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Archive of November 23, 2006

Pope receives Anglican chief, offers challenge on episcopal ordinations

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2006 (CNA) - Receiving Archbishop Rowan Williams, the head of the Anglican Church, Pope Benedict XVI offered words of welcome but challenged the prelate to properly resolve such divisive issues as the U.S. Episcopal Church’s recent decision to attempt the ordination of women bishops.  The Holy Father gave thanks for the many steps which have been taken in Catholic-Anglican relations over the past forty years and encouraged the Archbishop to continue seeking the path of Apostolic Tradition in order for further unity to be possible.

Pope Benedict began his address by recalling the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Michael Ramsey, forty years ago.  He also thanked Archbishop Williams for his previous visits to Rome.

The Pontiff also called to mind the many successes achieved in ecumenical relations between the Universal Roman Church and the Church of England.  “There is much in our relations over the past forty years for which we must give thanks,” the Pope said. “The work of the theological dialogue commission has been a source of encouragement as matters of doctrine which have separated us in the past have been addressed. The friendship and good relations which exist in many places between Anglicans and Catholics have helped to create a new context in which our shared witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been nourished and advanced.”

“The visits of Archbishops of Canterbury to the Holy See have served to strengthen those relations and have played an important role in addressing the obstacles which keep us apart,” he added.

The Pope then turned to some of the obstacles which threaten to further divide the two Churches.  “In the present context,” Pope Benedict said, “especially in the secularized Western world, there are many negative influences and pressures which affect Christians and Christian communities. Over the last three years you have spoken openly about the strains and difficulties besetting the Anglican Communion and consequently about the uncertainty of the future of the Communion itself.”

Tensions have risen between the Catholic and Anglican Churches, as well as within the Anglican Communion itself after decisions in the U.S. Episcopal Church to ordain an openly homosexual man and a woman as bishops.  The latter decision was especially troubling to ecumenical relations.

“Recent developments, especially concerning the ordained ministry and certain moral teachings, have affected not only internal relations within the Anglican Communion but also relations between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church,” the Pope said. “We believe that these matters, which are presently under discussion within the Anglican Communion, are of vital importance to the preaching of the Gospel in its integrity, and that your current discussions will shape the future of our relations.”

“It is to be hoped,” Benedict continued, “that the work of the theological dialogue, which had registered no small degree of agreement on these and other important theological matters, will continue to be taken seriously in your discernment. In these deliberations we accompany you with heartfelt prayer.  It is our fervent hope that the Anglican Communion will remain grounded in the Gospels and the Apostolic Tradition which form our common patrimony and are the basis of our common aspiration to work for full visible unity.”

“The world needs our witness and the strength which comes from an undivided proclamation of the Gospel,” the Pope concluded. “The immense sufferings of the human family and the forms of injustice that adversely affect the lives of so many people constitute an urgent call for our shared witness and service. Precisely for this reason, and even amidst present difficulties, it is important that we continue our theological dialogue. I hope that your visit will assist in finding constructive ways forward in the current circumstances.”

Following the Holy Father’s address the two signed a joint statement on eccumenical relations and prayed midday prayer together in the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel.

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Holy Father and Archbishop of Canterbury sign common declaration

Vatican City, Nov 23, 2006 (CNA) - Following their private meeting this morning, the Pope and the archbishop of Canterbury signed a Common Declaration in the presence of members of the Anglican delegation accompanying the archbishop, and of Catholic representatives led by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster.
 
In their English-language declaration, Benedict XVI and Archbishop Williams note that 40 years ago their predecessors, Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey, undertook "to establish a dialogue in which matters which had been divisive in the past might be addressed from a fresh perspective with truth and love."
 
"True ecumenism," they write, "goes beyond theological dialogue; it touches our spiritual lives and our common witness. As our dialogue has developed, many Catholics and Anglicans have found in each other a love for Christ which invites us into practical cooperation and service."
 
