Archive of March 20, 2006

Pope calls for spirituality of work that sanctifies but warns: mankind must not be enslaved by it

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2006 (CNA) - In honor of St. Joseph, patron saint of workers, Pope Benedict XVI yesterday praised the holiness of work, recalling its biblical mandate and manifestation in Jesus himself, but warned that mankind must not become enslaved by it.

On Sunday, the Pope presided at a Mass in the Vatican Basilica on the eve of the feast of St. Joseph--the Holy Father’s own namesake.

A number of important prelates concelebrated with the Pope, including Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome; Bishop Giuseppe Betori, secretary general of the Italian Episcopal Conference; and Bishop Arrigo Miglio, president of the Italian episcopal commission for social and labor problems, for justice and peace.

During his homily, the Holy Father cited scripture, which suggests that, "work is part of the original condition of man," and forms part of "the divine plan."

Pointing out that "The Son of God Himself, becoming like us in all respects, dedicated many years to manual labor, so much so that he became known as the 'carpenter's son'.” Therefore he said, "The Church has always shown, and especially over the last century, particular attention and solicitude to this aspect of society…”

This, he said, is “evinced by the many social initiatives of the Magisterium and the activity of many Christian-inspired associations, some of which are here today to represent the entire world of work."

The Pope said that "work is of primary importance for the fulfillment of mankind and the development of society,” adding that “for this reason it must always be organized and carried out in full respect of human dignity and at the service of the common good.”

“At the same time”, he said, “it is indispensable that men and women do not let themselves be enslaved by work, that they do not idolize it, expecting to find therein the final and definitive meaning of life." Here, he stressed that "biblical teaching on work finds its coronation in the commandment to rest."

"Work”, the Holy Father went on, “must serve the true good of humanity…To this end, technical and professional qualifications, necessary though they may be, are not enough. Nor is it enough to create a just social order attentive to the good of all.”

Rather, he said, “It is necessary to live a form of spirituality that helps believers to sanctify themselves through their own work, imitating St. Joseph who every day had to provide for the needs of the Holy Family with his own hands, and who for this reason is identified by the Church as the patron saint of workers.”

“His witness shows how mankind is both the subject and protagonist of work."

The pontiff concluded his homily by entrusting "those young people who find it difficult to enter the world of work, the unemployed, and all those who suffer due to the widespread labor crisis,” to Joseph.

"Together with his wife Mary,” the Pope prayed, “may St. Joseph watch over all workers and ensure serenity and peace for families and for all humanity. Looking to this great saint, may Christians in all working environments learn to bear witness to the love of Christ, source of true solidarity and of lasting peace."

CNA learned last week that the Holy Father may currently be working on what will be his first social encyclical. According to sources, it will discuss the value of work for mankind.

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Colorado Catholic bishops: respect, human dignity must presuppose any meaningful immigration reform

Denver, Colo., Mar 20, 2006 (CNA) - As the issue of undocumented immigration continues to heat up, both at federal and many local levels, the Catholic Bishops of Colorado are insisting on a comprehensive reform of the nation’s immigration laws which, at their core, must assure that the immigrant’s dignity is not left behind in their country of origin.

On Saturday, the Colorado Catholic Conference hosted an Immigration Forum, attended by all three of the state’s bishops, as well as San Antonio’s Archbishop Jose Gomez and Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, a Catholic expert on immigration issues, and consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the issue.

During a press conference held prior to the Forum--which closed the Archdiocese of Denver’s annual ‘Living the Catholic Faith Conference‘--Archbishop Charles Chaput, along with Colorado Spring’s Bishop Michael Sheridan and Pueblo’s Bishop Arthur Tafoya expressed their dissatisfaction at the direction of the current national immigration dialogue.

For his part, Bishop Sheridan said that Catholics should seek “real justice where people are not unduly suffering,” referring to some 100 cases in which he said the “plight of immigrants” led to their deaths crossing the border last year.

“Things are not working now,” he said, and “we don’t like the direction things are headed.”

Archbishop Chaput added that one of his main desires is that the immigration debate might not be such a hot issue, but rather, one that can be discussed reasonably. “People can’t even talk about it now,” he said, noting the often temper-driven national debates.

He said that he hopes that the Catholic Church can be a sign of hope to help bring about a real national dialogue of healing, and added that any reform that is not comprehensive is dangerous to the economy, to individuals and to families.

