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Archive of October 5, 2006

German prelate says Vatican-Muslim dialogue must start from scratch

Berlin, Germany, Oct 5, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Karl Lehmann, head of the German Catholic Bishops Conference, said demands and threats from Muslim critics, based on a misinterpretation of the Pope’s recent comment about Islam, must cease if fruitful dialogue is to be reinitiated.

In the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Mainz, the cardinal accuses Muslim critics of mounting a campaign against the Pope.

"These open or hidden threats have to stop," Cardinal Lehmann wrote, following the call issued by the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference Sept. 26 for Pope Benedict to retract the statement he made two weeks earlier in a speech at the University of Regensburg.

"Obviously we have to start at square one because we're not talking here about important contents of a necessary dialogue, but about the fundamental requirements for one to succeed,” the cardinal wrote.

He said the dialogue would have to start again from scratch because Muslim critics insist on misinterpreting Pope Benedict XVI's recent comments about Islam.

"There is freedom of religion and speech in our civilization. The Pope can also be criticized. But there are elementary rules that apply for factual and fair contacts with each other and with clear statements," he wrote.

A week ago, the German Catholic Bishops Conference issued a statement saying: "The Catholic Church and many people in our country and around the world, who respect and defend the right of free speech, will not be bullied.”

The bishops complained that some critics were trying to escalate the dispute with demands and threats.

"One cannot constantly repeat completely unfounded misunderstandings when the texts are so clear," the cardinal wrote in his column.

Cardinal Lehmann noted that Pope Benedict's speech, in which he cited a 14th-century Christian emperor who described Islam as violent and inhuman, did not elicit any reaction at first from the press. No questions on that point were asked in the news conference the cardinal gave after the Pope left Munich Sept. 14.

"Only a few days later did a full-blown campaign from outside begin," he wrote. He said it was "astounding" that critics should repeatedly say the Pope had insulted Muslims. He writes that the Holy Father has no reason to apologize.

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In face of persecution, Chinese cardinal says Catholics remain determined

London, England, Oct 5, 2006 (CNA) - In addition to previously published words on the tremendous persecution that exists for Christians in China, Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun also noted the progress that is being made in reconciling China’s two Catholic Churches and hailed the patience and determination of long-suffering Chinese faithful, in a speech he made to an Aid to the Church in Need charity event in London, last weekend.

Addressing an audience of more than 400 at the annual Westminster event organized by the British branch of the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Cardinal revealed how the state-controlled official Church is almost completely reconciled with Rome, despite the catalogue of abuses meted out by Beijing to China’s Catholics.

Chinese Catholics are more or less divided into two groups: those who adhere to the official, state-run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which officially rejects Vatican authority, and those who reject the government’s attempt to supersede Vatican authority and belong to the “underground” Church.  The Vatican, along with Chinese members of the Roman Catholic Church have been working to bring members of the officially approved Church back into full communion with Rome.

Cardinal Zen said that with about 85% of the official Church’s bishops now approved by Rome, Catholics’ endurance and peaceful resolve to achieve full communion with Rome had prevailed, said the Cardinal.

“The bishops (of the official Church) will not accept ordination without the approval of the Holy See. The government can do nothing about that,” said Cardinal Zen. And when Rome appoints a bishop, the official Church usually goes through the administrative ritual of officially electing the bishop, so that the government can not disapprove, he explained.

Even the recent ordination of two bishops without the approval of Rome would not stop a desire for dialogue, said the Cardinal, since the bishops in question had subsequently sought the forgiveness of Pope Benedict.

Cardinal Zen went on to stress how the Church is united by the oppression it suffers, and that in some ways the situation has worsened recently. “In China, there is persecution – not only of the so-called underground Church but also of the official Church,” said the Cardinal. “If we consider the whole world today, such persecution is unbelievable. Yes, we see that there are many churches open for worship, that the seminaries are full. But what we cannot see is the control exerted by the government,” he added.

