Archive of June 13, 2006

Archbishop calls on hispanic youth to transform society

South Bend, Ind., Jun 13, 2006 (CNA) - American hispanic youth and young adults should focus on defending their values and transforming society, Archbishop Jose Gomez told participants at the First National Encuentro for Hispanic Youth and Young Adults.

The archbishop of San Antonio gave the keynote address June 8 at the encuentro, held at the University of Notre Dame. The theme of the weekend was Weaving the Future Together.

“God is calling you. And whether he calls you to be a priest or an auto mechanic, a teacher or a mother, you are part of the new generation of apostles-the next generation of leaders in the Hispanic community, in the Church, and in our country,” he said.

“As Catholic leaders and as Hispanics, we must reclaim this culture for God,” he said.

The archbishop noted that the current generation of Hispanics is heir to the first missionaries in the New World, the Americas, North and South.

“We’re connected to these first evangelists by a common culture and shared beliefs, and by the Eucharist,” he said. “And we are called, you and I, to be the evangelists of the next generation, bearing witness to the reality and power of Christ at a time when our country seems to have forgotten him.”

He spoke of Blessed Jose Anacleto Gonzalez Flores and his eight companions, who were 20th-century martyrs in Mexico, killed in the 1920s.

“No, our country doesn’t torture anybody for praying in public or going to mass. But our culture, too, wants to get religion out of our lives,” he said. “Our culture tells us that religious faith is something we’re supposed to keep to ourselves, something private and personal.

“Our first and biggest challenge, my young friends, is to keep the faith in this culture. Here, we can learn valuable lessons from the Mexican martyrs,” he said.

He encouraged the young people to develop a relationship with Jesus by trying to live the way he did, by keeping his commandments, by going to church, by meeting him in the Eucharist, in the Bible, and in prayer.

He urged the young people to continue in their education in the faith, to defend the family and to be leaders.
“Being a leader means, first of all, accepting Jesus Christ as the ruler of your life,” he said. “Authority and power doesn’t come from social rank or money. True leadership depends on your personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus told his apostles that being a leader means being a servant.

“You need to be apostles to your peers. Don’t preach to them. Lead by your example,” he said. “Have a good friendship with Jesus yourself. Be good sons and daughters, good brothers and sisters, good neighbors and friends. That’s how you are an apostle. That’s how you lead others to Jesus.

“They will see your joy, your love, and they will want to get to know you. They will want to know what makes you so happy, so generous. And you will be able to tell them about Jesus,” he said.

The archbishop reminded the young people that they are not only called to be “Hispanic leaders.”

“Be proud of your heritage! Deepen your sense of your Hispanic identity, the traditions and customs of our ancestors! But you are Catholics,” he underlined.

“And ‘catholic’ means universal. That means you can’t define yourself - nor can you let society define you - solely by your ethnic identity. You are called to be leaders-not only in the Hispanic community, but in every area of our culture and society.”

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Mexican bishop labels wall on US/Mexico border a “lesser evil”

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 13, 2006 (CNA) - Reacting to approval in the US Senate of an immigration bill that would allow nine million undocumented aliens to obtain legal status, the secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico, Bishop Sergio Aguiar Retes, said the construction of a wall on the US/Mexican border should be considered a “lesser evil.”
“This is something that can be accepted as a lesser evil, nobody in Mexico is in favor of it, from the President on down to the last citizen, but if they will now let us enter legally, the building of their wall is the lesser of evils,” he stated.
The bishop said the immigration bill is an important step that would make a full agreement more likely.  He said the building of a wall on the border was an internal political strategy in the United States.  “It’s like saying to a sector of society that feels it is under assault by immigration: Yes, we hear you, and we are going to build this wall that isn’t necessary and doesn’t guarantee a thing, just to keep you happy.”

