Archive of August 1, 2006

Women’s ‘ordinations’ in Pittsburgh invalid, lead to excommunication

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 1, 2006 (CNA) - Eight women excommunicated themselves from the Roman Catholic Church after presenting themselves yesterday to be ordained priests in a ceremony on the rivers of Pittsburgh.

The attempted ordinations were organized by a group called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which has organized three other ceremonies, usually on international waters, since 2002. Last year’s ceremony on the St. Lawrence River in Canada led to the excommunication of nine women from the Roman Catholic Church.

The women who took part in yesterday’s invalid ritual, “have effectively placed themselves outside the Roman Catholic Church,” reads the official statement, issued by the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh.

The ceremony also “undermines the unity of the Church,” says the statement. “Those attempting to confer Holy Orders have, by their own actions, removed themselves from the Church, as have those who present themselves for such an invalid ritual.”

The statement adds that those who attended the ceremony, giving their encouragement to this fundamental break with the Church, also place themselves outside the Church.

“This separation is not a discipline, judgment or mandate of the Church. Nor is it the result of opinion or advocacy of a theological view by those involved,” the statement continues. “Rather, by conducting and taking part in such a ceremony, it is the choice of the participants to place themselves outside the community of believers.”

The statement says the Church is prepared and eager to welcome back those who have separated themselves and urges Catholics to pray that these people will reconcile with the Church.

The Catholic Church’s unwavering position on the ordination of women is based on a theological truth, which is divinely inspired. The issue of women priests is also not one that will be debated in the Church. Several popes, including Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, clearly stated during their pontificates that such a debate was closed and would not be formally entertained.

“The ordination of males to the priesthood is not merely a matter of practice or discipline within the Church,” reads the archdiocese’s statement. “Rather, the Church has determined that this is part of the Deposit of Faith handed down by Christ through his Apostles. The Church is therefore bound by it and not free to change in this regard.”

“The call to the ministerial priesthood comes from God and is authenticated by the Church, not by any individual,” the statement continues. “Holy Orders is a gift that those called do not earn, deserve, or have as a right. The call to ordination is received unmerited through the grace of God.”

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Cancer tests for Cardinal George come up negative

Chicago, Ill., Aug 1, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Francis George’s pathology results indicate that there is no evidence of any cancer remaining in his body, announced his personal physician, Dr. Myles Sheehan.

Dr. Sheehan, who is also a Jesuit priest, shared the news with journalists yesterday at the Loyola University Medical Center, where the 69-year-old cardinal was operated upon and is convalescing.

Tests indicate that the tumor was, “contained within the bladder and ureters without evidence of extension or metastases,” said Dr. Sheehan. The cardinal does not currently require radiation or chemotherapy, but he will be monitored for recurrence.

“We do not know absolutely if the cardinal is cured nor can we say definitively that he is cancer-free. What we can say is that the cardinal is a cancer survivor with a good prognosis and that there is no evidence for any cancer remaining in his body,” he added.

A small focus of prostate cancer was found localized within the prostate, but the prostate was removed as part of a radical cystectomy, the doctor explained. The finding is not expected to have any impact on the cardinal's recovery or prognosis.

Cardinal George resumed eating yesterday; he has been up and has used a walker. He was expected to be moved from the Intensive Care Unit to a room on one of the surgical inpatient units.

The cardinal will be convalescing until Labor Day, after which he will resume a light work schedule. “Once his recovery is complete, [he will] be fully able to resume his duties as Archbishop of Chicago,” Dr. Sheehan confirmed.

Over the last few days, however, the cardinal has been reviewing some archdiocesan matters with the vicar general, Fr. John Canary.

Dr. Sheehan thanked the hospital staff, in particular pathologist Dr. Eva Wojcik and the nursing staff, for their good care and service. 

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Asia Youth Day gathers 800, including from mainland China

, Aug 1, 2006 (CNA) - About 800 young Catholics from 25 countries and regions, mostly in Asia, have gathered for the Fourth Asian Youth Day (AYD) this week. Registrations for the nine-day event include about 240 young people from Hong Kong and 60 from mainland China. By July 30, only half of the latter had arrived, reported UCA News.

Some young people from mainland China could not come because they were unable to obtain permission from their local governments; others were hindered by flooding in some parts of the mainland, explained Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong, the host of the event.

It is a pity that some Chinese officials regard this event as "an anti-China activity organized by Zen Ze-kiun," the cardinal told a press conference July 29, rather than as an Asian event.

The nine-day event, which opened July 28th, is inspired by and organized similar to the World Youth Days. AYD is not as large as World Youth Day, Cardinal Zen noted, but its strength lies in a deeper exchange among participants, due to the fewer number of participants and the similarity of their cultures, reported UCA News.

