Archive of April 20, 2006

Vatican officials announce plans to celebrate 500th anniversary of St. Peter’s Basilica

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2006 (CNA) - As the Church begins its celebrations for the 500th birthday of the largest church in the Christian world, Vatican officials today held a press conference to discuss the rich history of St. Peter’s Basilica and outline plans for the birthday year.

On hand for the historic event were Cardinals Francesco Marchisano, archpriest of the basilica, and Albert Vanhoye S.J., rector emeritus of the Pontifical Biblical College; Archbishop Angelo Comastri and Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, respectively president and delegate of the Fabric of St. Peter's; Antonio Paolucci, superintendent of the Florentine Museums and curator of the exhibition, "Petros Eni;" and Maria Cristina Carlo-Stella, bureau chief at the Fabric of St. Peter's.

Cardinal Marchisano began by briefly outlining the history of the basilica, which is actually the second to be built on the site of St. Peter’s crucifixion. The first was built in the fourth century by the emperor Constantine but because of structural frailty it was replaced with the current building, the construction of which began on April 18th, 1506 by Pope Julius II, who himself placed the first stone.

The cardinal also pointed out that the basilica possesses an extraordinary archive composed of some 3,050,000 documents concerning work carried out on the church from its conception to the present day.

It is one of the most visited sites in the world, welcoming between five and 20 thousand people each day.

During his own brief address, Archbishop Comastri pointed out that in 1939, "by decision of Pope Pius XII, excavation work began under St. Peter's Basilica. To great astonishment, the ancient necropolis interred by Constantine's architects in the year 320 came to light.”

“Moving up the slopes of the Vatican hill,” he recalled, “a small monument was found, identified as the 'Tropaion of Gaius;' this discovery was followed by that of the famous red wall with the graffiti 'Petros eni' and a series of other graffiti all testifying to the devotion to Peter in this place."

Likewise, Bishop Lanzani noted that "The Governorate of Vatican City State will issue a series of commemorative stamps of the value of 0.45 and 0.60 euros" to commemorate the anniversary.

"The first”, he explained, “represents the commemorative medal of Bramante, produced by Cristoforo Foppa between the years 1505 and 1506. ... The second depicts the medal placed in the foundations of the new St. Peters, also the work of Cristoforo Foppa." Both stamps bear the inscription: "Templum Divi Petri in Vaticano 1506-1606."

The Vatican also plans to mint two medals for the occasion, one in silver and one in two different metals. Italian engraver Sergio Giandomenico was commissioned to work on the coins.

The Holy See said that one side of the coin will show the consignment of the keys to St. Peter against the background of the basilica, with the emblem of the Fabric of St. Peter's underneath with the inscription "Patriarcalis Basilica Principis Apostolorum 1506-1606" around the edge.

The other side of the coin will bear an image of the current Holy Father with the phrase "Benedictus XVI, Pontifex Maximus" engraved therein.

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Life doesn't start at conception, but after says Cardinal Martini in dialogue with bio-ethicist

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2006 (CNA) - Italian Vatican analyst Sandro Magister is releasing a long dialogue Cardinal  Martini sustained with Ignazio Marino, famous Italian bio-ethicist, and director of the Center of transplants of the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, about abortion, in-vitro fecundation and contraception

And the answer is: “not immediatly with conception, but after” said Cardinal Martini, about when life starts, “with the consequences that derive from it,” added Magister. The long dialogue between the two men will be released in the next issue of the weekly “L’espresso,” a center-left weekly tomorrow,  it will be made available by Sandro Magister in his website in English

The Jesuit Cardinal, now 79, a great specialist of Holy Scriptures, and former Archbishop of Milan from 1979 to 2002, lives today in Jerusalem, where he resumed his biblical studies. During the pontificate of John Paul II, Cardinal Martini was known to be the preeminent representante of the “progressive” opposition. The same opinion continues to be circulate about him regarding the new pope.

On the issues tackled in the dialogue, Cardinal Martini seldom expressed his views, even during the heated debate in his country about allowing artificial fecundation. He questionned the Church’s official position who is intransigent in defending “each human life from conception to naturla death, with no exception.

