Vatican City, Jul 14, 2006 (CNA) -
Today on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano made a declaration regarding the views of the Holy See on the escalating situation in the Holy Land.
"The news we are receiving from the Middle East is certainly worrying,” Sodano said.
"The Holy Father Benedict XVI and all his collaborators are following with great attention the latest dramatic episodes, which risk degenerating into a conflict with international repercussions.”
The conflict has arisen between Islamic fundamentalist group Hezbollah and the state of Israel. However, the attacks by Israel have come against targets in Lebanon. The fledgling democratic government of Lebanon has been unable to control Syria-backed Hezbollah, and is pleading for a ceasefire to end the conflict. The attacks, according to the Associated Press, have killed nearly 50 Lebanese and wounded at least 130, in addition to destroying Lebanon’s primary airport, bridges, and roads.
Hezbollah, who functions mainly in the south of Lebanon- along the border with Israel - began the conflict when they crossed the border on Wednesday and captured two Israeli soldiers. As part of its attempt to defeat Hezbollah, Israel conducted today a second set of bombing missions against Lebanon’s infrastructure.
Cardinal Sodano said that while the Holy See condemns the actions of Hezbollah, attacks on Lebanon are equally wrong. "As in the past, the Holy See condemns both the terrorist attacks on the one side and the military reprisals on the other. Indeed, a State's right to self-defense does not exempt it from respecting the norms of international law, especially as regards the protection of civilian populations.”
"In particular, the Holy See deplores the attack on Lebanon, a free and sovereign nation, and gives assurances of its closeness to those people who have suffered so much in the defense of their own independence.”
"Once again,” Sodano concluded, “it appears obvious that the only path worthy of our civilization is that of sincere dialogue between the contending parties."
Milwaukee, Wis., Jul 14, 2006 (CNA) - In an attempt to prepare for future settlements, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee plans to sell its Archbishop Cousins Center near Lake Michigan as 10 lawsuits by victims of clergy sexual abuse move toward trials in California. The underused complex includes 415,000 square feet of office space on a 44-acre site.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has been named in lawsuits filed in California by 10 people under a controversial law, which was passed by the California Legislature in 2002. The law allowed victims of sexual abuse to sue dioceses for failure to report and discipline abusive priests, regardless of the statute of limitations.
More than 800 people filed lawsuits, including more than 500 against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Nine cases involve the late Siegfried Widera, a former Milwaukee priest. The tenth involves Franklyn Becker, also a former Milwaukee priest.
In cases involving Widera, the plaintiffs allege the sexual abuse they suffered in California occurred because the Archdiocese of Milwaukee failed to adequately warn the Diocese of Orange about Widera’s history and failed to provide monitoring of his activities after he moved to California. The Widera cases are set to come to trial in November.
The California appeals court and the California Superior Court have ruled that California courts have the right to assert jurisdiction over the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Katherine Freberg, an attorney representing eight of those alleging abuse, said the Archdiocese of Milwaukee expressed interest in seeking settlements but also raised the possibility of bankruptcy filing, reported the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"Going into bankruptcy would be extremely painful and would only come after extensive consultation with the advisory groups of the archdiocese, and as a last resort," a church spokesman told the Journal Sentinel.
In a message published in the Catholic Herald, Archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan sought to inspire hope in Milwaukee’s 700,000 faithful in the face of the difficult situation. Archbishop Dolan said that prior to the legal proceedings and expected media attention he wished to proactively inform the faithful of the steps the Archdiocese is taking.
However, he was frank in saying that the financial impact of the lawsuits is unknown at this time. “The resources of the archdiocese are very limited,” he added.
“We are insisting that our insurance providers come forward,” the archbishop assured. “We are scrupulous in preserving and protecting the funds that must be available for crucial church services, such as our Catholic Charities, our annual Catholic Stewardship Appeal, our pension funds, and donations given only for the charitable, educational, and pastoral ministries of the archdiocese.”
The archbishop listed the extensive programs and services, totaling $11 million, which have been offered to victims and their families, including counseling, compensation and the establishment of the Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response Services Office.
Dolan promised his readers that he would, “continue to apologize for the hurt of so many - victims/survivors, families, the faithful, our priests…be as honest as possible in letting you all know what’s going on…(and) strive diligently to prevent this from ever happening again.”
But he warned that the settlement talks and upcoming trial would reopen past wounds within the archdiocese among the victims, the faithful, and the priests, “97 percent of who have always acted appropriately in loving, proper, and caring ways with our youth.”
London, England, Jul 14, 2006 (CNA) - All Catholic adoption agencies in Britain, which find families for more than 200 children each year, could be forced to close if the government passes a bill that would place religiously based opposition to homosexual adoption under the umbrella term discrimination.
In an official brief, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales said unless the Church was issued an exemption, its 12 agencies would be penalized under the proposed legislation if they refused to place children with same-sex couples, the Telegraph reported.
