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Archive of October 12, 2006

Interreligious tolerance not enough, authentic respect needed, Pope tells Jewish ADL

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI met today with members of the New York based Anti-Defamation League (ADL).  The Holy Father told the Jewish group that the challenge of interreligious dialogue is to build relationships which go beyond tolerance to authentic respect.

The Pope welcomed the group, recalling the many meetings between the ADL and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, and affirming his own desire to continue meeting representative groups of the Jewish people.

“In our world today,” the Pope began, “religious, political, academic and economic leaders are being seriously challenged to improve the level of dialogue between peoples and between cultures. To do this effectively requires a deepening of our mutual understanding and a shared dedication to building a society of ever greater justice and peace.”

“We need to know each other better and, on the strength of that mutual discovery, to build relationships not just of tolerance but of authentic respect,” the Holy Father said.

“Indeed,” he continued, “Jews, Christians and Muslims share many common convictions, and there are numerous areas of humanitarian and social engagement in which we can and must cooperate.”

Recalling the words of “Nostra Aetate,” the Church’s document on relations with non-Christian religions, Pope Benedict recalled the “Jewish roots” of the Christian faith and the need to create new bonds of friendship and collaboration between the Church and the Jewish people.

The document, he continued, “affirms in particular that the Church deplores all forms of hatred or persecution directed against the Jews and all displays of anti-Semitism at any time and from any source (cf. No. 4).”

The Pontiff said the positive advances of dialogue experienced since “Nostra Aetate” was published in 1965 must continue, “towards a more open conversation on religious themes.”

“It is precisely at this level of frank exchange and dialogue that we will find the basis and the motivation for a solid and fruitful relationship,” the Holy Father said.”

“May the Eternal One, our Father in heaven, bless every effort to eliminate from our world any misuse of religion as an excuse for hatred or violence. May He bless all of you, your families and your communities,” the Pope concluded.

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Resignation of Davenport Bishop accepted, days after filing bankruptcy

Vatican City, Oct 12, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop William Franklin today, two days after his Diocese of Davenport, Iowa filled for bankruptcy.  The Pope also named his successor in Bishop Martin Amos, currently an Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Cleveland.  

Bishop Franklin, who had served the diocese for almost 13 years and was the second oldest active US bishop, had tendered his resignation last May in accord with Canon Law.

In a press conference today, Bishop Franklin said the announcement was a welcome one, “for the past seventeen months, we have prayed for a new bishop. Today, our prayers have been answered.”

His successor, Bishop Martin Amos, 64, served as a priest of the Diocese of Cleveland for almost 33 years, mostly in the field of education, before being named an auxiliary bishop in 2001.  

According to a press release from the Diocese of Cleveland, Bishop Amos’s duties have focused on the southern districts of the diocese, where he maintained a separate office about 40 miles south of the chancery, in Akron, Ohio.

Responding to the appointment of his former auxiliary, Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland asked the people of his diocese to give thanks to God for the gifts of Bishop Amos and to “pray for God’s blessings upon him as he will soon begin this new ministry.”

The incoming bishop will have a great deal of work to do, both in spiritual healing and financial reconciliation.  Faced with 25 new sexual abuse claims against former priests and a shortage of funds, the Diocese of Davenport filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Tuesday.

Since 2004, the diocese has paid more than $10.5 million to resolve dozens of claims filed against priests, including a $9-million settlement reached with 37 victims in the fall of 2004, reported the Associated Press. And in the last two years, both diocese and former priests within its jurisdiction have been held liable in civil trials, the report says.

In a letter posted on the diocesan website, retired Bishop Franklin said bankruptcy was the only alternative to provide “just and fair compensation to victims” and to ensure the financial health of the local Church and continue its mission.

Davenport is the fourth diocese in the nation to seek financial protection to deal with priest sex abuse cases, following Portland, Ore., Spokane, and Tucson.

The new claims are against the diocese and retired Bishop Lawrence Soens, reported the AP. Bishop Soens, who was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Davenport and chosen as bishop for the western Iowa diocese of Sioux City, has been accused by as many as 15 former students during his tenure as priest and principal at a Catholic high school in Iowa City during the 1960s. Bishop Soens denies the allegations; he retired in 1998.
 
The first of three trials was scheduled to begin Oct. 23, but it may be dismissed in light of the bankruptcy filing.

Bishop Amos said he is quite aware of the issues he will face, “I know we need to continue to reach out to those touched by abuse and to continue to strengthen the protection of children and young people. The recent decision to declare Bankruptcy will have serious implications.”

“Certainly God has been with me on many twists and turns in life and I know that God is with me as I come here today,” Bishop Amos said this morning.  “I pray I will be…a loving father, a gently shepherd, and a wise teacher.”