Bishop Aguiar Retes said the Senate reform would “benefit millions of people and many others who would be able to legally immigrate with all of their rights.”  Despite all this, he maintained, this does not amount to an immigration agreement allowing for free transit in a given region, in the same way as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
He questioned the nature of the immigrant relationship between the United States, Canada and Mexico-all partners in NAFTA-and said a level of integration similar to that of the European Union was necessary between the three countries.  “The flow of illegals is going to diminish thanks to this bill and everyone is going to seek out the legal path.  But the reality is, Mexican immigration to the United States had to be like that because there was no other way,” he said.
“Now, with the possibility of temporary worker visas, I suppose Mexicans will apply each year to obtain those permits, but with a different expectation.  Nobody likes to risk his life if it is not absolutely necessary,” the bishop stated.
“As the US bishops have said, there is not a single diocese in that country that does not have any Mexicans, and they are Catholics.  They belong to the faithful whose needs must be met.  There are many reasons for there to be continuous good relations,” he noted.
The US Senate approved an immigration reform bill several days ago that would allow nine of the estimated twelve million illegal aliens to gain legal status if they can prove they have been working for four years, and it would authorize the issuance of another 200,000 temporary visas.  The Senate bill must now be reconciled with the House bill in conference committee.

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Philippines Congress votes to abolish death penalty, decision hailed by papal nuncio

Manila, Philippines, Jun 13, 2006 (CNA) - The papal nuncio in the Philippines, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, has applauded the government’s decision to abolish the death penalty, reported the Associated Press. The papal nuncio functions as the Pope’s representative in a given country.

Congress approved the bill last week, despite protests from relatives of crime victims. The bill will be sent to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to be signed into law. Arroyo has previously backed efforts to abolish capital punishment. In April, she commuted several death sentences.  

Archbishop Filoni said Monday that the move reflects the government's respect for life.

"It is a sign of profound human sensitivity capable of judging the administration of justice according to criteria of healing rather than vindicating as well as of respect to those who have unfortunately violated the dignity of life itself," he reportedly said.

The 1987 Philippines Constitution abolished the death penalty laws that dictator Ferdinand Marcos had used to execute about a dozen people convicted of rape and drug charges. Congress restored the death penalty in 1993 for heinous crimes such as murder, child rape, and kidnapping. Seven people had been executed under the current death penalty law.

The decision would take about 1,200 convicts off of death row.

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Focus groups say Church teaching helps married couples keep commitment

Washington D.C., Jun 13, 2006 (CNA) - Church teaching on the permanence of marriage helps married couples live out their marital commitment, reveals a focus group study sponsored by the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family Life.

The study included nearly 200 focus groups and over 1,500 participants in 64 dioceses and one eparchy. Participants discussed their personal experience of marriage, Church teaching about marriage, and parish and diocesan support for married couples.

The focus groups are part of the multi-year National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage, which the U.S. bishops launched in 2004. The intention of the initiative is to call attention to the meaning and value of marriage. It invites parishes to become local communities of hope and help for marriages.

The findings indicate that couples found the Church teaching on marriage as a sacrament and a vocation very helpful. While some focus group participants considered the teaching on contraception as a challenge, others spoke positively about the value of Natural Family Planning.

Some divorced participants said that the annulment process has brought them healing and closure.

In general, participants did not see their parish as a source of direct support for marriage; however, they found that involvement in parish ministries often strengthened their marriage.

Participants wanted pastors to raise awareness about marriage, especially through preaching. They suggested training for clergy and parish staff so that they can better respond to couples in trouble.

People asked for more opportunities for adult faith formation, small groups and support groups, retreats and days of reflection for married couples, mentoring, and resources and referrals for couples with marital difficulties.

The focus group results will used to develop a pastoral letter on marriage. The full results are available at <>.

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Gov’t-funded homosexual conference to counter Pope’s visit to Spain

Valencia, Fla., Jun 13, 2006 (CNA) - Spain’s Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs has provided a subsidy of €17,000 for a conference organized by homosexual associations that will take place on the eve of Pope Benedict’s visit next month, reported ThinkSpain.

The conference, to be held in Valencia, coincides with the 5th World Family Forum at which the Pope will officiate. The Pope is expected to arrive July 8-9 to attend the family forum, which will explore ways to bolster the integrity of the family.

The homosexual conference includes a gay pride demonstration outside the Valencia cathedral. The archbishop of Valencia has described the event as "an offensive provocation."

In addition to receiving government funds, the conference is being backed by the University of Valencia, where a number of the events will be held. The government will be represented at the conference by the general director of the Families and Infancy department, Amparo Marzal Martínez, reported ThinkSpain.