He chided election year legislations in which decisions tend to be politically motivated rather than aimed at finding real solutions.

“We hope”, he said, “that the government would bring together common principles and form legislation that really might pass.”

The Forum comes as the Colorado Bishops are launching a statewide campaign aiming to educate and mobilize faithful to respond to the difficult issue in light of Catholic Social Teaching.

The bishops strove to convey the complexity of the issue, saying that responsibility lies not only on the U.S., but on the immigrant’s countries of origin to find a solution.

Catholic Social Teaching, they pointed out, teaches first, that “persons have a right to find opportunities in their homeland,” second, that “persons have a right to migrate [in order] to support themselves and their families,” third, that “sovereign nations have a right to control their borders,” forth, that “refugees and asylum seekers should be afforded protection,” and lastly, that “the dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.”  

These principles, Bishop DiMarzio pointed out, need to be assessed in light of the common good of all involved

The Colorado campaign is part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s national Justice for Immigrants campaign.  

One proposed bill, already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, would seek to criminalize those who assist undocumented immigrants--including charitable and religious workers.

Similar pieces of legislation are being debated in Colorado and around the country, although some hope of compromise came last Friday as the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee presented a surprisingly bi-partisan bill which shows signs of real compromise between sides.

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Two more women die after taking abortion drug RU-486

Washington D.C., Mar 20, 2006 (CNA) - Two pro-life groups are wondering why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still has not pulled Mifeprex, an abortion drug more commonly known as RU-486, after reporting March 17 that two more women died after taking it.

“How many women will have to die after taking this drug?” asked Randall O’Bannon of National Right to Life.

“One death is too many. But after at least seven American deaths and at least 12 reported deaths worldwide, it is clear that this drug should not be given to women,” said the organization’s director of education and research.

To date, the FDA has directly linked to the drug to the deaths of seven women. As well, the FDA has received more than 800 reports of complications caused by the drug. The FDA admits that only 10 percent of complications from drugs get reported.

An RU-486 abortion involves bleeding, pain, and cramping, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The expectation of these side effects often causes women and doctors to overlook important signs of infection or serious conditions, like ectopic pregnancy.

National Right to Life claims that many deaths and injuries related to the drug may never be reported. Reporting is voluntary, and women going to the emergency room may never tell the doctor they have taken the drug, the organization explained in a press release.

In another communiqué, Concerned Women for America pointed out that the FDA has pulled other drugs that have caused fewer deaths and less severe complications than RU-486.

For example, NeutroSpec, an imaging agent used to diagnose internal infections, was pulled after being linked to two deaths, 20 severe reactions, and 46 other "less" severe reactions.

Tysabri, a drug to treat multiple sclerosis, was pulled after reports that three patients taking it had developed PML, a rare brain disease.

Lotronex, used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, was taken off the market after 70 patients had developed severe problems, and five patients died.

Given the statistics, the CWA is wondering why the FDA is slacking in pulling Mifeprex off the shelf. Mifeprex is distributed by Danco.

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Pope Benedict: Saint Joseph’s humility, simplicity helps show the way of Christ

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2006 (CNA) - Today, faithful around the world honor St. Joseph, the humble foster father of Jesus who is patron saint to workers and fathers. Yesterday, Pope Benedict reflected on this key figure in the Church‘s history, saying that his simplicity and humility should help Christians live out whatever role God grants to them in life with faithfulness.

The Pope’s words came just prior to his Sunday angelus prayer, which was held in St. Peter’s Square in the presence of thousands.

Benedict first recalled the devotion of his predecessor, John Paul II's to St. Joseph "to whom he dedicated his Apostolic Exhortation 'Redemptoris Custos', Guardian of the Redeemer, and whose assistance he surely felt at the hour of his death."

He went on, highlighting Joseph’s profound importance in the history of salvation, beginning with his belonging to the tribe of Judah. This "united Jesus to the line of David" and ensured that the messianic promises were fulfilled in Him.

"Like his wife Mary," Benedict continued, St. Joseph "showed himself to be the true heir of the faith of Abraham: faith in God Who guides the events of history according to His mysterious salvific plan."

Pointing out that St. Joseph's greatness "is even more evident because his mission took place in the humility and obscurity of his house in Nazareth,” the Pope said that “Indeed God Himself, in the Person of His Son incarnate, chose this way of life and this path in His earthly existence."