"The International Anglican - Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) has been engaged in an exploration of the appropriate ways in which our shared mission to proclaim new life in Christ to the world can be advanced and nurtured. Their report ... has recently been completed and submitted for review to the Anglican Communion Office and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and we express our gratitude for their work."
 
They continue: "In this fraternal visit, we celebrate the good which has come from these four decades of dialogue. We are grateful to God for the gifts of grace which have accompanied them.”

Not shying away from current controversies over episcopal ordinations, the statement admits, “At the same time, our long journey together makes it necessary to acknowledge publicly the challenge represented by new developments which, besides being divisive for Anglicans, present serious obstacles to our ecumenical progress. It is a matter of urgency, therefore, that in renewing our commitment to pursue the path towards full visible communion in the truth and love of Christ, we also commit ourselves in our continuing dialogue to address the important issues involved in the emerging ecclesiological and ethical factors making that journey more difficult and arduous.”
 
"As Christian leaders facing the challenges of the new millennium, we affirm again our public commitment to the revelation of divine life uniquely set forth by God in the divinity and humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that it is through Christ and the means of salvation found in Him that healing and reconciliation are offered to us and to the world," the statement said.
 
The Holy Father and the primate of the Anglican Communion recognize that "there are many areas of witness and service in which we can stand together, and which indeed call for closer cooperation between us: the pursuit of peace in the Holy Land and in other parts of the world marred by conflict and the threat of terrorism; promoting respect for life from conception until natural death; protecting the sanctity of marriage and the well-being of children in the context of healthy family life; outreach to the poor, oppressed and the most vulnerable, especially those who are persecuted for their faith; addressing the negative effects of materialism; and care for creation and for our environment. We also commit ourselves to inter-religious dialogue through which we can jointly reach out to our non-Christian brothers and sisters."

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Turkey denies leaders are 'running' from Pope Benedict's visit

Ankara, Turkey, Nov 23, 2006 (CNA) - The Turkish government denied on Wednesday that its leaders were "running away" from Pope Benedict by being out of the country during the pontiff’s scheduled visit next week, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1.

ANSA has reported that several newspapers in Turkey and the rest of Europe have said the absence of Turkey's top politicians is deliberate and possibly even a snub. They claim it is related to recent tensions between the Vatican and the Muslim world, caused by the Pope’s September speech in which he cited a Byzantine emperor’s comments on Islam.

Premier Tayyip Erdogan, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, and Religious Affairs Minister Mehmet Aydin will all be away between Nov. 28 and Dec. 1.

Erdogan and Gul will be in Riga Nov. 28-29 for a NATO summit. On November 30 Erdogan is due to hold a meeting of his country's Supreme Defense Council in Ankara. The religious affairs minister is now scheduled to attend meetings in Germany and the Netherlands.

A government spokesperson reportedly denied the media allegations and pointed out that Deputy Premier Mehmet Ali Sahin would welcome Benedict to Ankara Nov. 28.

It was also announced recently that the Pope’s welcome has been downgraded to a second-class protocol instead of a first-class protocol, reported Turkish agency Hurriyet. The ceremonial differences between the two protocols mean that there will not be 21 cannon shots fired and that fewer soldiers will be present for his arrival.

The Pope will also stay at the Vatican Embassy rather than in the Glass House in the President’s Çankaya Köşk, which is usually set aside for foreign heads of state.

The spokesperson declined to comment on reports that Erdogan, worried by comments in the press, was now trying to organize a last-minute meeting with the pontiff.

Some newspapers in Turkey have voiced fierce opposition to the pope's imminent visit and a radical Islamic party, Saadet, is organizing a protest on Sunday. Other protests have taken place in recent weeks.

Benedict was invited to Turkey last year by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. And the visit was originally intended as a way of building bridges with the Orthodox Church. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, is based in Istanbul and will meet the pope three times over two days.

"I hope he [the Pope] speaks out in favor of the Catholics who live here but also in favor of all the minorities, who do not constitute a risk for the country but an enrichment of it," he said in an interview with Italian weekly Famiglia Cristiana.

There are about 35,000 Catholics living in Turkey.

