ignatius Press, which is the primary U.S. publisher of the Pope’s books, told the Times that while doing it in a gentle and conciliatory manner, the Pope’s new work holds strongly and clearly to the Church’s age-old teachings.

"What is he doing there?" Father Fessio asked. "He is saying no divorce. He is saying no promiscuity. He is saying no multiple wives. No homosexuality. He's completely positive, but if you accept the teaching, consequences follow."

Likewise, the political group, Concerned Women for America (CWA) countered critical accusations that the Encyclical was “uncontroversial” and avoided “problematic issues of the day.”

“When a pope defines love and sex in terms of a married husband and wife, there’s going to be plenty of controversy,” said Dr. Janice Crouse, Senior Fellow of CWA’s Beverly LaHaye Institute.

She added that "When he linked authentic Christianity to personal lifestyle choices, this new Pope held up an orthodox standard that stands in stark contrast to cultural trends and the prevailing morality of today."

"By condemning promiscuity, the pope is getting at the root cause of the breakdown of the family and the disastrous social outcomes that plague women and children as a result."

She added: "When a Christian leader speaks with Biblical consistency, all Christians can take heart and be encouraged."

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