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Archive of March 22, 2006

San Francisco Archbishop: Gay adoptions conflict with Church teachings, but conflict of interests looms at Catholic Charities

San Francisco, Calif., Mar 22, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop George Niederauer has said placing children with same-sex couples conflicts with Catholic teaching and has asked his local Catholic Charities to bring its adoption program fully in line with the Church's views. However, with the recent hiring of an openly gay adoptive parent as the organization’s director of programs, many smell a massive conflict of interests.

According to an Associated Press report, an archdiocesan spokesperson announced the archbishop’s stance yesterday.

“We realize that there are people in our community, some of whom work side by side with us to serve the needy in society, who do not share our beliefs, and we recognize and respect that fact," Archbishop Niederauer said in a written statement a week ago.

Since 2000, five of the 136 adoptions facilitated by Catholic Charities of San Francisco have been to gay couples, according to Brian Cahill, the agency's executive director. He told the AP Monday that he interpreted the archbishop's remarks as a guideline, not a ban.

"Catholic teaching is paramount. Equally paramount are the best interests of the vulnerable children that we serve," Cahill was quoted as saying.

Ignatius Insight’s Valerie Schmalz reported yesterday however, that Cahill recently hired Glenn Motola--an openly gay man who has an adopted son together with his partner--as Catholic Charities’ director of programs.

Archdiocesan spokesman Maurice Healy said Catholic Charities might be able to complete any adoptions by gay couples already in the works, but he was less sure whether the archbishop’s position offered any leeway.

City supervisors have threatened to withdraw funding from Catholic Charities if the archdiocese decides not to place children in same-sex households. However, Healy said such a move would not force the program, which has an annual $400,000 budget, to close.


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Afghan man facing death for converting to Christianity won’t recant, experts ask, ‘is world body doing enough?’

Kabul, Afghanistan, Mar 22, 2006 (CNA) - Abdul Rahman was reportedly turned into Afghan authorities by his own family for becoming Christian--an act which could subject him to death according to that country’s strict Islamic laws.

Speaking in Washington yesterday, Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said that while his government is largely staying out of the affair, he hoped that "through our constitutional process there will be a satisfactory result".

Mollie Zeigler, a writer for the website GetReligion, wondered today if the world body, particularly the U.S., was doing enough to see Rahman freed.

Many countries, she wrote, “seem to be officially condemning the action more than US officials have thus far. German and Italian officials have condemned the human rights violation but at press time, the only words from America’s executive branch came from the third-highest senior official at the State Department.”

Nicholas Burns, the diplomat in question said yesterday that “We hope that the Afghan constitution is going to be upheld and in our view, if it’s upheld, then of course he’ll be found to be innocent.”

He added that “While we understand the complexity of a case like this and we certainly will respect the sovereignty of the Afghan authorities and the Afghan system, from an American point of view, people should be free to choose their own religion.”

Many charge that the U.S.--who recently helped establish a democratic government in Afghanistan--should, in particular, be offering stronger words of condemnation. As of press time, President Bush had made no comment on the case.

“The Bush administration”, Ziegler said, “may need to bring out a slightly bigger gun — and slightly more compelling rhetoric — if it wants to help Rahman. But why hasn’t Bush addressed the matter? And why aren’t reporters asking him about it?”

Italy’s Foreign Ministry has said that they are willing to “move at the highest level... to prevent something which is incompatible with the defense of human rights.”

According to the Times of London, Judge Ansarullah Mawlavizada, who is handling the case, said “It is a crime to convert to Christianity from Islam. He is teasing and insulting his family by converting. In your country (Britain) two women can marry; that is very strange. In this country we have the perfect constitution, it is Islamic law and it is illegal to be a Christian and it should be punished.”

Likewise, according to the BBC, Afghan prosecutor…said that “He would have been forgiven if he changed back. But he said he was a Christian and would always remain one. We are Muslims and becoming a Christian is against our laws. He must get the death penalty.”

Sayad Miakhel, Rahman’s Afghan cellmate also spoke with The Times.

