Archive of June 22, 2006

Pope announces new Vatican Secretary of State

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI announced two major personnel changes in top Vatican positions today.  The Holy Father has accepted resignations from Cardinals Angelo Sodano and Edmund Szoka and has announced their replacements.

Cardinal Sodano who has served as the Secretary of State for the Holy See since 1991 will be leaving his post on September 15th and will be replaced by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., the 71 year old Archbishop of Genoa.  Bertone served as second in command to Pope Benedict for eight years when the current Pope was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Often called the Vatican’s second highest position, the Secretary of State is responsible not only for communications between the Holy See and other nations, but also for caring for the universal Church and dealing with the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. 

Bertone, who was born in northern Italy on December 2, 1934, was the fifth of eight children in his family.  His early education with the Salesian fathers led him to eventually enter the order.  He made his first religious profession on December 3, 1950, and was ordained as a priest on July 1, 1960.  After earning a licentiate degree in Theology at the Salesian Faculty of Theology in Turin, he continued his studies in Rome at the Pontifical Salesian Institute, where he earned a licentiate and doctorate in Canon Law.  He taught Moral Theology and Cannon Law at the Salesian Institute -eventually the Pontifical Salesian University- for 10 years and was chosen as dean in 1989.  At the same time he also taught Ecclesiastic Public Law at the Institutum Utriusque Iuris of the Pontifical Lateran University.  He has authored various publications and worked on the final revision of the Code of Canon Law.

After acting as a consulter in various Vatican congregations, Bertone became Bishop of Vercelli in 1991.  In 1995 Bertone was appointed to his secretarial roll under then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.  During his time at the congregation, Bertone dealt with various delicate matters, including an “interview” of Sr Lucia, to clarify the question of the completeness of the publication of the Fatima revelations, as well as the highly publicized matter concerning healer-Archbishop Milingo who had adhered to the sect of the Reverend Moon.

"This is a Copernican revolution for me," Bertone told Italian News Service ANSA, referring to the enormous change it will mean for him after spending the last three years tending to his flock in Genoa .

He added that, as a member of the Salesian order and a man of the Church, he was "accustomed to obeying."

ANSA reports that in a letter to be published Saturday in the Vatican daily Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict says that Bertone was chosen because of his ability to combine pastoral skills with an extensive knowledge of doctrine.

The Pope also accepted the resignation of American Cardinal and former Archbishop of Detroit, Edmund Casimir Szoka, President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and of the Governorate of Vatican City State.  Cardinal Szoka, who has been in his role since 1997, will step down on September 15th as well.  He will be replaced by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, who currently serves as Secretary of the Secretariat of State’s Section for Relations with States.

Lajolo’s role will be to manage the many day-to-day affairs of running the Vatican city-state.  Despite its small size and location in the middle of Rome, Vatican City employs numerous employees and retains responsibility for most of its own civil affairs, as well as the management of a postal service, bank, grocery store, and several other businesses common to a small city.

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Episcopal Church votes to ‘exercise restraint’ in ordaining homosexual bishops

Columbus, Ohio, Jun 22, 2006 (CNA) - In an attempt to appease the worldwide Anglican Communion, the U.S. Episcopal Church Wednesday reversed an earlier decision and agreed to try to avoid the consecration of openly homosexual bishops, Reuters has reported.

The resolution, adopted at a convention, calls on those in authority "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any [episcopal] candidate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

The vote came after Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold warned the convention in its closing hours that "unless there is a clear perception on the part of our Anglican brothers and sisters that they have been taken seriously ... there will be no conversion and the bonds of affection which undergird communion will be further strained," reported Reuters.

The resolution, however, is non-binding. The election of bishops is a local matter within the church and any resolution is advisory. In other words, the future ordination of a homosexual bishop is not fully out of the question.

As a result, the resolution falls short of a recommendation from the Communion’s Windsor Report, which recommends a moratorium on homosexual bishops.

Archbishop Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said it was not clear how the U.S. church's actions responded to concerns raised by members of the worldwide church. He said the Communion will have to “reflect carefully on the significance of what has been decided” before it responds.

