Vatican City, Jun 9, 2006 (CNA) -
Holy See Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, speaking on behalf of the Holy Father, sent a message today to participants in the 36th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), who met this week in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the Vatican Information Service reports.
The principle theme of the assembly, the message says, "is the dignity of human beings and the absolute value of human life from conception to natural end." While the Americas have a long history of protecting human dignity, Cardinal Sodano said, that commitment is, “now threatened by the pressure of opinions contrary to its nature."
The Cardinal then spoke extensively on what he said is an essential theme for the preservation of human dignity - "the promotion of the family based on marriage.” “Promoting the family,” he said, “is an essential task for the development of society throughout the continent. The family is a place of education, knowledge, and of the basic formation of the future protagonists of social life. For this reason, the principal entity that States must protect and promote is the family."
"The role played by parents is fundamental," the message continues, "and it cannot be replaced by the State or by any other institution, which are a necessary and very beneficial complement but do not substitute the primordial role of parents, who must also choose the kind of education they want for their children."
After highlighting that the family "cannot adequately carry out its mission if it does not have the minimum material requirements to do so,” the cardinal secretary of State deplored "the persistence, at times aggravated persistence, of poverty, and the growing gap between the richest and the poorest."
"It is not only a matter of fairer distribution of what is available, but also of improving production conditions and of seeking new ways to develop in peace and harmony for all,” the cardinal said.” In this context, the Church's social doctrine offers a framework for laying the foundations of a society that has at its center man, not money or ideology."
Sodano said it is a priority, “to favor the conditions that reduce violence in its various forms: terrorism, attacks against innocent civilians, kidnappings, threats and drug trafficking."
Cardinal Sodano concluded his message by making a call "to continue down the path of constant dialogue between States," it being one of the OAS's functions "to guarantee such dialogue. The vast majority of inhabitants of the OAS countries are Christians, and Christian roots can make a decisive contribution to the social and political life of American States."
Washington D.C., Jun 9, 2006 (CNA) - President George Bush tackled the immigration debate with America’s Hispanic community directly yesterday and laid out his vision of immigration reform at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast.
“[Our] immigration system isn't working today, and it needs to be fixed,” he told the crowd of Hispanic leaders and various officials gathered at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, Washington, D.C. “Our borders need to be secure.”
Bush said “the system is broken” because there are too many people “living in the shadows of our society beyond the reach of the law.”
“We are a land of immigrants,” he said to applause. “We're a compassionate people. We're also a nation of laws, and being a nation of laws is not contradictory with being a compassionate country.”
The Hispanic community has been at the heart of the ongoing immigration debate. Each year, thousands of Hispanics cross the Mexico-U.S. border seeking a better life and a decent wage to raise their families. Many of these workers, however, have entered the U.S. and are working in the country illegally. The immigration reform is mostly targeting this problem.
Last month, large demonstrations were held throughout the country, calling for reform that is just and humane. The majority of demonstrators were from the Hispanic community. Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles has been leading this call in the Catholic community. The cardinal has told his priests that they are not to refuse people-including illegal immigrants-who come to their parishes or pastoral centers for assistance.
At the prayer breakfast, Bush outlined his vision for immigration reform, which includes better border patrols and a temporary worker program. The program would allow migrant workers to enter the country and to work legally and then return to their countries in an orderly way. Employers who hire people illegally would be fined.
“We must have a system that says you don't have to sneak across our border in order to find work. You don't need to risk your life,” he said during the June 8 breakfast.
Bush also spoke about the current amnesty-deportation debate in Washington, saying that he supports neither option.
“There's a reasonable middle ground. There's a reasonable way to uphold our laws and treat people with respect, and that is this: if you've paid your taxes, you've been here for a while, you can prove that you've been working, you've got a clean background; if you want to become a citizen you pay a fine, you learn English, you learn the values and ideals of America that have made us one nation under God,” he said.
“And then if you want to be a citizen, you can get in line -- but in the back of the line, not the front of the line. You can wait in line, like those who have been legally here in America,” he stated.
Bush recognized immigrants as hard-working and motivated people. He said he was inspired by a visit he paid the previous day to the Juan Diego Center in Omaha, run by Catholic Charities.