The bishops argued that the draft regulations are too limited and that they fail to distinguish between homophobia and religious conviction. The Church, which has repeatedly stated its opposition to discrimination and hatred, does not consider adoption a fundamental human right and does not believe a homosexual relationship the proper environment for raising children.
The Sexual Orientation (Provision of Goods and Services) Regulations, which are expected to be finalized in the fall, will make discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation illegal in the same way as race or sex discrimination is.
The regulations, which were designed under the auspices of protecting gays and lesbians from being denied goods, facilities, and services, “could mean that, in the worst case scenario, Catholic adoption and fostering agencies would close," the statement said.
Vatican City, Jul 14, 2006 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace released a statement, today, expressing sadness at the failure of the recent World Trade Organization talks in Doha, Qatar, but encouraging members of the Group of Eight to conduct their upcoming negations mindful of the impact their decisions have on the human family.
The communiqué, signed by Cardinal Renato Martino and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, lamented the fact that the June 29 - 30, meeting in Doha closed with what "can only regrettably be characterized as a deadlock." The deadlock, they said, "stands in stark contrast to the intensity of the commitment demonstrated by the negotiators and the WTO staff, who had set out with a noble vision to conclude the Doha Round with a consensus."
While the council said it recognizes the complexity of mediations between multiple governments, it also appreciates the hope promised by increased “equity in trade relations.”
"Pope Paul VI underscored the necessity of such equity forty years ago, affirming that: 'Free trade can be called just only when it conforms to the demands of social justice'," the statement said.
“Five years ago, the Doha Round opened a new horizon of hope in this field,” the communiqué continued, “successfully negotiating a declaration on development and the alleviation of poverty, with a specific commitment to improve the effective participation of the least developed countries in the multilateral trade system."
"The weeks that negotiators now have to achieve an agreement which integrates a positive and effective conclusion to the Round, is a unique opportunity," the communiqué observes. "It is to be hoped that the next G8 Meeting, which will take place in a few days in St. Petersburg, Russia, will result in the political decisions needed to transform the technical steps into operational ones," it adds.
“The particular urgency of this task cannot be taken lightly, particularly when one considers the fact that the effects of trade relations have serious consequences for human beings and on their dignity," the text concludes. "This said, commercial negotiations should always take into account the impact of such negotiations upon the human family."
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 14, 2006 (CNA) - The bishops of Mexico are downplaying media speculation about a possible visit to the country by Pope Benedict XVI in the coming months, saying the rumors are simply the result of “good will and intentions.”
Speaking to Notimex news agency, the Archdiocesan Sub-secretary for Radio and Television, Father Jose de Jesus Aguilar, said Mexicans should simply pray for a possible papal visit and not believe all the rumors.
Media speculation about a papal visit has focused on three possible motives for a papal visit to Mexico. The Pontiff could travel to the country for the canonization of Blessed Rafael Guizar y Valenica, which is scheduled for October, he could make a stopover in Mexico on his way to Brazil in 2007 for the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council, or he could attend the Sixth World Meeting of Families, which will take place in 2009 in Mexico City.
Father Aguilar said any possible papal visit would depend on the Holy Father’s schedule, age and health. He called on the faithful to pray for the Pontiff and that he might be able to visit the country soon, “without being carried away by gossip or rumors spread by people who are not responsible for providing that information.”
Regarding the possibility that the Pope would attend the World Meeting of Families in Mexico City, Father Aguilar said it was yet to be confirmed. “It’s true that it has become tradition that the Pope attends these family meetings. This leads us to believe that Pope Benedict will have to be present and that meeting, but according to Vatican protocol, this needs to be confirmed.”
Mumbai, India, Jul 14, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of India has condemned the recent terrorist attacks in Bombay (Mumbai) in a statement released by the body’s general secretary, Archbishop Estanislao Fernandez.
The Fides news agency quotes the statement as saying, “We strongly condemn these acts. Our conference is profoundly disgusted that certain persons want to use these extreme means to resolve their problems, destroying innocent lives and harming property of the state,” the archbishop said.
Likewise, the president of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Fernando Capalla, told reporters, “Terror can have no place in a civilized society. The use of terror as a means of expressing grievances is never justifiable.”
The July 11 terrorist attacks on the train system in Bombay left more than 190 dead and 700 injured. Although no terrorist group has yet to claim responsibility, officials in India suspect they were the work of Kashmir separatists affiliated with the Islamic group Lashkar-e-Taiba
Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and former Archbishop of Bombay, send a telegram of solidarity on Wednesday to the Diocesan Administrator of Bombay, Bishop Bosco Penha.
Chicago, Ill., Jul 14, 2006 (CNA) - Mary Zilligan Becker probably didn’t realize she was going to play a role in the U.S. war in Iraq. But following a chance e-mail encounter back in January, she now facilitates the shipment of thousands of rosaries, scapulars and prayer books to U.S. soldiers stationed there.