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Knights roll out plan for supporting priests, increasing membership

New Haven, Conn., Nov 23, 2006 (CNA) - Efforts to show solidarity with parish priests and to increase membership are key elements of the action plan for the Knights of Columbus over the next year. The order will also plan activities to mark its 125th anniversary.

The leadership of the Knights of Columbus met in Atlanta Nov. 17-19 to assess the order’s progress in meeting its goals for the 2006-07 fraternal year.

Membership and new council growth remain priorities for extending the Knights’ outreach to more parishes, communities and ethnic groups. These efforts are being enhanced with strategic growth goals and action plans for each jurisdiction.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson announced that, beginning in 2007, recruitment programs and degrees will be tied to the year’s “In Solidarity with Our Priests” theme. The aim is to strengthen the order’s ties to parish life and to K of C chaplains and pastors.

Anderson said that in his experience he had not found an organization better suited to grow with the Church and meet its needs at every level than the Knights of Columbus.

“We are a fantastic, growing, productive and relevant organization," he said. "We are standing shoulder to shoulder with our Holy Father, with our bishops and with our priests."

"There are so many great priests sustaining our parishes and moving them forward,” Anderson noted.  He suggested that Knights offer a celebration to, “bring everyone in closer union with the pastor and our priests.”

"The Holy Father, our bishops and our priests know that in the Knights they will often find the money and material they need for their programs. Through this 'In Solidarity With Our Priests' effort, we are telling them that they also have 1.7 million faithful, loyal men to stand with them."

He also urged the Knights to remain confident in the vision of their founder, Fr. Michael McGivney, and strong in their determination to realize the organization’s potential.

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UK bishops urge government to decommission nuclear weapons

London, England, Nov 23, 2006 (CNA) - The bishops of England and Wales are urging the British government to “act with courageous leadership” and to lead the international community in nuclear disarmament.

The United Kingdom’s current nuclear-weapon capability is not expected to be sustainable beyond the early 2020s without major new investments in renewal or replacement, and decisions about its continuance need to be taken soon, the bishops note.

“The very existence of nuclear weapons has always posed grave moral questions,” the bishops say in a Nov. 21 statement. “Their uniquely destructive power means that they belong in a different category from any other weapons.”
 
“Our judgment is that, by decommissioning its nuclear weapons, the UK now has a unique opportunity to offer the international community an approach to security and legitimate self-defense without the unconscionable threat of nuclear destruction,” they write.

“At the same time it could give a new impetus to the wider process towards total nuclear disarmament,” they add.

They cite Pope Benedict XVI, who argues that “the retention of nuclear weapons does not enhance the security of their possessors or the peace of the world.”

Church teaching, they write, has always been clear about the vital necessity for eventual total nuclear disarmament. 

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Priest who spent years serving children with AIDS dies

Nairobi, Kenya, Nov 23, 2006 (CNA) - The President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, expressed sadness this week over the passing of Father Angelo D’Agostino, founder of one of the first orphanages for HIV positive children in that country, who died at the age of 80 from heart disease.

Kibaki called his death “a loss for the entire nation,” noting that during his entire life, Father D’Agostino was dedicated to helping society’s most vulnerable and to finding ways to get the international community to pressure pharmaceutical companies to lower the price of AIDS medicines.

Father D’Agostino, who was born in the United States and was a surgeon in the US military, was ordained to the priesthood in 1966, and in 1992 in Nairobi he founded the first medical center for children infected with AIDS.

He was also known for his work in bringing AIDS treatment to Africa during a time in which it was too expensive and beyond the reach of most of those affected by the disease.

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Spanish bishops’ conference signs agreement with Ministry of Culture to conserve cathedrals

Madrid, Spain, Nov 23, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Spanish Bishops’ Cultural Heritage Committee, Bishop Juan Jose Asenjo of Cordoba, signed an agreement this week with the government’s Minister of Culture, Carmen Calvo, that will ensure the preservation of the country’s historic cathedrals.

The agreement lays out a plan for conserving the more than 40 cathedrals throughout Spain, some of which will need extensive restoration work in the next two years.