Further questions have also come about after the Church’s decisions earlier in the week.  Delegates on Sunday, elected Nevada Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, to succeed Bishop Griswold as the leader of the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church. She will be installed later this year as presiding bishop, making her the chief pastor of the 111 Episcopalian dioceses. She will become the first woman to head any branch in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion worldwide.

Her election has caused greater discontent within the already divided Anglican Communion.  Most other Anglican communities, do not recognize women bishops and many do not ordain women priests.

Her election has also widened divisions within the US Episcopal Church. Bishop Jefferts Schori supports the ordination of homosexual bishops and same-sex marriage. She also backed the 2003 episcopal consecration of openly homosexual Bishop, Gene Robinson - which caused the initial turmoil within the American church.

On Sunday night, the Standing Committee for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth - which does not recognize female bishops - unanimously adopted a resolution asking to be placed under alternative leadership with in the Anglican Communion. The diocese would need the approval of Archbishop Williams to leave the US. Episcopal Church.

Although Fort Worth would be the first diocese to break with the Episcopal leadership, numerous individual parishes, mostly based in Africa and Southeast Asia, have transferred to other Anglican jurisdictions since 2003.

In addition, the response of the Anglican Communion to Jefferts Schori’s election and on the larger issue of the election of women to the episcopal office will also have an effect on ecumenism.  Two weeks ago Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Vatican's Council for Christian Unity, told the Archbishop Williams that to validate the consecration of women as “bishops” in the worldwide Anglican Communion would make unity "unreachable" and shared communion with the Catholic Church impossible.  

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Major ballot campaign regarding marriage and abortion begins in Colorado

Abuja, Nigeria, Jun 22, 2006 (CNA) - The Colorado Catholic Conference will launch a statewide campaign this month to try to get two key measures on Colorado’s November ballot - the protection of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and the prohibition of late-term abortions.

The Colorado Catholic Conference will be assisting each parish in Colorado in conducting signature drives for both the state marriage amendment (Initiative 83) and the state late-term abortion ban (Initiative 80). The ban would create a class 4 felony for those who knowingly performed a late-term abortion.

Each petition needs a minimum of 68,000 valid signatures by Aug. 7 in order for the issues to be put on the ballot this fall.

Archbishop Charles Chaput, in his recent column in the Denver Catholic Register, urged all Catholics to sign petitions that will be circulating in the parishes.

“We need Initiative 80, because through it, Colorado’s constitution will offer a valuable public witness in defending human life, an example we can work from to further lead our society toward a culture of life,” wrote the archbishop. Initiative 83 “will go a long way to protecting marriage as the cornerstone of our culture,” he added.

"If these important measures do not get on the ballot in November, we will have failed to add to our state laws a strong message of respect for our families and new life," he added.

“Only when we actively engage public issues with an energy and conscience informed by our faith and our moral convictions, do we truly live as ‘faithful citizens,’” the archbishop wrote. “We serve the common good best by being true to what we claim to believe - both in the public square and in our private lives.”

Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs has begun a month-long series of columns on the ballot measures in The Colorado Catholic Herald.

"If same-sex marriage is legalized here,” Bishop Sheridan wrote last week, “churches that refuse to perform these ‘weddings’ could lose their tax-exempt status.”  “And,” he continued, “any religious teaching which condemns homosexual acts (would be) considered hate speech and is punishable by imprisonment. This reduces the Christian view of marriage and sexuality to bigotry."

Jon Paul, coordinator of Coloradans for Marriage, told the Rocky Mountain News that the marriage amendment already has in hand between 15,000 and 20,000 signatures. He said that Catholic involvement would boost these numbers considerably.

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Pope thanks, encourages aid agencies working in Middle East and Asia

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2006 (CNA) - This morning, the Holy Father received 100 participants from the annual Meeting of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO), thanking them for the service they have been carrying out since 1968, "supporting the pastoral, educational and charitable activities and meeting the urgent needs" of those Churches in the east.

