Vatican City, Dec 13, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican has joined Western leaders in criticizing a conference taking place in Iran this week. The conference’s goal is to question whether the Holocaust actually happened and to discredit the existence of Israel.
Iran's foreign minister opened the controversial two-day conference yesterday by questioning the right of Israel to exist.
The gathering in Teheran, titled "Review of the Holocaust, Global Vision", is being attended by dozens of international guests, including a British anti-Zionist rabbi, reported The Telegraph.
In opening remarks, Manouchehr Mottaki said: "If the official version of the Holocaust is thrown into doubt, then the identity and nature of Israel will be thrown into doubt. If... it is proved that the Holocaust was a historical reality, then what is the reason for the Palestinians having to pay the cost of the Nazis' crimes?"
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Pope called the death of millions of Jews during World War II an "immense tragedy", which must never be forgotten.
"The last century saw an attempt to exterminate the Jewish people, and consequently millions of Jews of all ages and social classes were killed simply because they belonged to that people," the Pope said.
The Vatican statement recalled that a few years ago the Vatican released a document on the Holocaust which expressed "respect" and "compassion" for the tragic fate of the Jewish people during Nazism.
Earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI condemned anti-Semitism, urging humanity never to forget the horror of the Holocaust. He issued the same message during a visit to the synagogue in Cologne, in August 2005, which was destroyed by the Nazis and rebuilt after the war, as well as on his visit to the concentration camp of Auschwitz in May.
A similar position was affirmed by Pope John Paul II at the Memorial of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem in 2000 and in his message marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
The Holocaust was a "crime that will forever stain the history of humanity," said Pope John Paul II. Its recollection must serve to warn mankind against ideologies that seek to "crush human dignity because of differences in race, color, language or religion."
The conference was initiated by Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has described the Holocaust as a "myth" and called for Israel to be wiped off the map, reported The Telegraph. Iran is currently feared to be developing nuclear weapons.
Ahmadinejad told the conference on Tuesday that Israel would soon be “wiped out,” according to Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
"The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon, the same way the Soviet Union was, and humanity will achieve freedom," Ahmadinejad said.
The president has faced the first protests since winning elections 18 months ago. Students lit fireworks and burned his photograph in the audience as he delivered a speech at the Amir Kabir technical university.
Up to 60 protesters chanted "death to the dictator", the IRNA reported. There were no reports of arrests.
Vatican City, Dec 13, 2006 (CNA) - The Press Office of the Holy See released a short statement today confirming that Pope Benedict XVI met with Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert at the Vatican. The Vatican’s brief communiqué stated that the Pope and Prime Minster discussed peace in the Middle East and the status of Christians in the area.
“In the course of the discussions,” the release stated, “attention turned to the matter of peace in the Middle East, and to questions regarding the position of the Catholic community in Israel, also in view of the forthcoming Christmas celebrations."
Sources in Olmert's entourage told Italian news service ANSA that the Israeli premier also raised this week’s Tehran Holocaust conference with the Pope, asking him to condemn it personally.
The Vatican has released a statement criticizing the Iranian conference, which is aimed at questioning the occurrence of the Holocaust. The Vatican called the death of millions of Jews during World War II an "immense tragedy" which should never be forgotten and restated the Holy See’s continued condemnation of the tragedy.
"The recollection of those tragic acts must be held up as a warning to all in an effort to end all conflicts," the statement said.
According to Israeli sources, Olmert also renewed his country's invitation for the Pontiff to visit soon, saying a visit would help bring peace to the region.
Benedict's response was reportedly that he wanted to make a pilgrimage to Israel's holy sites but at a time when the situation in the region was calmer and less complex.
Israeli ambassador Oded Ben Hur told ANSA on Tuesday that "Olmert's visit is another brick in the construction we are working on patiently. The meeting serves to reiterate the importance for us of the Christian community in Israel.”
Vatican City, Dec 13, 2006 (CNA) - Continuing his catechesis on the Apostles and the first members of the Church, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his Wednesday General Audience to Saints Timothy and Titus, two of the closest collaborators with St. Paul, to whom he wrote two epistles.
The Holy Father recalled how Timothy, a "pastor of great importance," was the first bishop of Ephesus, while Titus, whom Paul defined as "my true child in a common faith," was bishop of Crete.
These two men, said the Holy Father, tell us that Paul, the archetypal Apostle, "did not do everything alone, but relied upon trusted individuals to share his labors and responsibilities."
The Pope highlighted the "willingness" of Timothy and Titus "to take on various tasks, which often involved representing Paul in difficult circumstances. Thus they teach us," he added, "to serve the Gospel generously, knowing that this involves a service to the Church herself."
Pope Benedict XVI quoted St. Paul's words in his Letter to Titus, where the Apostle exhorts his helper to remain faithful to the true doctrine: "'I desire you to insist on these things so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply themselves to good deeds; these are excellent and profitable to men.'
