Archive of May 22, 2006

Congressional group says Air Force policy denies first amendment rights of Christian chaplains

Colorado Springs, Colo., May 22, 2006 (CNA) - Some members of congress are calling on President Bush to overturn a new policy, recently enacted by the U.S. Department of Defense in light of a recent Air Force Academy controversy, which they say violates the first amendment rights of Christian chaplains.

The Colorado Springs Academy came under severe fire this past year for proselytizing charges in which non-Christians were reportedly discriminated against in what some critics called an overly-Christian atmosphere.

A government investigation turned up only a small amount of evidence, and the Air Force reported that proper steps had been taken.

Now members of Congress are calling new guidelines adopted by the Air Force, which call for only nonsectarian prayers to be prayed on campus, “…merely a euphemism declaring that prayers will be acceptable so long as they censor Christian beliefs.”

Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), spearheaded a signature-gathering effort in Congress for a letter he sent to the president earlier this month.

The letter, signed by both Republicans and Democrats, states: “We are disappointed and gravely concerned to learn that the Christian military chaplains are under direct attack and that their right to pray according to their faith is in jeopardy.”

Opponents of the policy say that the Air Force move is a precursor to a Pentagon-wide policy.
Washington newspaper The Hill quoted Jones who said that, “We think it is extremely damaging, and that is denying the First Amendment rights of all of our chaplains.”

He pointed out that that while the executive order would apply to chaplains of all faiths, that the focus is specifically on Christian chaplains.

The letter added that, “Current surveys in the military indicate that upwards of 80 percent of soldiers identify themselves as Christians, and such censorship of Christian beliefs is a disservice not only to Christian chaplains but also to hundreds of thousands of Christian soldiers.”

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Pope calls institutes of consecrated life for a renewed faithfulness to the call of the Spirit

Vatican City, May 22, 2006 (CNA) -

At midday today, Benedict XVI received male and female superiors general from institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, calling them for a renewd faithfulness to the call of the Spirit.

The Pope affirmed that "the service of authority calls for a constant presence, one capable of offering encouragement and proposals, of recalling the raison d'etre of consecrated life, and of helping the people entrusted to your care to respond with ever- renewed faithfulness to the call of the Spirit."

"You are called," he said, "to support and guide your brothers and sisters during uneasy times characterized by multiple snares. Consecrated people today have the task of being witnesses to the transfiguring presence of God in an ever more disoriented and confused world."

"Secularized culture has penetrated the hearts and minds of no small number of consecrated people, who see it as a form of access to modernity and a way to approach the modern world," the Holy Father pointed out how "alongside an undoubted impulse of generosity - one capable of witness and of complete donation - consecrated life today also knows the trap of mediocrity and of consumer mentality."

Pope Benedict stressed the need for “courageous decisions at both an individual and community level, impressing a new discipline on the lives of consecrated people and bringing them to discover the all-inclusive dimension of 'sequela Christi' (following Christ)."

Being of Christ, Pope Benedict affirmed, "means keeping a living flame of love burning in your hearts, continually nourished by the richness of the faith, not only when it brings with it inner joy, but also when united to difficulties, aridity and suffering." In this context, he recalled how inner life is nourished by prayer, and above all by daily participation in the Eucharist.

"In order to belong entirely to the Lord," he went on, "consecrated people assume a sober and humble way of life. Male and female religious are called to show this also in the way they dress, with simple clothes that are a sign of poverty lived in union with Him, Who was rich and became poor to make us rich with His poverty."

Addressing these superiors, he said  “this yoke will be all the lighter the more consecrated people know how to rediscover the value of the obedience they profess."

Lastly, Pope Benedict reminded that "Male and female consecrated people are called to be, in the world, a credible and luminous sign of the Gospel and its paradoxes, without conforming themselves to the mentality of this century, but transforming themselves and continually renewing their commitment, in order to better discern the will of God."

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Ascension reveals the 'ultimate vocation' of all human beings, says Pope during prayer today

Vatican City, May 22, 2006 (CNA) - At midday today, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his private study in order to pray the "Regina Coeli" with thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square below.

