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Archive of March 28, 2006

Case dismissed, but Afghan Christian convert still faces danger, seeks foreign asylum

Kabul, Afghanistan, Mar 28, 2006 (CNA) - Although Abdul Rahman, an Afghan man who faced death for converting from Islam to Christianity was released from prison on a technicality this week, his faith still puts him in danger in his home country. The United Nations announced Monday that he has appealed for foreign asylum.

According to the Associated Press, Adrian Edwards, a U.N. spokesman said the world body was working with the Afghan government to meet Rahman’s request.

"Mr. Rahman”, he said, “has asked for asylum outside Afghanistan…We expect this will be provided by one of the countries interested in a peaceful solution to this case."

Numerous countries, including Italy, Germany, the U.S. and the Vatican had heavily criticized Afghanistan for the case and appealed for the release of the 41-year-old. Under that countries Islamic Sharia Law,converting away from Islam is an offense punishable by death.

Although Rahman’s case was dismissed because of a lack of evidence, many charge that Afghanistan needs to change what they see as a horrendously unjust law. Massive protests erupted yesterday in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif over the case’s dismissal.

Rahman is currently being held in Kabul at the high-security Policharki prison. He was reportedly moved there because of continuous threats from other inmates.

The Associated Press also reported that some Muslim clerics have threatened to incite Afghans to kill Rahman if he is released, charging that he is guilty of apostasy and deserves to die.

The Afghan government has not released details of Rahman’s release.

Italy is the first country to have offered asylum today, but other countries are expected to follow.

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Vatican, world’s faithful prepare for one-year anniversary of John Paul II’s death

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2006 (CNA) - Throngs of pilgrims are expected to gather in Rome this weekend as the Vatican prepares to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II. Events planned by the Holy See will commemorate the life of a man many are already calling “John Paul the Great.”

The Holy See has announced that they will mark the occasion with a Sunday rosary and vigil, followed by Mass on Monday.

Sunday’s rosary will be part of a vigil slated to begin at 8:30 p.m. in St. Peter’s Square with singing led by the  choir of the diocese of Rome. At 9:37 p.m.--the exact time that the late Pope passed on, Pope Benedict XVI will address the crowd from his study window, pronounce a prayer and conclude with his Apostolic blessing.

Then, on Monday, the Holy Father will preside at a 5:30 p.m. Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

Similar memorials and days of prayer are being planned worldwide to commemorate the pontiff’s death. It was said that John Paul was seen in person by more people than anyone else in history.

Last week, Parliament in the late Pope’s home country of Poland passed a resolution expressing its “immense gratitude” to John Paul. Politicians stood and applauded as the country’s lower house unanimously passed the resolution.

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Immigration expert Bishop DiMarzio calls on faithful to reject any immoral immigration laws

Brooklyn, N.Y., Mar 28, 2006 (CNA) - As the U.S. Senate continues to inch closer to a comprehensive overhaul of the country’s immigration system, as many Catholic bishops have urged, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is warning that faithful need to keep a watchful eye and reject any immoral reform that does not respect the dignity of the human person.

Bishop DiMarzio, head of the Diocese of Brooklyn and a long time consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the subject of immigration, said in his regular column, published Monday, that true reform must be comprehensive, addressing the reasons why people need to come to the U.S. in the first place; must provide a pathway for people to regularize “and come out of the shadows”; and it must aim to protect families, workers and national security alike.

On Monday, a big step toward compromise and reform came as the Senate Judiciary panel sent a bill to the full Senate which would allow many of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants to be granted legal status provided they pay back taxes, hold jobs and pass criminal background checks.

Experts still wonder however, if the bill will make it through the Senate, with politicians on all sides sharply divided.

In his column, published in the Tablet newspaper, Bishop DiMarzio said that “It is time to recognize that immigration is a moral issue, calling forth from all of us that basic American value of respect for the dignity of each human person.”

“As religious people,” he said, “we know that this respect is generated by the belief that each person is created in the image of God our Creator, no matter in which country they were born, or how they may have crossed a border to the place they now call home.”

Bishop DiMarzio added that “It is because we believe that immigration is a moral issue, [that] we bishops have a duty to teach and to call for adherence to our teaching, even if this adherence might lead people to challenge provisions of particular laws.”

