Archive of March 24, 2006

Pope Benedict: New cardinals now share more intensely in the mystery of Christ, the sufferings of Christ

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2006 (CNA) - The Church’s College of Cardinals now has 15 new members among its ranks. This morning, Pope Benedict XVI created the first cardinals of his pontificate and said that he is counting on them to support him, build up the Church and share with the world the message of the Gospel.

The new members--from 11 different countries--now bring the total number of world cardinals to 193, 120 of whom are of legal age to participate in a papal conclave.

Among them was Cardinal William Joseph Levada, former Archbishop of San Francisco and now, prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith--an office formerly held by the Holy Father himself prior to becoming Pope.

Cardinal Levada, who was the first to be incorporated today, thanked the Pope on behalf of all the others.

During his homily, delivered in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father explained that the Ordinary Public Consistory eloquently expresses "the universal nature of the Church, which has spread to every corner of the world in order to proclaim to all people the Good News of Christ our Savior."

He recalled his predecessor John Paul II, who celebrated nine consistories during his two and a half decade pontificate. On this, Benedict stressed that while "down the centuries the College of Cardinals has changed in many ways, nevertheless the substance and essential nature of this important ecclesial body remain unaltered."

"Total and generous availability to serve others”, he said, “is the distinctive mark of those in positions of authority in the Church."

Quoting St. Gregory the Great, the Pope called Jesus, “The first 'servant of the servants of God'."

“After him, and united with him,” he said, “come the Apostles; and among these, in a particular way, Peter. ... The Pope must be the first to make himself the servant of all."

The Holy Father then turned to address the new cardinals, telling them that now, "more closely linked to the Successor of Peter, you will be called to work together with him in accomplishing his particular ecclesial service, and this will mean for you a more intense participation in the mystery of the Cross as you share in the sufferings of Christ."

He said that the word "caritas," which was the major theme of his recent Encyclical, best summarized the significance of the call of a cardinal. "May the scarlet that you now wear always express the 'caritas Christi,' inspiring you to a passionate love for Christ, for His Church and for all humanity,” the pope said.

“You now have an additional motive to seek to rekindle in yourselves those same sentiments that led the incarnate Son of God to pour out His blood in atonement for the sins of the whole world.”

Benedict went on, telling the group, "I am counting on you, venerable brothers, I am counting on the entire College into which you are being incorporated, to proclaim to the world that 'Deus caritas est,' and to do so above all through the witness of sincere communion among Christians."

"I am counting on you”, he added, “to ensure that the principle of love will spread far and wide, and will give new life to the Church at every level of her hierarchy, in every group of the faithful, in every religious institute, in every spiritual, apostolic or humanitarian initiative."

He concluded by telling the new cardinals the he is "counting on you to see to it that our common endeavor to fix our gaze on Christ's open Heart will hasten and secure our path towards the full unity of Christians. I am counting on you to see to it that the Church's solicitude for the poor and needy challenges the world with a powerful statement on the civilization of love.”

“All this”, the Pope said, he sees “symbolized in the scarlet with which you are now invested. May it truly be a symbol of ardent Christian love shining forth in your lives."

Titular authority

Following Pope Benedict’s homily, each of the new cardinals voiced the profession of faith, swearing obedience to the Pope and his successors.

One by one, they then received the red “biretta” from the Pope as well as their assigned titular or diaconate church in Rome. The titular church assignment is largely symbolic, but expresses the cardinals’ participation in the Pope’s pastoral concern for the city.

Cardinal Levada will take possession of the Church of St. Mary in Domnica on Sunday. A large number of faithful from his former archdioceses of San Francisco and Portland are scheduled to attend.

Likewise, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the only other Cardinal from the U.S., will take possession of the Church of St. Mary della Vittoria.

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International law firm offering financial assistance for Afghan Christian convert facing death

Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2006 (CNA) - The U.S.-based Becket Fund, an international law firm dedicated to the protection of religious freedom is offering financial assistance for Abdul Rahman, an Afghan man who converted to Christianity from Islam and now faces a possible death sentence under that country’s Islamic law.

Jared L. Leland, spokesman and Legal Counsel for the group, said in a letter addressed to Rahman, care of the Afghan embassy in Washington DC, that “The right to maintain, manifest, and change one’s religious beliefs is a fundamental freedom to be protected in all corners, and at all times, throughout the world.”

He added that “The inalienable right to adopt another faith or change religious beliefs is no less fundamental than the freedom to congregate for worship or recite bedtime prayers. It’s a basic, nonnegotiable right.”

Rahman was recently turned in to authorities by his family after converting to Christianity some 14 years ago as an aid worker in neighboring Pakistan. Afghanistan’s laws make it a capital punishment to convert away from Islam.

