Archive of March 1, 2006

Pope calls Lent ‘favorable moment to convert to love’, to look with compassion on our brothers and sisters

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI devoted much of today’s weekly audience to the season of Lent which begins today, recalling the Biblical symbolism of the season, and calling on faithful to use the 40 days to convert their own hearts to greater love.”

The Pope told a large crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square that "the itinerary of 40 days that will lead us to the Easter Triduum, memory of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord, heart of the mystery of salvation."

Today marks only the second weekly audience in which Benedict spoke on a topic of his own choosing, having completed a long-running catechesis series on the Psalms and Canticles, begun by his predecessor, John Paul II.

He explained that the season of Lent possesses “an undeniable evocative power,” pointing out that the 40 days aim “to recall some of the events that marked the life and history of ancient Israel."

These include, he pointed out, "the 40 days of the flood that led to God's covenant with Noah, and the 40 days Moses spent on Mount Sinai, which was followed by the gift of the tablets of the Law."

"Above all,” the Pope said however, “the Lenten period invites us to relive with Jesus the 40 days He spent in the desert, praying and fasting before beginning His public mission.”

“Today,” he said, “we too begin a journey of reflection and prayer with all the Christians of the world. ... Today, all parish communities undertake an austere and symbolic gesture: the imposition of the ashes."

Benedict then recalled what he called the two "evocative formulae" which accompany the Ash Wednesday rite.

The first, he said is: "You are dust, and to dust you shall return," words that "evoke the human condition"; and the other is, "repent, and believe in the Gospel," an "invitation to place the firm and faithful adhesion to the Gospel at the foundation of individual and community renewal."

The Holy Father stressed to the gathered pilgrims that "The Lenten journey, by bringing us closer to God, enables us to look upon our brothers and sisters and their needs with new eyes.”

“For this reason,” he said, “Lent is a favorable moment to convert to love; a love capable of adopting the Lord's attitude of compassion and mercy, as I seek to recall in my Message for Lent, which has as its theme the Gospel passage: 'Jesus, at the sight of the crowds, was moved with pity'."

The Pope concluded his weekly address saying that, "Aware of her mission in the world, the Church does not cease to proclaim the merciful love of Christ, Who continues to turn His compassionate gaze on the men and peoples of all times. ... Fasting and almsgiving - which, together with prayer, the Church particularly proposes in the period of Lent - represent a good opportunity to conform ourselves to that 'gaze'."

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Catholics should be proud of their faith and willing to share it, says newly appointed Cardinal Archbishop Ricard of Bordeaux.

CNA STAFF, Mar 1, 2006 (CNA) - In an interview granted to Catholic News Agency, Archbishop Ricard from Bordeaux, one of the 15 new Cardinals appointed by pope Benedict shared with us what he thinks are the main  challenges of the Church in a secularized society and the challenge posed by Islam to the Christians in Europe.

What was your first reaction to your nomination as Cardinal, we know that is a tradition for the see of Bordeaux ?

When I arrived here in Bordeaux, they told me you’ll probably be nominated Cardinal some day. But I thought with the internationalization of the Roman Curie, the former cities except for big capitals were cardinals were nominated, would leave their seats to other bigger cities across the world. So it was a surprise at first. I saw it as a sign of confidence from the Pope and a sign of  esteem for the Diocese of Bordeaux, which I represent as well as for the French Bishops conference.

As a Cardinal You are going to participate directly to the Government of the Church, and assist Pope Benedict who appointed you. What do you see as the main challenge for the Universal Church in the world today?

I believe that the great challenge is that of  evangelization for the Church today. The announcement of the Gospel today, in the face of billions of people men and women who don’t know it. The proclamation of the Gospel confronted to other religions and cultures. How in a context of dialogue to gospel of Jesus Christ can be announced ,  this would be my first concern.
My second concern, is how a greater solidarity can be promoted among men, for what amounts  to peace, relations between peoples, and the struggle against the big  worldwide  economic unbalance, and the issue of hunger.

Coming back to theme of evangelization, and  globalization which is also relevant for the Church, Do you know the other Cardinals, particularly those of Asia, a priority has been given to them by Pope Benedict?

