, Oct 25, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore has asked Catholics to join him during Pornography Awareness Week in praying that the nation will experience “a resurgence of purity and renewed commitment to chaste relationships and true love.”
Pornography Awareness Week will run from Oct. 29 to Nov. 5. Thousands of people are expected to express their concern about easy access to pornography and the negative impact it has on marriages, families, children, and individuals by wearing white ribbons.
The ribbons, the cardinal said, are in protest against “the increase of obscenity” in American culture and in favor of a renewal of chastity.
“The idea that pornography does not cause serious problems is a myth,” the cardinal said in his short message to parishes.
Pornography portrays women and children as cheap sexual objects and undermines the wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities, the cardinal indicated.
Furthermore, he said, studies have shown that the largest group of viewers of Internet porn is young people between ages 12 and 17, and that most parents are unaware that this issue is affecting their children. Studies have also indicated that pornography consumption can lead to sexually aggressive actions toward others, especially women.
Pornography can become an addiction and those who face this problem are in great need of spiritual and psychological help, he said. They can also access 12-step programs and other support groups.
He suggested that parishes may be of help to some people in becoming aware of their addiction and seeking help.
The cardinal also provided a list of resources for parishes, suggested prayers of the faithful and homiletic talking points. The information provided to parishes also laments an increase in human trafficking.
Vatican City, Oct 25, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI told some 25,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square today that St. Paul, who has often been called “the thirteenth Apostle,” demonstrated through his service of the Gospel, that “Salvation is offered to everyone without exception."
The Holy Father, who finished is examination of the twelve Apostles last Wednesday said that he would be dedicating this and future audiences to “other important figures of the early Church,” beginning with St. Paul, “the thirteenth Apostle.”
The Holy Father briefly outlined the life of Saul, indicating that he was from Tarsus, a city between Syria and Anatolia. A Jew of the diaspora, he came to Jerusalem to study Mosaic law but also practiced a trade, that of tentmaker, which later served him "to maintain and provide for himself, without weighing upon the Church."
The decisive moment for the Apostle was his "coming to know the community of those who professed themselves disciples of Jesus," practicing a faith "that concentrated not so much on the Law of God as on the person of Jesus ... to Whom was associated the remission of sins."
As a Jew, Saul considered this scandalous, to such an extent that he felt obliged to persecute Christians, even outside Jerusalem. However, on the road to Damascus, "he was seized by Christ... the light of the Risen One touched him and fundamentally changed his whole life," the Pope recounted.
The Holy Father noted that Paul himself speaks, "not only of vision but of illumination and, above all, of revelation and vocation in the meeting with the Risen One." He defines himself as "an Apostle by the will of God," said the Holy Father, "as if to underline that his conversion was the result not of reflection, but of divine intervention, of an unforeseeable divine grace.”
“And from that moment,” of his receiving that grace, the Pope continued, “all his energies were placed at the exclusive service of Jesus Christ and of His Gospel."
"From this we draw a very important lesson," Pope Benedict said, "what is important is to put Jesus Christ at the center of our lives.”
“Another fundamental lesson Paul teaches us," he continued, "is the universal nature of his apostolate… Salvation is offered to everyone without exception." The "announcement of grace destined to reconcile man with God, with himself and with others ... did not concern only the Jews or a limited group of people, but had a universal value and concerned everyone, because God is God to all," he noted.
In conclusion, Benedict XVI recalled Paul's numerous journeys, beginning in Antioch, his desire to spread the Good News in Spain, "the end of the known world," and his martyrdom in Rome under the emperor Nero.
Wheeling, W.V., Oct 25, 2006 (CNA) - The Church in West Virginia is called to transform the health of her communities, by promoting wellbeing in mind and body and by working toward equitable opportunities for access to health care, said Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston in his first pastoral letter.
“I invite you to join me in committing anew to proclaiming the Gospel by curing the sick and working for the health and well-being of one another,” he said. “This is the way for us to be disciples and to truly be a Church that heals.”
