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Archive of August 8, 2006

Martyrs remind us that Christ is a living and concrete person, Pope Benedict XVI says

Vatican City, Aug 8, 2006 (CNA) - –In a message sent to the participants of the International Catholic Action Forum taking place in Lugazi, Uganda, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Jesus Christ is not the symbol of some vague, abstract value, but rather a living and concrete Person, an absolutely singular person.”

In his message the Holy Father invited participants of the event to recall the example of the martyrs Charles Lwanga and companions, in order to, “confirm the choice of following in the steps of these Christian laymen who have given witness to the faith even to the point of shedding their blood for the gospels.”

Signed by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, the message invites the members of Catholic Action to bear witness with their lives that “all Christians are called to the mystical union” with Christ and to “cultivate the spirituality of communion” by living with humility and gratitude in the Church, union with the bishops and with the entire People of God.

The pontiff likewise encouraged Catholic Action members to, “bear witness to the beauty of an ardent faith that transforms daily life and is presented in an attractive way to all those who ask a reason for the hope that is us believers.”  For the martyrs, he continued, Christ is, “an absolutely singular Person, of whom every baptized person can say with the Apostle Paul: ‘He has loved me and has given Himself for me’.”
 

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To counter secular media, Catholic media should seek and transmit the truth, says Vatican official

Vatican City, Aug 8, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Angelo Amato, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) said in an interview, published this week, that the Catholic media needs to be different from secular news and should seek and transmit the truth of the faith.

In an interview with Polish Catholic weekly “Niedziela”, the Archbishop said that the secular media often chooses to transmit manipulations of the Church’s teaching rather than what it is truly saying.  “The media do not publish the whole texts of the Magisterium. The problem is that as a rule they choose (certain) points, often secondary, that can cause polemics or scandals,” the Archbishop said.  “One should admit that we very often have the impression that we are living in some artificial virtual reality that is created by media workers and various opinion-forming people.”

However, the Archbishop said, “The Gospel is not a creation of human mind but God's message concerning the reality of man and the universe.”  Therefore, Catholic media has a duty to report the whole of the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church, in order to express the truth revealed through it.  

Amato said a good example of the partial reporting of the secular media was the coverage of the 2003 CDF document, Dominus Iesus. Rather than focusing on the main theme of the document, which was “the salvific universality of Christ and the Church,” Amato said, “they stressed the ecumenical statements and arguments in order to polemicize against it.  Instead of presenting the whole document, the headlines and first articles in international press showed it in alarming tones, stressing that it meant the end of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue and using the stereotyped statements 'closing up', 'return of pre-conciliar theology' or 'anti-ecumenism'.”

“In a word, the presentation of a church document should not be treated as a media event accompanied by sensational and scandalous elements, but as an important event in the Church, an occasion to form, evangelize and catechize people.”  And it is the job of the Catholic media to strike the balance.

“We can make a conclusion that on the one hand contemporary media are characterized by certain superficiality and on the other hand they can exert powerful influence. And it is true that the more superficial the media are the more powerful their influence is,” the archbishop said.

While Catholic media should focus on current news items, Amato said, “information about the Church should be reliable, immediate, correct, convincing and positive…Catholic media should be characterized by the attitude of seeking and transmitting the truth and thus being differentiated from secular media, which give news in a polemical way, often resorting to the form of dialogue, which actually serves to make news a relative topic.”

Furthermore, the archbishop said, “Catholic press should not uncritically discuss the subjects of secular media, investigating artificially created 'religious events'.”

Catholic media should remain true to their name and report stories so as not to create doubts in the minds of believers, as regards Magisterial teachings.  By leaving arguments open-ended in the same way that the secular media does, “there is an impression that the commands of the Magisterium are only opinions which one can agree with or not,” Amato reasoned

In answer to the question of how the Catholic media can, “contribute to continuous formation of the faithful,” Archbishop Amato said they must rely upon the richness of the Catholic tradition as well as the documents themselves to give arguments that will aid Catholics in refuting negative and groundless judgments of the Church.  “In order to contribute to the formation of the faithful, Catholic media must be creative, on a highly cultured level, and above all, sensitive to education in faith. The Christian tradition is two thousand years old, so we have at our disposal a large number of works (the Fathers of the Church, great theologians of each epoch, saints, works of various schools of spirituality and liturgical traditions, art), which should be proposed to readers.”