The Pope first dedicated some remarks to the Ascension of the Lord, which falls on Thursday May 25, though in some countries it will be celebrated on Sunday May 28.

"Jesus' final gesture, has a dual significance," he said. "In the first place, by rising 'up' He unequivocally revealed His divinity. He returned from whence He came, in God, after having completed His mission on earth. Moreover, Christ ascended to heaven with the humanity He had assumed and caused to arise from the dead: that humanity is ours, transfigured, made divine, rendered eternal. Thus the Ascension reveals the 'ultimate vocation' of all human beings, each called to the eternal life of the Kingdom of God."

This year, the day of the Ascension of the Lord coincides with the World Day of Social Communications, dedicated to the theme: "The media: network of communication, communion and cooperation":

Benedict XVI recalled how "the Church looks attentively to the media as representing an important vehicle for spreading the Gospel, and for favoring solidarity among peoples by drawing their attention to the great issues."

On this subject, the Pope mentioned the "Walk the World" event, an initiative promoted by the United Nations World Food Program to combat hunger in the world."

"I remain close to this initiative in prayer," the Holy Father added. "And it is my heartfelt hope that, with a contribution from everyone, we may overcome the blight of hunger that still afflicts humanity.”

He concluded his address turning to the Virgin Mary to which “we particularly entrust our brethren oppressed by the scourge of hunger, those who go out to help them and those who, through the social communications media, contribute to strengthening links of solidarity and peace between peoples.”

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Teaching faith cannot be reduced to mere transmission of 'things' or body of abstract truths, says Pope Benedict to Canadian Bishops

Vatican City, May 22, 2006 (CNA) - Today, the Canadian Bishops continued  their ad-limina visit. The Holy Father received prelates from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and Atlantic Assembly.

At the beginning of his address, the Pope noted how "Canada is today suffering from the pervasive effects of secularism. One of the more dramatic symptoms of this mentality, clearly evident in your own region, is the plummeting birth rate."

"Ecclesial leadership bears much fruit when, in its concern for the common good, it generously seeks to support civil authorities in their task of promoting regeneration in the community," Pope Benedict declared.

Turning to the question of pastoral care, the Pope noted how "with aging clergy and many isolated communities the challenges are great."

He also highlighted the importance of Catholic education, calling on the bishops "to ensure that the intrinsic relationship between the Church's Magisterium, individuals' faith, and testimony in public life is preserved and promoted. Only in this way can we hope to overcome the debilitating split between the Gospel and culture."

"Of notable importance are your catechists," he added, "Teaching the faith cannot be reduced to a mere transmission of 'things' or words or even a body of abstract truths. The Church's Tradition is alive!"

On this same subject of catechization, he called on "the young adults of your dioceses to take up the rewarding challenge of catechetical service and share in the satisfaction of handing on the faith. Their example of Christian witness to those younger than themselves will strengthen their own faith, while bringing to others the happiness that flows from the sense of purpose and meaning in life which the Lord reveals."

The Pontiff called for “the pastoral promotion of sanctity." This, he added, may be achieved by "an authentic education in prayer, a knowledge of the lives of the saints and of the multiple forms of spirituality that beautify and stimulate Church life, assiduous participation in the Sacrament of Penance, and a convincing catechesis of Sunday as 'day of the faith'."

"Remain vigilant in your duty to promote a culture of vocation,” he concluded.

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Pope appoints Cardinal Ivan Dias, archbishop of Bombay, India, as prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of People

Vatican City, May 22, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Ivan Dias, has been appointed Prefect of the Congregation of the Evangelization of the Peoples at the Vatican. He will continue as administrator of the archdiocese of Bombay until he leaves to take over his responsibilities at the Vatican.

Born in Bandra, Cardinal Dias, 70, was ordained a priest in 1958 and has held several senior diplomatic positions for the Vatican over the last 33 years, the first being the secretary of the Apostolic Nunciatures in Scandinavian and Nordic countries, Indonesia and Madagascar.

He also worked as chief of desk in the Vatican for many countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia and was a papal representative in Ghana, Togo, Benin, South Korea and Albania. He was appointed archbishop of Bombay in 1996 and made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, founded in 1622, is the Vatican's department entrusted with the coordination of programs aimed at spreading the gospel in territories where Christianity is still young.