This may be the first time an American bishop has devoted an entire pastoral letter largely devoted to healthy living, a spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told the Associated Press yesterday.
The bishop introduced his letter, titled “A Church That Heals”, during a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph on Oct. 18, the feast of St. Luke, physician and evangelist, The Catholic Spirit reported. The diocesan newspaper also reported that the letter will be available in its Oct. 27 issue.
At a press conference after the Mass at Wheeling Catholic Elementary School, Bishop Bransfield announced that the diocese has designated $400,000 to help meet the initiatives outlined in the letter.
In his homily, Bishop Bransfield said that over the first few years at the head of his diocese he has learned about the poverty and poor health of many people, their difficulties in accessing proper health care, and the consequences of inadequate health insurance.
The bishop called attention to staggering statistics, which indicate that West Virginia leads the nation in high blood pressure and arthritis. It also has the second-highest cholesterol levels in the nation, the third-highest rate of obesity, and the fourth highest rate of adult onset diabetes. Combined with the high levels of tobacco use and physical inactivity, he said, West Virginia is ranked 46th in terms of life expectancy and leads the nation in loss of teeth by age 65.
“We must reach out not only to cure illness but to encourage health; we must reconnect with that ancient goal of striving for a fruitful, spiritual life that arises from a sound mind in a healthy body,” the bishop told the faithful.
The bishop’s letter puts forth concrete actions to bring about healthier communities. He calls the local Church and faithful to:
- be a credible witnesses of healthy living through word and action
- be mission-centered
- meet the special needs of youth for safe activities, of the elderly for companionship and of the environment for continued and improved stewardship
- address root problems of illness and involve the community in finding solutions
- address the ironies and injustices in public policies regarding health care
- match the natural and human resources of the state with moral resources
- encourage a spirit of service and create communities of care and compassion
- empower people to take charge of their own health and to have a stake in the health of others
- develop local churches to serve as a resource for health and well-being
- promote a transportation system that does not rely solely on cars
- call on educational institutions to join efforts to overcome health challenges
- develop a contemplative stance for life.
Konigstein, Germany, Oct 25, 2006 (CNA) - In advance of Pope Benedict XVI’s late November trip to Turkey and in the midst of continuing talks regarding Turkey’s possible entry into the European Union, international aid agency, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), is asking for “religious liberty of European standard,” in Turkey.
In a press release today, ACN said “religious liberty of European standard” includes the legal recognition of Christian Churches in Turkey, especially in the areas of property ownership and the right to form priests.
The Catholic Church has no right to build churches or other buildings in Turkey since a restrictive law was passed in 1923. And in addition to there being no seminary in the country for future priests, the residence permits for foreign priests depends on the popularly influenced goodwill of the authorities. ACN points out that the killing of Fr. Andrea Santoro, last February, testifies to the increasingly common attacks on priests, attacks which are both open and hidden.
The organization’s plea for religious liberty comes after a visit to ACN from Bishop Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, Turkey. Bishop Padovese told ACN that the Pope’s upcoming visit to Turkey is being wrongly characterized as a direct attempt to convert Muslims. “The Pope is not coming to missionize, as the Turkish press claims, but to speak with Muslims, the Turkish government, and obviously with Catholics but especially with Orthodox Christians”
Padovese also stressed the importance of Benedict XVI’s address at Regensburg as an appeal for a dialogue among religions. The Bishop’s words underlined, in the opinion of ACN, the organization’s duty to stand-up for the religious rights of Christians in Turkey.
The Apostolic Vicariate in Anatolia serves half of the territory of Turkey, with officially only 5.000 Catholics. Today out of a population of 63.5 million, there are 200,000 Christians in the country. In 1914, ACN noted, the Turkish population was about 30% Christian.
To honour the Pope’s visit to Turkey, Aid to the Church in Need is preparing a Turkish edition of the “Little Catechism” of the Catholic Church. After being published as a book in 2004, the Children’s Bible in Turkish is now available on-line.
Birmingham, Ala., Oct 25, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham has denounced a government proposal, which would control admissions to all new Catholic schools in England, as “muddled” and “prejudiced”.