Pope Benedict XVI began his speech by reminding the participants of the roots of their identity in the gospel as well as their gift of, “an acute ecclesial sensitivity that emerges from the union between you and Successor of Peter."
Referring to the community of Eastern Catholic Churches in the Holy Land, the Pope recalled how "the serious difficulties it is going through because of profound insecurity, lack of work, innumerable restrictions and consequent growing poverty, are a cause of pain for us all."
"It is a situation," he added, "that makes the educational, professional and family future of young generations extremely uncertain, unfortunately tempting them to leave forever the beloved land of their birth. This also happens in other areas of the Middle East, such as Iraq and Iran, which also benefit providentially from your generous kindness."
In order to face these serious problems, Pope Benedict went on, "our prime and fundamental duty is that of persistent and faithful prayer to the Lord, Who never abandons his children in times of trial. This should be associated with activities of fraternal solicitude, in order to find new and at times unexpected ways to meet the needs of those people."
"I invite pastors, faithful, and everyone in positions of responsibility in the civil community, to favor mutual respect between cultures and religions, and to create as soon as possible the conditions for serene and peaceful coexistence throughout the Middle East."

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Bishops insist wall on US/Mexican border not the solution for illegal immigration

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 22, 2006 (CNA) - Bishops from the United States, Central America and Mexico gathered in Tabasco this week, to reiterate their concerns about illegal immigration and said that building a wall on the border will do “nothing” to solve the problem.

During their meeting, the bishops also expressed dismay at the ill treatment thousands of Central Americans who enter Mexico illegally on their way to the United States.

“We are worried that thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans are leaving their countries and risking their lives to cross to the United States,” said Bishop Renato Ascencion Leon of Juarez, Mexico, and president of the Mexican bishops’ Committee on Human Mobility.

Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino, California, told the EFE news agency, “We don’t want more deaths - we do want better treatment for migrants.”  He also said that he was opposed to the building of a wall and the sending of National Guard troops to the southern border.  

“We believe migration must be given attention and we have spoken with leaders of the countries involved,” said Bishop Armando Ochoa of El Paso, Texas.

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Archbishop to suspend Masses in diocese during Pope’s celebration

Valencia, Fla., Jun 22, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia signed a decree this week, suspending Masses in all the parishes and churches of the diocese on the morning of Sunday, July 9, in order to allow the greatest number of priests and faithful to attend the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families, which will be celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.

The decree, signed by Archbishop Garcia-Gasco, directs pastors to establish special schedules for Mass in the afternoon of July 9 in order to allow those unable to attend the papal Mass to fulfill their Sunday obligation.

“The presence of the Pope in our archdiocese is a grace-filled event that should strengthen the unbreakable communion of our local Church with the successor of Peter,” the archbishop wrote in his directive.

The Pope will celebrate the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families on the Monteolivete Bridge, near the City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia.

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Boston launches planning for archdiocesan bicentennial

Boston, Mass., Jun 22, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Sean O’Malley hopes that the bicentennial of the Archdiocese of Boston in 2008 will aid in renewing the Catholic community.

“We are a Church of hope. We are a Church of the future,” Fr. Robert Connors, chair of the committee planning the celebration, told The Pilot. “Sometimes in these difficult times we fail to remember all the incredible work that’s going on in the archdiocese, day in and day out.”

The celebration, under the theme “Journeying Together in Christ,” will begin on the first Sunday of Advent, Dec. 2, 2007, and will end on the Feast of Christ the King, Nov. 23, 2008. Planned key celebrations include an opening and closing mass, a series of symposia sponsored by the area’s Catholic colleges, a youth gathering and regional community days.

Cardinal O’Malley intends to use the anniversary to reinvigorate the spiritual life of the archdiocese by implementing a program of evangelization, such as Renew.

A diverse, 25-member committee of clergy, religious and lay people was formed in 2004 to begin planning Boston’s bicentennial celebration.

Parishes will also participate in individual and archdiocesan-wide events. “We’re hoping every parish in some way or another will get involved,” said Fr. Connor.

Various agencies in the archdiocese are developing plans to incorporate the bicentennial anniversary into their 2008 activities. Boston Catholic Television plans to create an hour-long documentary on the history of the archdiocese. The Office for Ethnic Apostolates is working on a traveling exhibit that will feature videos, pictures and stories compiled from the 25 ethnic apostolates of the archdiocese.

Four archdioceses - Boston, Louisville, New York and Philadelphia - all formed from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the first diocese in the United States, almost 200 years ago, will celebrate their bicentennials in 2008.

