Archive of May 19, 2006

Legionaries of Christ release declaration following Vatican statement and renew their commitment to serve the Church

Vatican City, May 19, 2006 (CNA) - In response to the Communiqué from the Holy See Press Office regarding the conclusion of the investigation of the accusations made against Fr. Marcial Maciel, the Legionaries say they fully accept the decision and renew their commitment to serve the Church.

Following is the statement from the Legionaries:

1. Fr. Marcial Maciel has received during his life a great number of accusations. In the last few years, some of these were presented to the Holy See so that a canonical process would be opened.

2. Facing the accusations made against him, he declared his innocence and, following the example of Jesus Christ, decided not to defend himself in any way.

3. Considering his advanced age and his frail health, the Holy See has decided not to begin a canonical process but to "invite him to a reserved life of prayer and penance, renouncing to any public ministry".

4. Fr. Maciel, with the spirit of obedience to the Church that has always characterized him, he has accepted this communiqué with faith, complete serenity and tranquility of conscience, knowing that it is a new cross that God, the Father of Mercy, has allowed him to suffer and that will obtain many graces for the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement.

5. The Legionaries of Christ and the members of the Regnum Christi, following the example of Fr. Maciel and united to him, accept and will accept always the directives of the Holy See with profound spirit of obedience and faith. We renew our commitment to work with great intensity to live our charism of charity and extend the Kingdom of Christ serving the Church.

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Australian bishops oppose boat people processing plan

Sydney, Australia, May 19, 2006 (CNA) - The Australian bishops have written to Prime Minister John Howard urging him to drop a bill currently before Parliament that would require all asylum seekers’ claims to be processed offshore, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.

Under the bill, all asylum seekers landing on the mainland will be sent to offshore detention centers in Nauru or Papua New Guinea's Manus Island to be processed. The bishops are concerned that these refugees would be detained for an unspecified period of time and would not have access to proper legal advice or the human support they need.

The bishops’ letter acknowledges the government's need to protect national security, but it also urges the government to consider the effects the legislation would have on genuine asylum seekers.

Bishop Joseph Grech said the letter urges the government not to sacrifice compassion for those who are in genuine need of help and asylum.

Debate on the bill will continue in the House of Representatives when Parliament resumes later this month.

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Founder of Legionaries of Christ invited to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry

Vatican City, May 19, 2006 (CNA) - This morning, a communiqué was released by the Press Office of the Holy See, inviting the Founder of Legionaries of Christ, Fr. Maciel Degollado, to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry.

The communiqué announces that beginning in 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith received accusations, already partly made public, against Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado.

"All these elements have been subject to a mature examination by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which  authorized  on April 30 2001 an investigation into the accusations,” the communiqué follows.

The conclusions of the investigations were announced today as follows :
“the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the guidance of the new prefect, Cardinal William Joseph Levada, decided - bearing in mind Fr. Maciel's advanced age and his delicate health - to forgo a canonical hearing and to invite the father to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry.

This decision is explicitly approved by the Holy Father in the communiqué.

Nevertheless, the Holy See renews its trust in the “the worthy apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ and of the Association 'Regnum Christi." And recognizes its works.

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Senate panel approves federal marriage amendment

Washington D.C., May 19, 2006 (CNA) - The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The 10-8 vote happened along party lines. The amendment now goes to the full Senate, where a vote is expected June 5.

"This Amendment will permit the American people an opportunity to rein in activist judges who have stripped the right of voters to protect marriage," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, in a statement.

Perkins pointed out, however, that the threat to traditional marriage still exists. A federal judge recently declared Nebraska's state amendment preserving marriage as being between one man and one woman unconstitutional, even though it had popular support.

Perkins urged the U.S. Senate to approve the Marriage Protection Amendment. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds approval in the U.S. House and Senate, plus ratification by three quarters of the nation's state legislatures.

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Benedict XVI underscores urgent need for tenacious, lasting and shared efforts to promote social justice

Vatican City, May 19, 2006 (CNA) -

Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received members of the "Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice" Foundation, marking the occasion of an international congress currently being promoted by that organization on the theme: "Democracy, Institutions and Social Justice."

The foundation's name recalls that of the "the last great social Encyclical of John Paul II," which drew together 100 years of history of the Church's social doctrine
The Holy Father expressed his pleasure because the organization, which began its activities above all in the Italian sphere, "is progressively spreading to other areas of Europe and America." He then went on to consider the specific theme of the current conference.

“You are discussing- he told the delegates- problems of great topical significance. At times we decry the slowness with which true democracy progresses, however it remains the most valid historical instrument for guaranteeing the future in a way worthy of man."

Democracy needs "appropriate institutions, credible and authoritative, not aimed at merely managing public power but capable of promoting various levels of popular participation, while respecting the traditions of all nations and with constant concern to protect the identity of each."

"Equally, there is an urgent need for tenacious, lasting and shared efforts to promote social justice. There can be no true social justice if not in the light of genuine solidarity,” the Pontiff declared.

"The Church - as I wrote in the Encyclical 'Deus caritas est' - aims 'to contribute to the purification of reason and to the reawakening of those moral forces without which just structures are neither established nor prove effective in the long run.'

The pope concluded his message by calling them to  “perform your 'direct duty to work for a just ordering of society,' because 'charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as social charity'."

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Bishop Matano defends move to place parishes in trusts

Burlington, Vt., May 19, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Salvatore Matano of Burlington has decided to place the state’s 128 parishes in charitable trusts in order to shield them from the cost of 19 priest misconduct lawsuits against the diocese.