Precisely, Cardinal Martini approves the use of “ovocites at the state of two pronucleus.” According to him and Professor Marino, at this stage following fecundation, “no singular and definit sign of human life appears, it’s not an embryo yet and therefore it can be manipulated with no formal moral objection.”

On euthanasia, he says “We can never approve of it,” but he adds we shouldn’t “condemn persons that carries out such an act on the demand of persons reduced and by pure altruistic feelings.”
He advocates for the same respect for persons who follow their consciences in these extreme cases.”

The full article can be read in Italian:

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Controversy erupts after Catholic, Protestant clerics concelebrate Easter mass

Belfast, UK, Apr 20, 2006 (CNA) - Controversy in Ireland continues after a Protestant clergyman marked the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Western Front by celebrating mass with three Catholic priests, reported the Belfast Telegraph.

Both the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland have promised to launch investigations after it was revealed that the minister, Rev Michael Graham, had brought 20 members of his congregation to the Augustinian Priory in Drogheda, Co Louth, where they took Communion.

The Catholic primate, Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh, said he intended to seek further details about the event, which drew about 1,000 people.

"True ecumenism is best served by initiatives that are respectful of, and sensitive to, the traditions, ethos and discipline of all those involved," he reportedly said. "Otherwise there is a real danger of causing widespread confusion, raising false hopes and creating situations that are open to misunderstandings and manipulation."

The head of the Church of Ireland also expressed concern about the implications this incident would have on ecumenism.

“Unfortunately, such occasions - while well intentioned - can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations at a time when relations between our Churches have improved so much," Archbishop Robin Eames was quoted as saying.

Fr. Iggy O'Donovan, one of the Catholic priests involved, told the Irish Times he had had no intention of defying Church rules, which strictly prohibit intercommunion.

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Italian Catholic writer analyses Benedict XVI style on first anniversary.

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2006 (CNA) - As Pope Benedict celebrates a year of pontificate, Italian Catholic writer Vittorio Messori made a thorough depiction of what he considers is the style, thought and “way to proceed”, of the Pontiff, in an interview he gave to Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

The balance drafted by Messori, author of “Crossing the threshold of Hope,” conversations with John Paul II, and “Dialogue on faith,” conversations with Cardinal Ratzinger, also includes comparisons between the style of the actual pontiff and his predecessor.

The journalist admitted in the interview, that “to be honest, I found myself saying about Pope Benedict 'Good Lord, move a little bit.' It seemed to me he was doing too little, but that’s not so sure. Benedict XVI is a man who doesn’t like big crowds. He drastically reduced public apparitions and will make three to four trips a year, but he is doing what John Paul II wasn't keen on doing: studying the important dossiers. He needs time for the diagnosis. All he says, he writes it, seated at his work desk. We can clearly recognize his style in “Deus Caritas est.”

On giving his opinion on whether Benedict XVI is a “more accesible” pope, the analyst afirmes that “only in a specific way,” because “if we look at the images of John Paul II, we can see how he reached out to the hands of millions but not having a good look at the faces of his interlocuters. Ratzinger looks in the eyes, always. He stops to talk to each, he wants to know who is standing before him. Wojtyla is a man of Christianity, he wanted the Gospel to be spread to all people. Benedict XVI is a man of interiority, a post-modern intellectual."

Nevertheless, Messori made his point clear, affirming that “I don’t want to say that Benedict XVI doesn’t attract crowds. Navarro-Valls told me yesterday that the numbers at the audiences have triplicated. This we can explain for two reasons. One is the magnetic effect of John Paul , who put Christ back at the center. In 78, before his election, the crisis within in the Church was deep. There were only tourists in Saint Peters. Last year, at his funeral, we saw what happened. The other reason is what explained very well a German journalist. Benedict XVI is a teacher, a scholar with great respect for his interlocutor. He speaks with density, and sternly, striving for understanding, and people can sense that,” he said.

Respective of the vision Benedict XVI wishes to apply to the Roman  Curie, the journalist remarked that “this Pope wants to simplify things. ”Ratzinger doesn’t like curial intricacies and bureaucracy.” 