The Diocese of Davenport was erected in 1881; it has more than 105,000 parishioners in 84 parishes.   Bishop Amos will be installed as the diocese’s ordinary on November 20th.

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Archdioceses work to meet need for low-income housing

Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 12, 2006 (CNA) - Archdioceses across the U.S. are assisting families and seeking to alleviate their hardship by providing low-income housing. Two archbishops will bless recently completed low-income housing projects this week.

Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia will bless the home of Antonio Moreno and his family today in the St. Hugh Neighborhood of Philadelphia.

The house is the first completed by the Archdiocesan Office for Community Development in its initiative to rehabilitate 17 formerly vacant, blighted houses in the area for low- to moderate-income homeownership.

The archdiocese launched the housing initiative at the request of neighborhood residents. It is working in partnership with the Hispanic Association of Contractors and Enterprises.

A contribution from Beneficial Savings Bank through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development's Neighborhood Assistance Program, along with subsidies from the City of Philadelphia's Homeownership Rehabilitation Program Funding provided support for the initiative.

The archdiocese began to renovate the property in November 2005 and Moreno purchased the house in July 2006. The home had been seized in a drug raid prior to the archdiocese taking possession of it.

As part of the ceremony, Cardinal Rigali is also to present a crucifix to the Moreno family.

The Office for Community Development was established in 2001 to serve as a catalyst for the revitalization of distressed neighborhoods. Its present focus is on the Kensington section of Philadelphia and vicinity. The office is also assisting in the development of St. John Neumann Place senior housing at the site of the former St. John Neumann High School in South Philadelphia.

In Washington,D.C, Archbishop Donald Wuerl will dedicate Grace House, a 32-unit assisted-living residence, providing much needed housing for low- and moderate-income senior citizens in Silver Spring. It was completed this month.

Archbishop Wuerl will be joined for the Oct. 17 dedication by local officials, Fr. Peter Sweeney, pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish; and Jim Brown, the president of Victory Housing, which provides affordable housing for seniors and families in the archdiocese through public-private partnerships. Victory Housing operates a total of 17 communities in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

In addition to resident rooms with private bathrooms and kitchenettes, the newly constructed house features a dining room, a living room with a fireplace and adjoining solarium, library, television room, wellness center, and an outdoor porch with outdoor seating areas.

Financing for the $5.6 million development includes: a $2.8 million low-cost loan from Montgomery County; a $2.1 million loan from United Bank; a land donation worth $640,000 from Victory Housing; and, a grant of $50,000 from the Maryland Affordable Housing Trust.

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Two new auxiliaries for Boston Archdiocese

Boston, Mass., Oct 12, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, has offered his thanks to Pope Benedict XVI this morning, after the Holy Father granted his request for two new auxiliary bishops.  Pope Benedict announced today the appointment of Bishops-elect John Dooher and Robert Hennessey, both priests of the Archdiocese of Boston.

The cardinal-archbishop, who had just returned from a trip to Rome, said in a press-release, “We are very grateful to our Holy Father for granting our request for new Auxiliary Bishops for the Archdiocese of Boston.”

The appointments came as another auxiliary, Bishop John Boles, retired after having reached the retirement age of 75 last January.

Cardinal O’Malley thanked Bishop Boles for his many years of service to the archdiocese. “We have been blessed with his leadership. I look forward to his continued contributions as Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese," O’Malley said.

The two new bishops have over 65 years of combined pastoral experience in the archdiocese.  

Bishop-elect Robert Hennessey, 54, was born in South Boston and was ordained for the archdiocese in 1978.  Hennessey served in numerous parishes around Boston following his ordination until 1986, when he joined the Society of St. James in order to do pastoral work in Latin America.  

In 1994 he returned to Boston and has continued his parish ministry since then.  He was also selected to serve a four-year appointment on the Clergy Personnel Board in 2003 and is a member of both the Presbyteral Council and the College of Consultors.

"I am grateful to Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Seán for my appointment as an Auxiliary Bishop of Boston," said Fr. Hennessey. "I am deeply humbled. I look forward to working closely with the Cardinal and with the other Auxiliary Bishops of Boston. I am also looking forward to working with the people of the Central Region, the religious and with my brother priests, with whom I feel a deep fraternal and united bond. May God bless all of us in the Church of Boston."

Bishop-elect John Dooher, 63, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts and was ordained a priest for Boston in 1969.  Immediately prior to his episcopal appointment, Dooher had served as Pastor of St. Mary Parish in Dedham since 1996.  The archdiocese press release noted that St. Mary’s has “one of the Archdiocese's most thriving Life Teen programs for young Catholics.”