His decision drew protests from the national lay organization Voice of the Faithful, which called the action "fraudulent, deceitful and irresponsible."

The bishop defended his decision to the Rutland Herald, saying that it was a solution that accommodated both the child abuse victims and Vermont's 118,000 practicing Catholics.

"I want to reach out to victims, but I also have to be conscious of the people in the pews," the bishop told the newspaper. "It's certainly just to ask the church to be accountable, but is it just to destroy parishes, schools and other agencies of care to do so?"

The bishop said he placed local parishes in charitable trusts to reassure Vermont Catholics who fear they'll lose churches and schools built by their ancestors because of the lawsuits. Bishop Matano said the trusts are "a perfectly legal way to protect these institutions that are communities of faith.” He also wanted to ensure that only diocesan assets would be used to settle these cases.

The diocese faces 14 lawsuits against Fr. Edward Paquette, the subject of the recent $965,000 settlement; one lawsuit each involving former Vermont priest James Dunn; James McShane, the subject of a $120,000 settlement in 2004; George Paulin, the subject of a $20,000 settlement in 2003; and two cases against Alfred Willis, the subject of a $150,000 settlement in 2004, reported the Herald.

The bishop said the diocese is currently  in financial straits. The financial statement for the year that ended June 30, 2005 reported a $127,947 deficit on annual spending of $8.2 million.

That debt ballooned at least tenfold when the church took out a loan last month to cover the record $965,000 settlement in the first of 20 priest misconduct lawsuits against it.

Bishop Matano said specific figures outlining that debt for the current fiscal year would be available in the next financial report.

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Spanish production company debuts documentary exposing the Da Vinci Code

Madrid, Spain, May 19, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic production company Goya Producciones in Spain has released a new documentary entitled, “The Dark Side of the Da Vinci Code,” which exposes the hidden agenda behind the Dan Brown novel and now motion picture.

The 45-minute documentary brings together a group of international experts including César Vidal, Cristina López Schlichting, Amy Welborn, Ninfa Watt, Luis Suárez, Elizabeth Lev, Shai Shener, Raphaela Schmid, Michel Rougé, José Antonio Ullate, Balbina Caviró, Katerina Karkala-Zorba and Jerónimo José Martín, to debunk the major themes in the Da Vinci Code.

More information on the program, available on DVD can be found at

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Mexican bishops: elections should be celebration that strengthens democracy

Mexico City, Mexico, May 19, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico issued a statement this week calling on voters to participate in the country’s political life and to make the upcoming July 2 elections a celebration of democracy.

“Our country needs to strengthen democracy and our institutions and take a step forward in achieving the structural reforms required for the authentic development of all Mexicans.  In order for this to happen voters need to fulfill their civic obligations: compare the proposals of the candidates and the political platforms of the parties in order to later conscientiously participate at the voting booth,” the statement indicated.

The bishops also called on candidates to safeguard the dignity of the election process.  “To neglect this ethical imperative is to weaken society in general,” they warned.

The bishops reminded Catholics that “all believers have the immediate and inexcusable duty to contribute towards a just ordering of society” and to assume their proper role in the field of politics as an expression of “social charity.”

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Venezuelan bishops demand government respect religious education

Caracas, Venezuela, May 19, 2006 (CNA) - Speaking on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, Archbishop Roberto Luckert of Coro, demanded this week the government respect religious education and he rejected a proposal to eliminate religious instruction from schools.

Archbishop Luckert noted that religious education programs in schools “supplement the educational work of mothers and fathers” and that the real aim of the proposal is “to substitute religious education with Communist ideology.”

The government proposal seeks to limit religious education to the home, which Archbishop Luckert said was similar to the policy in Cuba.   Under a previous agreement between the Church and the government in Venezuela, religious instruction was allowed up until sixth grade.  But that agreement expired on February 2 and has not been renewed, which meant religion teachers stopped receiving their salaries.

Marisol Morales, who coordinates religious education for the Venezuelan government, said religion teachers “have continued working without pay.  However, I have been informed that there is a possibility the agreement will be renewed, but government support will be handled differently.” 

The bishops in Venezuela have outlined a list of issues related to religious education that they want the government to address, and they have called for prayers to defend the right to religious education in the country.

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Middle East Christians hold meeting in Paris with French Authorities

Paris, France, May 19, 2006 (CNA) - French President Jacques Chirac restated his country’s support for Christian minorities in the Middle East, saying that conditions there are “more worrying than ever before,” reported Reuters.

The number of Christians in the Middle East continues to dwindle due to war, emigration and discrimination.

"The Eastern Christians have always been a bridge to Europe and have contributed to the dialogue of cultures long before it became a major issue in international relations," Chirac told six visiting Eastern Catholic patriarchs Monday, reported Reuters.

The patriarchs were in Paris to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the L'Oeuvre d'Orient association that supports them. But they also took the opportunity to urge Chirac to work for peace in the region.

France was the official protector of Christian interests in the Ottoman Empire and has retained close ties with the minorities there, especially with the Maronites in Lebanon.

Michel Sabbah, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, said Israel's wall in the West Bank has turned Palestinian villages into prisons. He cautioned against suggestions that Middle Eastern Christians were persecuted by Muslim majorities or governments, such as the Hamas-led administration in the Palestinian territories. Pressure on them often came from criminal elements.

"There is a campaign to say that Muslims are persecuting Christians," he was quoted as saying. "If there were persecution, I would have no problem saying it."

Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignace Pierre Abdel-Ahad asked Chirac to give visas to Iraqi Christian refugees. He said Baghdad Christians live "in fear and panic" and many educated ones have fled for fear of being killed, reported Reuters.

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