Well, I have a trip planned  to Vietnam, through an invitation from the local bishops. But trip has been delayed for internal reasons, I should be going there in September or October, I’ll do it then. At the Synod of Bishops in October, I have a vivid memory of the bishops of Asia, I recall perfectly the  remarkable  intervention  with great strength from the bishop of Hong Kong Joseph Zen. This bishop that Pope Benedict has also nominated as Cardinal.

Now more on the theme of France, you are the president of the French Bishops Conference since 2001, you released an important document on the reform of the Church in France, How do you view the situation of the Church there?

I thing that in France, we passed through an extremely strong crisis, in the 1960’s and 1970’s , linked to phenomenon of  secularization that affected all European countries. It seems to me that we are slowly coming out of this crisis. At the level vocations, I can notice a slight betterment  in my diocese in Bordeaux, more young guys are entering seminary since two years. This is a clear proof for hope in the Church.
As well as for  lay people, many of them, are taking more responsibility  and are more vested in the Church and local communities. What the new communities are adding is a source of great dynamism.
Another phenomenon I noticed, is that we are confronted to a phenomenon either of indifference towards religion, I think for instance that there is a renewal antichristian movements,  that can stem from  either thinkers, music artists, intellectual groups. We feel attacks of not only church, but Christian faith in its foundation. We therefore sense the importance as Saint Peter says in his epistle to make a display of our faith.

We are in a pluralistic society, where there is a variety of expressions, there are very antireligious expression, expressions which manifest a need of spirituality, and also the challenge of Islam. A Challenge in the sense, in which we are confronted today to a religion, where believers are proud of their faith and  missionaries, who want to promote Islam. We can’t blame believers  for the will to spread their faith, but that sends us back to the question if  we Christians, Catholics are we proud of our faith, and willing to share it.
The challenge is not a fear or concern, but a sort of provocation that leads us to go forth, in depth, and to be more deeply rooted in our faith.

A last question on the current tensions in Europe due the issue of the Caricatures, and the relations with Islam ?

We have to find a just balance between freedom of speech, mingling humor, irony on one side  and  deep criticism of the others, derision, the one that doesn’t respect the other on the other hand.
Freedom of speech has its limit. We know that in France, a racist discourse, and anti-Semite speech are not permitted. If there are deeply shocking, it is better to avoid them.
A second point,  I understand that people can be wounded by theses commentaries. But we have courts and law tribunals that deal with these kind of attacks. We shouldn’t  answer to this violence that can be felt through these caricatures, by another, more gruesome  kind of violence, who doesn’t spare lives, and which  attacks Christian communities, churches and priests as we saw in Libya an Turkey,.

Thank you Archbishop Ricard for answering our questions.

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Pro-life groups applaud Scheidler victory

Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2006 (CNA) - Priests for Life and Concerned Women for America (CWA) applaud the unanimous Supreme Court decision that peaceful demonstrations outside abortion clinics could not be deemed extortion.

The judges ruled 8-0 in the NOW v. Scheidler case. After having this issue battled in the courts for more than 19 years, Joseph Scheidler and other pro-life demonstrators were exonerated of all allegations.

CWA filed two amicus briefs in this case and CWA president Wendy Wright testified at the trial, providing eyewitness accounts that violence did not occur, contrary to the claims made by NOW.

“For decades, in this case and many others, pro-choice groups have tried to paint us who oppose abortion as violent people. Today, yet again, that strategy fails,” said Priests for Life national director Fr. Frank Pavone.

He urged pro-life citizens to be more active. “The proper response to this ruling is to increase our peaceful, legal presence at killing centers everywhere, without fear of ridicule, false arrest, or persecution.”

He said pastors should encourage and join their people in prayerful protest outside abortion clinics. “The Supreme Court takes our First Amendment rights seriously; so should we,” he said.

Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, in his statement on the Courts ruling said that  "Today's ruling by the Supreme Court puts an end to two decades of abuse by radical pro-abortion forces against one of America's most stalwart pro-life heroes. It is our desire that today's ruling will be a herald of even better news to come from our nation's highest court. It is becoming clearer by the day that our nation is recognizing the truth of abortion's heinous nature and that the days of Roe v. Wade are numbered."

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Marriage: a lifelong union of a man and a woman joined in an intimate community of life and love, say Arizona Bishops

Phoenix, Ariz., Mar 1, 2006 (CNA) - In response to a growing movement that favors making same-sex unions the equivalent of marriage, the Arizona Catholic Conference Bishops have released a joint pastoral statement entitled “Why is Marriage Important to the Catholic Church?”

