Archive of May 5, 2006

Experts propose new study on Shroud of Turin

Madrid, Spain, May 5, 2006 (CNA) - During the International Convention on the Holy Shroud of Turin, which took place last Sunday at the Catholic University of Valencia in Spain, a group of experts proposed a new scientific study be carried out on the famous relic.

“We believe a large amount of new data could be obtained,” said Bruno Barberis, director of the International Shroud Center in Turin.

Barberis further suggested that an international team of experts could carry out the study.

The last exhaustive study that was directly performed on the Shroud took place in 1978.  “We believe that with today’s technological advances we could obtain important advances in the knowledge of how the image on the cloth was formed, which continues to be a mystery for science,” he added.

According to Barberis, the proposal has already been presented to the Archbishop of Turin, Cardinal Severino Poletto, “and now we are awaiting the decision of the Holy See.”

The director of the 1978 study, American doctor John Jackson, agrees with the idea and said “it should take place through non-aggressive methods, which is possible.”
More discoveries

During the Convention, Jose Delfin Villalain, professor at the Catholic University of Valencia, presented a study showing that the image of the man on the Holy Shroud was produced between 4-6 hours after his death.

Speaking to the Avan news agnency, Villalain said it was the most precise scientific data that has been gathered to date about the moment in which the image was produced on the cloth. 

If it was, in fact, the burial cloth of Christ, he said, “we could say that the image of the Holy Shroud was formed between 7:30pm and 9:00pm, as the Gospel text notes that the death of Jesus took place at 3:00pm.”

Likewise, Villalain said during the Convention that “for the first time, what may be images of internal organs” have been discovered on the Shroud.  The marks “correspond perfectly in their location and size” with the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and colon, he explained. The “quantity and precision of the images is such that, although we cannot confirm it with absolute certainty, we do believe they probably correspond to the organs of the man of the Holy Shroud,” Villalain stated.

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Humanitarian groups worried about Amnesty International’s wide-sweeping abortion initiative

Konigstein, Germany, May 5, 2006 (CNA) - A number of pro-life organizations, including the Catholic 'Aid to the Church in Need' (ACN), have raised their voices against the international human rights advocacy group, Amnesty International, and its declared intention to spread abortion rights around the world.

On Friday, Father Joaquin Alliende, ACN’s international ecclesiastical assistant, said that it was “With great regret we have learned that Amnesty International has proposed advancing abortion ‘rights’ around the world as a new mission for their organization.”

The main paper of AI's new Sexual & Reproductive Rights Consultation Kit states that, "Governments have responsibilities to ensure that everyone's sexual and reproductive rights are protected."

"No one should be discriminated against”, it added, “when and if they attempt to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights, or ask that they be protected."

AI is now calling for the global decriminalisation of abortion and say that there should be widespread abortion on demand in cases involving sexual assault or risk to a woman's life.

Fr. Alliende, a Chilean priest, went on to explain: “AI has earned a high reputation for its intensive efforts to gain the release of innocent prisoners on conscience. ACN, a charity that is also often a ‘voice of thevoiceless,’ highly appreciates this moral commitment of AI.”
However, he said that “Now by proposing a pro-abortion initiative AI is abandoning its own noble ethical principles, thereby shaking the very foundations on which it is built; for the simple reason that unborn life in a mother’swomb is the very weakest of all threatened and persecuted human beings.”

“Thus”, he said,“the day this initiative was launched will become a day of mourning for all those who are unconditionally committed to true humanism,” he concluded.

Amnesty International’s current policy on abortion states that the group “takes no position on whether or not women have a right to choose to terminate unwanted pregnancies; there is no generally accepted right to abortion in international human rights law.”

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Catholic Church in Colorado scores victory as statutes of limitation bill crumbles

Denver, Colo., May 5, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Colorado scored a hard-fought victory yesterday as the state House of Representatives rejected a bill which many call “blatantly anti-Catholic” in its effort to create an open season on lawsuits against the Church over sexual abuse cases in which the perpetrator may have died decades ago.

House Bill 1090 has received a barrage of criticism, being called anti-Catholic and being accused of placing unjust burdens on the Church which do not exist on secular institutions like public schools.

