Archive of June 28, 2006

Buffett gift likely to benefit already profitable Planned Parenthood

, Jun 28, 2006 (CNA) - Pro-life groups are concerned about an influx of money to Planned Parenthood Federation after billionaire Warren Buffett announced he would parcel out his fortunes to several foundations with a known record of supporting abortion groups.

Buffett on Monday signed over almost $31 billion of his $44 billion fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which generally focuses on fighting disease, reducing poverty and improving education.

Buffett, 75, built the world's second biggest personal fortune running Berkshire Hathaway Inc, an insurance and investment company. Bill Gates, the world's richest person, co-founded and remains chairman of software company Microsoft Corp.

According to Reuters, Buffett pledged 10 million Berkshire Class B shares to the Gates Foundation. He also pledged 2.05 million Class B shares to foundations in the name of his late wife, Susan, who died in 2004, and his three children. The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation has supported Planned Parenthood and other abortion groups.

Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, issued a statement pointing out Buffett’s track record of supporting pro-abortion organizations and related projects in the developing world.

He reported that Buffett’s foundation also gave a grant to the U.S.-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which fought bans on partial-birth abortion, and Catholics for a Free Choice.

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have also given millions of dollars to organizations pushing abortion around the world,” Fr. Euteneuer reported.

Several pro-life groups are questioning Planned Parenthood’s need for more funds - as well as its continued petitioning for government funding - given that it had a record year for funding last year.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America recently released its annual report for 2004-05, which shows that it took in more total money ($882 million), more government money ($272.7 million) and more clinic money ($346.8 million) than ever before.

In addition, the report shows that Planned Parenthood continued to make money last year - $63 million.  The additional profits for last year brings the total profits of Planned Parenthood to $649.6 million since 1987.  The total net assets of the company are now at $784.1 million - $478.7 million of which are in cash or investments.

Jim Sedlak, the director of STOPP International, a Planned Parenthood watchdog group, compiled data from Planned Parenthood’s annual reports. He said he was surprised the abortion business continued to ask for state and federal taxpayer dollars despite receiving record income from foundations and other groups.

Since 1987, Planned Parenthood has received a total of $3.9 billion in taxpayers' money, Sedlak stated.

Planned Parenthood also set other records last year for the lowest number of women it referred for adoption compared with the number of abortions it performed.

Planned Parenthood performed a record number of abortions - 255,015. The annual report shows it performed 180 abortions for every one woman it sent to an adoption agency.

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Pope: James the Lesser demonstrates a concrete and practical Christianity

Vatican City, Jun 28, 2006 (CNA) - In St. Peter’s Square some 40,000 people gathered to hear Pope Benedict’s continuing catechesis on the apostles.  Today, the Holy Father spoke of the Apostle James the Lesser who, Benedict said, was a bridge builder and who provided a concrete and practical method of Christian faith.

Pope Benedict said that the New Testament Letter attributed to James, "places much emphasis on the need not to reduce one's own faith to a mere abstract or verbal declaration, but to express it solidly in works of charity.  James, he said, reminds us that, “just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead (James 2:26).” 

James also, “calls us to constancy in trials, ... and to faithful prayer to God for the gift of wisdom, thanks to which we come to understand that the true values of life are not to be found in transitory riches, but rather in knowing how to share our own wealth with the poor and needy."

“The Letter of Saint James demonstrates a Christianity very concrete and practical,” the Holy Father said.
The Pope also recalled how James the Less "played a preeminent role within the Church in Jerusalem. ... In the apostolic council held there ... he affirmed, together with others, that pagans could be welcomed into the Church without first undergoing circumcision."
"St. Paul," the Pope went on, "names him even before Peter as a 'pillar' of the Church," and "the Jewish-Christians considered him to be their principal point of reference." Together with Peter, he helped "to integrate the original Jewish dimension of Christianity with the need not to impose all the precepts of Mosaic Law upon pagan converts."
"In this way, two significant and complementary results were achieved, both of them still valid: on the one hand, the indissoluble relationship linking Christianity and Judaism was recognized, ... on the other, Christians of pagan origin were allowed to maintain their own sociological identity. ... Thus began a process of reciprocal esteem and respect which, despite unfortunate later misunderstandings, sought by its nature to safeguard the characteristic elements distinguishing each of the two sides."