Referring to a resolution recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives which mirrors many currently on the table in individual states, he specifically affirmed that “there will never be a time when priests, religious and dedicated laypeople whose ministry and service is among immigrants will ever be forced to limit the Church’s outreach and care because of the contents of a person’s passport.” 

“The ‘passport’ of people of faith”, he pointed out, “comes directly from the Sacred Scriptures, which commands us to respect and care for the alien and the newcomer because they are brothers and sisters to all.”

Saying that undocumented immigrants must cease to be scapegoat as “terrorists” the bishop wrote that “The provisions of [the proposed House bill] calls forth the worst in people and will not fix our broken immigration system or make our country any safer.”

Bishop DiMarzio’s words echo that of numerous other bishops including Denver’s Charles Chaput, who has repeatedly called for just, comprehensive immigration reform. The two appeared together two weeks ago during an immigration forum at Denver’s Living the Catholic Faith Conference.

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A step closer to Sainthood? Another John Paul II miracle reported in United States

Rome, Italy, Mar 28, 2006 (CNA) - Father Slawomir Oder, the Vatican official overseeing the cause for the canonization of Pope John Paul II, announced this week that he has received reports of another possible miracle attributed to the late Pontiff, this time in the United States.

During an interview with the Italian radio network RAI, Father Oder said the alleged miracle was the healing of a man suffering from an incurable liver infection.  The priest who had been visiting the sick man communicated news of the alleged healing to Father Oder.

“So far the incident has not yet been proven, and we cannot officially call it a ‘miracle’ until we reach the end of the confirmation process,” he explained.

The Diocese of Rome officially announced the cause of beatification of John Paul II on June 28, 2005.

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Vatican seminar to explore Catholic influence on European higher education

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican has announced that it will host a seminar to explore the Bologna Process and its relationship to Catholic higher education this week. The Seminar is being organized by the Holy See’s Congregation for Higher Education along with the European Union’s UNESCO-CEPES organization.

The Bologna Process, named for its origins at the University of Bologna, began in 1998 when government education leaders from Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain gathered to create what they called “a European space for higher education.”

The process of harmonizing European education began on the 700th anniversary of the founding of Paris’s University of the Sorbonne.

In 1999, leaders from 29 European nations signed a political declaration of shared higher educational goals in the Italian city of Bologna.

On Thursday, the Vatican will host a press conference which is slated to be attended by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Archbishop Michael J. Miller C.S.B. and Msgr. Angelo Vincenzo Zani, respectively secretary and under-secretary of the same congregation. In addition, Jan Sadlak, director of UNESCO-CEPES will also be on hand.

The seminar itself will be held in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall from March 30th to April 1st.  

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Canadian churches take hard look at racial justice

Ottawa, Canada, Mar 28, 2006 (CNA) - Canadian churches wrapped up their first Racial Justice Week, an event intended to encourage churches in their efforts to undo racism in their local communities. The week ran from March 19 to 26.

Churches were invited to make use of a kit, created by the Ecumenical Anti-Racism Network, focused on the theme "God so loved the people of the world" (John 3:16). The title of this resource comes from the Chinese Kuo-yu Bible, an ecumenical translation done in the 1930s and still in use in most Chinese congregations.

This network is an expression of Canadian churches working together to support anti-racism programs, and involves member-churches of the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC). The kit is the result of five years of learning, reflecting and acting together in the Canadian Ecumenical Anti-Racism Network.

The CCC is the largest ecumenical body in Canada, representing 20 churches of Anglican, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is representing the Catholic Church.

"God so loved the people of the world" is a pilot project. More information on this initiative is available at: http://www.ccc-cce.ca/english/justice/racism.htm

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Archbishop says government officials who support abortion are negligent in their duties

Madrid, Spain, Mar 28, 2006 (CNA) - In his weekly pastoral letter, Archbishop Braulio Rodriguez Plaza of Valladolid, Spain, has denounced Spanish governmental officials who support abortion, saying their negligence has prevented thousands of citizens from being born.

In his letter, the archbishop recalled the “chilling number of 85,000 abortions in Spain in 2004,” which he blamed on the State for failing “to protect and look after the physical integrity of its citizens.”

Christians reject abortion, he said, not only for religious reasons, but also because “logically it is incomprehensible.”  He rejected the idea that acceptance of abortion is a sign of social progress.  “It’s not a question of legality, or of social progress, but of respect for life,” he added.

