Archive of June 15, 2006

Episcopal Church faces division over homosexual issues

Columbus, Ohio, Jun 15, 2006 (CNA) - The U.S. Episcopal Bishops continue to deal with internal disagreement and face the possibility of a total division of their church as they meet in Ohio this week for their triennial convention.   Bishops who support and those who oppose the ordination of openly homosexual Bishops are finding an increasingly growing chasm between their respective beliefs.

"We've reached a moment where it is very difficult, indeed I think we've reached an impossible moment, in holding it together," Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan told a group of 1500 gathered at the convention.

The current climate of confusion and dissent was ignited in 2003 when the conference of bishops approved the elevation of Rev. Gene Robinson, an openly homosexual Episcopal pastor to the episcopate.  

Following the decision, the U.S. Episcopal Church is now facing the possibility of disunion with the worldwide Anglican Communion as well a splintering of the church in America.  

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who is the head of the Anglican Communion recently released a paper known as the Windsor Report, which demanded an apology from the U.S. Episcopal church for the election of Bishop Robinson.  The report also insisted that the U.S. bishops not elevate any other openly homosexual men and spoke against their continued support of homosexual unions.  

Due to the structure of the Anglican Communion, however, the U.S. church can choose to accept the Archbishop’s suggestions or risk the possibility of disunity.  Wednesday’s meeting was to consider resolutions proposed by a special committee that was formed by the Episcopal Church in response to the Windsor Report.

According to Reuters, The committee will consider the testimony, perhaps reword the resolutions and send a report to the two legislative houses at the convention. One consists of bishops and the other is made up of diocesan representatives. Final votes on the resolutions may not come until Saturday.

The resolutions being debated include an admonishment that church congregations use "very considerable caution" in elevating gays to bishop; that clergy not authorize public blessings of same-sex unions until the broader church agrees on a policy; and that the entire convention reiterate a statement the Episcopal bishops made last year saying they regretted the pain the Robinson consecration caused.  The resolutions are seen by many as a temporary attempt to remain in communion the larger Anglican community.

However, several bishops think the resolutions are too harsh and are unhappy with the threat of a ban on same sex-unions and the ordination of openly homosexual bishops.  Robinson, clearly the most visible opponent, asked during a hearing Wednesday, “are we courageous enough to recognize Christ in the lives of our gay and lesbian neighbors?"  Robinson continued, “Please, I beg you, let's say our prayers and stand up for right."

Other bishops, however, think the resolutions are too weak and will result in total division.  Bishop Duncan, who led a group of Episcopal dioceses in opposing Robinson's 2003 consecration, told delegates the progressive and conservative wings of the church should acknowledge their differences and part, the Associated Press reported.

Duncan’s statements seem to speak directly to the concerns of the larger Anglican Church.  In a message to the General Convention, Archbishop Williams wrote, “We cannot survive as a communion of churches without some common convictions about what it is to live and to make decisions as the Body of Christ.”

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The Eucharist is the central event in the history of the world and of every person, the Pope says

Rome, Italy, Jun 15, 2006 (CNA) - Celebrating Mass today, on the Feast of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, the Holy Father told the faithful that the bread and wine used in the celebration of the Mass are not just accidental articles, but speak a truth about mankind and heaven.

Jesus’ actions during the last supper, at which he instituted the Eucharist, are “the central event in the history of the world and the personal history of every person,” Pope Benedict told the crowd of thousands gathered at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Cathedral of Rome.  

The Holy Father said that while bread is the “food of the poor”, through bread the Lord chose to make himself present.  

The Holy Father went on to explain that while the making of bread is, in one sense, the work of man, it is also a display of heaven, which provides rain for the fields.  Therefore, he said, the gift of bread requires a synergy of heaven and earth.  “The little bread of the poor,” the Pope said, “is the synthesis of creation.” All creation, he said, yearns to exceed its own strength and spill forth in a union with the Creator.

Bread, which is made up of many grains of wheat, ground together as one, also speaks of the mystery of the passion, the Holy Father said, "only through death can one arrive at resurrection."  In this way, Christ was subjected to death in order to bring life for all.  With His death and resurrection, Benedict said, Christ brought hope for all of us. And, Pope Benedict said, like the many grains in bread, “although we are many, we must become one body.”

Following the Mass was the traditional procession with the Blessed Sacrament, through the city of Rome to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. 

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US bishops urge Congress to grant illegal immigrants ‘path to citizenship’

Los Angeles, Calif., Jun 15, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of the United States urged the U.S. Congress Wednesday to resolve differences on immigration reform and to give the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country a path to citizenship, reported Reuters.

The government’s current enforcement-only approach to immigration has failed, and stronger border fences would not deter those seeking work in the U.S., the bishops told a press conference in Los Angeles, where they held their bi-annual conference.

The bishops said all undocumented workers currently in the U.S. should be given a "viable and workable earned path to citizenship," not just those who have been here longest. They also backed a temporary worker program and reforms that would reduce family immigration backlogs.

"Over the past 12 years, our government has spent $25 billion on enforcement of our border. During the same period, the number of undocumented in the nation has nearly doubled," Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino told the press conference. Bishop Barnes heads the U.S. Catholic bishops’ committee on immigration.

"We urge congressional leaders and the president to seize this historic moment and enact a just and humane immigration measure," he said.

Under the leadership of Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop of Los Angeles, the city has been a strong voice in the immigration debate. The cardinal-archbishop has been one of the leaders of a large Catholic lobbying effort in the last six months for just immigration reform.