Dooher has served in several parishes around the archdiocese as well serving as Director of the Office of Spiritual Development (1984-1991), President of the Senate of Priests (1982-1984), and as a member of the Presbyteral Council and College of Consultors for the archdiocese (presently).

"I wish to thank the Holy Father and Cardinal Seán," Fr. Dooher said in the archdiocesan press release. "I am humbled by the trust placed in me. As I begin this new role serving the Church of Boston, I look forward to working with priests, religious and lay men and women in the continued renewal and strengthening of our parishes. I will strive to serve with a generous heart."

Cardinal O’Malley praised the two newly appointed bishops this morning.  "Fr. Dooher and Fr. Hennessey are uniquely gifted, truly dedicated to the Church of Boston and have exemplified great leadership in their ministries, for the good of the Archdiocese and the greater glory of God. I look forward to working with them, as together, we continue to serve Catholics of Boston, rededicate our mission to ministry at the parish level and continue our efforts towards the rebuilding and strengthening of the Church in Boston,” he said.

The two are scheduled to be ordained bishops on December 12, 2006 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.

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Group of New York priests begins campaign against soon-to-retire archbishop

, Oct 12, 2006 (CNA) - A group of unidentified New York priests issued a letter yesterday, urging the archdiocesan clergy to cast a vote of ”no confidence” against their archbishop, Cardinal Edward Egan.

The group is proposing a ballot in an effort to convince the papal nuncio to have the cardinal replaced sooner rather than later.  As required by canon law, Cardinal Egan, who has served the archdiocese for six years, is already scheduled to submit his resignation on his 75th birthday, which comes in less than six months.

The priests, who identified themselves solely as the Committee of Concerned Clergy, said they are calling for the cardinal’s resignation based on the claim that the relationship between the cardinal-archbishop and his priests is excessively poor.

“At no time has the relationship between the Ordinary and the priests of the Archdiocese been so fractured and seemingly hopeless as it is now,” the letter reads.

In their letter, the clergy said they would not identify themselves due to what they claimed to be the “severely vindictive nature” of Cardinal Egan.  

However, the letter has received a cool reception by many in the archdiocese.  A senior and well-respected New York pastor, who also asked to be unidentified, tells CNA that the letter was written by “a small group of uninfluential priests.”  He said he has discarded the letter as “senseless and uncharitable.”

“The letter is uncharitable in its tone and senseless in its timing, as the cardinal is about to retire,” the senior priest said.

The Committee of Concerned Clergy claims that, since his arrival in New York, the cardinal “has given his time, attention and interest to matters financial while paying little or no attention to the spiritual needs and concerns of the priests and faithful of the archdiocese.”

The letter, which was obtained by Catholic scuttlebutter Rocco Palmo and published on his blogsite, “Whispers in the Loggia”, describes the cardinal and his interactions as “arrogant and cavalier … cruel and ruthless”.

“During the last six years, the cardinal’s relations with the priests of New York have been defined by dishonesty, deception, disinterest and disregard,” the letter reads.

The priests claim that the cardinal “does not seek advice or counsel from the many competent and experienced priests” regarding matters that impact the welfare of the diocese.  

The priest’s letter was accompanied by a ballot, asking that the secret vote be taken at upcoming vicariate meetings.

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Bishops oppose barriers along U.S.-Mexico border

Washington D.C., Oct 12, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop William Skylstad, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), sent a letter to President George W. Bush yesterday urging him to veto H.R. 6061, the Secure Fence Act of 2006 that would authorize construction of up to 700 miles of fencing and barriers along the U.S-Mexico.

“The U.S. Catholic bishops are supportive of efforts to enforce immigration law and secure our borders, so long as the mechanisms and strategies applied toward this end protect human dignity and protect human life,” reads the bishop’s letter.

“The best way to secure our border is through the enactment of a comprehensive immigration reform measure, not by the construction of a border fence,” he wrote.

According to the letter, the bishops are opposed to the measure because they believe it could lead to the deaths of migrants attempting to enter the U.S. and to increased human smuggling and smuggling-related violence along the border.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff recently reported that violence against border patrol agents increased over 100 percent in 2005, the bishops pointed out.

The bishops say the barrier would also send the wrong signal to Mexico and the international community that the U.S. “is not willing to cooperatively address the problem of illegal immigration.” This message, says the bishop, could harm relations with other nations.

The bishops believe the barrier will not contribute to solving the problem of illegal immigration faced by our nation.

Bishop Skylstad noted that the Government Accountability Office recently found that migrant deaths have doubled to 3,000 since 1995, about the time that the government initiated a series of border enforcement initiatives.