The Becket Fund‘s letter says that “With proper advocacy on [Rahman’s] behalf, Afghanistan can and will live up to its obligations as a member of the international community at the United Nations, and protect [his] freedom to change [his] religion as guaranteed by its constitution, the [Universal Declaration of Human Rights], and the [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights].”

Calling religious freedom a human right “rooted in the inherent dignity of the human person,” the letter points out that “Afghanistan’s Constitution recognizes and guarantees [him] this freedom of religion” along with international agreements to which Afghanistan is bound.

Becket Fund President and General Counsel, Anthony Picarello, Jr. said that “The international community has recognized the fundamental right to conversion, and now Afghanistan must as well.”

He vowed that his organization, which is a frequent consultant to the United Nations, would “vigorously defend Mr. Rahman and all other Afghans who face punishment for exercising their right to religious liberty.” 

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Catholic agencies say poverty ‘assaults millions’

Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2006 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services presented their priorities for 2007 foreign assistance to the House Appropriations Committee in their testimony March 22.

“Investments in human development are not only matters of moral responsibility, but contribute to a safer and more just and peaceful world,” the told the committee, adding that severe poverty assaults the human dignity of millions in many nations.

“Our religious faith and our nation’s values tell us that the moral measure of our efforts is how we respond to the ‘least among us’…and whether we seek justice for all,” they stated.

Their suggested allocations included $5 billion for global development and humanitarian assistance, $150 million in employment assistance and poverty relief for the Palestinian people, and $3.7 billion for morally appropriate programs to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

They tackled debt relief, calling on the administration to put $950 million toward its commitment to cancel 100 percent of the debt owed by heavily indebted poor countries, and to increase the number of countries eligible for debt cancellation.

As migration is an ongoing phenomenon worldwide, the Catholic agencies estimated that nearly $1.3 billion should be slated for different types of migration and refugee assistance.

Finally, they said $ 3 billion would be needed to fulfill the requirements of the Millennium Challenge Account, the president’s initiative that promises to unite poverty reduction with better governance in poor countries;.

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Vatican outlines Thursday discussions between Pope, Cardinals

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2006 (CNA) - Today, the Vatican released the official account of Thurday’s Day of Prayer and Reflection, in which Pope Benedict and members of the College of Cardinals discussed four key issues facing the Catholic Church today. The meeting came ahead of this morning’s Public Ordinary Consistory in which 15 new cardinals were created.

The four topics, according to a Vatican communiqué released this morning, included first, the mission of bishops emeritus within the Church, second, efforts which should be and are being made toward the reconciliation of members of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, third, liturgical reform and use of the St. Pius X Latin Missal, and lastly, the Church’s position toward Islam.

150 of theChurch’s 193 cardinals were on hand for the meetings held, in theVatican’s Synod Hall. 15 new cardinals who were incorporated into the College Friday morning were also present.

The Holy See said that the meetings--done in the same format as those preceding last year’s papal conclave--focused on four main subjects laid out by the Pope himself.

The first two topics of discussion were raised, respectively, by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and president of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei."

The third and fourth were raised by Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,and Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano.

The all-day meetings included open discussion and debate. According to the Vatican, various cardinals contributed, including some of the 15 who were made cardinals today.

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Muslims oppose new film about Jesus by Orthodox Christian

Cairo, Egypt, Mar 24, 2006 (CNA) - Muslims are expressing their opposition to plans by an Egyptian Orthodox Christian to make the first movie in Arabic about Jesus, who Islam considers to be a prophet. They argue that it would be a violation of their faith, which prohibits depictions of Allah and the prophets.

“In order for this movie to be made, our position is that the image of the prophet (Jesus) not appear, for it would be impossible to find an actor who could play him, no matter how perfect his work is,” prominent Muslim leader Mohammed Habib told the EFE news agency.

Some have suggested that filmmakers request authorization from Al Azhar, the most prestigious institution of Sunni Islam, which issues judgments about works of art that have to do with religion.

Abdel Moti Bayumi, a member of the Academy of Islamic Studies of Al Azhar, said the prophets cannot be portrayed “because that reduces their value in the human imagination,” and he pointed to recent Al Azhar fatwas on the issue.  “Muslims hate seeing Jesus represented in human form and especially if they show him in moments of weakness."

"Al Azhar has already given its opinion, and whoever does not respect it will have to answer to God,” Bayumi said.

The screenwriter of the film, Fayez Ghali, said Al Azhar “has nothing to do with my film.  That the depiction of the prophets is forbidden is an issue for our Muslim brothers, not for me.”  “I am following my Orthodox Christian teaching.  No human being ought to prohibit the movie, whether it’s Al Azhar, the church or even the state,” he added.

