Archive of April 12, 2006

Catholic aid workers killed in latest wave of Sri Lankan violence

Vatican City, Apr 12, 2006 (CNA) - On Monday, two tsunami aid workers from the Catholic group, Caritas Internationalis were killed when an anti-personnel mine exploded near their vehicle. It is the latest in ongoing series of violence in Sri Lanka’s largely rebel-controlled Jaffna peninsula.

According to the Reuters news service, shrapnel from the explosion killed Mr. Shanmugaratham Pathmanathan and Mr. Chelvendra Pradeepkumar, both workers at Caritas’ Human Development center in Jaffna. Five soldiers in a nearby military vehicle were also killed.

“We are broken hearted for the families of Mr. Pathmanathan and Mr. Pradeepkumar,” Father C.G. Jeyakumar, Director of Caritas Jaffna, told Reuters.
“Mr Pathmanathan”, he said, “had three young children who will now grow up without their father. Mr. Pradeepkumar was engaged and planning to visit his fiancée in Canada in a few weeks…It is a very tragic thing that yet more civilians have been killed in the crossfire of the conflict in Sri Lanka. Their deaths show that aid workers in Sri Lanka are very vulnerable. We are all very frightened about the situation here.”

Duncan MacLaren, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis condemned the attack saying that “Targets of any sort are unacceptable, but when innocent civilians who are working to rebuild after such devastation is an outrage.”

Many say that a recent surge of violence may lead the still tsunami devastated country back into civil war.

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Pope Benedict: Easter liturgy assures us that evil does not have last word

Vatican City, Apr 12, 2006 (CNA) - As Christians prepare to celebrate the Easter Triduum, which begins tomorrow evening, with the Holy Thursday service, Pope Benedict dedicated his weekly audience to this most holy of liturgical celebrations.

The Holy Father began by telling the 40,000 pilgrims who had gathered in St. Peter’s Square to hear him, that "Through the sacred rites we relive the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord, reawakening the desire to follow Jesus more closely."

He explained the meaning behind Holy Thursday, saying that the day “commemorates Christ's total giving of Himself to humanity in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Through the washing of feet, it also recalls in a dramatic way the new commandment to love one another. The day concludes with Eucharistic adoration in memory of Our Lord's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.”

"On Good Friday,” he went on, “we listen to the account of the Passion and contemplate Christ on the Cross. This is love in its most radical form: God gives His very self, in order to raise us up and save us.”

Benedict then called Holy Saturday the day in which “the Church is spiritually united with Mary, praying by the tomb of the Son of God who lies at rest after completing His work of redemption.”

“Then, at the solemn Easter Vigil,” he said, “the joyful Gloria and Easter Alleluia rise forth from the hearts of the whole Christian community, because Christ is risen and has defeated death!"

The Pope challenged the gathered pilgrims to prepare for Easter through the Sacrament of Confession.

"We know we are sinners," he said, "but we trust in divine mercy. Let us be reconciled with Christ in order to enjoy more intensely the joy He communicates to us with His resurrection.”

The Holy Father said that Christ’s forgiveness, “which is given to us in the Sacrament of Penance, is the source of interior and exterior peace and makes us apostles of peace in a world still marked, alas, by divisions and suffering, and by the drama of injustice, hatred, violence and the incapacity to achieve reconciliation and begin again in sincere forgiveness."

Concluding his weekly catecheses Pope Benedict stressed that the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ "gives us the certainty that evil does not have the last word; supported by this certain knowledge we can commit ourselves with greater courage and enthusiasm to creating a fairer world."

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Hoops for God: Priests take vocational awareness to the court

Kansas City, Mo., Apr 12, 2006 (CNA) - Kansas City’s Runnin’ Revs basketball team recently overcame the Serra All Stars at Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park. It was a close game, with the team of priests and seminarians catching the win, 54 to 52 over a team of junior high and high-school players from area Catholic schools.

Speaking with Kansas City’s diocesan newspaper, The Leaven, Fr. Brian Schieber compared his team to the Harlem Globetrotters. But while the goal of the Globetrotters is entertainment, the goal of Revs is to plant the seed of vocational possibility in the minds of young players and spectators.

“The kids might think that being a priest means they have to give up their hobbies and interests,” said Fr. Schieber. “But with the Revs, they can see, ‘Wow, priests can play basketball and do fun things.’”

Of course, the Revs’ games, like the Globetrotters, always include some shenanigans, like: controversial calls, including whistles blown for no particular reason, arbitrary fouls, the substitution of a referee with someone out of the stands and too many players on the court, anywhere from six to 30.

The games also includes some fundraising, including passing the hat at the end of the first quarter, and an auction

In the entire 11-year history of the series, the youthful Serra All Stars have never won a game against the Revs.

The Revs and the Serra All Stars will take to the court again May 1 at Hayden High School in Topeka.