Archbishop Rodriguez Plaza also reached out to women who have had abortions because of “pressure from society or a lack of alternatives,” saying he wished to convey to them a “message of hope,” and he expressed his support for crisis pregnancy centers that “provide pregnant women with alternatives.”

Likewise, the archbishop criticized a newly passed law in Spain on assisted reproduction, which he said “shows no respect whatsoever for the embryo, and even goes so far as to employ the unscientific concept of pre-embryo.”  Echoing the words of Pope Benedict XVI to the members of the Pontifical Academy of Life, he said, “The Bible expresses love for each human being, even before he is formed in his mother’s womb.”

“The love of God for all human beings is already present at the beginning of the life of the embryo before it is implanted in the womb of its mother,” the archbishop stated.

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Vatican official expresses concern about proposed US immigration reform

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 28, 2006 (CNA) - The chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, Msgr. Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, said this week that the Holy See is concerned about legislation on immigration reform currently before the US Senate which includes proposals to build a wall on the US/Mexican border and to make it a crime to help illegal aliens.

Speaking to reporters, Msgr. Sanchez said, “All peoples have been immigrants” and immigration is “one of the characteristics of globalization.”  Likewise, he defended the right and freedom of movement of the 400 million immigrants around the world.  He said that closing the doors to them goes “against the natural order (and) against the Christian order.”

He said he did not intend his comments to be “a statement against a law,” but emphasized that “man has the right to immigrate and communities and nations have the right to receive those who immigrate and the right to establish certain norms.”

Msgr. Sanchez added warned against allowing immigration to “become clandestine” because that would mean a further trampling of human rights.

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Salvadoran prelate: new statements by former military commander could shed new light on Archbishop Romero assassination

San Salvador, El Salvador, Mar 28, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador expressed his hope this week that statements by former military captain Alvaro Saravia would shed new light on the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Speaking to reporters, Archbishop Lacalle said, “History has its rights and sooner or later all of the events and details are going to be made known.  Perhaps these statements by Captain Saravia can shed light and provide interesting information.”

Saravia, who was ordered to pay $10 million in reparation to the family members of the slain archbishop, said recently he would ask the Church for forgiveness for the assassination and that he would reveal the names of other individuals who were involved in the killing.

At the same time, Archbishop Lacalle said the person of Archbishop Romero should not be politicized because that would affect his cause for canonization.  “All of us have the opportunity to contribute positively to advancing” the cause, he added, noting that it falls to the Holy See to determine if Archbishop Romero is a martyr.  

“It is a delicate matter,” he continued, “because martyrdom means being killed out of hatred for the faith or the Church and not for political reasons.”

Archbishop Lacalle noted that a “fundamental fact” in Romero’s cause is that “he died as a priest celebrating Mass,” which he called a special favor from God, and he underscored that the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints has examined his writings and has declared them to be faithful to the teachings of the Church.  

Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass at a hospital chapel.

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New bishop named for northern Canada mission diocese

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2006 (CNA) - A diocese in the Canadian North has a new bishop. Pope Benedict XVI named Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie to succeed Archbishop Peter Sutton for the Diocese of Keewatin-Le Pas. The pope accepted the resignation of Archbishop Sutton, 71, who has been living with illness for some time. The announcement was made March 25.

Archbishop Lavoie was named coadjutor in July 2005. Both clerics were ordained for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and like many Oblates before them, have spent their lives serving the people of the Catholic missions in Canada’s Great North.

Archbishop Lavoie was born 1947 in Delmas, Sask. After joining the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and studying philosophy and theology at St. Charles Scholasticate, Battleford, Sask., he was ordained to the priesthood in 1974. He later became Provincial Superior and Consultor of his religious community and worked in a number of parishes in the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas, which includes the northern parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Archbishop Lavoie is currently a member of the Episcopal Commission for the Evangelization of Peoples, of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Sutton was born in Chandler, Quebec, in 1934. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1960. In 1974, he was ordained as bishop of Labrador City-Schefferville., He was named coadjutor archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas in February 1986. In November of that same year, he was named archbishop.   
Archbishop Sutton served on a number of CCCB commissions, including the commissions for social affairs, Christian education and the evangelization of peoples. He was also national spiritual adviser with the Catholic Women’s League of Canada.
 
The Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas has a Catholic population of 37,000 in 48 parishes and missions, served by 16 diocesan and religious order priests, nine religious sisters and brothers and 13 lay pastoral assistants.
 

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