He told the crowd that St. Joseph's example presents all the faithful with "a powerful invitation to perform the role that Providence has assigned us with faithfulness, simplicity and modesty.”

He particularly highlighted the role of “fathers and mothers in families,” adding his prayers “that they may always know how to appreciate the beauty of a simple and hard-working life, carefully cultivating their conjugal relationship and enthusiastically accomplishing the great, and by no means easy, mission of education."

Concluding his midday remarks, Pope Benedict entrusted to St. Joseph "priests who exercise their paternity over ecclesial communities, ... consecrated people in their joyful and faithful observance of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience," and "workers of the entire world, that they may contribute with their various professions to the progress of humanity entire."

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Spokane parishes oppose $46-million sex-abuse settlement

Spokane, Wash., Mar 20, 2006 (CNA) - The Association of Parishes of the Diocese of Spokane intends to ask U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Patricia Williams to reject the $45.7-million settlement offer made by Bishop William Skylstad to 75 victims of sexual abuse by priests.

Due to an earlier court ruling, the 82 parishes are expected to provide for a large portion of the settlement costs. But an attorney for the parishes, Bob Hailey, told the Associated Press that the settlement does not provide a mechanism for parishes to protect their churches and schools.

The settlement also does not account for other parish expenses, such as the legal costs of the bankruptcy and priest retirement funds, which could total more than $10 million.

The settlement offer was first proposed Feb. 1 but it was to have been filed Friday. It must be approved by the judge and the victims. The parishes have 23 days after the filing to submit objections or amendments.

Friday was also the deadline for other victims to file sex-abuse claims. The AP reported March 16 that diocesan officials said at least 176 people had filed claims. This was not a final number, but it was already more than double the amount that led the Diocese of Spokane to file for bankruptcy a year ago.

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Pro-life leader praises Ohio law banning ‘wrongful birth lawsuits’

Washington D.C., Mar 20, 2006 (CNA) - The Ohio legislature has voted to ban lawsuits that would allow parents to claim that the birth of their disabled child was a “wrongful birth” and that they should not have to incur the costs of caring for their offspring.

Such wrongful birth lawsuits claim that had a physician diagnosed a disability in a child before birth, the parents of that child would have aborted the baby.

In deciding to ban such lawsuits, the Ohio legislature has made “a profound statement” that “it is never wrongful for a baby to be born,” said national director of Priests for Life Fr. Frank Pavone.

"No matter the disability involved, no matter the hardship in caring for a helpless child, grace, beauty, and love increase when God creates another baby,” said the priest. “Birth should be a cause of joy, never a cause of [legal] action."

"The disabled are like everyone else," said Fr. Pavone. "They're better off loved, not better off dead."

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No true justice without respect of the truth, Pope tells Vatican’s international representatives

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2006 (CNA) - Over the weekend, Pope Benedict XVI met with Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, as well as a number of the Holy See’s representatives to various international organizations. During the meeting, he praised the Church’s role within these groups, stressing that relations between and within states must respect the truth if they hope to attain true justice.

Specifically, he said that the Holy See’s presence within international institutions makes "a fundamental contribution to the respect of human rights and the common good and, as a result, to true /freedom and justice."

"Relations between States and within States are just in so far as they respect the truth,” he said. “When, however, the truth is offended, peace is threatened and rule of law is compromised, then, as a logical consequence, injustices arise."

The Holy Father went on to say that these injustices “can adopt many faces,” citing for example, “the face of disinterest or disorder, which can even go so far as to damage the structure of that founding cell of society that is the family; or perhaps the face of arrogance that can lead to abuse, silencing those without a voice or without the strength to make themselves heard, as happens in the case of today's gravest injustice, that which suppresses nascent human life."

Benedict concluded his brief address telling the Vatican representatives that through "difficulties and misunderstandings" they "participate authoritatively in the prophetic responsibility of the Church, which intends to continue to raise her voice in defense of mankind.”

This is true, he said, “even when policies of States and the majority of public opinion moves in the opposite direction. Truth, indeed, draws strength from itself and not from the amount of consent it arouses."

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Pope Benedict calls Armenian Christians to greater unity; internally and with Rome

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI called today for greater unity--both internally, and with the See of Rome--for the Armenian people as he met with His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians in Lebanon.

His Beatitude was accompanied by members of the patriarchal synod as well as a group of Armenian pilgrims.