“In our estimation, the erection of a border fence would force immigrants, desperate to find employment to support their families, to seek alternative and more dangerous ways to enter the country, contributing to an increase in deaths, including among women and children. It also would drive migrants to depend upon unscrupulous smugglers, who would exploit them and, in some cases, place them in dangerous situations, which may cause them harm,” the bishop’s letter stated.

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Community of Madrid President: Gospel is pillar of western civilization

Madrid, Spain, Oct 12, 2006 (CNA) - During her remarks at the World Congress of Catholic Television, the President of the Community of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, told participants, “The Church and the Gospel…together with Greek thought, and Roman law” are the three pillars “upon which Western Civilization rests.”

Aguirre - whose post is similar to that of a state governor in the US - thanked the Congress organizers for choosing Madrid for the event and underscored the duty of the Church to fulfill the mission “entrusted to her by Jesus Christ” to “spread the Gospel to the whole world and to all peoples.”

This “transcendental mission,” she went on, concerns not only the Church and Catholics, but all people, believers or not, who recognize in the Church and in the Gospel one of the three pillars, together with Greek thought and Roman law, upon which Western Civilization rests.”

It was Western Civilization, Aguirre said, that brought “dignity and equality to all men, in accord with the teaching of the Gospel, and that was the first to conceive of man as an end unto himself, free by nature and subject to inalienable rights.”  It was also Western Civilization, she continued, “resting upon these three pillars that represent rational critical thought, law, and Judeo-Christian morality, that has made science and progress possible and has made the commandment of Genesis a reality: ‘be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it’,” she explained.

Nevertheless, Aguirre continued, “our age is characterized by an exacerbated and sometimes irrational criticism of the legacy and the values of Western Civilization, those values that are indisputably rooted in the teachings of the Gospel.”

Therefore she called on all “lovers of freedom, believers and non-believers alike,” to support those who have assumed the task of defending that legacy and “the values of Christian humanism, which have made the civilization of freedom and progress possible.”

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President of Mexican bishops calls on new leaders to restore hope in country

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 12, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico, Bishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon called on the country’s newly elected leaders to help “restore hope to the Mexican people.”

The prelate said that the transition to new leadership at the local and federal level should be an occasion to “restore the hope of the Mexican people” and that it would be good idea for the new leaders to receive proper formation in ethics in order to restore credibility to the country’s political system.

Bishop Rabago also reminded leaders of the urgent need in Mexico to establish peace and justice and to overcome poverty.

He also commented on the decision by the United States to build a fence along a 700-mile stretch of the southern border.  “It is sad and humiliating that they consider us a danger and that they think we are people that need to be detained,” he said.

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Grandmother in Puerto Rico requests custody of pregnant granddaughter and her unborn child

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct 12, 2006 (CNA) - The grandmother of a 10 year-old girl who became pregnant after she was raped by her stepfather has filed for custody of the girl and her unborn baby, saying that “life is from God” and that she does not agree that the Department of the Family - which currently has custody of her - should force her to have an abortion.

The case has revived the debate over abortion in Puerto Rico, in which pro-abortion forces are arguing it is more risky for the girl to bring the child to term than to have an abortion.

The Catholic Church and pro-life groups have responded saying that abortion would be “the imposition of the death penalty against an innocent child.”

The attorney in charge of the case said it has not yet been decided if the girl will be forced to undergo an abortion.
 

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Bishops strongly reject anti-life law in Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador, Oct 12, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Ecuador issued a statement this week, condemning certain passages of a new health care law which promotes abortion and the use of the morning-after pill and requires all health-care workers to provide services, even if they have strong moral or religious reservations against doing so.

Bishop Nestor Herrera, President of the Bishops Conference, read a statement denouncing “the attempt to place a state mandate to end a pregnancy above the protection of human life, the rights of parents to educate their children according to their own convictions, and the consciences of doctors and their assistant both in public and private health-care systems.”

The bishops called Ecuadorian Catholics to action against the norms which would require public and private facilities to provide abortion services in some cases.  No matter what the circumstances, they said, “procuring an abortion is equivalent to eliminating the life of an innocent child who is distinct from his mother and father from the moment of conception.”


The bishops also denounced the dangers of sex-ed programs that go “against natural and divine law” and promote “the sins of fornication and sexual promiscuity” and do not foster in young people an understanding of love as “commitment and fidelity.” 

“Young people who have been psychologically wounded by premature, excessive, and irresponsible erotic experiences have a difficult time achieving happiness in the family,” the bishops underscored.

The bishops called on Catholics and all people of good will to resist the new laws as unjust and unconstitutional and to participate in protests organized by pro-life groups. 

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