"Through a solid commitment on our part," the Pope concluded, "we can and must discover the truth of these words and, precisely in this period of Advent, be rich in good works, thus opening the door of the world to Christ, our Savior."
Vatican City, Dec 13, 2006 (CNA) - The Vatican Press Office announced today that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop Dominic Carmon, Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans, due to age, and has announced a new auxiliary for the archdiocese. Bishop-elect Shelton Fabre is currently a priest of the Diocese of Baton Rouge and is said to be a “devoted, gifted, exemplary and highly respected priest.”
The 43-year old bishop-elect is a native of the Baton Rouge Diocese and was ordained a priest of the diocese in 1989. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of Louvain in Leuven, Belgium.
He has served as pastor or parochial vicar at several parishes in the diocese and has worked in a number of capacities in diocesan offices and committees, including the Clergy Personnel Board, Pastoral Planning Committee, Office of Black Catholics, and Presbyteral Council.
Commenting on the appointment of Fabre to the episcopate, Bishop Robert Muench of Baton Rouge, described him as a, “devoted, gifted, exemplary and highly respected priest, who comes from a faith-filled family.”
Bishop-elect Fabre, “exhibits strong intellect, genuine piety and true fidelity to Christ and the Church. He is especially noted for his humble demeanor, perceptive judgment, zealous ministry and articulate preaching,” Muench added.
The Baton Rouge Bishop also noted that through this appointment the Holy See has recognized, yet again, “the vibrancy of the Catholic faith in the African-American community in the Diocese of Baton Rouge.” The Bishop listed off several African-American bishops who had been appointed from the diocese in recent years.
In his remarks, the bishop-elect sent a particular greeting to the large African-American community of New Orleans, “whose faith,” he said, “is such a gift to this local Church and beyond.”
Fabre recognized the history and richness of the whole New Orleans Catholic Community and made reference to the continued rebuilding from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina disaster. “Your resiliency in faith in response to this tragedy has been witnessed by many,” he said.
Through all the changes and uncertainties of life, Fabre affirmed, “the only constant is the love of God poured out upon the world in our Lord Jesus Christ. Regardless of what we face in life, Jesus Christ is our firm foundation, and in him all things are made new and filled over and over again with the enduring love and promises of our faithful God. As so many here in New Orleans seek to rebuild their lives and to renew their hope, it is my fervent desire and prayer that to the best of my ability I will be able in some way to bring assistance, comfort and the assurance of God's love and presence to all who are suffering.
Fabre, expressed his gratitude to Pope Benedict, Bishop Muench, and New Orleans Archbishop Alfred Hughes for their confidence in him, assuring them that he would do his best and would probably come often to Hughes for his “wisdom and guidance,” due to his own, “somewhat youthful inexperience.”
Archbishop Hughes said he is grateful for the, “deep faith, profound humanity and pastoral zeal,” that the new bishop will bring to New Orleans.
Hughes also thanked Bishop Carmon for his many years of “humble, sincere and generous service to the archdiocese.”
The retiring bishop had served as an auxiliary for New Orleans since 1992. His resignation was accepted today, on the date of his 76th birthday.
Eugene, Ore., Dec 13, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon has reached a settled with 150 people, who claim they were sexually abused by priests of the archdiocese. The settlement, however, is yet to go before a bankruptcy court judge.
U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan announced news of the settlement but declined to disclose the dollar amount. All parties remain under a gag order until the cases are finalized, reported The Associated Press.
Hogan told reporters, however, that the archdiocese, which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, could cover all current and future claims without selling off property held by parishes and schools.
Portland was the first archdiocese in the nation to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after massive lawsuits were filed in 2004 claiming sexual abuse by the late Fr. Maurice Grammond. Other priests have since been accused of abuse.
Ownership of parish and school property was a major issue in the bankruptcy case. The archdiocese contended that parish and school property was held in trust and not subject to claims, while attorneys for alleged victims argued the archdiocese was the owner and could sell property to pay any claims.
Hogan said the settlement also states that a healing service will be organized for all the parties, including the claimants and their lawyers, reported the AP.
About 20 lawsuits remain, but Hogan said he is confident the remaining claimants would accept the settlement.
To date, the archdiocese has spent $15 million on legal costs alone.
Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 13, 2006 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico commended “the joys and hopes, fears and anxieties of the Mexican people” to Our Lady of Guadalupe on the 475th anniversary of the apparitions to St. Juan Diego.
In a statement, the bishops noted that through the apparitions Mary “expressed her message of love for our people, and with her gestures, words and blessed image, she pointed the way to Christ, the center of our Catholic faith.”