Young people from other countries were welcomed into the homes of local Catholics, from July 28 to 30. International and local participants then moved to a large campsite for the main AYD activities. This year’s theme is "Youth, Hope of Asian Families." The event ends Aug. 5th.

“Hope is what we need,” said Cardinal Zen, adding that young people are hope for the family and the Church.

Referring to the movement to legalize same-sex marriage, Cardinal Zen encouraged young people to “have the courage to accept God’s plan for the family”, which is generated by a man and a woman. Even if others disagree with the Church, he said, Catholics should not be disheartened. Rather, they should encourage one another to build a better society pleasing to God, reported UCA News.

At the press conference, Bishop Rolando Tria Tirona of Infanta, Philippines, thanked Cardinal Zen for his generosity and courage to host AYD.

Bishop Tirona told UCA News yesterday that AYD recognizes the dynamism of youth, their relevance to the Church and to the world, their concern for society, and their potential to contribute to society. It also offers them an opportunity to renew their commitment to Jesus, he said.

The first AYD was held in Thailand in 1999. The second was in Taiwan in 2001. The third took place in India in 2003.

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Maronite archbishops tends to flock in hills of southern Lebanon

, Aug 1, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Chucrallah-Nabil El-Hage, Maronite Catholic Archbishop of Tyr, went into the hills of his war struck archdiocese yesterday, in search of those who have been unable or unwilling to abandon their homes, The Age reported.

His diocese, which includes all of south Lebanon, normally includes about 50,000 Maronite Catholics, the archbishop told a reporter for The Age, “but right now I would be surprised if there are still 10,000.  The rest have all fled the fighting.”

"This is the Holy Land," the archbishop said. "We have a spiritual mission as Christians here to bring peace between Jews and Muslim people. I am coming here to tell the people who have stayed that they are the ones who will bring a new spring. I pray to God that Lebanon may be protected and will continue its mission to the world as a country where different religions and cultures have come together, and not a country of conflict."

In a visit to the mostly Christian village of Ein Ibil, the archbishop encountered an abandoned convent and 20 of his flock still in the town, who rushed to greet him.  

Georgette Kasrooni, 70, threw her arms around him and burst into tears. "They are bombing the road to Rameish. Our children are there," she cried. "What can we do? Where can we go? We have no bread or fuel or power.”

The archbishop sat down at the Suleiman family home, which has been hit several times by Israeli missiles, to hear of their struggles and pray with them.

"My own house was destroyed completely so I came to stay here," said Therese Suleiman, 50, a mother of 12. "There were 30 of us staying here, sleeping in the basement, when the shells hit. So far, grace of God, no one has been killed although seven or eight have been wounded. God is watching over us."

Outside, the bombardment had shifted closer and reached an intensity of one shell every second. Smoke from the explosions slowly filled the valley until the village at the centre of the fighting, Aita al-Shaab, completely disappeared.

As Israeli forces continue to attack Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon in retribution for attacks the Islamic militant group has conducted on their country, much of the international community has called for a cessation in fighting, in order to work things out without the deaths of innocent bystanders.  The Holy Father, on Sunday, renewed his fervent call for prayers for peace and those suffering from the conflict.  He also re-issued a forceful plea for an immediate ceasefire.

In the meantime the archbishop will continue to move among his people, calling them to faith.

Those who remain are thankful for his visits, but beg also for material assistance, "It means a lot that the archbishop came here, but we need a lot of help," Ms Suleiman said. "This is our home and we won't leave, not even now," she said. "Where should we go?"

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Darwin and Islam on Pope’s summer agenda, says Vatican analyst

Rome, Italy, Aug 1, 2006 (CNA) - In a column to be released this Wednesday, renowned Vatican analyst Sandro Magister of the Italian weekly “L’Espresso” says the Pope’s summer agenda at Castel Gandolfo will focus on Darwinism and Islam.

According to Magister, this summer the Pontiff will host another of his study circles with his former students that he began decades ago and which he has maintained during his pontificate.  This time discussions will focus on “Christianity and Evolution,” although the subject of Islam, which was the focus last year, will also be on the agenda.

Magister will reveal in his column the name of the individual who will lead the discussion on evolution and which texts will be analyzed during this year’s sessions.

The complete column will be published on Wednesday at

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Canadian parliamentarians push for renewed debate on assisted suicide bill

Ottawa, Canada, Aug 1, 2006 (CNA) - Some Canadian parliamentarians are pushing for a debate in the House of Commons on the legalization of assisted suicide. A private member’s bill was introduced by Bloc Québécois MP Francine Lalonde last year, but it died on the table when the federal elections were called.

Members of Parliament who support assisted suicide would like the bill to be reconsidered and this week Lalonde said she is ready to present a revised version of her bill, originally tabled as bill C-407, in the next session, reported the Winnipeg Sun.