According to the Tidings newspaper, Hannigan, a Chicago area Catholic bookstore owner and mother was asked by a friend who didn’t have a computer to send and e-mail to Fr. John Hannigan, a chaplain with the U.S military.
Soon, Becker began hearing Fr. Hannigan’s stories of the faithful in his 30,000 mile “parish” which stretches from Syria to Jordan, and their need for things like Catechisms and rosaries.
In a letter posted on Becker’s website; <http://www.seatofwisdom.net/>, Fr. Hannigan writes, “It does my heart good as I travel over 30,000 miles every weeks to see Marines, soldiers, Sailors wearing the scapular around their neck. They ask for more than one scapular since it’s now super hot out here plus all the protective gear we wear makes us sweat even more so.”
He also added that recently, “a Marine approached me and said when he gets out of the Marine Corps in 2 years from now, he’d like to start studying for the priesthood. WOW! He’s being a sponsor for one of the Marines here who will be getting confirmed.”
Stories like these are what led Becker to begin something of a campaign to collect the books and high shipping fees to get religious materials into the hands of soldiers.
Since the cost of the prayer materials are not in the U.S. military budget, Fr. Hannigan considers his chance meeting with a Catholic bookstore owner a Godsend. In a letter to Becker and her supporters, he said that “Many of these Marines, Soldiers, and Sailors have found God in this combat zone.”
“Many, upon seeing their buddies get killed in action, now have a greater realization of death in their lives,” he added. “This combat zone has for many, made them appreciate more so the importance of God in their lives. Your donations have helped out here in an outstanding manner. Your generosity will never be forgotten.”
For more information or to donate materials, visit www.seatofwisdom.net.
Sabah, Malaysia, Jul 14, 2006 (CNA) - Organizers have announced that a Second Asian Convention of Divine Mercy will be held this fall in the Diocese of Keningau, Sabah, Malaysia. The convention, held Nov. 17-20, will be hosted by Bishop Datuk Cornelius Piong. Bishop John Ha of Kuching will also attend.
The first convention, attended by 271 delegates comprising of laity and clergy from 11 Asian countries and 29 dioceses in the Philippines, was held last fall in the Philippines.
The convention’s primary objective, say the meeting’s organizers, is to gather those active in promoting devotion to Divine Mercy from around Asia for consultations and deliberations on how to effectively serve Jesus, as Apostles of Divine Mercy. The convention, however, is open to all.
The Apostolate of Divine Mercy seeks to respond to Pope John Paul II’s invitation to make God’s merciful love known to all people within the Magisterium of the Church and to form Centers of Divine Mercy Spirituality at the parish or diocesan levels, under the guidance and supervision of the local bishop.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 14, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Roberto Luckert of Coro expressed is dismay this week over news that the Venezuelan Ministry of Education plans to politicize education and remove religion classes from school curricula, and he called on officials not, “to make our students into political zombies.”
Education Minister Aristobulo Isturiz told reporters recently that the “State should instruct citizens according to its political theory, according to its idea of the Republic” and he announced the implementation of a decree removing religious instruction from schools.
Speaking on Union Radio, Archbishop Luckert said the politicization of schools is “against the constitution which clearly states that education in our country is to be free and respectful of all opinions and ideas and should not impose one point of view and thus turn our kids into a bunch of political zombies.”
“The proposals put forth by different officials, including Aristobulo Isturiz, to politicize education and turn our teachers into agents of indoctrination of a particular political model are constitutionally unacceptable and in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the archbishop said.
“This is somewhat Manichean and is doing much harm to Venezuela and pitting one group against another. Add to all this the exacerbated militarization of young people, preparing them for violence and teaching them to use weapons in a supposed asymmetric war. All of this is creating a belligerent climate in Venezuela-something we have never seen before,” Archbishop Luckert stated.
Boston, Mass., Jul 14, 2006 (CNA) - Sixteen pieces of jewelry, including crucifixes and pocket watches, which were stolen from a community of religious sisters in the Boston area 25 years ago were returned last week, reported CBS 4 News.
The jewelry arrived from San Jose, Calif., in a cell phone box. It included an anonymous note that read: "Please return these items to the sisters that they were stolen from."
"The person who stole them asks for forgiveness and has asked for God's forgiveness and is extremely sorry for the pain the theft has caused," said Lt. Bruce Apotheker of the Newton Police Department.
The items were stolen from the Catholic Convent on Walnut Park around 1981 and were returned to Boston’s Our Lady Help of Christians church last week.
"We're happy to receive the items back and we're mindful that the person who did it must have been remorseful," said the pastor, Fr. John Sassani.
Fr. Sassani says more than likely it was the passage of time and a moral compass that led the jewelry back to the area.
Newton police are not focusing on pressing charges. Rather, they say, they simply want to return the jewelry to its rightful owners.