The three bishops of Arizona, Bishop Donald Pelotte, SSS (Diocese of Gallup), Bishop Gerald Kicanas (Diocese of Tucson), and Bishop Thomas Olmsted (Diocese of Phoenix) decided to reveal publicly their deep concern   “for our Catholic believers and the well-being of society here in Arizona regarding the meaning of marriage.”

The Bishops defined Marriage as “a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of a man and a woman joined in an intimate community of life and love, and designed by God.” “Same-sex unions,” on the other hand, have an entirely different meaning because “they lack both natural complementarity and the ability to generate new life naturally,” they insisted.

The pastoral statement goes on to recognize that marriage is the foundation of the family and that the family is the basic unit of society.  Marriage is, therefore, acknowledged as a “personal relationship with enormous public significance.”

In this statement, the bishops express their commitment to “preserve the unique and irreplaceable status that marriage has always had in our society” and have, therefore, chosen this time to express their support for the Protect Marriage Arizona initiative.

In declaring their support, the bishops note that the Church is opposed to legal recognition of same-sex unions “in order to prevent the redefinition and devaluation of the institution of marriage.”  Nonetheless, the bishops add “[a]t the same time, however, we reiterate the Church’s teaching that people of whatever orientation must always be treated with compassion and respect and that their civil liberties must be protected.”

The statement concludes by stating that there are no legal restrictions to collecting initiative signatures on church grounds, but that because these places are primarily for worship, permission from the pastor should be sought before conducting such activities.

The complete text of the statement is available at 

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Pope Benedict prays for young people, their search for life

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that Pope Benedict XVI’s prayer intention for the month of March will focus on young people, particularly those searching for their own true sense of life.

His also prayed that within their search, these youth “may be understood, respected and accompanied with patience and love."

On Monday, the Vatican released Pope Benedict’s Message for the 21st World Youth Day, in which he called on young people to be “a new generation of apostles anchored firmly in the word of Christ, capable of responding to the challenges of our times and prepared to spread the Gospel far and wide.” 

Many watchers have observed that Benedict has made youth one of the focuses of his pontificate, thus following in the footsteps of his predecessor John Paul II.

The Vatican likewise announced today that the Pope’s mission intention is: "That, throughout the Church, there may grow that shared missionary awareness which favors the collaboration and exchange of those who work in the missions."

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Pope names new bishop for Galveston-Houston

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, Texas. Coadjutor Archbishop Daniel DiNardo has been named the new archbishop.

Bishop DiNardo, 56, was ordained a priest of the Pittsburgh diocese in 1977, and served in the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops from 1980 to 1990. He was named Coadjutor Bishop of Sioux City in 1997 and became Bishop of Sioux City in 1998. He was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Galveston-Houston in 2004.

In December, 2004, Pope John Paul II created the new Ecclesiastical Province of Galveston-Houston and elevated the See of Galveston-Houston to a Metropolitan See.

Bishop Fiorenza was the first bishop of Galveston-Houston. He served as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, from 1998 to 2001.

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has a Catholic population of more than one million.

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Archbishop Naumann: either allow discussion of Intelligent Design into classrooms, or keep philosophy of materialism out

Kansas City, Mo., Mar 1, 2006 (CNA) - Adding his voice to the volatile national debate over the teaching of Intelligent Design in the science classroom, Kansas City, Kansas’ Archbishop Joseph Naumann called for educational consistency across the board, saying either Intelligent Design philosophies should be allowed in, or secular ones taken out.

The theory of Intelligent Design suggests that the shape and scope of life in the universe is too complex to be the result of mere chance and coincidence. Proponents say that some intelligent force must lie at the beginning, but don’t make a claim as to who or what that force is.

Nevertheless, opponents of the theory say it has no place in public science classrooms and that it is a thinly veiled attempt to bring theology into the schools.

In his latest column, published in The Leaven newspaper, Archbishop Naumann asserted that “Faith has nothing to fear from the authentic pursuit of the truth,” but that “what we should fear is a half-hearted pursuit of truth.”

He called it intriguing that “some proponents of evolution have been upset by what they perceive as injecting philosophy and theology into the science classroom, while they have appeared oblivious to the entwining of the philosophy of materialism with evolutionary theory for the past 150 years.”