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Washington reversal on Ten Commandments display seen as victory for religious liberty

Washington D.C., Jun 28, 2006 (CNA) - District of Columbia officials announced Monday that a sculpture of the Ten Commandments, which was erected on private property across the street from the U.S. Supreme Court, does not need a permit after all.  This morning, religious leaders tied to the monument expressed their satisfaction over what they are calling a victory for religious liberty.
Officials with the D.C. Department of Transportation had said in a June 2nd letter, that the evangelical Christian group Faith and Action did not have permission to erect the three-foot, 850-pound granite sculpture and threatened the group with fines of $300 per day.

In spite of the threat, Faith and Action president, Rev. Robert Schenck, organized an official unveiling of the sculpture on June 3rd.  He contended that his group, which promotes public displays of the Ten Commandments, did not need a permit and that it was being singled out because of the display's religious nature.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Lars Etzkorn, associate director of the office of public space management administration at the Transportation Department, sent a letter to the group, rescinding the earlier warning in view of the First Amendment.

Rev. Schenck said in a press release this morning, "We were shocked at how quickly the DC Government agreed to our position on our Ten Commandments display.”

The Reverend Patrick J. Mahoney, of the Christian Defense Coalition, said that the battle over the monument has significance in regards to the larger issue of religious liberty.  “We hope our refusal to remove the Ten Commandments, in spite of the threat of thousands of dollars in fines and loss of property, will serve as clear reminder that we must resist religious bigotry and discrimination on every level,” Rev. Mahoney said, “This is a victory not only for the faith community but for all Americans who cherish free speech and religious liberty."

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Pope recalls the workers rebellion which began the fall of the Iron Curtain

Vatican City, Jun 28, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI recalled today the 50th anniversary of the revolt of the Polish city of Poznan, inspiration for the “Solidarity” movement, which was decisive in the fall of the Iron Curtain.

“The blood spilled by the workers, the women, and children of Poznan was not spilled in vain, it was the seed of liberty by which fruit would come the fall of the Stalinist system and the sovereignty of a nation years later,” the Holy Father wrote in his message, which he sent today to the Bishop of Poznan, Archbishop Stansislaw Gadecki.  

The Polish President, Lech Kaczynski, on his part, recalled the significance of the workers revolt as the first against a communist dictator in what is today Eastern Europe.  

On June 28, 1956, 100,000 workers of Poznan went to the streets for the first time, demanding “bread and liberty.”  The violent reaction from the army and police, ordered by Moscow, resulted in 58 deaths and hundreds of injuries, in addition to 700 arrests.

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Government of Finland may deny Catholics access to patron Saint

Helsinki, Finland, Jun 28, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Józef Wróbel of Helsinki has asked that the relics of St. Henry, patron saint of Finland, remain in the Catholic Cathedral despite a demand by a national museum and the Lutheran church to remove the sacred object from view of the faithful.

The move, which would have the relic stored in the vaults of the Lutheran Turku Church Museum rather than on exhibit, would place the relic out of the reach of Catholics for public veneration.

In a letter dated June 9, the Catholic Cathedral of St. Henry was asked to handover the relic to the National Board of Antiquities. The board, in turn, announced that it has decided to give all of the relics in its custody, including the one of St. Henry, to the Lutheran Turku and Kaarina Parish Union.

Bishop Wróbel, in a letter of reply dated June 20, said the decision is unfair because the relics have specific religious value for Catholics in Finland and that the government’s claim to them is based on a centuries old injustice.

St. Henry was the first Catholic bishop of Finland. He is a martyr and patron of the country. “Therefore, to Catholics the relics of St. Henry are not only historical objects, but sacred objects,” the bishop wrote.

Bishop Wróbel also pointed out that the relics of St. Henry and other saints were the possessions of the Catholic Church in Finland until the Reformation, during which they were taken away “in an unjust manner.”

“The Catholic Church has never approved of such coercive measures nor has it ever given up right of ownership,” the bishop wrote. “This means that the Catholic Church has never ceded its moral right to these possessions.”

During the Protestant Reformation, the reformers took over all Catholic property in what was once part of the Kingdom of Sweden, in the name of the king.  The seizure of property including the Cathedral of Turku where remains of Northern saints, such as Sts. Eric, Bridget, Henry, and Blessed Hemming rested.

Later, some of these relics were hidden in the walls of the cathedral. They were eventually found at the start of the 20th century and transferred to the National Board of Antiquities.

For the last 20 years, the relic of St. Henry had been released from the museum each year and brought to the Catholic Cathedral in Helsinki to be venerated on the saint’s feast day, Jan. 19.

In 2000, the Board of Antiquities allowed the cathedral to install the relic in its main altar. Recently, however, the Lutheran parish union revived its interest in the relic and has demanded that all the relics be given back to them.

“While it is true that the relics were kept in Turku for a long time, we cannot forget that the cathedral of Turku was at that time a Catholic cathedral, which it no longer is,” the bishop wrote.