The Cardinal called for the authorities to relax their tight grip on the Church: “If the government understood the role of the Church they would realise they have nothing to fear. They need to know religion can contribute to the education, economic development and progress in China,” he said.

Cardinal Zen thanked in person the benefactors of ACN: “You are encouraging the Chinese people to be faithful. But they help us to be faithful too. When we consider our suffering brothers and sisters we should be very grateful – for how much have we had to suffer for our faith?”

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Rep. Foley disclosure reinforces idea that homosexual men should not be priests, Catholic group says

Front Royal, Va., Oct 5, 2006 (CNA) - The revelation of former Congressman Mark Foley that a priest abused him as a teen further indicates that homosexuals should not be admitted to the priesthood, says a Catholic pro-life/pro-family group.

Attorney David Roth, speaking on Foley's behalf at a Florida news conference Tuesday, said Foley was molested between ages 13 and 15 by a clergyman. Foley — a homosexual and professed Roman Catholic — declined to identify the clergyman or the parish.

“If his claim that he was the victim of sexual molestation by a clergyman is true, it only further proves that known homosexuals should not be admitted to the priesthood,” said Jason Jones, director of public relations for Human Life International, in a statement.

“Foley’s actions were that of homosexual predator, not a pedophile,” Jones said.

Jones referred to studies that show homosexual abuse of young men often leads the abused to take on an abusive homosexual identity themselves.  “This creates a cycle of violence and disordered behavior that creates future generations of abusers and predators,” he added.

Jones claims that Foley’s homosexuality led the congressman to “abuse the power and authority of his office and prey upon young, underage Congressional pages.”

“This cycle must be broken if we are ever to protect our children,” Jones insisted. “Foley should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for his misdeeds, as should anyone guilty of perpetrating similar crimes on him as a teenager.

“Furthermore, any member of the leadership who knowingly covered up this despicable behavior should resign or be removed from office,” he added.

Foley, 52, is under investigation for sending lurid e-mail messages to young male Capitol Hill pages.

During the press conference, Roth said Foley does not blame the trauma he suffered as an adolescent for his behavior. The lawyer said Foley did not disclose this information sooner out of shame. He insisted that Foley is not a pedophile and that no sexual misconduct occurred with a minor. He did, however, make a point of the congressman’s sexuality. "Mark Foley wants you to know he is a gay man," Roth said.

Foley represented parts of Palm Beach County in Congress for 12 years until he abruptly resigned Friday and admitted himself to rehabilitation for alcoholism and mental illness.

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Boston to welcome relic of patron saint of parish priests

Boston, Mass., Oct 5, 2006 (CNA) - The heart of St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests, will be brought to New York and Boston from France this month, in hopes that veneration of the relic will inspire current priests in their ministry and inspire other men to join the priesthood.

His heart is enclosed in a glass case, and Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars, where the saint served and died, is bringing it to the United States in its second-ever tour outside of France. The first time was for the saint’s canonization in 1925.

The relic will begin its tour on Long Island Oct. 7. It will then be in the Archdiocese of Boston, from Oct. 12 to 14, at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, St. Mary's Parish in Waltham, and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.

“We bring him to Boston in the hope that his life and deeds will be an inspiration to our parish priests and an inspiration to others to consider whether they are being called to serve as priests in our parishes,” Cardinal Sean O'Malley told the Boston Globe Friday in a telephone interview from Rome. “The heart of St. John Vianney is a symbol of his great love of God and of the people he served."

Relics serve as reminders of the saints' holiness and as encouragement for others to emulate the saints' behavior, Cardinal O'Malley reportedly explained.

St. John Vianney died in 1859 and was renowned for deep devotion to priestly duties of priests and was a renowned confessor. He was believed to possess healing powers and the ability to read the hearts of penitents. According to church records, he often spent more than 16 hours a day listening to confessions.

St. John Vianney is also one of at least 20 saints whose bodies have not decomposed following death. When his body was exhumed in the early 20th century, prior to his beatification in 1905, his heart was removed.  His body remains in the complex of church buildings that has been developed around his original parish church.