Meanwhile, President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has confirmed that he will not be taking part in the closing ceremony of the 5th World Family Forum, to which he was invited, saying, “It has nothing to do with me.”

The Pope is expected to greet the Spanish president at the chancery of the Archdiocese of Valencia, after a meeting with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia at Valencia’s City Hall.
Pope Benedict will be present on the last two days of the World Family Forum. He will give a closing speech on the Saturday evening and preside at the public mass at the cathedral the following morning. The Pope has been a strong supporter of the World Family Forum and has urged Catholics from around the world to attend.

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Colombian archbishop denies Church is spurring political action on abortion

Bogotá, Colombia, Jun 13, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro, has denied that the country’s bishops are leading an effort to hold a referendum on a Constitutional Court’s ruling that legalized abortion in Colombia.
Speaking on Radio Caracol, Archbishop Castro said comments by Bishop Libardo Ramirez, president of the Church Tribunal, reflected his own personal opinion and had not been studied by the entire body of bishops.  In widely publicized statements, Bishop Libardo told reporters earlier that the Church would promote the referendum aimed at overturning the high court ruling.
“The executive committee met recently and this issue was not discussed, it did not cross our minds,” Archbishop Castro said, adding it would “not therefore cross our minds during the next Conference meeting, and therefore the difference between the position of a single bishop and that of the conference should be noted.”
Retired Bishop Fabian Marulanda of Florencia and former president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia explained, “The bishops are tasked with proclaiming the gospel of life so that each person can know what he should or should not do with respect to the issue of abortion,” which is always “a serious sin.”  He called on Colombians to refuse to support its legalization.
“Colombia is a country of laws and the decisions of the Court deserve our respect, whether we are for them or against them, but the Church thinks differently.”  Regardless of the circumstances, Bishop Marulanda said, abortion is always a sin and “there is no way a legislature can have recourse to other procedures.”
Nevertheless, the rector of Gran Colombia University and prominent pro-life activist, Jose Galat Noumer, said pro-life leaders hoped to gather “at least seven million signatures” for the referendum, “because not only Catholics, but even Protestants and people who do not practice any religion but who respect life, would be willing to sign this referendum and thus stop the abuses of the Constitutional Court.”

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Cardinal Cipriani: today’s society twists call to holiness

Lima, Peru, Jun 13, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani said this week that today’s society makes people believe that holiness is the exclusive call of a select few, when “it is nothing more than achieving the same feelings, thoughts and works of Christ.”
“We are all invited to make our family, culture, sports, politics, economics, recreation and illnesses a path to holiness,” the cardinal said during Sunday Mass.

He called on the faithful to express their love for the Holy Trinity by seeking holiness. “Being good people is not enough.  Not being bad or not doing wrong to others is not sufficient. We must love everyone.  We must seek Christ in others,” he warned.

The Peruvian cardinal also encouraged the faithful to participate in the celebration of Corpus Christi and he prayed to the Blessed Mother that all Peruvian families would become a reflection of the life of communion that exists in the Holy Trinity, in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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Cardinal demands Dominican Republic government to stop wave of violence

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Jun 13, 2006 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Rodriguez, is calling on the government of the Dominican Republic to redouble its efforts to put an end to the wave of violence sweeping the country, after an eighteen year-old girl was murdered in the city of Santiago in what he called an “act of savagery.”
The cardinal also called on the government to make a greater investment in education, health care and the creation of jobs in order to help Dominicans live productive and healthy lives.
Archbishop Ramon Benito de la Rosa y Carpio said the death of the young woman should bring about cooperation in confronting violence and crime as well as addressing the lack of security in the country.  “The immediate reaction of the people of Santiago and their taking to the streets to protest and express solidarity with the family is an indication that the murder of a young 18 year-old can be a symbol for confronting the spiral of violence,” the archbishop said.
The archbishop said not only were the criminals guilty, but in a certain sense so too are all those who in one way or another do not fulfill their duties, and he lamented that the state is spending resources in areas that are not a priority while neglecting the need for security.  He also called for improvements in the police force and for laws restricting the use of mopeds, which he said are often used by criminals to escape capture.

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