Cardinal Dias will lead one of the most important ministries in the Roman curia, and for this is popularly known as the "red father". He is in charge of Asia, Africa and Oceania. This means 1,047 bishoprics (171 archdiocese and 744 diocese, as well a deputy bishoprics, the apostolic administrations and apostolic prefectures).

Cardinal Dias speaks 18 languages and is a very brave man, capable of challenging, as he has done, organized crime in Albania, where John Paul II sent him in 1991 to reorganize the Catholic church.

Cardinal Dias replaces Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, who has been appointed archbishop of Naples, himself succeeding Cardinal Michele Giordano, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

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‘Church encourages believers to love justice and to participate honestly in public and professional life,’ says Pope to new Spanish Ambassador

Vatican City, May 22, 2006 (CNA) - Benedict XVI received today the Letters of Credence of Francisco Vazquez Vazquez, the new Spanish ambassador to the Holy See, as he recalled  the Spanish people's constant attachment to the Catholic faith.

The Pope began his address to the diplomat by referring to his "fond memories" of Spain, "both for the friendliness of the people I met, and for the abundance and great importance of the many works of art and expressions of culture throughout her territory."

Pope Benedict stressed the " enviable heritage," of Spain,  "denoting a brilliant history profoundly imbued with Christian values.” “If this were to be ignored or passed over in silence, it would lose a large part of its attraction and meaning, " he underlined.

Stressing the great vitality of the Church in Spain’s history,  he invited for a “close collaboration between the Church and public institutions with the aim of achieving the integral good of people who, as citizens of their country, are also the much beloved children of the Church."

"The Church encourages believers to love justice and to participate honestly in public and professional life with a sense of respect and solidarity, in order 'to promote organically and institutionally the common good.' Pope Benedict added.

"For this reason the Church unreservedly proclaims the primordial right to life, from conception to natural end, the right to be born, and to form and live in a family without this being supplanted or obscured by different institutions.

Pope Benedict wished to make his forthcoming trip to Valencia, Spain, on the occasion of the World Meeting of Families, the opportunity to "celebrate the beauty and fecundity of the family founded on marriage, its exalted vocation and its irreplaceable social value. "

"The Church also insists on people's inalienable right to profess their religious faith without hindrance, both publicly and privately; and on the right of parents to ensure their children receive an education in keeping with their own values and beliefs, without discrimination or exclusion, be it hidden or explicit.”

Finally, the Pope referred to the "evangelizing mission" of the Church, part of which is "charitable activity."

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Lay people should tell Catholic politicians they are disappointed with pro-abortion stance, says cardinal

Front Royal, Va., May 22, 2006 (CNA) - Lay people should consistently and with charity tell Catholic, pro-abortion politicians that they are disappointed, said Cardinal George Pell.

The Australian cardinal was in Front Royal, Va., last week to give the commencement address at Christendom College. While there, he was interviewed by

When asked what he thought lay people should do regarding pro-abortion politicians, he said: “Lay people should tell the politicians that they're disappointed, and do it regularly, consistently and reasonably, not with hostility or a lack of charity.”

When pressed about what lay people should do if these politicians insist on their position but are adamant about their identity as Catholics, Cardinal Pell said: "You'd have to bring into question just to what extent they are straight up and down the line Catholics, and to what extent they remain Catholic. I mean, if they call themselves Catholics and on every significant public issue they don't line up with us, well at the very minimum I think they should go quiet on the Catholic labeling.”

Cardinal Pell acknowledged that there are “other [difficult] questions about whether or not they should be refused Communion.”

However, he said, “I think if a person is regularly supporting pro-abortion legislation in a way that is very, very difficult to divorce that voting from an explicitly pro-abortion attitude I think you should ask them, how come you feel that you're able to go to Communion?"

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European Union to convene religious leaders for debate on moral values and human rights

Brussels, Belgium, May 22, 2006 (CNA) - The European Union has convened religious leaders of various faiths for a gathering on May 30 in Brussels to debate moral values and other issues such as freedom, democracy, tolerance and human rights.

Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, president of the European Commission, and Wolfgang Schuessel, chancellor of Austria and current president of the EU, will host the meeting.  Other issues to be discussed include the role of religious communities in diffusing conflicts and what different religious groups can expect from European institutions.

Representatives of Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity will be in attendance.  Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo of Lisbon, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna and Bishop Adrianus Van Luyn of Rotterdam, who is president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, will represent the Catholic Church.

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Italian Jesuit Magazine plays down announced change in Church’s Condom position

Rome, Italy, May 22, 2006 (CNA) -  An article in the authoritative Jesuit journal “La Civiltà Cattolica” confirms that the Church will not loosen its restrictions. Not even when it comes to AIDS in Africa.

 “La Civiltà Cattolica,” the journal of the Rome Jesuits that is printed under the supervision of the Vatican authorities, published this week on its website an article by Michael F. Czerny, S.J.

The article is dedicated to AIDS in Africa and to the Church’s efforts to combat it, published in the most recent edition of the magazine. (May 6, 2006) The article aims chiefly to answer the declarations of Cardinal Martini in L’espresso magazine of April 21, that stirred a big controversy on whether the Church is about to shift its position and allow the use of condoms in some cases.

The article published in the latest issue of “La Civiltà Cattolica” is an implicit response to the expectations for a change in the Church’s stance, beginning with the specific case illustrated by cardinal Martini.

The article makes no direct reference to condoms, but it demonstrates that the Church’s activity is directed in an entirely different direction, which can be summed up in the word “chastity.” It maintains that the Church would do nothing but harm if its efforts in combating AIDS “seemed to support promiscuous, excessive, and destructive behavior.”

At the same time as “La Civiltà Cattolica” was publishing its article, the pope referred twice – in addresses on May 11 and 13 – to the encyclical “Humanae Vitae” by Paul VI, describing it as “prophetic and always relevant.”

Cardinal Martini is a Jesuit. And the Jesuits have been for years among the most active in fighting AIDS in Africa, in almost thirty sub-Saharan countries.

The author of the article in “La Civiltà Cattolica” is also a Jesuit: Fr. Michael F. Czerny, director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network, AJAN, founded in 2002 with headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. He is also the author of the book “AIDS and the Church in Africa: To Shepherd the Church, Family of God in Africa in the Age of AIDS,” published in Nairobi in 2005 by Pauline Publications Africa. The above image is the AJAN logo.

The complete Italian version, which is much longer, can be read on the website of “La Civiltà Cattolica,” issue 3741 of May 6, 2006.

A shorter english version can be read of the website of Vatican analyst Sandro Magister:

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Expert rejects proposed reforms that could make abortion legal in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 22, 2006 (CNA) - Father Alberto Bochatey, director of the Institute on Bioethics of the Catholic University of Argentina, has warned that rather than introducing legal reforms, governments should instead be concentrating on how to help women contemplating abortion to save the life of their babies.


In an interview with the AICA news agency, Father Bochatey was asked about possible reforms of Argentina’s Penal Code that would open the door to the legalization of abortion in that country.  He said he was hopeful the Church would be consulted regarding the proposals, because “all the Argentinean social groups deserve to be consulted before making a change in the way of life of a people.”


“It is never good that a country legalize a crime, as in the case of abortion,” Father Bochatey said in noting that the Supreme Court of Argentina could issue a ruling similar to the one issued by Colombia’s high court.


Referring to a recent decision by a lower court judge to allow an 11 year-old boy with a terminal illness to be euthanized, Father Bochatey said, “This demonstrates once again the profound crisis in the medical profession.”  “Today doctors seek legal protection for fear of malpractice suits, in order to find backing for decisions that they should be able to freely make based on the supporting scientific data.”


He said the crisis is evident also when doctors seek legal recourse “in order to excuse themselves from acting as they should or to find legal backing for a practice that they want to carry out but that is not authorized.”

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Mexican soccer team hoping for help from Our Lady of Guadalupe

Mexico City, Mexico, May 22, 2006 (CNA) - The Mexican soccer team is planning to pray before the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and consecrate the team to her before heading off to Germany for the 2006 World Cup.