“In fact,” he added, “the authors of Intelligent Design accept natural selection — the key principle of evolution — but they maintain it can only explain a relatively small range of change in the natural world. They assert that the data supporting natural selection tells us nothing about the origin of the world, the origin of life and the development of such varied and complex life forms.”

He explained that “In the place of natural selection for the answer to these bigger realities, the Intelligent Design theorists hold that the empirical data supports the principle of ‘irreducible complexity.’”

The Archbishop pointed out that “opponents of Intelligent Design argue to keep all philosophical assumptions or theories out of science class discussions,” saying that he “would support such an approach, if this meant that in science classes the limited areas, where there is hard scientific evidence for natural selection, would no longer be used as a springboard to teach the grand assumptions and theories of materialism.”

He called on scientists and teachers to “Let the scientific facts speak for themselves with no philosophical explanations offered.”

But he said however, “if materialism is going to continue to be expounded in science classes, then why not allow a hearing of the competing theory of Intelligent Design?”

The prelate cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which reveals a confidence that a fair reading of all of scientific inquiry “will lead us to the true source of the world and of life.”

He said that the Catechism “also acknowledges the irresistible urge to go beyond just the articulation of the scientific data to the deeper questions about its meaning. The answers to these philosophical questions profoundly affect how we understand our world and ourselves.”

Archbishop Naumann concluded by saying that he would be “comfortable if our public schools taught both the philosophical theories of materialism with its view of a world that evolved by chance and Intelligent Design with its vision of a world whose order and beauty reveal an intelligent architect.”

This confidence, he said, comes from his belief of “where an objective reading of the evidence will lead most students.”

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Italian intellectuals: moral and spiritual crisis prevents Europe from reacting to Islamic terrorism

Rome, Italy, Mar 1, 2006 (CNA) - A significant number of Italian lawmakers, politicians and intellectuals, led by the president of the Italian Senate, Marcello Pera and including such individuals as Italy’s  Culture Minister, Rocco Buttiglione, has presented a manifesto in which they attribute the confusion and fear in Europe over Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism to “a moral and spiritual crisis” that prevents the continent from finding “the courage to react.”

The manifesto, endorsed by more than 70 different leaders in government, trade unions and universities, states that the west is “under attack from the outside by Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism” and is “incapable of responding to the challenge.”  “We feel guilty for our well-being, we are ashamed of our traditions, and we think terrorism is a reaction to our mistakes.  But terrorism is a direct attack on our civilization and on the whole of humanity,” the document argues.

“Europe is sick,” it continues.  “The birth rate continues to fall, as well as [Europe’s] competitiveness, unity and action on the world scene.  It hides and denies its own identity and thus fails to provide itself a legitimate constitution of its citizens.  It determines relations with the United States are broken and makes anti-Americanism its flag.”

The statement echoes the words of Pope Benedict XVI that today, the “West no longer loves itself,” and that to overcome this crisis “more determination and more courage regarding the issue of our civilization” are needed.

Western civilization, it notes, has been the “source of universal and undeniable principles, contrasting, in the name of a common historical and cultural tradition, the temptation today to build an alternative Europe set against the United States.”

The document also argues for better integration of immigrants and defends the right to life “from conception to natural death.”  The family, it underscores, is the natural foundation of society, and marriage “must be protected and differentiated from any other type of union or bond.”

The signers acknowledge the distinction between Church and State, “without giving in to the secular temptation to relegate the religious dimension to solely the private sphere.” 

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Pope promotes culture of solidarity inspired by evangelical values

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2006 (CNA) - In a telegram to the participants of a Vatican conference on micro-credit organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Pope Benedict XVI offered encouragement in making efforts toward "the promotion of a culture of solidarity inspired by evangelical values."
According to Vatican Radio, the message was delivered in the Holy Father’s name by Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
The conference, which ended on Tuesday, emphasized the importance of access to credit as an indispensable condition for economic development.
In commenting on the conference, Vatican radio reported that millions of persons in developing countries are unable to get credit approval.  In response to the problem, some financial institutions have begun offering micro-credit in amounts of $100 or less.   “Most who obtain such loans complete payments on them and are able to achieve the small benefit they need for their normal activities,” Vatican Radio reported.