He also said that preventing the film “would be a historic catastrophe, as it would be understood as an imposition of their power on the Church.”  Ghali argued that those seeking the approval of Al Azhar for his film “are radicals who are playing with fire.”

While Ghali said he was not opposed to having a Muslim play the role of Christ, the film’s producer, Mohammed Uchub, who is Muslim, said he would impose the sole condition that the role be given to an unknown Christian actor.  

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Conference considers worldwide ‘war on Christians’

Washington D.C., Mar 24, 2006 (CNA) - A conference next week promises to address Christian singling out around the world and in the media. The conference, called The War On Christians and the Values Voter in 2006, will be held March 27-28 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC.

The organizers pointed to Abdul Rahman’s trial in Afghanistan and the recent release of the anti-Christian film V for Vendetta to demonstrate the urgent need at this time for the conference.

Rahman could face a possible death penalty for converting to Christianity from Islam 16 years ago. Human rights watchers indicate that there are other similar cases of Christian persecution in the Muslim world.

V for Vendetta depicts a future Christian dictatorship in Britain that crushes dissent and persecutes other faiths. This is only one of a number of productions coming out of Hollywood that misrepresent Christianity or are outright anti-Christian.

For this reason, the conference will include a panel discussion March 28 called Hollywood: Christians Through A Distorted Lens. Panelists include Ted Baehr of, Bob Knight of Concerned Women for America and Rebecca Hagelin of the Heritage Foundation.

Other keynote speakers at the conference include Rick Scarborough, Phyllis Schlafly, Senator John Cornyn, Gary Bauer, Congressman Tom DeLay, Janet Parshall, Senator Sam Brownback, Janet Folger and Alan Keyes.

For a complete conference schedule, go to

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New Zealand Catholics outraged by South Park episode

Aukland, New Zealand, Mar 24, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in New Zealand is lodging an official complaint with the country’s Broadcasting Standards Authority after a television channel aired an episode of South Park, which depicted a statue of the Virgin Mary menstruating.

Chief Operating Officer of C4, Rick Friesen, apologized for any offence caused by the controversial “Bloody Mary” episode, which aired Feb. 22. During the broadcast, a group of about 400 Catholics prayed the rosary and sang Marian hymns outside C4’s studio.

The station received dozens of complaints over the episode, but did not uphold any based on the country’s Television Code. However, Friesan admitted, the channel misjudged the number of people who would be offended.

The COO said the channel has "detected a shift in the public's perspective on matters of a religious nature” and has since “reviewed [its] internal processes for dealing with religious programs, particularly in relation to religious satire," reported the New Zealand Catholic. The station has decided not to rebroadcast the episode.

A similar situation developed in the United States a few months ago, when the program was aired Dec. 7. Comedy Central, which broadcast the show, also decided to cancel scheduled repeats of the episode.

Catholic Communications national director Lyndsay Freer questioned Friesen’s claim that his channel has "detected a shift in the public's perspective."

"What they really mean is that they have learned the hard way that the public will not put up with arrogant denigration of groups of their fellow citizens simply because the media perceives that it can get away with it."

In February, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference asked CanWest Media, C4’s parent company, not to screen the episode. They said the decision to air it was “arrogant” and “cynical” and urged Catholics to consider boycotting the station and their advertisers.

“Press freedom is not a license to incite intolerance or to promote hatred or derision based on religion, race or gender,” they said in a Feb. 14 letter. “We believe that while most of us have a sense of humor, there are some things that go beyond the bounds.”

Friesen said he is confident the Broadcasting Standards Authority will not uphold any complaint from the Catholic Church because he does not believe the program breached any broadcasting codes.

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Bedside priest prepares for one year anniversary of Terri Schiavo death

, Mar 24, 2006 (CNA) - Fr. Frank Pavone was by Terri Schiavo’s bedside just before she died one year ago next Friday.

This year, the well-known priest, who is head of the group, Priests for Life, plans to spend the one year anniversary with Terri’s family, and by her gravesite, offering comfort and prayers.

Fr. Pavone became a well-recognized media presence last year outside the Pinellas Park, Florida hospice where Mrs. Schiavo died.

At one point, he bluntly declared to the assembled media that her death was “murder”, adding that it was not “peaceful” or “gentle,” as Schiavo’s husband Michael had suggested, but that she suffered “an agony unlike anything I have ever seen.”

Schaivo’s husband ordered his wife’s feeding tube removed last year following years of incapacitation and brain damage. Her family fought him vigilantly in a battle that waged all the way up to President Bush, the Supreme Court and the Vatican.