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Archbishop calls for reaction against ‘shameless wave’ of hatred toward Jesus and the Church

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 12, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, Argentina, has exhorted Catholics to avoid laziness and to respond with “noble firmness” to the “dominant and shameless” wave of hatred against Jesus Christ and the Church which he says has spread across the world.

During Palm Sunday Mass at the archdiocesan cathedral, Archbishop Aguer noted that a wave of hatred against Jesus Christ has been unleashed upon the world.  “We not talking about isolated incidents,” he said, but rather a series of simultaneous events that bear the “markings of a conspiracy.”

The archbishop mentioned several examples of attacks on Christianity, such as a recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine in which a famous rapper appears wearing a crown of thorns; a short movie on Christmas in which Jesus and Santa Claus get into a fist fight; obscene cartoons about Jesus in a French newspaper, and the logo of a popular Swedish brand of jeans depicting a skull with an inverted cross.

“More than 200,000 pairs of the jeans have been sold and the designer has said his intention was to speak out against Christianity,” the archbishop stated.

Other examples sited by Archbishop Aguer included the “infamous fables of ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ which will gain new strength with the upcoming release of the film,” and the so-called Gospel of Judas, a Gnostic writing that was refuted by St. Iraneus in the year 180.  “It has been presented as something new by National Geographic Magazine, thus taking advantage of the occasion of Holy Week. It also promises to be a successful economic move.”

“To all this one can add the numerous profanations of the Sacred Scriptures, the blasphemies against the Most Holy Virgin and the growing, ubiquitous pressure to remove crosses and other Christian symbols from public places,” the archbishop added.

He noted the widespread condemnation and rejection of recently published cartoons depicting Mohammed, as well as the rapid activation of democratic mechanisms condemning discrimination and infringement upon religious freedom whenever there is the slightest attack against the Jewish community. 

And yet, he continued, “the apathy, the leniency, the suspicious silence in response to attacks on the Christian faith stands out.  It seems that Christianity, and specifically Catholicism, can be attacked with impunity,” Archbishop Aguer said.

He said the lack of response by Christians to the insults and attacks upon the Lord are even more surprising and are a “sad sign of how the faith has been weakened” in cultures that once were proud of their link to the Church of Christ. 

Lastly, Archbishop Aguer exhorted Christians to “offer serene and cordial witness to the truth, which does not exclude when necessary a noble firmness in demanding that the sacred treasure of catholicity be respected in accord with decency, justice and the law.”

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Catholic Home Missions Appeal to focus on rural, impoverished U.S. dioceses

Washington D.C., Apr 12, 2006 (CNA) - “Support the Mission Church Here in America” is the theme for this year’s national Catholic Home Missions Appeal, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It is scheduled for the weekend of April 29-30.

Most Catholics in the U.S. live in urban centers where the local parish is only a few blocks away and the congregation numbers in the hundreds or even in the thousands.

But there are areas where the Church community is poor and destitute and where resources are very slim. The Diocese of Fargo, for example, recently announced a plan to close about 30 of its 160 parishes. In the Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, there is a total of only seven Catholic high schools. In Alaska, remote parishes might see a priest only once a month. Finally, there are also the traditional mission areas of Appalachia and the Deep South, where there is usually only one Catholic parish, with 20 or 25 families, in each county. There are many places in America where being Catholic is not so easy.

In a letter, Bishop J. Peter Sartain of Little Rock, chairman of the Committee on Home Missions, urged all U.S. bishops to give particular attention to the collection this year and to ask their pastors to personally explain its purpose of “sharing the wealth” to their parishioners.

The bishop said the 2005 CHMA will yield $9.4 million, a 12 percent increase over 2004. But, at a recent allocations meeting, the committee was faced with the difficult decision to reduce its maximum grant to the neediest U.S. dioceses from $175,000 to $150,000, and to reduce the amount of support given to other Home Mission dioceses.

Among the reasons for this decision was the $3 million given to the five dioceses walloped by the hurricanes.

The Bishops’ Committee on the Home Missions was founded as the American Board of Catholic Missions in 1924. In cooperation with the Black and Indian Missions Board (1885) and the Catholic Church Extension Society (1905), the Committee provides financial support for missionary activities that strengthen and extend the presence of the Church in the United States, in its island territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific.

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German bishops speak out against MTV cartoon which mocks Pope, Vatican

Berlin, Germany, Apr 12, 2006 (CNA) - Catholics in Germany are challenging the good taste of MTV in its decision to air a British-born cartoon series mocking the Vatican and the Pope.

The series, called “Popetown” depicts an infantile pontiff who bounces around the Vatican on a pogo stick, a group of money-hungry cardinals and its main character, Father Nicolas, a Vatican clerk who tries to control the pope and his own attraction to a vixen-like nun.

In 2004, the BBC scrapped the program following a petition campaign with signatures from some 6,000 Catholics.