The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera, will celebrate a special Mass at the Guadalupe basilica for the intentions of the soccer team.  The act will mark an historic first for the team, which in the past has not expressed any public religious sentiment, although individual team members have made known their own Catholic faith and devotion to Mary.
The Mexican soccer team will travel to Germany immediately afterwards, where it will play practice games with France and Holland before the official start of the World Cup.

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US Senate passes broadcast decency bill

Washington D.C., May 22, 2006 (CNA) - The U.S. Senate passed The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act by unanimous consent. The measure increases the current broadcast indecency fines from $32,500 to $325,000. The bill was sponsored by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) and shepherded through the Senate by Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN).

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins applauded the passage of the bill. The earlier fines were so low that media giants viewed them as “an irrelevant cost of doing business.”

The new act, he said, keeps the fines relevant to networks’ bottom-line and says to broadcasters and performers that “Americans expect decency on the public airwaves.”

Perkins noted that “had this bill been the law at the time of Janet Jackson's overexposure at Super Bowl 2004, fines would have totaled $5,500,000.”

“The networks will quickly realize that higher fines make indecency on TV cost prohibitive,” he said.

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Iran requires religious minorities to wear identification badges

Washington D.C., May 22, 2006 (CNA) - Iran has passed a law requiring Jews, Christians and other religious minorities to wear markings on their clothing identifying them as non-Muslims:

"This only proves that the worst in human history does repeat itself,” said Rev. Rob Schenck, in reference to the Nazis who required the same. Rev. Schenck is president of the National Clergy Council in Washington, DC, and is coordinator of an ongoing dialogue between American Evangelicals and Moroccan Muslims.

“Christians must speak out loudly and immediately to denounce this atrocious action,” he continued in a statement. “We were silent too long during the 1930s and millions were murdered as a result.”

Representing thousands of Christian clergy, Rev. Schenck urged President George Bush, Secretary Condoleeza Rice and Congress “to take swift and severe action against Iran and enforce the most dire consequences should the country enact this supremely inhuman decree.”

He also urged "all people of conscience in Iran and outside to resist this egregious violation of human rights and take whatever action necessary to rescue those in danger.”

“May God have mercy and spare us the horror of 60 and 70 years ago,” he stated

Rev. Schenck is a board member of the Evangelical Church Alliance and an advisor to the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. He spoke Friday at Gloucester County Community Church in New Jersey.

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Priests urge Oklahoma governor to sign pro-life bill

, May 22, 2006 (CNA) - The Oklahoma Senate has passed a comprehensive pro-life bill on a number of abortion-related matters. If signed into law, SB 1742 would require the consent of one parent before a minor can receive an abortion. It would expand the recognition of an unborn child as a separate victim if a crime is committed against the mother.

It would also ensure that a woman is informed that her unborn baby, if 20 weeks or older, may feel pain during an abortion and that anesthesia could be administered to the baby to relieve that pain. It would ensure that a woman seeking an abortion has the option to view her unborn baby by ultrasound prior to the abortion. And it would allow funding to be directed to organizations that help pregnant women with pro-life counseling and support-services.

National Priests for Life is urging the governor to sign the bill into law.

“The people of Oklahoma, through this legislation, reflect a growing trend across America toward more common sense about abortion,” said Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life. The priest said that those who do not agree with the tenets of the bill are “a misguided minority.”

“The more awareness we promote of the child in the womb, the safer that child becomes,” he said in a statement. “Oklahoma legislators have opened windows to the world of the unborn that will hopefully save many, many lives.”

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Spanish watchdog site calls on Latin Americans to protest UN abortion policies

Madrid, Spain, May 22, 2006 (CNA) - In order to stop the spread of abortion into other countries of Latin America—where last week Colombia became the first country to partially legalize the practice—the Spanish civil rights website is calling on Latin Americans to urge pro-life groups to speak out at the UN against its abortion policies.

A group of analysts with the website recently published a report on abortion in Latin America in which they denounced the manipulation of the United Nations by powerful pro-abortion institutions seeking to promote the legalization of abortion in Latin America.  The report notes that Colombia is the first shoe to drop in this campaign and that Brazil may be next. 

More information on sending letters to different pro-life groups can be found at:

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