“The Christian civilization is not a museum to visit and admire but a continuous vivid reality, which inspires and supports and which has to be appreciated today,” Amato concluded.

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Indian Supreme Court says police may arrest anyone accused of proselytization

New Dehli, India, Aug 8, 2006 (CNA) - The Supreme Court of India has issued a ruling which may have serious impact on religious freedom in the country, The Times of India reports.  

In its ruling, issued on Friday, the court seems to strip away further protection for persons who may, in one way or another, attempt to convince others of the truth of their religion.  

India has come under recent criticism from several Christian leaders, including the Pope himself, for its laws preventing religious freedom. India has several anti-proselytization laws while some Indian states also have laws making religious conversions illegal.

The Supreme Court ruling states that police do not need a prior sanction from a court or any other authority before issuing a FIR (First Information Report) and arresting clergy members or anyone accused of attempting to gain converts to their faith.

Previously it was presumed that an article in the Criminal Procedure Code protected religious leaders from possible frequent harassment by police in a section which states that “no court shall take cognizance" of an offence involving inducement for conversion unless the prosecution has obtained previous sanction of the "Central government or of the state government or of the district magistrate."

The court’s ruling, however, said that there is a difference between the court “taking cognizance,” and the police making an arrest for a reported case of proselytization.

According to the Times of India, the court’s opinion, written by Justice G P Mathur, states that there is nothing which prevents the arrest of an accused offender, the investigation by police, the registration of a criminal complaint, or the bringing of charges against the accused.  The arrest and incarceration does not amount to a court “taking cognizance” of the offence, for which alone prior sanction is required, the opinion said.

The ruling overturns the decision of a district High Court, which quashed a case against Christian pastor, P Raju.  Raju was accused of proselytization, but his case was quashed by the High Court on the grounds that prior sanction of the central government, the state government, or the district magistrate had not been obtained.  The Supreme Court ruling states that the High Court erred in quashing the case.

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Baghdad Bishop says people desperately need hope

London, England, Aug 8, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Andreas Abouna, Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad’s Chaldean Archdiocese, told the United Kingdom's branch of Aid to the Church in Need that the Church in Iraq is in serious trouble and is in desperate need of hope, as more and more Christians flee the county.

Bishop Abouna said that Christians in Iraq, who continue to suffer from the violence and fighting which afflicts the country, are fleeing in great numbers.  While nearly 1.2 million Christians resided in the primarily Muslim country before the war, an estimated half of them, or 600,000 Christians to date, have sought refuge elsewhere.  

In Baghdad itself, the bishop said, up to 75 percent of Christians have left, some of whom have remained in the country and sought refuge in the safer northern areas of Iraq.  Many of those who have remained are simply too old or infirm to move.

“What we are hearing now is the alarm bell for Christianity in Iraq,” the bishop worried. “When so many are leaving from a small community like ours, you know that it is dangerous – dangerous for the future of the Church in Iraq.”  Abouna fears that Christians will never return from neighbouring Turkey, Jordan, and Syria.

The bishop said that while Christians have not been targeted any more than other groups, life in Iraq is extremely difficult for all right now.

“Everyone is asking: when will the violence stop? They want to rest. They cannot live like this – everyday there are these terrible things.”

Bishop Abouna pointed out the additional difficulties that the clergy must go through to do their work, “it is not easy for them,” he said. “When they want to travel to other parts of Baghdad, they have to be very careful. They are doing their best to contact the families and bring them to church.”

The bishop said that people need the Church to help bring them hope in the midst of the seemingly endless political difficulties.  Despite the ratification of a new constitution, in which Bishop Abouna pushed to have protection for Christians included, as well as the recent elections, the process seems to be failing, the bishop said.  The developments are good in theory, he said, but have yet to yield concrete results as regards increased stability.