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Archbishop says families are ‘the poor of today’, deserve greater charity

Madrid, Spain, Mar 24, 2006 (CNA) - In his weekly pastoral letter, Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia, Spain, said greater charity must be shown to those families that are most in need, for while “the working class was considered the poor in the past, today’s poor are the families.”

In his letter, the archbishop warns that in today’s world, “Choosing to have a family and raise kids is seen by many as way of ending up poor.”

“Families are the poor of our time,” he said, noting that “all of us can contribute to establishing social changes so that the right to have a family is a reality.”  “There are many countries that have policies harmful to families,” he warned.

Therefore, Archbishop Garcia-Gasco said the practice of charity towards needy families “must not be left out” of the V World Meeting of Families, which will take place in Valencia in July.  

He praised the attitude of many families in Valencia who “have opened their hearts and their homes to welcome pilgrims from all over the world with whom they will share their homes and their meals.”  He also noted that the “wave of generosity is spreading so that Christians of third-world countries can be present at the meeting and share the testimony of their own experiences.”

Works of charity “are an essential task of the Church that cannot be overlooked by any Christian.”  The archbishop said the meeting of families in Valencia would be an important opportunity to develop new “attitudes, policies and legislative efforts that truly address the material needs of families.”

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Human Rights Watch demands Mexico legalize abortion

, Mar 24, 2006 (CNA) - In a report posted on the group’s website, the pro-abortion organization Human Rights Watch is demanding that Mexican leaders provide “safe and legal” abortion for victims of rape or incest.

In the section entitled, “Detailed Recommendations” of the report “The Second Assault Obstructing Access to Legal Abortion after Rape in Mexico,” the group demands Mexican officials “support the right to immediate unhindered access to safe, humane, respectful, and free abortion services in those cases where abortion currently is not criminalized and in accordance with human rights standards.”

Likewise the group recommends amending the law which created “the National Institute for Women to explicitly include a mandate to further women’s and girl’s access to abortion where currently permitted by law.”  It also calls on the Mexican Congress to pass “laws that ensure women access to voluntary, safe, and free abortions after all forms of rape or incest,” “to guarantee the provision of safe and free abortions at public health institutions,” and to “repeal penal code provisions that criminalize abortion, especially those that punish women and girls who have had an abortion.”

In their report, Human Rights Watch calls for the implementation of a “zero-tolerance policy for public officials’ failure to support victims of violence in their pursuit of justice and redress, bearing in mind that such redress includes access to legal and free abortion,” as well as the implementation of “meaningful sanctions against public officials who obstruct women’s and girls’ right to abortion after rape.”

The report leaves no room for conscientious objection on the part of heath care workers or for parental consent for underage girls who wish to obtain abortions.
The group also demands the “pardon and release” of “all prisoners serving sentences for having procured or induced abortions.”

Ironically, the report also speaks of the need for “physical and psychological accompaniment and guidance for pregnant rape victims who have asked for a voluntary legal abortion,” although there is no mention of post-abortion syndrome, which often arises when the mother realizes she has taken the life of her unborn child.

In a final note, the group indicates that “the obligation of the public health system to provide free abortion services to victims of rape is already established in the legislation of some Mexican jurisdictions.  The national legislation should not distance itself from the standard set by this level of protection.”

The entire report can be found at:

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Multi-lingual rosary to be offered in memory of John Paul II

, Mar 24, 2006 (CNA) - Hundreds of Catholics are expected to gather at the Shrine of Schönstatt in Germany on April 2nd--the one-year anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II--to pray a multi-lingual rosary in memory of the beloved pontiff.

Members of the Schönstatt movement will be joined by hundreds of other Catholics at the shrine where the movement was born to pray in different languages for the Servant of God Pope John Paul II.

On the same night of April 2nd, thousands are expected to gather with Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square for a prayer vigil followed by a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 3rd.

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Italian police investigate weeping Madonna

Forli, Italy, Mar 24, 2006 (CNA) - Police are investigating the case of a statue of the Virgin Mary, which reportedly wept tears of blood last week. They are running tests on the statue to determine the nature of the teardrops.

A group of elderly, female worshippers first noticed that red tear-like drops had appeared on the face of the 1.2-metre-high statue of the Madonna in the town's Santa Lucia Church, says a March 22 ANSA report.

The news of a possible miracle was reported to the local bishop who immediately removed the figure, replacing it with a similar one, and called the police. It has not wept since it was moved to the bishop's offices.

The number of reported cases of Madonna appearances and of statues moving or weeping has grown in recent years and the Vatican has become extremely cautious about giving its seal of approval.

In September, the Vatican said tears of blood found on a statue of St. Padre Pio in a southern Italian town were not miraculous, reported ANSA.

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