The bill, sponsored by senate president Joan Fitz-Gerald, passed the state senate last week, but could not maintain its steam with sufficient votes in the House.

The Church in Colorado is maintaining its watchfulness however, as the Senate must now give a response to the actions of the House.

Fitz-Gerald had added a provision to temporarily lift the statutes of limitation, allowing alleged victims to bring forth charges dating back to 1971.

A major sticking point, say many Catholics, is that the bill is aimed only at religious and private institutions--like the Church--while leaving public entities all but immune.

At one point, Fitz-Gerald went so far as to try to amend the bill to include state institutions but ran into heavy opposition with insurance companies saying they would not cover municipal governments for lawsuits made on old claims.

In his regular column this week, Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote that “The continuing effort of some lawmakers in the Colorado General Assembly to burden the Catholic community with retroactive civil liability for past sexual abuse cases is a textbook example of anger posing as ‘justice.’”

HB 1090 was largely shaped using the template of a California law which has financially crippled the Church there. Thursday’s move effectively slows the tide of this model’s use against dioceses nationwide.

“The people who pay for these damaging lawsuits”, Archbishop Chaput wrote, “are …average, innocent Catholic families who had nothing to do with the evil actions of some bad or mentally ill abusers 25, 35 or 45 years ago.” 

“No one disputes the need for tough laws against the sexual abuse of minors. And everyone — both inside and beyond the Church — agrees that helping past victims of childhood sexual abuse to heal is a serious and urgent need,” he said. “But suing the innocent today for sins and crimes in the past is not justice.”

According to the Denver Post, Timothy Dore, head of the Colorado Catholic Conference called the defeat a clear “victory for our position.”

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Pro-life groups question reliability of abortion report, point out contradictions

Washington D.C., May 5, 2006 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops’ pro-life office and Concerned Women for America each commented on the Guttmacher report issued yesterday, titled “Abortion in Women’s Lives,” pointing out inherent contradictions and raising questions about its reliability.

“The report tries to maintain an impossible balancing act: claiming the goal of reducing abortions, while at the same time calling for more aggressive promotion of abortion services,” said Deirdre McQuade, director of planning and information at the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

And while the report claims that widespread access to contraception leads to lower abortion rates, the report’s own data show there is no correlation between the two, McQuade said.

“States ranking highest for access to contraceptive services, including California and New York, also rank highest in abortion rates,” McQuade noted. “Others that Guttmacher considers weak in contraceptive services, such as Kansas and the Dakotas, have among the lowest abortion rates in the country.”

“Those states have reduced their abortion rates, in part, by choosing not to subsidize abortion, and ensuring informed consent for women and parental involvement for minors seeking abortions – policies which the Guttmacher report demands be rescinded,” she explained.

According to Concerned Women for America (CWA), the report also attempts to deny the increasing evidence that abortion harms women physically and psychologically.

“A study by Guttmacher Institute on abortion should be taken with as much seriousness as a tobacco industry study on nicotine,” said CWA president Wendy Wright. “True to form, Guttmacher asserts that abortion is safe, then claims abortion providers have the solution for reducing what it says is harmless.”

According to Wright, a New Zealand study of 500 girls from birth to age 25 found a definitive link between abortion and depression.

“Clearly, abortion carries numerous medical risks— even death, as we have seen with the abortion pill RU-486,” she said, urging women and policymakers to read the report and recognize the research that reveals abortion is a dangerous medical risk.

The report also asserts that a woman with an unintended pregnancy should have the right to decide whether or not she is ‘ready’ to be a mother,” said Wright.

“The fact is she already is a mother; the question is whether she will be the mother of a living child or a dead child. It is absurd to suggest that a human being’s life is not worthwhile or valuable because the woman did not pre-plan her pregnancy,” she stated.

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Pope Benedict thanks Swiss Guard for 500 years of ‘priceless’ service

Vatican City, May 5, 2006 (CNA) - Following a 720 kilometer trek from Switzerland to Rome, Pope Benedict XVI thanked members of the Swiss Guard who had traced the historic route of their predecessors 500 years ago to protect Pope Julius II and the Catholic Church from its enemies.

The pilgrimage, undertaken by past members of the Guard, is part of the Holy See’s ceremonies celebrating fifth centenary of the group’s 1506 founding.