On the thought of the current Pontiff, Messori affirmed that “Ratzinger was always a euro-centric thinker: he is an intellectual, a western theologian who always has as interlocutor the western man. He knows the future of the Church is here.”

“There are historical reasons,” he followed- that of new Churches. In the end nothing really new appeared as relevant and as vital as european catholicism. The theology of liberation, which spread as a South American phenomenon, is rather a French and German work from the theoretical point of view. The same Church in the United States, in spite of  dollars and more than 70 million faithful never really brought novelties, such as an important order, a movement, theologians.. nothing. It is rather clear for Benedict XVI. For  him, it is more important to stay firm in a Parish here or giving back life to the churches in England than to gain new parishioners in an African diocese,” he sustains.

On ecumenism, Messori remarks that “some bishops have strived during years for the dialogue with protestant churches. But spending that much energy into it, is worthless.” Regarding Islam, Messori believes that the Pope “is making a diagnosis before starting the procedure. I’m sure he knows Islam is not monolithic. The real difficulty is to find appropriate intelocutors, and the Pope is looking for them.”

The interest for Benedict XVI for liturgy is obvious. According to Messori, for the Holy Father it’s “one of the major betrayals of the Council.” For the journalist, “the true mistake is to think of liturgy as if it were a show, with the priest closing the show saying 'good night and see you next time!” as happens in many churches.

“For Pope Benedict XVI-he continues-the power of Mass is precisely in the repetition, in uttering the same words every day for all, altering gestures and silence. The priest is only an instrument at the service of the people. Even the Pope is one. Indeed The Papal celebrations have become more sober and simple. This Pope has reintroduced Eucharistic adoration in Mass, silence and prayer before the sacrament, which is least appealing for television.

Lastly, Vittorio Messori underlines a fundamental difference between the two pontiffs, with no glimpse of criticism towards John Paul II, to which he felt very close. He says that “Ratzinger wants to make the Church less “pope-centered”. The charisma of Wojtyla, made the Church identify with one man. Ratzinger seeks to be the least invasive possible. He doesn’t want the Church to be centered on one man that leads it.”

He thinks though that “maybe the major difference between the two is the idea of faith: John Paul II was of a mystical temperament, the mystical doesn’t need to think. He sees and touches. Faith is an evidence for him. For Benedict XVI, faith is a daily rediscovery, it becomes necessary to explain it, and to seek the reason for it. It is not that he doubts about it, but he realizes that many people in the West are in doubt, and he wishes to talk to them, “ Messori concluded.

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Knights of Columbus rededicate support to Pope Benedict on first anniversary

New Haven, Conn., Apr 20, 2006 (CNA) - In celebration of the one year anniversary of Benedict XVI’s election to Pope last spring, the world’s 1.7 million Knights of Columbus have adopted a resolution declaring their esteem and renewed support for the German pontiff.

The April 9th resolution was formally adopted by Knight’s Board of Directors at the group’s Connecticut headquarters.

It praises the Pope’s “devoted pastoral leadership and commitment to evangelization,” and also laud’s Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas est, calling the document “a source of wisdom and inspiration to the entire Church, and especially to the Knights of Columbus, which counts charity as its first principle.”

The Knights also pledged their “loyalty, prayerful solidarity and continued cooperation with [the Pope’s] pastoral programs to renew and grow the Church.”

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said yesterday that “With more than 135 million hours and $63 million donated to charity last year by its members, the Knights of Columbus has and will continue to answer the Pope’s call for ‘charitable activity [that] can and should embrace all people and all needs.’”

The full text of the new resolution may be viewed online at the Knights of Columbus website,

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USCCB receives major grant to support human trafficking victims

Washington D.C., Apr 20, 2006 (CNA) - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has received a major five-year government contract award to provide comprehensive support services to victims of human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is at the forefront of social issues addressed by the Catholic Church and the U.S. bishops,” said Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Migration. “We recognize the depth of this challenge and are honored to continue serving in this important work.”

The contract will provide the USCCB with the resources for each victim being served. It will also streamline support services to help them gain access to shelter, legal assistance, job training and health care to establish lives free of violence and exploitation.

The USCCB intends to enter into agreements with service providers throughout the U.S. to assist in serving victims as they may surface. The award has a minimum allocation of $500,000 and a maximum of $6 million per year.