He told the paper that Rahman “is standing by his words; he will not become a Muslim again. He has been a Christian for over 14 years. It is what he believes in.”

Adding that none of his family had come to visit, Miakhel added, “He seems depressed. He keeps looking up to the sky, to God.”

Rahman, a father of two, told reporters last week that "They want to sentence me to death, and I accept it…but I am not a deserter and not an infidel." 

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Pope urges Christians to share message of the ‘Good Shepherd’ who seeks to gather his children together

Vatican City, Mar 22, 2006 (CNA) - Some 35,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square earlier today to hear Pope Benedict’s weekly Wednesday catechesis in which he urged Christians to live out their communion with Christ by taking the message of the Gospel “to the ends of the earth.”

Last week, the Pope began the first teaching series of his own choosing, opting to reflect on the calling and mission of the Apostles. He recently completed a ongoing catechesis on the Psalms and canticles, begun by his predecessor, John Paul II years ago.

The Holy Father began by pointing out that "St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians presents the Church as a structure 'built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.' ... The Gospels all agree in recounting that the call of the Apostles marked the first steps of Jesus' ministry."

He went on to highlight this call, as demonstrated in the various Gospel accounts. St. Mark and St. Matthew, he said, place the scene at the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus called the fishermen Simon, Andrew, James and John to be "fishers of men."

Alternately, he showed that Luke dwells on the miraculous catch of fish, "a symbol of their mission as fishers of men.”

He said that “The destiny of those 'called' will, from now on, be intimately linked to that of Jesus. The Apostle is an envoy, but prior to that he is an 'expert' on Jesus."

In the Gospel of John, Benedict explained that this same meeting took place on the banks of the River Jordan and "and throws light on [the Apostles'] spiritual world. They were men awaiting the Kingdom of God, anxious to know the Messiah Whose coming had been announced as imminent. And John the Baptist's identification of Jesus as the Lamb of God was sufficient to arouse in them the desire for a personal meeting with the Master."

"Thus”, Benedict said, “the Apostles' adventure began as an encounter between people who opened to one another."

He explained that they “began to have a direct knowledge of the Master. Indeed, more than proclaiming an idea, they will be witnesses to the person of Christ.”

“And before being sent to evangelize,” he added, “they will have to 'be' with Jesus, establishing a personal relationship with Him. On this basis, evangelization will be nothing other than the announcement of what they experienced and an invitation to enter into the mystery of communion with Christ."

The Pope dispelled the idea that Christ limited the apostles' mission to Israel alone when he said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
 
In fact, he showed that these words must be seen in the context of Israel as a "community of the covenant.”

“According to messianic expectation,” Benedict said, “the divine promises will be fulfilled when God Himself, through His Chosen One, gathers His people together, like a shepherd his flock."

"Jesus”, the pontiff said, “is the eschatological shepherd Who gathers the lost sheep of the house of Israel and goes out to seek them, because He knows and loves them.”

“By this 'gathering,' the Kingdom of God is announced to all people," he said, adding that after Jesus' passion and resurrection, "the universal nature of the Apostles' mission became explicit. Christ will send the Apostles 'into all the world,' to 'all nations,' and 'to the end of the earth'."

 

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Vatican says abandoned papal title ‘Patriarch of the West’ was unclear, obsolete

Vatican City, Mar 22, 2006 (CNA) - Following widespread media speculation on the Vatican’s abandonment of the papal title, “Patriarch of the West”, the Holy See today offered clarification about the move saying the title was unclear and had become obsolete. It’s absence, they added, may now increase chances for meaningful ecumenical dialogue.

Speculation first started circulating after observant watchers noticed the familiar title conspicuously missing from this years edition of the “Annuario Pontificio” or pontifical yearbook.

Officials from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said in a statement today that "From a historical perspective, the ancient Patriarchates of the East, defined by the Councils of Constantinople (381) and of Chalcedon (451), covered a fairly clearly demarcated territory. At the same time, the territory of the see of the Bishop of Rome remained somewhat vague.”