“It is our hope that the previous plan could be implemented, in other words, individual relics in your catalogue could still be kept in separate places and the relic of St. Henry could remain in our cathedral in Helsinki,” he concluded.

Of the five million Finns, 80 percent are Lutheran; only about 10,000 are Catholic. 

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Archdiocese of Mexico reminds Mexicans to vote to defend “values of life”

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 28, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Mexico City’s weekly newspaper “Desde la Fe,” published an important article in its latest edition, reminding Catholics to seriously reflect on their vote in the upcoming national elections and to choose candidates who are committed to defending the “values of life.”

As the July 2 elections for president, congressional representatives, and other offices approach, Father Angel Flores, who wrote the article, called on Catholics to act according to the values and principles of the Gospel. 

Catholics should consider their vote, he said, based upon the candidates’ commitment to the defense of life from conception until natural death, the preservation of traditional marriage, the promotion of justice and the public order, among other things.

The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera, has also called on candidates and their supporters to maintain an atmosphere of calm as elections approach to help prevent an outbreak of social unrest.

“We perfectly understand these outbreaks,” the cardinal said, “because the people have not been heard, but this does not justify that the elections be considered unimportant or that they result in violence.  I think Mexicans will know how to behave in a way that corresponds to the greatness of our culture and the civility that we have, and that we will cast our votes peacefully. This is a pluralistic society, where each person can vote with complete freedom,” he stated.

Cardinal Rivera repeated his call to go to the polls and to resist the temptation to stay home. “We must vote and give our support to the person, the party, or the national plan that is best for us,” he said.

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Defence against liberalism is a task of the Church, bishop says

Konigstein, Germany, Jun 28, 2006 (CNA) - According to Bishop Frantisek Tondra, Bishop of Spis (East Slovakia) the defence of Gospel values against an increasing influence of Western Liberalism is “a major task of the Church.”

During his June 27th visit to Aid to the Church in Need, the prelate, who is Chairman of Slovakia’s Bishops’ Conference, explained: “Liberalism is predominant in Slovakia’s mass media, thus infiltrating and subverting Christian values, family values and the values of life in the public opinion. This happens in particular via private TV and several of the most widespread newspapers.”

He added: “On the other hand, there are Catholic media as well: In May 2006, the Catholic TV station ‘Noe’ (Noah) has been established in cooperation with Czech Catholics. Furthermore, the Slovak Catholic weekly ‘Katholicke Noviny’ (Catholic News) sells an average of 80,000 copies.”

Assessing Slovakia’s membership in the European Union, Bishop Tondra said: “In principle, this is a good thing. Liberal circles, however, are pushing the state to legalise euthanasia or homosexual civil unions - under the pretext of compliance with EU regulations.” 

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Identical twins ordained to the priesthood

Erie, Pa., Jun 28, 2006 (CNA) - James and Joseph Campbell have always been close, but last Friday, the identical twin brothers took a lifetime step together that will bond them in an eternal way; the Erie, Pennsylvania brothers were both ordained to the priesthood at the city’s St. Peter’s Cathedral.

Both 26 now, the brothers grew up “playing Mass” with wafers fashioned from bread in their parent’s home. They also voluntarily attended 6:30 a.m. daily Mass growing up.

According to the Associated Press, Father Joseph Campbell said that "It wasn't an obligation for us, but rather something we saw as cool."

The boys, who share 11 other siblings, were named after the family’s late pastor, Monsignor James Joseph Gannon.

James and Joseph were joined Friday by a third seminarian, Marc Solomon, during Friday’s ordination ceremony.

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Catholic Church helps refugees with AIDS in Botswana

Francistown, Botswana, Jun 28, 2006 (CNA) - The Roman Catholic Church in Francistown has started a program to offer assistance to previously untreated refugees in Botswana.  The church has been able to treat a limited number of refugees, diagnosed with AIDS, with anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy, reported the Botswana Press Agency.

Bishop Frank Nubuasah said in an interview that the refugees were benefiting through the Catholic Church Outreach Program.

To date, 16 refugees are receiving treatment - 10 more than the original target number. The church would like to help more refugees but it is constrained by limited funds, the bishop said.

He explained that the Church felt compelled to assist some of the refugees as the government’s ARV program currently only covers citizens.  Botswana, like several countries on the African continent, must deal with influx of refugees from neighboring countries, who flee due to civil war and violence.

“The availability of drugs has raised hope among the refugees, but we cannot help all of them and I urge all the other stakeholders to heed the call to help the refugees,” he said.

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