The agreement lays out a plan for 2007 and will be in effect for two years. Priority will be given to those cathedrals that have not been renovated in recent years and that have structural problems.  

The Ministry of Culture says it will commit some $11.5 million in 2007 for cathedral maintenance and restoration.

The cathedrals slated for restoration work in 2007 include the Cathedral of San Isidro in Madrid, and cathedrals in Barcelona, Cordoba, Malaga, and Pamplona, among others.

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Cuban and Dominican bishop exchange ideas on pastoral ministry

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Nov 23, 2006 (CNA) - Bishops from Cuba and the Dominican Republic met in Santo Domingo this week in order to exchange ideas on pastoral ministries and discuss ways for working together more closely.

According to the Fides news agency, the meeting between the bishops highlighted the more than 500 years of history and faith shared between their two countries.

The bishops expressed their concern over the pastoral care given to Cubans who emigrate to the Dominican Republic and to students from the Dominican Republic receiving education in Cuba.

They also discussed the work of missionaries in both countries and the idea of collaborating in the formation of seminarians and other pastoral leaders, as well as strategies for giving greater priority to ecumenical endeavors.

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Basque bishops slam television report on the Church and ETA

Madrid, Spain, Nov 23, 2006 (CNA) - Spokesmen for the Dioceses of Bilbao, San Sebastian, and Vitoria in northern Spain issued a statement Monday protesting a “deviously manipulative” television report about the supposed backing of the Basque separatist group ETA by members of the clergy.
 
The bishops said they were outraged by the report, which “lacked the most basic principles of ethics in journalism.”

On November 16 the Spanish network Antena 3 broadcasted a report produced by El Mundo TV in which hidden cameras were used to obtain the opinions of various priests about ETA’s terrorist activities and their relationship with the organization.

The statement issued by the three dioceses denounced report’s producers for disregarding “the fundamental rights and duties in the reporting of news: knowledge of the true identity of the interviewers and of the true objective of the meetings that were requested and that took place, which was purposefully and deceitfully hidden from the guests, thus violating their right to free speech and to privacy.”

The statement also expressed “solidarity with those persons who were treated so unjustly” and decried “the immoral use of the media, which does nothing to foster the spread of peace in truth, justice, and freedom.” 

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Priest attacked in robbery attempt

Calcutta, India, Nov 23, 2006 (CNA) - About 20 unidentified people attacked a Catholic priest around midnight Nov. 19 and left him for dead in what Church people and police suspect was a robbery.

Fr. Marian Pulichamakil, 62, suffered deep cuts from sharp weapons all over his body and head and was hospitalized in an unconscious state. The front portion of his face was cut and his nose was severed. Fr. Pulichamakil was bleeding profusely and remained unconscious in intensive care even 24 hours later.

The attackers also threw two crude bombs inside the compound of his Little Flower Shanti Kunj (house of peace) Mission in Hansdiha village, 1,300 km east of New Delhi.

Hearing the two blasts, neighbors rushed to the scene, and informed the police and another Franciscan residence 16 km away.

The Franciscan priest, who is a native of Kerala state in southern India, was living among tribal Santal people in a mud house on the compound of a primary school he started three years ago. About 150 poor tribal children, under the age of eight, are housed there.

Fr. Tom Chitto told UCA News that Fr. Pulichamakil's room was "thoroughly ransacked." Recently, he had started building a hostel for boys and raised about 400,000 rupees (US$8,900) for it.

"We suspect the attack was to rob him of the money," Fr. Chitto said, adding that no one is sure if the priest actually kept the money with him.

Local police inspector Rakesh Mohan Sinha told UCA News the attackers disappeared before people gathered. A police search found 50,000 rupees on farmland just outside the house. They suspect it was part of the money the assailants took from the priest but dropped as they fled. He said the police have gathered some evidence and expect to arrest the culprits soon.

"It is unthinkable that a holy man like him, who has been working for the good of the poor people here, could be attacked in such a brutal way," Sinha was quoted as saying.

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