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Abortion dominates discussion on Catholic politicians

Newton, Mass., Mar 1, 2006 (CNA) - Abortion dominated a discussion Feb. 27 at Boston College among prominent Catholic pundits and journalists. Nearly 6,000 people attended the 90-minute talk, entitled "Catholic Politicians in the U.S.: Their Faith and Public Policy."
Tim Russert, host of NBC’s "Meet the Press" moderated the session, which included Democratic strategist James Carville, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Edward W. Gillespie.

Carville, who helped elect Bill Clinton to office in 1992, claimed the teachings of the Church line up more with the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, reported the Daily News.
Dionne, a Democrat, echoed Carville. He noted that abortions declined 11 percent during the Clinton administration, adding however that it is very unlikely abortion will ever be illegal in the United States.
To the surprise of the audience, he said Roe v. Wade "was one of the worst things to happen to liberalism." He said that it would have been better at that time to resolve the matter on abortion through a lawmaking body than through the courts, reported the Daily News.
Gillespie said it is difficult to be a good presidential candidate and a Catholic, citing the poor showing of Sen. John Kerry. Gillespie said it is a misconception that abortion is the only issue that defines the Catholic vote.
Contrary to what some political analysts have suggested, Dionne reportedly said there is no Catholic vote in the U.S. He used statistics that suggest 40 percent of Catholics are Republican, 40 percent are Democrat, and 20 percent are swing voters. 

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Samaritans of the Street reach out to drug addicts and troubled youth

, Mar 1, 2006 (CNA) - An outreach ministry to juvenile delinquents and drug addicts is making news in Cali, Colombia, where it is offering food, medicine, housing and personal assistance to troubled youth.

According to the Colombian daily El Pais, the Samaritans of the Street were encouraged to move forward with their ministry by the late Archbishop Isaias Duarte Cancino, who was killed in 2002.  Sister Magdalena, coordinator at one of the group’s homes, said the purpose of organization is “to soften the damage of drug addicts and to give them love, that strange medicine that is the only hope for a city sick with indifference.”

Thousands of people, many of which are addicted to drugs, live on the streets of Cali in makeshift shelters in subhuman conditions.  Many live off the money they raise from recycling scrap-iron, plastic and glass.  The money earned is often used to buy a popular drug called “basuco.”

It is precisely in these places where “contrary to all logic, to the abusive exploitation of drug traffickers and the almost complete indifference of civil authorities, a group of men and women seek to reverse the drama and overcome evil.  Their efforts, in many ways almost useless, give hope,” explained El Pais.

During the day members of the organization provide food, medicine and bathing facilities to people who come to one of the four outreach homes in the area.

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Half million copies of Deus Caritas est distributed in Spain during first month

Madrid, Spain, Mar 1, 2006 (CNA) - Since its publication one month ago, more than 515,000 copies of Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical “Deus Caritas est” have been distributed in Spain.  Publishers have announced they will be printing a new edition in order to meet the demand.

Europa Press reports that of the total number sold, 350,000 copies were distributed by religious media outlets, while the other 165,000 were sold by the five main Catholic publishers.

Among the religious media, Alfa and Omega distributed the most, with about 340,000 copies.  The magazine “Eclessia” distributed around 10,000 and the publisher Edibesa distributed 45,000 copies, or 5000 per day, since the publication of the encyclical.

Antonio Pelillo Moraza, commercial director of the Library of Christian Authors, told Europa Press the first 15,000 copies of the encyclical sold out before the end of January and that a new issue would be forthcoming.

The publisher San Pablo issued two editions numbering 60,000 copies, which sold out during January as well.  The Spanish Conference of Bishops also published 15,000 copies.

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Court rules abortion laws do not always require health exceptions

Cincinnati, Ohio, Mar 1, 2006 (CNA) - The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a “per se” requirement Feb. 24 that all abortion statutes must contain an exception to protect the health or life of the mother in order to be constitutional.
This case illustrates that striking down abortion laws will become much more difficult in the future, says the Liberty Counsel.

According to the Liberty Counsel, the Planned Parenthood Cincinnati Region v. Taft case is significant for two reasons: the court ruled that a health exception is not always necessary for laws restricting abortion, and; the ruling is the first application of the Supreme Court’s decision in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood.

Relying on the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, issued Jan. 18, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled that lower courts could not strike down entire statutes when a narrow ruling is possible.

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