An amendment to the government’s Education Bill was tabled last week in Parliament. The proposal would force new faith-based schools to admit 25 percent of students from other religions or no religion.
In a letter to the head teachers at the country’s 2,075 Catholic schools, the archbishop noted that while there already exists an hefty enrollment of non-Catholics in most Catholic schools and while Catholic schools are not closed to non-Catholic applicants, "the amendment will, in effect, remove from new Catholic schools control over their admissions." He pointed out that the proposal was drafted without consulting religious bodies, and he urged the teachers to communicate their outrage at the proposal and at the government’s “coercive measures” with their members of Parliament.
An opinion piece he authored on the proposal was also published in the Daily Telegraph yesterday. The archbishop was scheduled to meet Education Secretary Alan Johnson to discuss the proposal today.
In his Telegraph article, the archbishop said the proposal is based on inaccurate information and on the false assumption that Catholic, and other faith-based schools, are divisive and not representative.
“Oft-stated statistics confirm that the pupils in a Catholic school closely reflect the national school population in terms of levels of disadvantage and special educational needs,” the archbishop pointed out. “Catholic schools have a higher proportion of pupils from minority ethnic groups than other schools. “
“Catholic schools, on average, already welcome 30 per cent of their pupils from other Churches, faiths or none,” his article reads.
The archbishop said studies also show that Catholic schools are twice as effective as other schools at developing respect for others and are also successful at social integration.
In his article, he warned ministers that they risk losing the co-operation and respect of the very faith groups they need to build a harmonious society.
“A precondition of this co-operation (between faith organizations and the government) is that partners must be treated with respect for what they are and what they can contribute,” he said.
The archbishop also criticized the attempted model of multi-culturalism that has been implemented within a purely secular mindset, one which does not recognize spiritual and religious roots.
“The diversity of cultures has been encouraged, but without genuine engagement with their moral values or beliefs,” he wrote. “This has left us with a spiritual vacuum at the heart of life, illustrated in the poverty of so much religious education in state schools.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 25, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata said this week that Christians need to live courageously and be faithful to the Gospel in the face of challenges which the world offers.
During his television program, “Keys to a Better World,” Archbishop Aguer said the dilemma of “how to remain faithful not only to the Christian faith but also to a way of life that is proper to the Christian amidst a culture in which authentically Christian values have become blurred if not lost altogether” is not just a modern problem, but is one that has challenged Christians throughout history.
The archbishop pointed out that the letters of the New Testament warn the early Christians “not to be conformed to this world.” The Apostles are warning their people not to conform to those cultures, ways of thinking or living that are contrary to the Gospel, the prelate said.
Archbishop Aguer pointed out that even in once strongly Catholic Argentina, there exists today a “culture that has nothing to do or very little to do with the Christian faith.” This reality should not cause Christians to shrink from witnessing to the faith or to lose their convictions, which are necessary in order to persevere in the Christian life, he added.
Christians are called not only to live their faith courageously, he continued, but also to bring that faith into their daily lives and to evangelize the culture, “which means spreading this way of thinking and living without any hang-ups.”
New Orleans, La., Oct 25, 2006 (CNA) - They’ve never left the Vatican — until now. Thirty-seven mosaics, depicting masterworks from the Renaissance to modern times, will be on display in New Orleans, from Jan. 28 to June 1, at the Catholic Cultural Heritage Center of the archdiocese.
The Exhibition of the Vatican Mosaic Studio is described by organizers as “an evolution of the human spirit as seen through mosaic art,” reported The Associated Press. The exhibit was to have opened in April but was delayed due to the effects Hurricane Katrina.
The Vatican studio is reportedly for its mosaics made of tiny bits of enamel, glass and stone, and so finely crafted that they look almost like paintings. In addition to producing and selling works to the public, it is also responsible for preserving St. Peter’s mosaics
According to the an AP report, the studio was founded in the 16th century, when Pope Gregory XIII brought expert mosaic craftsmen from Venice to Rome to decorate St. Peter's Basilica.