They explained that “In the East, under the ecclesiastical imperial system of Justinian (527-565), alongside the four Eastern Patriarchates (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem), the Pope was included as the Patriarch of the West. Rome, on the other hand, favored the idea of the three Petrine episcopal sees: Rome, Alexandria and Antioch.”

“Without using the title 'Patriarch of the West,'“ the group added, “the Fourth Council of Constantinople (869-870), the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and the Council of Florence (1439), listed the Pope as the first of the then five Patriarchs.”

"The title 'Patriarch of the West' was adopted in the year 642 by Pope Theodore. Thereafter it appeared only occasionally and did not have a clear meaning. It flourished in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in the context of a general increase in the Pope's titles, and appeared for the first time in the 'Annuario Pontificio' in 1863," the statement said.

The Pontifical Council explained that difficulty arises because “The term 'West' currently refers to a cultural context not limited only to Western Europe but including North America, Australia and New Zealand, thus differentiating itself from other cultural contexts.”

"If we wished to give the term 'West' a meaning applicable to ecclesiastical juridical language, it could be understood only in reference to the Latin Church." In this way, the title "Patriarch of the West," would describe the Bishop of Rome's special relationship with the Latin Church, and his special jurisdiction over her.

They admitted that "The title 'Patriarch of the West,' never very clear,” saying that “over history, [it] has become obsolete and practically unusable. It seems pointless, then, to insist on maintaining it.”

“Even more so now that the Catholic Church, with Vatican Council II, has found, in the form of episcopal conferences and their international meetings, the canonical structure best suited to the needs of the Latin Church today," the Council added.

The office concluded today‘s statement saying that "Abandoning the title of 'Patriarch of the West' clearly does not alter in any way the recognition of the ancient patriarchal Churches, so solemnly declared by Vatican Council II. ... The renouncement of this title aims to express a historical and theological reality, and at the same time, ... could prove useful to ecumenical dialogue."

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Oldest US cathedral undergoes $32M restoration

, Mar 22, 2006 (CNA) - The nation’s oldest Catholic cathedral has undergone a $32-million restoration, with the intention of returning it to the purity of its 19th-century original double-dome design.
 
As a result, the project has seen Baltimore's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary go from dark and somber to light and bright. Architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who also designed the U.S. Capitol, designed the cathedral.
 
Translucent windows replaced the heavy stained-glass windows, installed in the 1940s, and the "battleship gray" walls were repainted a cream color. In addition, new pews were installed.
 
The Basilica Historic Trust is the nonprofit organization overlooking the restoration. Workers are just putting the finishing touches.
 
The cathedral, which sits on a hill in the Mount Vernon, will reopen Nov. 4, marking the historic building’s 200th anniversary with a week of activities, including a concert, tours and an interreligious service. The festivities will close with a procession of the country's Catholic bishops and a mass Nov. 12.
 
It was the highest point in the city when the land was acquired in 1803 by John Carroll, the nation's first Catholic bishop. The cathdedral’s cornerstone was laid in 1806. It was completed in 1821. In 1937, Pope Pius XI designated it a basilica.
 
 

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German Church catches World Cup fever

Berlin, Germany, Mar 22, 2006 (CNA) - As sports fans around the world gear up for this year’s World Cup soccer tournament, which will take place around Germany from June 9th to July 9th, the German Catholic Church has announced a series of activities and initiatives for the gathering world crowd.

The Church has set up a website highlighting the different initiatives, which can be visited at http://www.kirche-am-ball.de, meaning the “Church at the ball.”
 
The site offers a wide view of what the Church will be offering for the world cup, as well as a listing of parishes in each city where games will be played. Different information sites, charity organizations, and various religious communities will offer reflections and pastoral activities.

“In her way, the Church is willing to contribute to what is the slogan of this sport event, “Welcome the world as friends,” said Cardinal Karl Lehman, president of the German Bishops conference.

He boasted the contribution of more than 480 parishes which will open their doors for foreign speaking Catholics, as well as priests who will be available for teams and fans.

An Ecumenical celebration is planned for the opening of the World Cup, on June 9th at the Cathedral Our Lady in Munich, Bavaria.