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Pro-life groups say pro-abortion petition misleading

, Oct 5, 2006 (CNA) - The fall issue of Ms. Magazine features a cover story that celebrates abortion and includes more than 1,000 signatures of women who say they are pleased with their decision to have an abortion.  Many pro-life groups are saying the petition is misleading.

Eleanor Smeal, president of the pro-abortion Feminist Majority Foundation, which publishes Ms. Magazine, told The Associated Press that the issue comes at a "dire" time when abortions are on the decline, states are considering abortion bans, and the Senate has approved two new Supreme Court justices who may back repealing Roe v. Wade.

The issue, set to hit newsstands Oct. 10, is also timed to coincide with the November election battle, Smeal admitted. Ms. says it intends to send its petition, with more than 5,000 signatures, to the White House, Congress, and state lawmakers.

But pro-life women’s groups say they are disgusted by the campaign.

"This campaign is intended to drown out the courageous women who have spoken out on how abortion hurt them," Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America told LifeNews.com. “Simply stating that one has had an abortion does not legitimize the act, erase the pain or undo the damage to mother and baby."

That emotional and physical pain was cited by tens of thousands of women in petitions to the state of South Dakota before it considered a ban on abortions and in petitions to the group Operation Outcry in its efforts to overturn Roe.

“Such a morally bankrupt campaign is an embarrassment for civilized and caring human beings,” said Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, senior fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the think tank for Concerned Women for America.

“The pride behind the ‘We Had Abortions’ campaign is totally inconsistent with, and puts the lie to, the fatuous claim frequently bandied about during election campaigns by the Left that they too want to make abortion rare,” she added.

In a statement, Concerned Women for America noted that many readers of the magazine are ardent supporters of Planned Parenthood, which is “greatly threatened by potential policy changes that would limit abortion on demand, since one of its major sources of income is providing abortions.”

Crouse also pointed out that the magazines ability to obtain only 5,000 women who are proud of their abortions is indicative in itself.  “Obviously, with nearly 50,000,000 abortions since the courts imposed abortion on the U.S., there are thousands of women who could sign such a petition. Many women who have had an abortion, though, are not comfortable with their decision and thousands deeply regret their abortions.”

“Some are devastated because the abortion left them unable to have children,” said Crouse. “Certainly even most women who believe that abortion is acceptable would not celebrate such a drastic action.”

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Europe must be unafraid of faith, says Spanish cardinal

Rome, Italy, Oct 5, 2006 (CNA) - During the European Symposium of University Professors taking place in Rome this week, the Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, said Europe would remain Christian “as long as it maintains its roots.”

“The future of Europe, like it or not, is found in the faith,” he explained, and not in “empty cultures” of unrestrained “liberty,” “relativism,” and arrogant skepticism, which seem to have become prevalent in many European countries.  

If Europe does not have “the courage to once more confront the questions about the meaning of life and the basis of morality,” the cardinal went on, “it may see a resurgence of the ghosts and conflicts of the past” and it will confront “the ‘new things of today’ with the old ideas that have shown themselves to be useless.”

Cardinal Cañizares also warned that in various countries, such as Spain, there is great confusion between neutrality and secularism, “between what a non-sectarian, neutral State is, and what a secularist State is.”

In such countries, he added, there is a constant attempt to set “faith against reason, religiosity against science, as if faith and religiosity were something to be overcome and were up to each individual to practice in private,” and to give absolute priority “to human reason or to science and its own advances.”

Europe is not as much a geographical reality as a “cultural and historic concept,” the cardinal explained.  “Even more, it is a spiritual reality,” he said.

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Rosary constitutes meditation on mysteries of Christ under the guidance of Mary

Madrid, Spain, Oct 5, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Demetrio Fernandez Gonzalez of Tarazona, Spain, said this week that by praying the Rosary one hears the voice of God, who speaks through Mary about the mysteries of the life of Christ.