“When you lose everything, the only thing that keeps you going is hope. The country is rich but lacking stability. Once the stability returns, the country will rise up again.”

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“Women in White” march to demand release of political prisoners in Cuba

Havana, Cuba, Aug 8, 2006 (CNA) - The “Women in White,” an association of wives and family members of political prisoners in Cuba, organized a public march last Sunday calling on the country’s provisional leader, Raul Castro, to release the dissidents who are currently incarcerated.

During the event, in which the women marched in silence through the streets carrying gladioluses and lilies, the group’s spokesman, Laura Pollan, said, “The best thing [Raul Castro] can do as a gesture of good will is to free the prisoners so that people can see he is respecting human rights.”

Among the women participating in the march was Miriam Leyva, the wife of former political prisoner Oscar Espinosa, who said, “The Cuban people deserve a new situation, with greater participation and reconciliation.  They deserve to march toward democracy and freedom.”

A statement by the Cuban Bishops’ Conference was read this weekend in all of the parishes of the country, calling for prayers that God be present with Fidel Castro in his illness, that his brother Raul be enlightened in his new tasks in the government, and that Our Lady of Charity, patroness of Cuba, watch over the country.

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Brazilian conference reiterates family based upon marriage as the foundation of society

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 8, 2006 (CNA) - Hundreds of participants in a Brazilian conference titled, “Family and the Media: for the sake of a culture of life and of peace,” released a final statement at the conclusion of their meeting.  “We wish to proclaim that the family founded upon marriage carries out a central role for the Church and for society,” the attendees said.

In the final message, which was read by the leader of the Christian Life Movement in Brazil, Mr. Fernando Vidal, participants of the event underscored that, “love and respect for the family and for life is the basis of the peace which has always blessed our people.”   

The statement denounces attempts to, “impose an anti-life imperialism and ideology that gravely obscures the truth about the human person and the family.”  Such attitudes are made manifest in the, “numerous attacks upon human life and the family through abortion, contraception, euthanasia, eugenics, divorce, the mistakenly-termed ‘new forms of the family,’ homosexual unions,” and even “through the policies and agendas of international organizations,” the statement affirms.

It also deplored the breakdown of the family and the distortion of the true meaning of human sexuality, as well as the, “attacks on the right to religious and moral education,” and the poverty, inequality and social and domestic violence that make it ever more difficult for families, “to survive and develop.”

The statement was also a chance for participants to express their commitment to, “strengthening the Christian values that form the basis of identity of the Brazilian people,” to, “fighting for the defense and promotion of life and the family, especially for those most defenseless,” and to, “protecting the rights of pregnant women,” and “demanding decency in the media and on the internet.”

Organized by the Christian Life Movement, the event was attended by important leaders in the Church in Brazil and in Latin America, including the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Cardinal Eusebio Oscar Scheid, and Alejandro Bermudez, director of the Catholic News Agency.

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Catholic publisher releases Church’s answer to ‘Purpose Driven Life’

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 8, 2006 (CNA) - Ignatius Press, a major Catholic publisher based in San Francisco has announced the launch of a new series--similar to the popular “Purpose Driven Life” series written by Evangelical leader Rick Warren--but focused on the particularly Catholic search for one’s life vocation.

The series, called “LifeWork,” is written by Rick Sarkisian, a vocational rehabilitation consultant who believes that society is sorely in need of what he calls a “culture of vocations.”

“Not only is there a shortage of priests and nuns” he says, “but also of Catholics in the broader Church community who have a true understanding of God’s calling to each of them…to a unique, unrepeatable plan for their lives.”

Sarkisian believes that one of the major problems among an often unhappy and unfulfilled U.S. adult population is that they tend to pigeon-hole particular aspects of their lives, trying to make improvements to their job, family, or leisure pursuits, but failing to see their lives as an integrated whole.

Ignatius says that they chose to publish the 9 book, 3 DVD work; aimed largely at young people because “concerns about life purpose are common to all age groups--but particularly those aged 16-25.”