“We wish to pray to God for the success of this World Cup, and we are grateful for the multiplicity of cultures in our world which will be represented during this event,” said Cardinal Lehman.
 

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Prayer campaign launched to fight abortion in Latin America

Washington D.C., Mar 22, 2006 (CNA) - An international pro-life network is organizing a worldwide prayer campaign to combat the looming abortion industry in Latin America.
 
Alliance for the Family in Washington, and its Latin American branch, Alianza Latinoamericana para la Familia, issued the appeal Monday.
 
Abortion is generally prohibited in all Latin American countries, except for Cuba. However, these countries’ legal systems have been systematically under attack by strong internationally supported abortion groups in the past few decades. Their latest strategy, similar to that of U.S. pro-abortionists in Roe v. Wade, is to try to throw out pro-life laws through the courts.
 
Until now, virtually all legislative attempts to eliminate or weaken these laws have been defeated. But pro-abortionists in Colombia have brought a case to that country’s Constitutional Court, where they believe they have enough support among the judiciary to declare unconstitutional parts of Colombia’s laws prohibiting abortion. The court is now in the final stages of issuing a decision.
 
Colombian pro-life leaders are appealing for solidarity and asking for prayers worldwide to ask God to save Colombia from pro-abortion laws and its effects.
 
The court decision is expected to impact all of Latin America in its ability to turn the tide on the issue. “The future, not only of Colombia, but of all of Latin America is at stake,” Cardinal Pedro Rubiano of Bogota has said.
 
The prayer follows:
Divine Infant Jesus, we pray for Colombia and her people so that the lies of the “culture of death” will be rejected, and so that the political system and the courts will instead affirm the preciousness of all human life from conception/fertilization to natural death.  Grant vision to the Constitutional Court judges to see the value of each human life as God does. Help them to see the destruction that will come if they legalize or in any way facilitate abortion. Grant that they not repeat the grave mistakes of the so-called “developed” countries.
 
Divine Infant Jesus, through the intercession of Our Most Blessed Mother, we pray that families and society throughout Latin America and the whole world would welcome each child, because in welcoming the child, we welcome you. Help us all to live according to your plan for life and love, and thereby develop a real culture of life.
Amen.
 

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Ave Maria to take over Nicaraguan college

Naples, Fla., Mar 22, 2006 (CNA) - Ave Maria University will take ownership of a college that was formerly the branch of a Baptist university in Nicaragua. Ave Maria College of the Americas in San Marco, Nicaragua, will move to Immokalee and is expected to function as a campus of the Naples-based Catholic university as of next year, reported Naples Daily News.
 
With the prospect of becoming a university on the horizon, college president Humberto Belli said school officials are hoping the change will attract more international students, and boost the school's fundraising.
 
The school offers a bilingual and bicultural experience, but all of the classes at the college are taught in English, and more than 50 percent of the professors come from the United States.
 
Once the university takes over, the college expects the curriculum will be streamlined and new programs will be offered, such as a pre-theologate program.
 
When the Baptist university decided to pull out of the college, it began scouting Catholic universities to take it over. Ave Maria University founder Tom Monaghan stepped in and named it a branch campus of Ave Maria in 2000. The purchase was motivated by the goal of preserving the Catholic faith in Latin America, reported Naples Daily News.
 
When Ave Maria took over in 2000, many of the students seemed to be more agnostic or indifferent to religion. Since then, the spiritual life of the school has been on the upswing and daily mass attendance has grown from five students during the first year to more than 60 students.
 
About 80 percent of the current students are Catholic and include some religious men and women. There are currently three Franciscan brothers enrolled.
 
"This is a place for training professionals who have Christian values and can Christianize society," Belli was quoted as saying. "We believe the best contribution to society is to provide the world with a new generation of (Catholics)."
 

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Poles prepare for first anniversary of JP II’s death

Krakow, Poland, Mar 22, 2006 (CNA) - Catholics across Poland are preparing to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II with public processions, liturgical celebrations and reflections on recent statements by Pope Benedict XVI.