Mike Storeshaw, communications director for Justice Minister Vic Toews, told the Sun that the Harper government is not looking to debate the issue. However, should the bill advance in the House, the Harper government would likely call a free vote, he said.

The original bill drew sharp criticism from the Canadian Bishops.  The Bishops said, in a statement, that assisited suicide is, “founded on an erroneous understanding of compassion and of freedom,” and that such practices are, “an extremely serious threat that concerns all citizens but especially the most vulnerable.”  

The passage of such a bill, the Bishops said, “or any proposal encouraging euthanasia and assisted suicide would be a major social failure.”

Despite the eagerness of some parliamentarians to debate the issue, polls show that support for assisted suicide in Canada has declined since 1997.

Dr. Joseph Ayoub, an oncologist who also teaches medical ethics at the University of Montreal, told the Sun that assisted suicide should remain illegal because it denies respect for human life.

Ayoub said legalizing assisted suicide would lead to a very slippery slope. "First you start with patients with severe disease, like cancer, at the end of their life, then you come to disabled people, then you come to handicapped children and old people in homes," he was quoted as saying.

But Don Babey, executive director of the pro-euthanasia Dying With Dignity, says assisted suicide is already happening in Canada and doctors should be given “an adequate mechanism … to do it legally.” He pointed to a report which indicates 15 percent of Manitoba doctors have terminated the lives of sick patients with drugs.

Government documents, obtained by the Sun, indicate a concern that cases of involuntary euthanasia are occurring more frequently. The documents say it is difficult to prosecute such cases and to prove that a doctor intended take a patient's life rather than to lessen pain with medication.

Canadian law currently provides for a maximum of 14 years in prison for assisted suicide. The Criminal Code treats euthanasia (the death of a patient without consent) as murder.

For more on the campaign against assisted suicide, go to:

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Jesuits commemorate 450th anniversary of death of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Madrid, Spain, Aug 1, 2006 (CNA) - Jesuit provincial leaders from across Europe gathered at the Basilica of Loyola in Spain to concelebrate a special Mass with Bishop Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo, Peru, marking the 450th anniversary of the death of Ignatius of Loyola.

In addition to the traditional Masses in honor of St. Ignatius, which will be celebrated in various dioceses of Spain, the bishops of San Sebastian, Vitoria, Bilbao, Pamplona and Bayona will also concelebrate at a special Mass on August 1st.

Likewise, from June 29th until September 3rdvarious activities will take place in Loyola, such as the World Congress on the Spiritual Exercises, which will be held August 20-26th and will be attended by international experts, and the closing Mass on September 3rd, which will be celebrated by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray.

Two concerts will also take place, one on August 5th and another on September 2nd, to celebrate the occasion.

The Shrine of Loyola is also featuring an expo on the legacy of St. Ignatius beginning in the 16th century, with the creation of the Society of Jesus and its historical evolution up to today.

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Mexico among top 10 donors to the Vatican in 2005

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 1, 2006 (CNA) - A spokesman for the Mexican Bishops’ Conference has revealed that donations from Catholics in that country have made it the ninth largest contributer to the Vatican during 2005.

According to the Notimex news agency, the Mexican bishops’ spokesman for Church-State relations, Father Manuel Corral, said the news reflects the importance Mexicans give to the Peter’s Pence collection.  “We are very aware of the needs of the Vatican, and we should not forget as well that these needs are made known through the media and so the people show more solidarity,” he said.

He praised the Mexican faithful for being conscious of their responsibility provide assistance to the Vatican.  According to the 2005 statistics released by the Holy See on July 12, Mexico was ninth among the most generous nations in sending donations to the Vatican.  First on the list was the United States, followed by Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Ireland, Canada, South Korea, Mexico and Austria.

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Archbishop calls on Salvadorans to sign petition demanding protection of marriage

San Salvador, El Salvador, Aug 1, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador has asked Salvadorans to support a petition calling on the country’s Congress to ratify a proposed constitutional reform measure that would officially declare marriage to be the union of one man and one woman.

“We are collecting signatures to ask the Legislative Assembly to ratify the articles that establish that marriage will be constituted by the union of one man and one woman, naturally born, and that marriages between people of the same sex will not be recognized,” including those celebrated in other countries, the Archbishop said during a press conference.

The petition drive, organized by the international organization Red Familia, calls for the ratification of a constitutional reform approved by the Salvadoran Congress in April of 2005.  In order to pass the measure needs to receive 56 out of 84 votes.  Some 32 liberal congressmen have said they will vote against the reform.

“We are seeking protection for the institution of the family,” Archbishop Saenz said.  “It’s a call to Salvadorans to join in this campaign.”

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