There, he spoke with immigrants who wanted to realize their dreams and give their families a better life. In particular, he spoke about Salvador Piña who sought help from the Juan Diego Center. Piña now owns his own auto repair shop and has three employees.
The president also recognized the Hispanic community as a community of faith, urging its members to continue serving society according to their Christian values.
“The daily example of our Hispanic communities reminds us that strong faith and strong families can build a better future for all,” he said. “We're a more hopeful society because men and women of Hispanic descent have put their faith and values into action.”
“The best way to strengthen this country is for people [of faith] such as yourself to continue to reach out to a neighbor in need, to listen to the universal call to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself, to mentor to a child who needs to learn to read, to feed the hungry, to provide shelter for the homeless,” he said.
La Paz, Bolivia, Jun 9, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia announced this week it would send a complementary copy of the Bible and the Compendium of Social Teachings of the Church to each newly elected member of the Bolivian House of Representatives.
Cardinal Julio Terrazas, president of the Conference, said the copies would be sent in August thanks to the generosity of a grant from Aid to the Church in Need.
Cardinal Terrazas said the bishops were not meaning to pass judgment on the government by distributing the texts, but rather “to awaken the consciences of all the representatives of the people.”
“We want to remind people that the Church defends justice and peace, she defends life,” he added.
The Bolivian Congress is made up of 500 representatives.
Washington D.C., Jun 9, 2006 (CNA) - In a Wednesday night interview with Wolf Blitzer, on CNN’s The Situation Room, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said he is opposed to same-sex marriage but not opposed to same-sex civil unions if they can “protect [people’s] right to take care of each other.”
“We really have to continue to define marriage as we’ve defined marriage for thousands of years - as a union between a man and a woman,” said the cardinal, insisting that the U.S. law maintain the current definition of marriage.
“Now, I think the legislation as it is proposed would not throw out the possibility of a civil union. And I think…we can live with that if this is what…the Constitution will provide for,” he continued.
“But to say that you can take this concept of marriage, this word marriage, and use it in ways that it has never been used before, as far as I know, in the history of the world, I think that makes no sense,” he said.
“I think basically the ideal would be that everybody was able to enter a union with a man and a woman and bring children into the world and have the wonderful relationship of man and wife that is so mutually supportive and is really so much part of our society and what keeps our society together. That’s the ideal,” he clarified.
“If you can’t meet that ideal, if there are people who for on reason or another just cannot do that or feel they cannot do that, then in order to protect their right to take care of each other, in order to take care of their right to have visitation in a hospital or something like that, I think that you could allow, not the ideal, but you could allow for that for a civil union," he stated.
“But if you begin to fool around with the whole nature of marriage, then you’re doing something which affects the whole culture and denigrates what is so important for us,” he continued. “Marriage is the basic foundation of our family structure. And if we lose that, then I think we become a society that’s in real trouble.”
The cardinal also commented briefly on pending immigration reform and supported his brother-archbishop in Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, in his message to priests and other pastoral workers not to refuse people who approach them for help, regardless of their legal status in the country.
Cardinal McCarrick will be retiring this summer. He had submitted his resignation last July, when he turned 75, according to canon law. The Pope only approved his resignation this year and appointed Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh to succeed him.
“I think he’s a great teacher. He’s a man of the center. He’s articulate. He’s courageous. The people are going to love him, and he’s going to love the people,” the cardinal said of Bishop Wuerl. “This is going to be the golden age of the archdiocese.”
Detroit, Mich., Jun 9, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Adam Maida is giving thanks to God for his priestly vocation on his 50th anniversary of ordination.
“Even in a dream I couldn't imagine the experiences that I've had as a priest - just doing every day what I thought was God's will, responding to God's call,” the cardinal-archbishop of Detroit told the Michigan Catholic.
Cardinal Maida has been Archbishop of Detroit for nearly 16 years. As a priest, he earned degrees in canon and civil law and eventually worked on legal matters regarding Church/state cases, even preparing cases for the Supreme Court. He reflected on his 50 years as a priest with the Michigan Catholic.
The cardinal explained how he understood his call to the priesthood. “I just wanted to be a person of faith and to give my life in ministry to God's people,” he said. “That's pretty much it, and as a kid it was always ‘how can I help somebody?’ That was always in my heart, and it's still that way.”