In his address to former and current members of the Swiss Guard, Pope Benedict greeted them in German, French and Italian, recalling the group’s ceremonial entry into Rome.

"To greet you," said the Pope, "is the successor of Julius II, whose name is forever linked to the Pontifical Swiss Guard. ... I congratulate you for this wonderful initiative which reminds us of the valor of those 150 Swiss citizens who, with great generosity, defended even unto death the person of the reigning pontiff, writing with their sacrifice an important page in the history of the Church."

He went on, saying that "Considering these five centuries, we give thanks to God for the good your predecessors have done, and for the priceless contribution the Swiss Guard continues to make to the Holy See in our own time."

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Potential election of gay Episcopal bishop in California could have far-reaching consequences

San Francisco, Calif., May 5, 2006 (CNA) - Episcopalians of the Diocese of California will vote for a new bishop this weekend, but the results may create greater division among already-tense churches in the worldwide Anglican Communion.  

On Saturday, about 700 priests and lay people will gather for a diocesan convention at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to elect a new bishop to replace the retiring Rev. William Swing.

Three of the seven candidates are openly gay, and choosing one of them to head the diocese would further alienate some Episcopal members, reported the Associated Press.

Among the candidates they'll consider will be two gay men - the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe of San Francisco, and the Very Rev. Robert Taylor of Seattle - and a lesbian, the Rev. Bonnie Perry of Chicago. All three live openly with same-sex partners.

The four other candidates are: the Rt. Rev. Mark Handley Andrus of Birmingham, Ala.; the Rev. Jane Gould of Lynn, Mass.; the Rev. Donald Schell of San Francisco; and Canon Eugene Taylor Sutton of Washington National Cathedral.

The Anglican Communion, with its 77 million followers in 164 countries, has been torn over the issue of gay clergy for years. It became particularly pronounced in 2003, when New Hampshire Episcopalians elected the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, who has a longtime male partner, as their bishop.

Canon Bill Atwood of the Ekklesia Society, an Episcopal aid network based in Carrollton, Texas, told the AP that Californians will likely ignore the consequences of their actions on the worldwide communion and vote according to “a mistaken understanding of justice issues.”

Members will vote until one of the candidates gets a simple majority. If there is no winner, another voting exercise will be held May 13.

The winner cannot be consecrated without approval from the Episcopal church's legislative body, the General Convention, which meets in June.

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Relics of six Mexican saints visit Denver

Denver, Colo., May 5, 2006 (CNA) - A silver cross containing the relics of six Mexican priests martyred in the 1920s will be on display at Denver’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for public veneration from May 5-7. Colorado is one of just eight states to which the relics of these six Mexican priests are traveling.

The reliquary will be exposed starting with 5:30 p.m. Mass on May 5 until Sunday.

All six of the martyrs were declared saints by Pope John Paul II in 2000. In addition, all of them were members of the Knights of Columbus.

The tour aims to build awareness of all those who sacrificed their lives for the Catholic faith during the Mexican persecution of the 1920s. During that time of oppression, the Church was forbidden to own property, Catholic seminaries and schools were closed, and priests and laity were told to publicly denounce their faith or risk death.

Not coincidentally, the start of the visit coincides with the Mexican celebration of Cinco de Mayo.

The stories of these saints are available at

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Main aim of mission groups is to bend down, like good Samaritans, over our brothers’ needs, says Cardinal Sepe

Rome, Italy, May 5, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples yesterday addressed the national Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) gathered in Rome for their ordinary General Assembly. He stressed that “Our missionary activity is the effort we put in our work to make people know that God is love.”

“It is our main mission as National Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies,” he said, “to bend down, like good Samaritans, over our brothers’ necessities, especially over the poor and the needy.”

Referring to new statutes passed by the PMS, he said that “Today we have a clear and adequate text to face the many problems and challenges rising from the present missionary situation in the world. The Pontifical nature of the PMS is therefore “the expression of their specific ecclesial nature: as soon as this aspect started to become clear in their path, the Societies began to enrich their structure.”

Speaking on the mutual exchange of gifts within churches, which characterizes the Catholic communion, the prefect stressed that “we must make sure that the gifts that the Churches share abolish the superiority of the ones who give and the inferiority of the ones who receive. They must consider account of the real needs of the Churches and their lives.”

