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Archive of March 8, 2006

USCCB president urges Congress to prioritize poor people in budget decisions

Washington D.C., Mar 8, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop William Skylstad, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged Congress to make poor people in the U.S. and abroad a priority when adopting a new budget.

“Budget decisions reflect not only economic policies, but moral choices as well,” said the bishop of Spokane in his March 3 letter to U.S. House and Senate Budget Committee members. “When setting national priorities, Congress should seek genuine bipartisan commitment focusing on the common good of all, and especially the essential needs of the poor and vulnerable.

“Providing an adequate safety net for poor and vulnerable families at home and promoting human development in poor countries are both fundamental moral obligations of a responsible society,” he said.

“These must not be neglected as Congress addresses essential priorities like homeland security and the defense of our nation, which can only be enhanced by wise investments to protect human life and dignity at home and abroad. We ask that you support maximum budget authority in those accounts that fund programs to assist poor families and vulnerable children.”

The bishop also encouraged the government to generate sufficient revenues so that it can meet the needs of the most vulnerable in the country and abroad. He said government should evaluate any new tax proposals in light of their ability to generate sufficient revenues for this purpose.

Moreover, Congress should adopt a budget that will ensure adequate funding for families to “escape joblessness, move beyond welfare, choose education for their children, gain needed health care coverage, and overcome hunger and homelessness.” He said the U.S. has “inescapable international responsibilities” that include increased investments in promoting peace, security and sustainable development.

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Chinese government angry over naming of new cardinal

Beijing, China, Mar 8, 2006 (CNA) - The Chinese government’s discontent at the naming of the bishop of Hong Kong to the College of Cardinals was finally made manifest this Tuesday as the country’s Foreign Affairs minister, Li Zhaoxing said, "We hope the Vatican will not maintain a so-called diplomatic relations with a province or a locality of China.”

China hopes the Vatican will not intervene in its internal affairs in any form,” said the foreign minister during a press conference. 

The discontent over the naming of Cardinal-designate Joseph Zen, who is an open critic of the anti-religious policies of China, was also exposed in a piece by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, which referred to Cardinal Zen as “a person from Hong Kong.”

Hong and China follow the so-called “one country, two systems” model in religious affairs, which allows Pope Benedict XVI to name bishops or cardinals for Hong Kong, but not for China.

China has insisted that the Vatican withdraw recognition of Taiwan as a condition for the establishing of diplomatic relations and that the Holy See “commits itself to not intervening in Chinese internal affairs,” which for Beijing means renouncing to the right to name bishops.

The outspoken archbishop of Hong Kong told the BBC, “I am more than 70 years old; there are some things difficult to change”—a clear reference to his criticisms of the Chinese government.  “I think we all have the right to get involved in the social issues of our societies.  Since we are also members of the general public, when we have opinions on any subject, we should be allowed to express them,” he said.

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Upcoming African Bishop’s Synod will focus on reconciliation, peace, justice

Vatican City, Mar 8, 2006 (CNA) - Earlier today in Rome, representatives from the Catholic Church in Africa met to plan the second ever Bishop’s Synod on that continent. The Synod was called for by John Paul II in 2004 and confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI.

The Vatican announced that Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, was on hand for today’s meeting, accompanied by two African cardinals as well as seven bishops and archbishops.

The group discussed the preparatory "Lineamenta" document for the Synod, saying, according to a statement, that it must be "easy to understand and capable of favoring debate and reflection, especially on the themes of reconciliation, justice and peace in the context of a renewed evangelizing effort on the great African continent."

Traditionally, the second part of the "Lineamenta" will be formed, as a questionnaire, which the group called "of great importance in ensuring active participation at all levels in the local Churches of the continent and its islands."

No date has yet been scheduled for the Synod, but the Vatican said that next preparatory meeting will be held on February 15th and 16th of 2007.

Africa’s first Bishop’s Synod was held at the behest of John Paul II in 1994.

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Vatican exhibition to celebrate 500 years of Swiss Guard

Vatican City, Mar 8, 2006 (CNA) - Officials at the Vatican are celebrating 500 years of protection by the Swiss Guard with a new exhibition commemorating the world’s oldest active military force.

The exhibit, entitled: "The Pontifical Swiss Guard, 500 years of history, art and life" is due to be inaugurated on March 29th in the Charlemagne Wing off of St. Peter's Square.

The Holy See has pointed out that the exhibition brings together for the first time, a number of historical objects and documents compiled from various museums and institutions.

Among them is the original Bull, sent by Pope Julius II in 1505 to the Swiss Confederation explaining that he had called upon prelate Peter von Hertenstein to recruit 200 Swiss soldiers to guard and protect the person of the Pope and the papal palaces. 

Likewise, the exhibit will display a number of flags given to Switzerland by the Pope, as well as the helmet and breastplate of Emperor Charles V, a sword with Pope Julius II’s motto, and a number of paintings and miniatures depicting famous historical instances involving the Swiss Guard.