“Why are we [the bishops] involved? Fundamentally it is because it is our Gospel mandate ... to welcome the stranger,” Cardinal Mahony said. “The immigration debate ... is ultimately a humanitarian and moral issue.”

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Holy See issues plea for peace in the Holy Land

Vatican City, Jun 15, 2006 (CNA) - Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Director of the Press Office of the Holy See released a statement yesterday calling for an end to the escalating violence in the Holy Land.

Speaking on behalf of the Holy See and Pope Benedict, Navarro-Valls said that, “The Holy See is following with great concern and anguish the episodes of increasing mindless violence which are bloodying the Holy Land over these days.” 

Pope Benedict, Navarro-Valls said, is “close, especially in prayer, to the innocent victims, their relatives and to the peoples of that land.”  He called the ones causing terror in the holy land self-delusional people who think that, “they can resolve the ever more dramatic problems of the region with force or unilaterally.”

Issuing a plea for action, Navarro-Valls said, "The Holy See invites the international community quickly to activate the means necessary for providing due humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, and joins the call to leaders of both peoples, that in the first place due respect be shown for human life, especially that of defenseless civilians and children, and that the path of negotiation be courageously resumed, the only way to arrive at the just and lasting peace to which everyone aspires."

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Bishops in Eritrea demand that clergy be exempt from military service

Konigstein, Germany, Jun 15, 2006 (CNA) - Bishops in Eritrea are responding to their government’s call for priests and seminarians to serve in the army amid continued fears that the border dispute with Ethiopia will erupt into violence.

Catholic bishops from the east African country, bordering Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti and the Red Sea, and have written twice to Eritrea’s government demanding that clergy be exempt from the national service required for men aged under 40.

According to reports from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the government has so far ignored the letters from the country’s three Catholic bishops who have explained that service in the armed forces is “not in accordance” with the role of the clergy.

Despite Catholics representing a small minority in a country dominated by the Eritrean Orthodox Church and Islam, their role in education and social support has given the bishops courage to speak out.

UN peacekeepers have been controlling the border since the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia ended in 2000, but the UN is due to withdraw some of its 3,000 troops, causing concern about future stability. 

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Opposition to war incompatible with support for abortion, says Spanish cardinal

Madrid, Spain, Jun 15, 2006 (CNA) - The vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares of Toledo, said this week opposition to war or to domestic violence is incompatible with support for abortion.

Speaking at a summer course on Catholicism and Spain offered through the University of San Pablo and the Garcia Morente Foundation, the cardinal gave his analysis of the moral state of the country and asked, “How can you say no to the war, no to violence in the home and yet say yes to abortion?”

According to the cardinal, family, education and the defense of human life are not “truths of the faith,” but rather “the three basic realities that make Spain what she is and what she is called to be today and in the future.”

These three realities, he added, “are not particular to any one confession, but rather are directed towards all persons independent of their religious preference.”  The Spanish cardinal explained that many parents are appealing for urgent help for the family, “which is enduring grave problems, and it is time to provide solutions.”  

Cardinal Cañizares said one of the causes of the crisis of the family is “the plague of divorce - whose victims are the children,” and he said homosexual unions and marriage between persons of the same sex are being used to “destroy the truth about marriage.”

“It hurts my ears to hear them talking about (homosexual marriage as) “progress” and defending positions that denigrate the family,” the cardinal said.  

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Church leaders urge the return of religious assemblies in public schools

London, England, Jun 15, 2006 (CNA) - Christian leaders in Britain have urged the country’s new education secretary, Alan Johnson, to restore daily acts of worship in schools.

By law, public schools must organize daily acts of worship, which are "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character.” Usually, there are daily school assemblies or a class gathering with a spiritual theme. However, this practice has become less and less common in high schools.

In a joint letter to the new education secretary, senior representatives of the Anglican, Catholic, Methodist and Baptist churches said secondary schools were limiting children's "spiritual and moral" development by failing to organize daily acts of worship. They called on Johnson to act to restore "an important part of pupils' entitlement in school,” reported the Guardian.

In a joint statement accompanying the letter, the churches said collective worship helped "equip young people to understand more about themselves, foster a sense of the aesthetic and to cope with life-changing moments".

"We strongly support the continuation of collective worship in all schools, recognizing the major contribution it makes to the spiritual and moral development of pupils, which is a prime goal of education," the statement said.

It also said teacher-training should include how to lead collective worship.

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills told the Guardian that collective worship was important to help promote tolerance and understanding among students.

"Every maintained school, by law, must provide religious education and a daily act of collective worship for all its pupils. It is the responsibility of the headteacher, governors and local authorities to make sure these are carried out," the spokesman reportedly said.

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Vandals strike 80-year-old church

Petaluma, Calif., Jun 15, 2006 (CNA) - An 80-year-old Catholic church in the Diocese of Santa Rosa was struck by vandalism over four days, causing $50,000 worth in damages, reported KCBS.

Nine-inch holes were smashed in five windows of St. Vincent de Paul Church and an unlit Molotov cocktail was thrown into the church library Monday. Police say nothing has been stolen, though the church was broken into on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

Police have no leads in the investigation. They say vandalism has been on the rise in the downtown area. Church officials are considering installing motion detector lights and cameras outside.

Fr. Gary Lombardi told KCBS that minor incidents had begun two weeks earlier.

Graffiti was found in the church plaza. The chalk writings said: “what if you're wrong”, “maybe you're wrong” and “satan loves you,” Fr. Lombardi told KCBS. 

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