“In this spirit”, he continued, “all must embark upon a brotherly dialogue, which needs to be seen as a high form of co-responsibility.”
“I invite you”, Cardinal Sepe told the group, “to make a special effort to prepare yourselves gradually for the next 80th World Day of Mission, which will take place on October 22 and
 I am happy to inform you that the Holy Father has transmitted, a few days ago, his message for this World Day of Missions, which theme will be “Charity, the soul of mission.”

The cardinal concluded his address quoting  Pope Benedict XVI’s message: “Mission, in deed, if not guided by charity, if it doesn’t arise as a profound act of divine love, takes the risk of becoming a mere philantropic or social activity. The love that God nurtures for each person, is in fact the heart of the announcing the Gospel. “

“Our missionary activity is the effort we put in our work to make known that God is Love. To be a missionary”, wrote the Pope, “means to love God with ones whole being, and to give ones life for Him, if necessary. How many priests, religious and lay, have given, in our time as well, the supreme testimony of Love as martyrs!”

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European Union Bishops encourage politicians, citizens to create framework for just society in Europe

Brussels, Belgium, May 5, 2006 (CNA) - The Conference of European Union Bishops (COMECE) Executive Committee has issued a statement ahead of Europe Day (May 9, 2006) in which they welcome reflection on the future of Europe as well as positive initiatives of the European Commission but warm that debates must continue in the determination of Europe’s identity.  

The executive committee of the COMECE includes President Bishop Adrianus van Luyn SDB, Bishop of Rotterdam, Netherlands, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, Ireland (Vice-President) and Auxiliary Bishop Piotr Jarecki, Auxiliary Bishop of Wasaw (Vice-President).

In welcoming the initiatives to reflect upon the future of the European Union, the COMECE Executive Committee highlights that “at present the European Commission’s proposals are not sufficient to actually revive the debate on the future of Europe particularly in light of the indifference demonstrated by many citizens and politicians towards the European Union (EU).”

They call upon those responsible for Member States and European institutions to turn their attention to the problems of Europe with renewed energy and to establish a workable framework for the European Union to facilitate the building of a more just society.

In their statement, released Friday, the bishops observe that the European Union must place the human being and its inalienable dignity at the heart of its efforts to build a just society. They also identify the need for greater account to be taken of the Christian faith and the ethical convictions of many people in Europe, while maintaining a corresponding regard for other faiths and beliefs.

“It is vital”, they wrote, “that our leaders concentrate on shaping better and more democratic structures. Reform of the EU’s current treaties would play a major role in resolving some of the major challenges confronting the EU in particular in economic and foreign policy.”

 The Bishops are convinced that necessary reforms can be achieved through the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe. The debate on the future of Europe should therefore concentrate on the Constitutional Treaty so as to facilitate ratification of the treaty in all the Member States and establish a uniform political and legal framework for the European Union, they say.

The Bishops likewise emphasized that the Church is prepared to make its own special contribution to shaping a just society in Europe. It is, however, the citizens and in particular, the politicians, who bear responsibility for building such a society.

The Bishops encouraged all citizens and politicians “to face up to this responsibility with renewed energy and to advance the building of a just society in Europe.”

COMECE is a Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the member states of the European Union. The Bishops’ Conferences of Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania have observer status.

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Mexican bishops call for efforts to reduce emigration

Mexico City, Mexico, May 5, 2006 (CNA) - In a statement released at the conclusion of their recent 81st Plenary Assembly, the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico has exhorted the country’s presidential candidates to “strengthen our democratic life” and to introduce “urgent social changes” that will reduce its own citizen’s need to emigrate to other countries.
In an historic first during the gathering, the bishops met with several government officials and with presidential candidates Roberto Madrazo, Andres Lopez Obrador and Felipe Calderon.

“This allowed us to learn about their proposals and present them the concerns which we as citizens and pastors have regarding the future of our country,” the statement indicated.  Among the concerns mentioned by the bishops were “the defense of life and of human rights, the family, education, religious freedom, increased employment, the fight against poverty and corruption.”