Managua, Nicaragua, Oct 25, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Nicaraguan Association For Life, Rafael Cabrera Artola, has announced his support for the elimination of “therapeutic” abortion from the country’s Penal Code, arguing that pro-abortion forces want to maintain the current law in order to “make the recognition of this crime easier by asserting that it can be justified for solving a medical problem.”
Cabrera said that by eliminating the article in question from the Penal Code, which dates back to 1891, the country could prevent pro-abortion organizations from adjusting their strategies to push their agenda under the banner of therapeutic abortion.
“The article we want to eliminate has been constantly manipulated, even for falsely asserting that abortion in Nicaragua is allowed in cases of rape or incest, illness of the mother, or deformation of the fetus. What they want to do is open a door to this crime in pseudo-legal terms for different reasons; for emotional problems, for spousal abuse, for family problems,” he noted.
Regarding the opinions by some pro-abortion organizations that assert that Nicaragua would be subject to international lawsuits if it passes the reformed Penal Code with the new laws against “therapeutic” abortion, Cabrera said Nicaragua raised objections at the UN conferences in El Cairo (1994) and Beijing (1995) and therefore was never committed to implementing any action that would threaten the lives of the unborn.
Granada, Spain, Oct 25, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Francisco Javier Martinez of Granada has decided to pull his seminarians out of the local Jesuit-run theology program, claiming that “the situation of the Church in the current cultural context requires that our seminarians receive formation in a center run by the diocese.”
The archdiocese’s seminarians will now be receiving theological instruction at the diocesan institute named after German theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar and will be housed in one of the wings of the diocesan seminary.
The transfer of theology students out of the Jesuit-run program completes the transfer of all Granada seminarians into diocesan-run schools. First and second year seminarians had already been moved into Archbishop Martinez’s newly created Edith Stein Philosophy Institute.
The Dean of the Jesuit run School of Theology of Granada, Ildefonso Camacho, told the Efe news agency that the archbishop explained in his letter that he would formally notify the Grand Chancellor of the School of Theology of Granada, Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus.
The Dioceses of Malaga and Almeria have also pulled their students out of the school in recent years and placed them in their own diocesan institutes, although they are under the supervision of the School of Theology of Granada, which is responsible for certifying their theology degrees.
Dean Camacho said he was surprised and saddened by the archbishop’s decision and that the Jesuit school would not supervise the Granada seminarians, since the archbishops’ decision seems to indicate “he does not consider our formation to be adequate.”
Efe also reported that Archbishop Martinez has tendered his resignation as president of the Board of Directors of the School of Theology of Granada.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 25, 2006 (CNA) - The bishops of Spain warned legislators this week that a proposed law on embryonic medical research “conflicts with the basic principles of ethics” and that voting for the measure without substantial modifications would place them “in objective disagreement with Catholic teaching.”
In a statement issued by the executive committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, the bishops said they hoped common sense would prevail against “economic and ideological pressures.”
The spokesman for the bishops’ conference, Father Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, told reporters the document calls on lawmakers to “take a good look at what this is really about.”
“We’re dealing with a measure that is against life. No congressman who sees this could vote for passage,” he said.
The statement warns that the proposed law would allow for an increase in the practice of donating human eggs. “The marketing of something so personal is of great concern to the bishops,” Father Martinez continued, “and is likely to result in pressure and psychological consequences for women.”
“It’s clear that women would feel increasingly under pressure from something that is presented to them as an altruistic act when in reality it is a sham,” he warned.
The bishops also said, if left unmodified, the measure would open the door to “new abuses against the dignity of the human person.” Embryos would not be recognized as such until the 14th day after conception and would allow them to be treated “as mere objects of research.” The law would also open to door to the cloning of embryos for use in research and use deceiving and ambiguous terms to refer to cloned human embryos.
The bishops called such a tactic an “objective deception. “To not call cloned embryos what they really are” is to open to the legal door “to the poorly-termed therapeutic cloning,” they said.