One of the most significant of the works of art is a 1927 painting by the Italian artist Giuseppe Rivaroli depicting the Emperor Charles V’s famous 1527 “Sack of Rome.”

During the attack, 147 Swiss lost their lives defending the Holy Father from invading troops called upon to “punish” the people of Rome as well as Pope Clement VII.

The Swiss Guard, from their own private archives, are contributing portraits of every Guard commander from the last 500 years, as well as uniforms, arms and equipment--both ancient and modern.

The exhibition is being sponsored by the Command of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, and will be patronized by Bishop Mauro Piacenza, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church.

Likewise, numerous Swiss cultural institutions are helping sponsor the event which will be open from March 29th until to July 30th of this year.

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In effort to ‘right past wrongs’, Archdiocese of Dublin publishes massive sexual-abuse report

Dublin, Ireland, Mar 8, 2006 (CNA) - In what Archbishop Diardmuid Martin calls an effort to actively “right past wrongs”, the Archdiocese of Dublin has published a report admitting that 102 of its priests--some 3.5% of its total--have been suspected of sexually or physically abusing young people since 1940.

The report is the largest such admission of abuse in Ireland, which has been particularly hard-hit by the scandals since their surfacing in 1994. It comes ahead of a government-appointed commission which is scheduled to be formed to investigate the improprieties later this month.

The church’s findings are based on a two-year long study of some 2800 priests who have worked within the archdiocese over the past 66 years.

The report stated that eight priests have received criminal convictions while another 32 have been sued by alleged victims.  In addition, 40 claims remain unsettled and the archdiocese has positively identified 350 more victims whose cases have yet to be settled. It also cited some 40 more victims who may have been abused but as of the report date, remain unidentified.

According to the archdiocese, Dublin area priests were informed of the updated findings during a deanery meeting on Monday.

The Associated Press reported Archbishop Martin as saying, "It's very frightening for me to see that in some of these cases, so many children were abused. It's very hard to weigh that up against anything."

"On the other hand,” he pointed out however, “I know that the vast majority of priests don't abuse, that they do good work, that they're extremely upset and offended by what's happened."

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Media reports on sexual abuse unjustified, says Catholic League

, Mar 8, 2006 (CNA) - Catholic League president Bill Donohue says bigotry was behind the decision of two mid-Western newspapers to publish feature articles on sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

The Telegraph Herald, a Dubuque, Iowa newspaper, started on March 5 an eight-day series exposing sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Dubuque. The same day, the Chicago Sun-Times ran a long article by a local columnist about how he was abused by a priest in 1979.

“There is only one reason why these articles are being printed now—it’s in vogue to bash the Catholic Church,” said Donohue. “If bigotry isn’t in play, then it needs to be explained why the Telegraph Herald decided to run an eight-part series on the dirty laundry of the Dubuque archdiocese extending back decades but not on the dirty laundry of local school districts?”

Donohue said it is “beyond dispute” that public school systems house more sexual abusers than any other comparative group.

“Why hasn’t the Dubuque community been treated to a litany of sordid stories on how school superintendents pass molesting teachers from one school district to another?” Donohue asked.

“To be sure, we expect more from priests than teachers. But the disproportionate coverage given to priests cannot be fairly justified,” he said.

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Pro-life leader commends Georgia Senate

Atlanta, Ga., Mar 8, 2006 (CNA) - The Georgia Senate must be applauded for approving three bills related to pre-born children, said Fr. Frank Pavone.

"The first job of legislators is to protect the lives of those they represent,” said the national director of Priests for Life.

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act passed by the Senate means the death of any child at any stage of pregnancy would result in a homicide charge for the mother's attacker, Fr. Pavone explained.

The second bill allows pharmacists who file objections in advance not to be forced to dispense drugs that induce abortions. The third bill requires an abortionist to make a sonogram image of a mother's unborn baby and show the image to the woman prior to an abortion.

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Website launched for world congress on Catholic TV

Madrid, Spain, Mar 8, 2006 (CNA) - Organizers of the World Congress of Catholic TV, which will take place October 10-12 in Madrid, have launched a website at http://www.congresomundialtv.com, where they will make all of the information about the event available online.

The event is being sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Madrid and the Garcia-Morente Foundation.  The website offers information in Spanish, English, Italian and French.

Speaking about the event, Msgr. Enrique Planas of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said that its purpose “is to take note of the development of Catholic television in the coming years, in order to form a network of Catholic television stations cooperating together in evangelization.”

Msgr. Planas said the Congress would include “three key addresses and discussion groups.”  He said the first topic of discussion would be “the Catholic identity” of television, “since currently there is no common idea regarding Catholic television.”

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Christian rights leader’s home raided by police in India

Washington D.C., Mar 8, 2006 (CNA) - Fifteen Indian police officers raided the home of Christian human rights advocate Sajan George Monday, reported the Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom.