The award was granted by the Office of Refugee Resettlement of the Administration for Children and Families. The Administration for Children and Families falls under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is uniquely qualified to fulfill this commitment because of its history of service, community involvement and national presence,” said Wade Horn of the government office.

The contract will work in concert with the Department of Health and Human Services’ ongoing campaign, Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking, which educates Americans about human trafficking.

A key component of the campaign is the 24/7 toll-free trafficking information and referral hotline, 1-888-373-7888.

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Audit shows Boston Archdiocese is $46M in red, ministries at risk

Boston, Mass., Apr 20, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Boston released a two-year audit Wednesday that showed it running a $46.3-million deficit, largely caused by the massive sexual abuse scandal which erupted there in the early 2000’s.
The audit, which covered the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years, also shows assets of nearly $330 million, but most of the money is restricted or earmarked for specific purposes.

According to the audit, the annual appeal donations that totaled $15.5 million in 2001 dropped to $11.6 million in 2005.

The decrease in revenue over previous years puts Catholic programs and ministries at risk “have never been more needed,” wrote Cardinal Sean O'Malley in a letter to parishioners that accompanies the 1,000-page audit report.

He attributed the decrease to “the anger over the sexual abuse crisis and the closing of parishes” and said the community must focus “on the long process of healing” ahead. He also referred to the drop in mass attendance, the low numbers of priests and fewer students at Catholic school. He said the trends must be reversed to create new Catholic leaders in the church and society at large.

The audit was conducted in part because critics had demanded more information about the archdiocese's finances after a massive settlement in 2003 for more than 550 people who were sexually abused by priests.

The audit also follows through on a promise Cardinal O'Malley made for better financial disclosure last fall, when the state Legislature was debating a bill that would have required all religious organizations to file annual financial reports with the state. The bill was defeated in the House in January.

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Court says Notre Dame may have to pay back education grant used for religious training

South Bend, Ind., Apr 20, 2006 (CNA) - The University of Notre Dame could be required to pay back a government grant used to train teachers in Catholic schools if a judge rules that the use of the funds was unconstitutional, reported the Associated Press.

That was the 2-1 ruling issued in Laskowski v. Spellings by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, April 13. The judges ruled that Indianapolis federal Judge Larry McKinney acted prematurely when he dismissed the case as moot because the $500,000 Department of Education grant had already been spent.

Notre Dame received the money to redistribute to other colleges to help them replicate a program that trains teachers who then teach in impoverished Catholic schools. Private donations also fund the program.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, on behalf of taxpayers. They argued that government had no business paying for religious education, reported the AP.

The ACLU wanted the court to order the Education Department to demand repayment. While Circuit Judge Richard Posner disagreed, he said it should not prevent restitution if a constitutional violation of the edict on the separation of church and state were found.

However, the 7th Circuit did not address whether using public money for the teacher-training program violated the constitution.

The attorney who represented Notre Dame, Michael Carvin, told the AP that the university handled the program in line with previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

He said he agreed with Circuit Judge Diane Sykes' 13-page dissent, in which she says the case was moot and the two-judge majority kept it alive by inventing a "newfangled" remedy inconsistent with previous rulings.

The university may decide to appeal the decision.

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Cardinal Sterzinsky says Benedict XVI’s pontificate contributing to rehabilitation of Germany

Berlin, Germany, Apr 20, 2006 (CNA) - As the Church celebrated the first anniversary of Benedict XVI’s election to the papacy Wednesday, Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky of Berlin opined that the Holy Father has already contributed to the rehabilitation of Germany in the world.

During a radio interview, Cardinal Sterzinsky recalled that a year ago many said they preferred “to have nothing to do with a German in the Vatican.”

“So much horror came out of Germany during the last century that it is good that now, in this process of separation from the past, someone has come along who was born and raised in Germany and is giving blessings to the whole world,” he said.

The cardinal also mentioned that “in the gaze and in the eyes of Benedict XVI one can see he has greatly adapted to his new role, and he seems to be happy with it.”  He said his impression was that most of the faithful are satisfied with Benedict’s pontificate.