The Holy Father began by speaking about the history of the Armenian people over the centuries, particularly addressing the suffering "they underwent in the name of the Christian faith during the years of terrible persecution, which remain enshrined in history with the sadly meaningful name of 'Metz Yeghern,' the great evil."

Nonetheless, he said, "the Armenians, who have always sought to integrate themselves with hard work and dignity in the societies in which they found themselves, continue even today to bear witness to their faithfulness to the Gospel."

Recalling the geographic diversity of the Armenian-Catholic community, which is spread over many countries, the Pope said that "Providence placed the patriarchate of the Armenian Catholics in the Middle East, in Cilicia and, later, in Lebanon. All the Armenian-Catholic faithful look to that patriarchate as a solid point of spiritual reference for their centuries-old cultural and liturgical tradition."

Noting that "various Churches…recognize St. Gregory the Illuminator as their common founding father”, he lamented that they are “divided from one another, although over the last few years they have resumed a cordial and fruitful dialogue with the aim of discovering their shared roots.”

The Holy Father encouraged this “renewed fraternity and collaboration hoping that it may give rise to new initiatives for a joint journey towards full unity, ... with its own hierarchy, in fraternal interior harmony and full communion with the Bishop of Rome."

He said that "One comforting sign of this hoped-for unity was the celebration of the 1700th anniversary of the foundation of the Armenian Church, with the participation of my beloved predecessor John Paul II."

The pontiff added that "We all wish to be instruments at the disposal of Christ. May He - Who is Way, Truth and Life - enable us to continue with all our strength, that, as soon as possible, there may be one flock with one pastor."

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Pope’s upcoming Apostolic Exhortation likely to call for increased liturgical solemnity, reintegration of Latin

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2006 (CNA) - In June Pope Benedict XVI will receive the final proposal from the recent Synod of Bishops for the drafting of his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist.  The commission of 12 cardinals and bishops from around the world, led by the secretary of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nicola Eterovic, will meet in June to present the Holy Father a final proposal based on the 50 propositions that were made at the conclusion of last October's Synod.

According to a Vatican source, the commission will approve “a proposal and a plan for liturgical reform,” which will be made public in the Apostolic Exhortation that the Holy Father will tentatively issue in October.

The Vatican source said that the exhortation would include an invitation to greater use of Latin in the daily prayer of the Church and in the Mass—with the exception of the Liturgy of the Word—as well as in large public and international Masses.  

The document would also encourage a greater use of Gregorian chant and classical polyphonic music; the gradual elimination of the use of songs whose music or lyrics are secular in origin, as well as the elimination of instruments that are “inadequate for liturgical use,” such as the electric guitar or drums, although it is not likely that specific instruments will be mentioned.

Lastly, the Pope is expected to call for “more decorum and liturgical sobriety in the celebration of the Eucharist, excluding dance and, as much as possible, applause.”

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Central American bishops call for a ‘humanitarian solution’ to US immigration law

San José, Costa Rica, Mar 20, 2006 (CNA) - The Secretariat of Central American Bishops has called on the senators of the United States to find a “humanitarian solution” to the problem of illegal immigration before accepting a new bill sponsored by Congressman James Sensenbrenner and recently passed by the House of Representatives which criminalizes illegal immigrants and those who help them.

“We exhort them to pass humanitarian legislation for workers in the United States and that will allow families to be reunited.  And for those who are undocumented, may they be able to come out from the shadows and with dignity become a part of US society to contribute to its development,” the bishops said in a statement sent to US senators.

The bishops argued that approval of the Sensenbrenner law would result in “a devastating disaster that would involve thousands of people, families and communities of the Central American region,” which is overcome “by poverty and extreme poverty.”  Most of the 11 million illegals in the US, they recalled, are Central Americans. 

The wave of immigration from Central America began in the 1970’s and 80’s as a result of the violent conflicts and economic problems that plagued the region.  Money sent back to the region by family members in the US has become the second largest source of income for Central America, the bishops said, and cutting off that source of funding would bring political, social and economic crisis to the region.

The bishops reiterated that immigrants have rights and dignity and that the efforts by US authorities to control immigration have not been as successful as had been hoped.  “As long as the immigration laws of United States and its economic agreements are not synchronized with economic realities in an equitable way, immigration in the hemisphere will continue to be a significant challenge,” they added.

They reminded senators of the importance of Central American stability for US interests and said the lawmakers should “not lose sight of how your decisions will impact your neighbors in the south.”