“Once Catholics, especially, really understand what God is calling them to do in their lives,” says Sarkisian, “we will see a rebirth and resurgence not only in religious vocations in the Church, but in stronger marriages, more stable families, and healthier communities as a whole.”

“This then makes for a more stable and moral society. This is what we once had as a society and what we can have again.”

Officials from Ignatius Press pointed out that the “LifeWork” series “combine[s] Scriptural teaching, Catholic theology and the examples of the Saints for mapping out one’s life-approach.” The materials, they said, are “designed for helping teens, adults and families discover their true vocation in the Catholic Church today.”

For more information about the “LifeWork” series, go to www.ignatius.com.

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Church has commitment to proclaim the truth, says Peruvian cardinal

Lima, Peru, Aug 8, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima said this week the Church is committed to authentic truth, in spite of all criticisms.  The cardinal also reminded bishops that when they speak, they should do so not in their own name, but always in the name of Christ.

The cardinal has come under fire in recent weeks for his comments made on Peru’s Independence Day expressing concern about the final report of the Commission on Truth and Reconciliation (CTR), which slammed the Church for its actions in Ayacucho, Apurimac, and Huancavelica during the country’s decades-long battle with terrorism.

During his radio program, “Dialogue of Faith,” the cardinal explained that the Church must, “make the effort to teach people respect for the truth, because hope springs forth from that truth and that freedom.” Yet when those who cheat and steal have more friends and are more successful, “one feels discouraged because one wonders, what’s point of behaving properly if it gets you nowhere. Better to be smart and fool others in order to successful,” the cardinal said.

“Let us value the truth and respect each other’s word, let the vengeance and persecution driven by political motive cease, let us allow the judicial system to function according to its norms,” he stated.

Cardinal Cipriani also chided bishops for attempting to justify erroneous public comments by saying they are making them in their own name and not in the Church’s.  “This confuses people greatly.  Every word said by a bishop must, in some way, reflect the doctrine of the Church, and if this isn’t the case then he is a heretic or an apostate.  He has abandoned true doctrine or is teaching falsehoods,” he warned.

Regarding the final report of the Commission on Truth and Reconciliation (CTR), Cardinal Cipriani said it should have been more objective and balanced.  “If a Commission has been given a moral responsibility it should act as such, and therefore be very careful in being objective in its judgments,” he said.

“The CTR had the grave responsibility to be extremely transparent in all its work. I realize it was not an easy task but at the same time, they forgot to talk to the bishops of Huancavelica and Abancay. That is, the CTR did not talk with those that it has passed judgment on in its final report, and that was too big of an oversight,” he added.

The CTR was commissioned by the Peruvian president in 2001 to investigate violations of human rights during the decades-long battle with the terrorist organizations Shining Path and Tupac Amaru.  However, in 2003 it published a controversial report accusing several Church leaders of “hindering” the defense of human rights.  Cardinal Cipriani, who at the time was Archbishop of Ayacucho, was one of the Church officials named in the report.

The CTR report has come under intense fire from critics across the board due to its statistics on the number of deaths that occurred during the civil strife.  Another government committee has also raised questions about the CTR’s handling of the $1 million dollars it was given for its task.
 

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Australian premier calls on churches to pray for rain

Queensland, Australia, Aug 8, 2006 (CNA) - Last week, Peter Beattie, Premier for Queensland in Australia called on church leaders around the state to pray for much needed rain as the drought-stricken region continues to struggle for moisture.

According to Queensland’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, ahead of a meeting last week with the state’s church leaders, Beattie said that "I actually would like to see everybody pray for rain."

While some are calling the premier’s actions nothing more than a political stunt, the church leaders themselves seemed to welcome the call.

Queensland’s Catholic Archbishop John Blathersby saw nothing negative about the call. He told the state’s Channel Ten news that "I actually would like to see everybody pray for rain."

The Archbishop’s office also announced that church leaders were considering organizing an interdenominational week of prayers to try to end the drought.

According to the Courier-Mail newspaper, Mr. Beattie said on Sunday that "Rainfall in the region has been well below average for the past six years and in fact it is the worst 10-year period in history…It has been dry after dry, year after year, which has led to major storage deficits in our dams."

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