The biggest challenge in the last half-century, Maida said, was dealing with was the sexual abuse of minors by priests. “You think of young children being victimized, priests betraying a trust - a sacred trust - that's the most difficult thing that I've ever faced. It was a two-year period that consumed all my psychic and spiritual energies,” he said.
Another challenge, he said, was closing Catholic schools because of the demographic shifts in the archdiocese. In an effort to continue to reach out to youth and to counteract school closures, the cardinal said youth ministry is now one of his top priorities.
He urged young people to discover that Jesus Christ is the answer to their fundamental questions of life. “And once you know the Lord, once you experience the Lord's presence, you will find that He is indeed the way, the truth and the life, and if you follow in that way you will find an answer to the ultimate questions of who are you and where you are going,” he said.
Having been ordained in 1956, the cardinal also reflected on the Church after the Second Vatican Council, which brought about changes in the liturgy, increased ecumenical and interfaith relations and fostered a new understanding of the priesthood with the growing role of the laity.
“The laity has assumed a new place in the life of our Church, and so the life of the priest has changed, because he needs to relate differently to his people in his ministry,” he said. “The council challenged all of us to re-energize our spiritual lives, our relationship with God, and our relationship with one another in different ways.”
Cardinal Maida encouraged those who are contemplating priesthood to trust in the Lord. “Don't be afraid of any situation, any problem or challenge, because you're doing God's work. God never fails. Our Lord is always there,” he said.
This year has been declared a Year of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Detroit. The cardinal is urging the faithful to answer the Lord's call to serve.
Havana, Cuba, Jun 9, 2006 (CNA) - Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, a prominent pro-life physician who was given a 25-year prison sentence by the Cuban government for defending the unborn and promoting civil rights, has been nominated for a prestigious Spanish award by a group of exiled Cubans.
The Prince of Asturias Awards (in Spanish: Premios Príncipe de Asturias) is a series of annual prizes given in Spain by the Fundación Príncipe de Asturias to individuals from around the world who make notable achievements in the sciences, humanities, or public affairs. The awards are presented in Oviedo, the capital of the Principality of Asturias in a ceremony conducted by Felipe, Prince of Asturias.
Oscar Elias Biscet, founder and president of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights, has been imprisoned by the Castro regime on several occasions. Since 2003 he has been held in a prison in Pinar del Rio under inhumane conditions.
The Castro government intensified its persecution of Biscet in 1998 when he and another scholar published an exposé on the abortion practices at a prominent state-run hospital. The report, containing unofficial statistics and testimonies of mothers whose children were murdered at birth, was send to Fidel Castro with a letter from Biscet.
More information on Dr. Biscet and the Lawton Foundation can be found at <http://www.lawtonfoundation.com/index_spanish.php>
, Jun 9, 2006 (CNA) -
The ministry of a priest is in the person of Christ and is centered on the daily celebration of the Eucharist, said Bishop Samuel Aquila during the ordination mass of two priests for his diocese.
Fathers Jason Asselin and Luke Meyer were ordained June 3 for the Diocese of Fargo. He told his new priests to remember that, regardless of where they are or what they are doing, they must remain conscious that they are bringing Christ to others through their words and actions.
The bishop’s homily was filled with words of encouragement, guidance and instruction. He encouraged the new priests to grow in personal prayer. It is through personal prayer, he said, that one develops the heart, deepens one's relationship with God and discovers that Jesus Christ is the truth.
“In your personal prayer, you must discover the loving gaze of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit upon you. Have confidence,” he said. “This confidence is essential for every priest to know himself as loved by the Father.”
The bishop described God’s loving gaze in terms of a parent’s gaze on their newborn child. “That is only a glimpse and a taste of the Father’s gaze upon us,” he said.
The main thrust of the bishop’s homily was on the Eucharist and its significance in the life of the priest and the Church.
“Jesus continues each and every day to make himself a total self gift for us in the Eucharist,” he said. “Each time you celebrate the Eucharist, you, together with Jesus Christ the head and shepherd, make yourselves a total gift to the Father and to the people you serve,” he told the new priests. “Like Christ, you lay down your life for your flock.
“The Eucharist is the supreme nourishment for our vocation. It is important for us and for every priest to do what the Church asks of him, to celebrate the Eucharist daily,” he said.