On the morning of April 2, the Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, will celebrate Mass at the Marian Shrine of Lagiewniki.  That night, Pope Benedict XVI will speak to young people in Poland via a live satellite hookup.

Several bonfires will be lit on strategic mountaintops, and in John Paul II’s own town of Wadowice, some 20,000 are expected to gather to pray in front of the home where he was born.

Cardinal Jozef Glemp of Warsaw will also celebrate a special Mass at the J. Pilsudski Square.

At the Marian Shrine of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa, a special requiem entitled, “In Honor of Pope John Paul II,” will be performed by Italian composer Giovanni Veneri.

Thousands of young people are also expected to gather under the window of the archbishop’s residence in Krakow, from which John Paul addressed them on various occasions.

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Peruvian doctors reject morning-after pill, calling it an illegal abortifacient

Lima, Peru, Mar 22, 2006 (CNA) - A group of doctors from Peru’s College of Medicine have issued a statement this week rejecting the morning-after pill as abortifacient and arguing that it should therefore not be legalized in the country.

The statement comes as the courts in Peru are hearing a case on whether or not the pill violates Peruvian law.  The doctors point out that both the FDA in the United States, the World Health Organization and the laboratories that produce and distribute the drug “do acknowledge the existence of the anti-implantation mechanism.”

“The mere possibility that the drug’s mechanism is that of preventing implantation of a newly conceived embryo is enough to consider it dangerous for human life,” the doctors added.

The statement also warned of the studies “that relate use of the [morning-after pill] with ectopic pregnancies, which can lead to the death of the mother.  In all of the scientific studies, it has been shown that the rate of side effects is between 25-35%.  Therefore it cannot be said that it is harmless.”

The Peruvian doctors are calling for a “scientific debate on the issue,” in order to determine the truth about the drug and in accord with the role of the physician to “first do no harm.”

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Cardinal Ruini calls on Italian politicians to reject homosexual unions

Rome, Italy, Mar 22, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Italy, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, called on political candidates this week to defend life and the family and to reject the legalization of homosexual civil unions.

 “It is troubling that in some Italian regions laws are being considered or have already been approved that put marriage and civil unions on the same level,” the cardinal warned during opening remarks for a meeting of the executive committee of the Conference.

He said the bishops would not “take sides with any political group” but that they would fulfill their duty to remind Catholics, voters and candidates of “the unrenounceable principles that must guide their policies.”

Among these principles are “respect for human life from the moment of conception until natural death, support for the legitimate family founded upon marriage and in particular upon its duty to bring forth and educate children.”  Politicians, he continued, have a responsibility to reject laws that would seriously compromise the importance and role of the family.

Lastly, the cardinal called on Catholics to fully participate in political life and avoid creating “a cultural diaspora” which would result in the social teaching of the Church receiving less attention in the political world.

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Jesuits in Spain distance themselves from controversial moral theologian

Madrid, Spain, Mar 22, 2006 (CNA) - In response to controversial statements on sexual morality, bioethics and official Church teaching by Jesuit theologian Father Juan Masia, the provincial superior of the Society of Jesus in Spain, Father Elias Royon Lara, announced this week his “disagreement with the content of such opinions and with the way in which some of them have been expressed.”

A statement issued on Tuesday by the Jesuit provincial office of Spain noted that the Comillas Pontifical University had revoked Father Masia’s position as professor of bioethics and that despite his extensive intellectual and pastoral tenure, both in Japan and in Spain, “the Society of Jesus, with sorrow but in keeping with its responsibility of service to the Church, believes it necessary to publicly manifest its disagreement with the content of such opinions and with the way in which some of them have been expressed.”

Father Masia was removed from his position as head of bioethics at the Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid in January because of his writings and statements supporting condom use and the manipulation of human embryos.  

His opinions were published in a book that, according to the Jesuit provincial, did not carry “proper ecclesiastical licenses” or “the authorization of his superiors.”

While Father Masia’s positions could not be supported, Father Royon said the Jesuits, “who have always been at the crossroads of the dialogue between faith and culture,” desire to continue contributing to serious reflection in these areas.

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