“In a globalized world we are called to globalize solidarity with those most excluded and marginalized,” the bishops stated.  “We must not build walls and borders, but rather bridges that unite us as brothers and sisters.”

The Sensenbrenner law passed by the US House last December requires all social and humanitarian organizations, including churches, to ask for legal documentation before helping immigrants.  It also encourages the building of a wall on the US-Mexican border.

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Challenge of secularism demands priests be holy, says Spanish bishop

Madrid, Spain, Mar 20, 2006 (CNA) - In a letter marking Seminary Day in Spain, which was celebrated on March 19, Archbishop Francisco Martinez Fernandez of Granada said the challenge of secularism in today’s society demands that priests be particularly holy.

In noting the close relationship between the Christian people and priestly vocations, the archbishop underscored that the need for “priests, holy priests, is greater in ‘difficult times,’ when the Church, because of our weakness of faith or the difficulties of the persecution promised by the Lord, or for both reasons, travels through history in the midst of storms.”

“In these circumstances, the Lord calls us to return to the center of the faith, to purify ourselves, to bear witness to the essential:  the love of the Father, the grace of Christ and the communion of the Holy Spirit, lived in the Church.  Those storms should not scandalize us; rather, they are part of the normal life of the Church.  Thus the Lord warned us in a thousand ways,” the archbishop noted in his letter.

“Times are difficult,” he continued, “because a dogmatic, despotic, fundamentalist and intolerant secularism, at the same time the fruit of relativism and the worship of a freedom that has no sense or purpose, has the Church, in her people and her works, as its only point of resistance against its complete dominance over consciences and customs, that is, over the entire life of mankind.”

This kind of secularism, the archbishop warned, borders on the tyrannical because “it finds itself before a Church that is almost without a body and is profoundly debilitated in her faith, her communion and discipline.”

Today’s priests carry out their ministries “in a nihilist world,” Archbishop Martinez continued.  As a consequence, the Church must live her life from a cultural and human perspective that goes beyond the criticism that modernity makes of religion in general, and Christianity and the Church in particular.  

In the archbishop’s mind, to “go beyond” this criticism means to “absolutely take seriously all of the aspects of truth that might be present in it.”  It means rejecting, for example, a Christianity that is “bourgeois, fragmentary and hypocritical” or “the profound deformation of the priestly ministry represented by clericalism.”

“It means acknowledging the pain that, all too often, the life of the Church has been used as an instrument for sustaining someone in power or an unjust social order, or simply to cover up purely material and worldly interests,” the archbishop said.

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Ecuadorian bishops say citizens must be informed about trade agreement risks

Quito, Ecuador, Mar 20, 2006 (CNA) - Inresponse to tension surrounding the signing of the Free TradeAgreement, the bishops of Ecuador published an urgent statement lastFriday calling on the government to initiate a more extensive nationaldialogue before signing the treaty.

“Most of thedifficulties resulting from the FTA,” the bishops said, “have theirorigins in the lack of opportune and adequate information regarding anissue that greatly affects the lives of all Ecuadorians.  We needto see clearly the advantages and disadvantages that come with the FTA,who will benefit and who will suffer, and in what measure.”

The bishopspointed out that it is essential “we understand the consequences ofboth signing and not signing the FTA.  We understand many studieshave been done; but they have not been sufficiently known or discussedin Ecuadorian public opinion in order to establish of kind ofassessment between the costs and benefits of signing or not signing theTreaty.”  

The statementwarns that “the lack of information and the way in which negotiationshave been carried out have created an atmosphere of suspicion and fear.”

“We suggest,”the bishops state, “that the national government consult with thepeople before the next Congress ratifies or rejects the FTA, that allefforts be exhausted to obtain the greatest gain and the least amountof harm, and that a way for helping those who end up suffering the mostbe developed, which, although it would not be a permanent solution,would alleviate in some way those who are affected.”

The bishopsurged “all Ecuadorians, especially our indigenous peoples,” to rejectviolence and to accept dialogue as a way of resolving the issue. “We are aware that the FTA represents and demands big changes in theeconomy of the nation.  Our immigrant brothers and sisters andthose of us who work here have shown the strong potential of theEcuadorian workforce.  We trust in this creative capacity and wetrust in Divine Providence, which will never abandon those who placetheir trust in God the Father,” the bishops said in conclusion.

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