A statement from the German Bishop’s Conference said that "We have not given up hope that dialogue with the direction of MTV will lead to a decision to cancel the screening of the series and to consideration for the feelings of Christians in our country."

The bishops also raised serious concern about an advertisement for the cartoon which they say mocks Christianity.
"MTV's advertisement for 'Popetown' in several television programming magazines constitutes a provocation for Germany's Christians just a few days before Good Friday and Easter," the statement said.
The ad, which depicts a laughing man with a crown of thorns watching television, "mocked and ridiculed the central tenets of the Christian faith," they added.

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Rising church attendance in Connecticut

Bridgeport, Conn., Apr 12, 2006 (CNA) - Despite a widespread priestly sexual abuse scandal which has shaken the Catholic Church in the U.S. over recent years, Mass attendance is actually on the rise in a number of dioceses. In the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut for example, attendance at 87 parishes is up by 14 percent this year, reported WTNH TV.

Diocesan officials say they can't pinpoint why exactly attendance is up other than the fact that priests in the diocese have been working hard to reach out to their church communities with different programs and activities to nurture the faith.

Msgr. William Shultz told WTNH TV that the diocese had to rebuild the faith of the community after the 2001 sexual abuse scandal. He said it involved much dialogue and reconciliation.

"I hope they realize we all need faith and Christ in our lives, especially when you look around the world and see what's happening," the monsignor told the television station.

The nearby Archdiocese of Hartford says it has also seen an increase in attendance.

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Idaho passes ‘abortion-information’ legislation

Washington D.C., Apr 12, 2006 (CNA) - The Idaho House passed legislation Monday that requires doctors to provide women with information about the medical risks of abortion at least 24 hours prior to the procedure, as well as the anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child at that time.

The Senate had previously approved the bill, which now goes to the desk of Gov. Dirk Kempthorne for his signature.

Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, lauded the move. He says this legislation will give women important information that will enable them to choose life for their unborn children rather than abortion.

“More children will live thanks to the Idaho legislature,” he said, adding that more women will also be saved from the psychological trauma that usually follows abortion.

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Cardinal Medina encourages Christians not to contribute to success of Da Vinci Code movie

Santiago, Chile, Apr 12, 2006 (CNA) - The former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, is calling on Christians not to contribute to the box office success of “The Da Vinci Code,” as the movie presents a “distorted, falsified and blasphemous image of Jesus Christ.”

“Christians”, the cardinal said during an interview with a Chilean television program, “should not see this film” and “should not contribute to the colossal profits that the person who invented this thing is going to receive.”

Referring to the book that has inspired the movie, set to debut in May, Cardinal Medina said it was “simply blasphemous” in claiming there was a romantic relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

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Spanish cardinal calls on priests to defend faithful against imposition of secular culture

Toledo, Spain, Apr 12, 2006 (CNA) - The archbishop of Toledo, Spain, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera called on priests this week to come to the defense of their flocks against the imposition of an increasingly secular culture.

During the celebration of the annual Chrism Mass, the cardinal said everyone was aware of the ongoing attempts to change society and culture.  Secularism, the breakdown of values, the eradication of the Christian roots of society, dissent in the Church all require that “we priests place ourselves in front of the flock as good shepherds and defend, even to the point of sacrificing our own persons,” those “that have been entrusted to us.”

Priests should provide the faithful with the spiritual nourishment they need and lead them to “the fountains of living water,” especially “young people, who are most in need at this time.”

“Preaching right doctrine in season and out of season is key at this moment, as well as strengthening the unbreakable ecclesial communion with the Pope and defending the family,” he said.

Therefore, the cardinal encouraged priests to strongly promote participation in the World Meeting of Families with Pope Benedict XVI, due to be held in Valencia.

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Venezuelan cardinal renews call for justice and reconciliation on anniversary of violent April 11th coup

Caracas, Venezuela, Apr 12, 2006 (CNA) - As Venezuelans recalled the fourth anniversary of the April 11 crisis of 2002, which left President Hugo Chavez out of office for 47 hours, and numerous more dead, the archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, issued a strong call for reconciliation, justice and peace among all Venezuelans.

In his message, the cardinal recalled the need to “learn how to forgive. We don’t gain anything by holding resentment and anger in our hearts.  It is important that we seek out understanding, reconciliation and peace.”

Cardinal Urosa exhorted Venezuelans to reject hatred and that justice be handed down to those responsible for the deaths of April 11 in a fair and non-political process.  He expressed regret that a commission to investigate the 2002 crisis, which left 19 people dead, has never been established, and he underscored the importance that no further injustice add to the pain that has already been suffered by the Venezuelan people.

The courts “have a very grave responsibility,” the cardinal warned, “and no judge should ever be like Pontius Pilate, who simply condemned Jesus Christ in order to please the crowds.”

“We must always seek the truth, which is the way of justice and peace,” he said in conclusion.

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