Regarding immigration laws that are currently being debated in the U.S. Congress, the bishops said the measures have “awakened consciences” and led to “solidarity” with immigrants.  “We exhort all to join in this spirit of solidarity and to come up with initiatives that appropriately reconcile the sovereignty of states with the respect for the dignity of the person,” the bishops stated.
Lastly, the bishops pointed out that Mexico’s next president would have to meet the challenge of “carrying out urgent social changes” so that “Mexicans do not feel they have to abandon the country.”

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Indian Bishops call for peace after Muslim shrine is razed

New Dehli, India, May 5, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India on Wednesday condemned the continuing violence in the city of Vadodara and said the outbreak of riots is a setback to the healing process that had begun in India’s western state of Gujarat.

In a press statement, Archbishop Stanislaus Fernandes said the Catholic Church in India is “saddened by the violence in Vadodara,” reported ICNS, the Indian bishops’ news site.

Five people were killed and dozens injured in clashes in the walled city over the demolition of a dargah, a Muslim shrine built above the grave of a well-respected religious person. On Wednesday morning, a 32-year-old man was burnt alive by a crowd of 1,500 people.

The trouble started when the Vadodara Municipal Corporation squad started demolishing the 200-year-old dargah and locals of the area began shouting slogans and later attacked officials involved in the demolition.

Police said people of the minority community had requested the authorities and city mayor Sunil Solanki not to demolish the dargah, due to its historic and sentimental value to citizens. They demanded that the dargah be declared a heritage site.

However, the largely Hindu squad went ahead with its demolition as the structure was obstructing traffic, police said.

People from two groups started pelting stones at each other and set on fire four shops, officials said. Police fired at least 10 rounds and lobbed more than 30 tear gas shells to disperse the violent mob.

In their press statement, the bishops also appealed to all groups to promote reconciliation and peace processes and not to provoke harmful religious sentiments.

“It is unfortunate that the razing to the ground of a holy shrine, symbol of peace and harmony, should also bring crumbling down the fragile edifice of trust and harmony that was surfacing in this communally-sensitive state,” Archbishop Fernandez said.

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Traveling WYD Cross damaged in Senegal

Rome, Italy, May 5, 2006 (CNA) - The official World Youth Day Cross, which is currently visiting countries in Africa on its way to Sydney for next World Youth Day celebration to be held in 2008, was damaged in Senegal when the vehicle that was carrying it was involved in an accident.

According to the agency, the cross arrived in Dakar on Holy Tuesday.  The National Director of the Pontifical Missionary Works, Father Giuseppe Giordano, said that the presence of the WYD pilgrim cross had “strengthened the faith” of Catholics in the area, who are a minority amidst a large Muslim population.

As the cross was being transported to other cities, the small bus that was on was involved in an accident.  Some passengers in the bus also suffered slight injuries but were immediately treated and released.  Local artisans quickly repaired the cross.

The cross was then taken to the Catholic mission at Koumpountum, where according to Father Giordano, “Catholics are a small minority.  The arrival of the cross was a wonderful opportunity to reinforce in us Catholics the sense of belonging to the universal Church.  Even some Muslims wanted to come and see the WYD cross,” he said.

Afterwards the cross leaves Senegal, it will visit numerous other countries in Africa including Ghana, Nigeria, Burundi, Rwanda among others before arriving in Australia.

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Remains of priest kidnapped by revolutionaries found in Colombia

Bogotá, Colombia, May 5, 2006 (CNA) - Authorities this week said DNA tests have revealed that human remains discovered near the San Juan River in northwestern Colombia are those of Father Javier Francisco Montoya, who was kidnapped on November 21, 2004 by the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Father Montoya, who was 45 at the time, was kidnapped by FARC in the town of Alto de Tamana in the northwest region of Choco.

At the time of the kidnapping, Father Montoya was preparing to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception.  FARC later announced that Father Montoya had been shot and that his body would not be returned because it had been buried.

Nevertheless, Bishop Alonso Llano Ruiz of Istmina-Tado, said he received a phone call on April 24 informing him that human remains, along with some clothes and a crucifix, had been found near the San Juan River.

Another priest, Father Cesar Dario Peña, was also kidnapped by the FARC in 2004. His fate remains unknown.

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