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Cardinal Dulles celebrates 50 years of priesthood

, Jun 22, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Avery Dulles celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood last month with a mass of thanksgiving at the Fordham's University Church, where he was ordained by Cardinal Francis Spellman.

“The religious life and the priesthood, both of which I celebrate today as my twofold calling, ought never to be seen in isolation,” Cardinal Dulles said during his homily at the May 25 mass. “Every vocation in the church, as Paul reminds us in Ephesians, is for the sake of the whole body, so that all God’s people together may attain to the fullness of Christ, each contributing in his or her own way.”

Cardinal Dulles was joined by seven principal concelebrants: Cardinal Edward Egan, Archbishop of New York; Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, retired Archbishop of Philadelphia; Archbishop Peter Gerety, retired Archbishop of Newark; Bishop Daniel Hart, retired Bishop of Norwich; Bishop Frank Rodimer, retired Bishop of Paterson; Bishop Josu Iriondo, Auxiliary Bishop of New York; and Abbot Gabriel Gibbs of St. Benedict Abbey in Still River, Mass.

Cardinal Dulles is the author of 22 books and more than 750 articles interpreting church doctrine and the papacy. He has been recognized with the Cardinal Spellman Award for distinguished achievement in theology and 38 honorary doctorates.  Dulles was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

The Cardinal, who will celebrate his 88th birthday Aug. 24, is currently working on two new books.

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Spanish bishops reiterate right to express opinions on policies that affect the faithful

Madrid, Spain, Jun 22, 2006 (CNA) - The spokesman of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Father Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, said this week that bishops have the right to express their opinions about political issues, inasmuch as they affect the lives of Christians.

During a press conference prior to the opening of the Extraordinary Plenary Assembly of the Bishops’ Conference, Father Martinez Camino told reporters the bishops have the pastoral duty, “not to speak about politics, not to meddle in areas outside their competence, but to shed light,” upon all those areas in which Christians, and people in general, live and have to exercise their moral responsibility and their personal responsibility.  

Father Camino said the bishops did not expect to put forth a statement on the unity of the country, but he left open the possibility that some kind of document might be approved by the bishops at the conclusion of their gathering.

Asked about whether it would be acceptable for the Spanish parliament to address the issue of unity in the Church, Father Martinez Camino said the comparison was invalid because the Bishops’ Conference is a different kind of entity and has no desire to run the affairs of the Parliament.

“The Magisterium of the bishops traditionally encompasses questions of faith and morals.  All of the statements of the Conference have to do with the ordering of mankind’s life in society, and thus, with politics. It is nothing new for the bishops to address the political situation from a moral perspective,” he maintained.  On the other hand, “Parliament is not a moral authority,” he continued.  “It is a political institution” whose function is to organize laws.  “The laws of a Parliament, the just laws, must be followed, but Parliament is not a moral authority, it is a political authority that is supposed to legislate and foster the common good. Nothing more, nothing less,” Camino concluded.

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Returning immigrants to the their places of origin not a solution, says Spanish bishop

Madrid, Spain, Jun 22, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Spanish bishops’ Committee on Migration, Bishop Jose Sanchez, said repatriating sub-Saharan immigrants on the Canary Islands to their countries of origin is not a solution to the immigration problem and said the Church is doing “all that it can.”

Spain is currently dealing with a serious influx of immigrants fleeing their own African countries in fishing boats to seek refuge on the Canary Islands.

At the headquarters of Caritas Spain, Bishop Sanchez explained that any solution must address the roots of the problem.  In this sense, he said, developed countries still have a long way to go.

He noted that on the Canary Islands, the Church “is doing as much as it can” to help illegal immigrants.  The work of those involved is “admirable, but totally insufficient,” he added.  The Spanish bishop said the different committees of the Bishops’ Conference need to work together in attending to the needs of immigrants.

Bishop Juan Jose Omella, president of the bishops’ Social Ministry Committee, said immigrants are “the focal point of the work of Caritas, which is directing all of its efforts in this area to protecting their dignity.”  Part of this work is to put into action “programs of co-development in the immigrants’ countries of origin” in order to “improve the living conditions and address the causes of this phenomenon.”

Bishop Omella also called on the media to contribute to changing society by promoting a transformation of attitudes and “structures that will allow the building of a more cohesive society and a future for all.”

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