In a pastoral letter for the month of the Rosary entitled, “I Pray the Rosary, And You?” the bishop said that prayer is not authentic when it is just a monologue, because in prayer there must always be an openness to God through attentive listening.

“In the Rosary we hear the Word of God, we contemplate, we praise, and we make petitions, we are in communion with the entire praying Church.  But all of this is impossible if there is no love.  In order to pray the Rosary, we must love, and the Rosary itself becomes sustenance and encouragement of this love of God and of neighbor,” Bishop Fernandez noted.

The Rosary is a prayer of the heart, he continued, which keeps us in tune with the heart of Mary in the contemplation of the mysteries of Jesus, and therefore, it is always a school of Christian living.

The bishop called on Catholics to take advantage of this month of the Rosary to pray the “magnificent” prayer, which is “not only simple but also efficacious” more often.

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Dialogue with extreme Islam not possible, says Spanish bishop

Barcelona, Spain, Oct 5, 2006 (CNA) - In a pastoral letter this week on the controversy sparked by Pope Benedict’s comments on Islam at the University of Regensburg, Bishop Jesus Sanz of Huesca and Jaca, Spain, said this week it is not possible to dialogue “with the most belligerent strain of extreme Islam—nor similarly with any terrorist group—much less establish any accord.”

Bishop Sanz argued that “alliances between some heterogeneous civilizations are impossible, and the best-case scenario is only that there will be mutual respect, but nothing more.”  He said the Holy Father has not apologized for the words he spoke at Regensburg, “because he did not intend to offend anyone nor did they constitute an offense.”

The Spanish bishop noted that the Pope’s real intention was “to encourage us to soar with those two wings of faith and reason; to soar above our past errors or our present narrow-mindedness.”

“The Pope has only said what any good, sensible person who loves freedom and truth would say,” Bishop Sanz emphasized.  “That religion and violence do not mix, but religion and reason do,” because “faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit is lifted toward the contemplation of the truth.”

“Faith and reason,” he went on, “are not contrary but rather complementary.  However, when faith becomes irrational or reason arrogantly closes itself to the mysterious, “violence in name of a false faith becomes possible, making God an accomplice of every kind of barbarism, or making the ideology of race or nation the pretext for every kind of political, economic or cultural totalitarianism. Such examples abound,” he said.

Bishop Sanz called it “incomprehensible” that someone of the moral stature of the Holy Father, who has “a profound intellect and a great commitment to peace and truth,” would be the target of such a “lukewarm and even vulgar reaction, which we have witnessed in so many people at the political and cultural level in the West.”

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Cardinal Mejia signals need for authentic family life in today’s world

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 5, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Jorge Mejia, former archivist and librarian of the Roman Catholic Church, said it was urgent that families be constant witnesses of authentic family life, despite ridicule they might receive from today’s society.

During a meeting organized by the Medical Sciences Faculty of the Catholic University of Cuyo, in Argentina, the cardinal spoke of the current situation of the family in light of the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI.

The prelate expressed his sadness that the belief in the family as a good and divine work, once considered indisputable, is today subject to widespread questioning.  “And not only questioning,” he emphasized, “but also direct denial, if not mockery, ridicule, and scorn.”

Cardinal Mejia said the attack on the family has come in a series of “manifestations,” including the acceptance of same-sex unions, sex change operations, in vitro fertilization, and other forms of assisted reproduction, as well as the dehumanization of the human embryo.

Affirmations such as these, promoted and spread by the mass media, are not just personal choices that people make, the cardinal said, “which in and of itself is alarming enough,” but rather, “they have become realities of social behavior, voted into law by parliaments and similar institutions and made equivalent, if not superior, to the traditional affirmations of old.”

Cardinal Mejia said the solution to such a situation is for families to live the truth about marriage and family life, and to not “give in to the temptations of today’s illusions.”

Catholics should pray, he underscored, that God “protect the family amidst the darkness, deviations and perversions of mankind, as in our short-sightedness and stupidity we often create things to our own detriment.”

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