“Because the Eucharist belongs to the Church, you must have a deep reverence for the celebration of the Eucharist. You must have a reverence for the Church's liturgical norms guiding the Eucharist.
“The Eucharist is not personally yours. It is not your mass,” he stressed. “The mass belongs to Jesus Christ and to the Church. The Church guides that. No priest has the right to add or to take away anything from the liturgical rites of the Church. This is especially important as we anticipate the coming changes which will occur in the Roman Missal,” he instructed.
The bishop urged everyone in the assembly to practice daily adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, even if it is only for 15 minutes. “The more you adore Christ in the Eucharist, the more you will come to understand who is present when you celebrate the mass,” he told his new priests.
He urged the new priests to remember that their pastoral ministry is always in the person of Christ.
“The faith of the Church is that there is an ontological change that occurs in your lives. You are changed forever. That means whether you are hearing confessions, anointing the sick, whether you are hiking or fishing, whether you are celebrating the mass, no matter what you are doing, even in sin, you bring Christ the head and shepherd with you,” he said. “By your words and actions, you bring Christ to others.”
“Your ministry must be grounded in Christ’s pastoral charity,” he offered. “In your preaching and teaching, always teach the truth and charity.
“Have true devotion to Mary.”
Santiago, Chile, Jun 9, 2006 (CNA) - Some 40 experts are expected to participate in the Second Latin American Congress titled, “Catholics and Public Life,” which will be held at St. Thomas Aquinas University in Santiago, Spain. The purpose of the Congress is to contribute to the work of evangelization that Pope John Paul II entrusted to the laity of the world.
Organizers of the event hope it will provide a place to come together for Catholics interested in resisting attempts to limit the Gospel to the private sphere instead of allowing it to illuminate the different areas of life.
This year the Congress will include four presentations: “Catholics and public life in Latin America;” “The purpose of faith;” “The intolerance of freedom;” and “Faith: a public or private affair.” In addition a series of round-table discussions will be held on various topics.
Experts from Spain, Italy, Holland, Uruguay and Chile, among other countries, are expected to be in attendance.
Woodstock, Ga., Jun 9, 2006 (CNA) - Ten years ago, St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Woodstock, Georgia had 300 families worshipping out of a gymnasium in a recreation center. Today, the parish's 2,100 families worship in a 750-seat sanctuary, located on a 35-acre church property. And with an average of six to eight new families joining the parish per week, the growth spurt is hardly over.
There are seven weekend masses-500 worship at a Spanish-language mass on Sunday afternoons-1,200 students in religious education classes; a preschool filled to capacity with 120 children; daily masses; and a 72-hour adoration each week, reported the Journal-Constitution.
The parish campus includes 18 classrooms, conference rooms, a kitchen and a multipurpose room and offices. A chapel can accommodate 65, and a parish hall can accommodate community gatherings.
A new rectory is being built on a wooded area of the church campus. As well, a new prayer garden, where outdoor masses can be held, is being planted. The first mass at the new campus was celebrated in January 1999.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jun 9, 2006 (CNA) - A prominent lawmaker of the Worker’s Party in Brazil, Luiz Bassuma, who is also founder and president of the Parliamentary Front in Defense of Life, thanked pro-life supporters this week for their efforts to prevent abortion from being included in the platform that the party will be adopting during the upcoming presidential elections.
Several days ago, pro-life leaders in Brazil launched an e-mail campaign against a motion approved at the party’s national convention that called for the inclusion of legal abortion in its political platform for the new electoral season. Pro-life leaders asked voters to send messages of support to Worker’s Party members who are pro-life. As a result some 20 lawmakers petitioned party leaders to reject the motion.
Bassuma announced a meeting of the Parliamentary Front for this week in order to step up efforts to mobilize the pro-life vote and work towards ensuring the election of a pro-life majority in Congress.
“Feminists in the Worker’s Party secured approval of the motion at the end of the convention without any kind of prior discussion,” Bassuma said in a message to supporters. “Therefore, this was a scheme to get the motion passed, because if beforehand there had been any kind of open, democratic debate, this motion would most certainly not have been adopted.”
“The feminists in the Worker’s Party cannot impose their position on abortion on party leaders and activists who do not support the legalization of abortion Brazil,” Bassuma stated.