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Dominican Republic cardinal decries proposal to legalize death penalty

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Apr 20, 2006 (CNA) - As the Dominican Republic’s national congress continues its debate on a proposal to reform the country’s penal code and allow for the death penalty, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez of Santo Domingo has expressed his opposition to the move, saying the change would cheapen the value of human life.

The cardinal said life sentences should be imposed for serious crimes and that “the death penalty should never be justified.”

According to a Gallup-Hoy poll, a significant number of Dominicans are in favor of the death penalty for serious crimes.  Several Dominican legislators in the national congress have said they share Cardinal Rodriguez’s view on the issue.

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Pope appoints Santo Domingo Cardinal to represent him at St. Toribio celebration

Vatican City, Apr 20, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican has announced that Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopex Rodriguez, Archbishop of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic will represent Pope Benedict during the 400th anniversary celebrations of St. Toribio de Mogrovejo at the end of this month. St. Toribio is patron Saint of the Church in Latin America.

The Vatican released a letter from the Pope today, which was dated March 4th and appoints the Cardinal archbishop of Santo Domino as his special envoy.

The celebrations are due to be held in Lima, Peru from April 24th to the 29th.

Msgrs. Pedro Rufino Hidalgo Diaz, rector of the Pontifical Faculty of Theology in Lima and member of the cathedral chapter; Alberto Maravi Petrozzi, rector of the major seminary of St. Toribio and member of the cathedral chapter; and Angelo Accattino, secretary of the apostolic nunciature to Peru will all accompany the cardinal.

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Open conversion to Christianity still not possible in Egypt

Rome, Italy, Apr 20, 2006 (CNA) - A report by the EFE news agency states that despite the Egyptian government’s recent decision to allow missionaries of “all monotheistic religions” to be active in the country, conversions to Christianity continue to take place clandestinely.

The report noted the case of Mary Tanagho, a 20 year-old Egyptian Christian whose family has lived in the US for 24 years because of death threats against her father for distributing Christian pamphlets “intended for Muslim faithful.”

“The police stormed the clinic where my father was working in Cairo and they took him to jail, where he spent six months without being accused of a single crime,” Mary said.  She said the pamphlets led to the conversion to Christianity of various Muslims.

Mary’s father was pressured to abandon all religious activity and after receiving death threats, he ultimately decided to leave the country.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt, Rafiq Gresh, told EFE that if a Muslim converts to Christianity and manages to keep it hidden, when he dies “he will be buried in a Muslim cemetery.” He said a person’s national identity card indicates what religion he or she professes.

According to statements by Islamic authorities, Islam is tolerant of other monotheistic faiths but does not allow them to engage in missionary activity.  “A Christian has the same right as a Muslim to express his religion at any time or place, but there is a difference between this and inciting a person to follow another religion,” said Abdel Moti Bayumi of the Academy of Islamic Studies.

The Egyptian constitution established Islam, which is the faith of 90% of population, as the official religion.  The remaining 10% include Coptic Orthodox, Coptic Catholics, Armenian Orthodox, Chaldean and Maronite Catholics and members of the Bahá'í faith.

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Spanish cardinal: Cathedrals should be special places of Christian activity

Madrid, Spain, Apr 20, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, said this week that Spain’s cathedrals should be special places of Christian formation and stressed that they should be used as a starting point for the re-evangelization of society.

During a series of reflections on the Cathedral as a “place of evangelization and a means of social communication,” the cardinal warned that today’s society has turned its back on God and in response to the negative consequences of this, the Church should “respond by cultivating the expression of God in those places that are most suitable for it.”

One such place is the Cathedral, he said, which has lost its identity in recent years.  Cathedrals are an expression of the reality of the “Church as mother,” and should be places where “new sons and daughters of the Church should be born,” he said.

More than places of adoration, the cardinal continued, Cathedrals should be places of Christian initiation, and that special “attention to the celebration of the liturgy to ensure that the Eucharist is the center of our Cathedrals” should be a priority.  He also said priests there should always be readily available for confessions.

Regarding music, the cardinal said “compositions that offer the diocesan community quality music and content of faith” should be dug out of the archives.  He also encouraged guided tours of the Cathedrals “in order to evangelize through art.”

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