“As Mexicans we renew our joy in knowing that ‘the Mother of the true God…[who is] the creator of all, the Master of the heavens, the Master of the earth,’ desired to remain with us, in ‘a little house’ in which she awaits us, cares for us and comforts us with her words,” the bishops said.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, they continued, “brought together two peoples with opposite cultures that seemed set on destroying each other,” thus bringing about “the birth of our country with a rich variety of cultures united by the bond of the faith.”
“The Guadalupe event signified the beginning of the evangelization with a vitality that exceeded all expectations,” the bishops stated. “The message of Christ through his Mother took the central elements of the indigenous culture and religiosity, purified them and gave them their true meaning of salvation in Jesus Christ.”
The bishops stressed that the “noble task of building a better Mexico” demands the collaboration of all, and they prayed to Our Lady of Guadalupe to intercede “so that all those who live in this land might love each other and accept each other as children of the same Father.”
New Dehli, India, Dec 13, 2006 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishops of India have appealed for justice for the country’s Muslim minority which, in recent years, has been targeted by Hindu fundamentalists in various states of the federation, reported Fides. The Muslim community forms about 10 percent of the whole population.
In a statement, the bishops said they welcome the Justice Sachar Committee Report recently tabled in Parliament on the social-economic status of India’s Muslim community.
According to Fides, the Sachar Report states that the Muslim community is relatively poor, more illiterate, has less access to education, lower representation in public- and private-sector jobs and lower accessibility to bank credit for self-employment.
However, they also urged the central government to complete the Mishra Commission work on the socio-economic status of other minority communities in India, so the country may truly be a democracy of pluralism, tolerance, and respect for human rights, reported Fides.
Rome, Italy, Dec 13, 2006 (CNA) - After a rash of violent attacks, including a the killing of a Catholic layman in Kashmir and the assault on a Catholic school in Tamil Nadu, the Catholic community of India has asked for government protection and has expressed its desire to continue its pastoral work despite difficulties.
According to the Fides news agency, a local church official said, “The general atmosphere has not changed. Our pastoral activities are proceeding normally. We continue ahead with faith and in constant prayer, knowing that a large portion of the Indian population does not approve of these attacks and has no problem with Christians.”
Several days ago a Catholic man in Kashmir was killed, apparently because he was a convert from Islam. In response Bishop Celestine Elampassery demanded greater protection and security from police for the small Catholic community there.
In Tamil Nadu the Holy Fatima School of Omalur was attacked by a group of vandals who burned bibles and destroyed the school chapel. The Federation of Catholic Associations of Tamil Nadu has called on local officials to apprehend those responsible for the damage and to open an investigation. The attacks came after news of the death of a student from the school. Authorities have not yet determined the cause of this death.
The Federation also called on the state government to recognize education and social institutions for religious minorities and to immediately release the nuns who work at the school and were detained for no apparent reason.
Rome, Italy, Dec 13, 2006 (CNA) - The President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, stated that for the Catholic Church so called “therapeutic cruelty,” or the unnecessary prolongation of life by extreme measures, is unacceptable and assured that the challenge is to distinguish these extreme cases from requests for euthanasia.
In statements from La Repubblica, an Italian daily newspaper, the Prelate referred to Italian government’s initiative in requesting the opinion of a team of experts regarding the case of Piergiorgio Welby, an Italian that suffers from progressive muscular dystrophy. For the past few months, he has made demands to disconnect his respirator.
"It is fair that in this dramatic case experts should be consulted to determine if this is a matter of ‘therapeutic cruelty’ or if we have a request of euthanasia," said Cardinal Lozano.
The Prelate reiterated that, "the Church will never be able to accept ‘therapeutic cruelty,’ an unacceptable practice, because it uses disproportionate and useless means for the care of the terminally ill."
Nevertheless, he indicated that the problem is, "to recognize if there truly exists a case of therapeutic cruelty."
, Dec 13, 2006 (CNA) - The Episcopal Conference of Colombia encouraged Colombians to take advantage of the celebration of Christmas to understand that peace is a gift of God granted to mankind, and is only possible when built daily with deeds of justice and love.
In a Christmas message, the Colombian bishops indicated that during the last century Colombian history has been unfortunately rooted in violence, injustice, corruption, craving for power, fast money, materialism, and the constant loss of values.
"All these problems clearly explain that violence, in addition to being harmful, does not solve the original problems. People do not gain from it, but instead lose; because only from peace and with peace, the respect for human dignity and their fundamental rights can be guaranteed," they noted.
The bishops also stated, "during Christmas we celebrate the Mystery of the Incarnation because Jesus came to unite what was divided, to destroy sin and hatred, awaking in the humanity the vocation toward unity and fraternity."
"Jesus is our peace, the origin and example of this renewed humanity, full of brotherly love, sincerity and the spirit of peace we all long for," they concluded.