The center is now calling on the central Indian Government and the Indian National Human Rights Council to investigate and halt ongoing police harassment of George and the evangelical Emmanuel Mission International (EMI), which he defends.

George is the head of the Global Council of Indian Christians, based in Bangalore, South India, which works to defend the human rights of India's Christian minority.

George was not home at the time of the raid, so police interrogated his wife and daughter. They reportedly demanded to know about George's relation with Archbishop M. A. Thomas and the organization he founded, EMI, based in Rajasthan.

The police refused the family's entreaties to leave, searched the house, and indicated that they had been wiretapping George's phone.

This raid is the latest example of police harassment of those connected with EMI. The group has been targeted by radical Hindu groups and their supporters in the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which controls the Rajasthan state government. Several of their workers have been detained by Rajasthan police this year; others have received death threats, and its offices have been shut down by authorities.

EMI runs 103 orphanages nationwide, as well as 11,000 churches, over 140 schools and a hospital, and has provided aid to victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami, the Bombay floods, the Gujarat earthquakes and Hurricane Katrina.

EMI founder Archbishop Thomas has received the Mahatma Gandhi Award and the Padma Sheri award, India's highest civilian honor, and has served India's needy for more than years.

For more on Christian persecution in India, go to: http://freedomhouse.org/religion/publications/India/summary.htm

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Sacred art festival considers relationship between art and faith

Montreal, Canada, Mar 8, 2006 (CNA) - The city of more than 100 steeples will host its first sacred art festival this month. The event was initiated by Fr. Alain Mongeau, the pastor of two parishes in Montreal’s trendy Plateau district.

The goal of the three-day event is to “conciliate the two spiritual paths of art and faith, which have complemented and inspired each other for generations,” said Fr. Mongeau. “In these times, there is a divorce between the two worlds of art and spirituality,” which is only exacerbated by “show business,” said the young priest.

He recalled Pope John Paul’s message to artists, that they are “the guardians of beauty.”

“The greatest artistic works are imbued with spirituality, and this continues to be conveyed through the many art forms that humans have to express beauty: music, the visual arts, dance and film,” he said.

A variety of events will be hosted at three parish churches, including sculpture exhibits, concerts, theatre, and arts-and-crafts activities for children. Renowned conductor and artistic director Agnes Grossman will give a two-hour session on faith/spirituality and music, and read from Beethoven’s letters during an organ concert of his 5th Symphony.

Guided tours of the three host churches, which are historical and house beautiful sacred art themselves, will also be offered. The festival will be held March 24-26. Admission is free.

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Parishes around the world to receive catechetical material for World Meeting of Families

Valencia, Fla., Mar 8, 2006 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council for the Family and the Archdiocese of Valencia have published the preparatory catechetical material for the World Meeting of Families 2006, which will be sent to all the parishes around the world.

The catechesis, composed of nine chapters that present the major themes of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, are a reflection on “the essence of the Christian family, the values of marriage and the transmitting of the faith,” officials of the Archdiocese of Valencia told the Avan news agency.

The material includes Pope Benedict XVI’s opening remarks at the June 2005 ecclesial Congress of the Diocese of Rome on family and the Christian community.

Each lesson in the catechesis includes an opening hymn, the Our Father, Scripture readings and the teaching of the Church, a closing prayer for the family and a hymn.

The volume also includes illustrations of renaissance art from the museum of St. Pius V in Valencia, reflecting the content of each chapter.

The catechesis will be available at bookstores and parishes and can be downloaded at www.emf2006.org.  The World Meeting of Families will take place July 1-9 and will include a Mass with Pope Benedict XVI.

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Bishops of Argentina launch campaign to fight AIDS

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 8, 2006 (CNA) - The secretariat for family ministry of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina has printed 50,000 bumper stickers with the phrase, “Remedy for AIDS: a man and woman, together for life,” in order to make Argentineans aware that only abstinence and fidelity can ensure success in fighting the spread of AIDS.

According to organizers, the stickers will be made available for schools, restaurants, cars and many other places where young people gather. They reiterated that AIDS must be fought with common sense rather then with campaigns that offer a false protection.

Bumper stickers can be ordered by writing to comunicació[email protected]

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British Church invites visit from Pope Benedict

London, England, Mar 8, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Catholic Conference of Bishops in England and Wales has invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit Britain; an act which recalls the historic 1982 visit of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

A statement, released this week from the office of the Archbishop of Westminster said that Cardinal O’Connor wanted the Pope to “be aware of how delighted the British people would be, should he feel able to accept” the invitation.

The statement was quick to add however, that it was too early to know whether the Holy Father’s schedule would permit, or what a visit might consist of.

Watchers have observed that the invitation comes at a time when the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Anglicans--or Church of England--is particularly uncertain.

The Anglican church is currently facing massive debates over the ordination of female bishops as well as the communion’s view on homosexuality.

During his own visit, John Paul II was the first Pope ever to visit the Cathedral of Canterbury, which is the center of the Anglican church. His visit was said to greatly further relations between the two churches.

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