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Archive of January 12, 2007

Archbishop calls for urgent immigration reform

Denver, Colo., Jan 12, 2007 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Denver has called for swift immigration reform that would address the country’s economic and security needs, “but also regularize the status of the many decent undocumented immigrants who help our society to grow.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput’s column appeared in the diocesan newspaper at the start of National Migration Week. Sunday, January 14th, marks National Migration Sunday.

“A new Congress sits in Washington,” he noted. “Its members have an extraordinary opportunity to act quickly and justly to solve this problem. If they don’t, the responsibility for failure will be on them and on all of us who elected them,” he said.

“Our country’s immigration crisis is a test of our humanity,” he wrote. “Whether we pass it is entirely up to us.”

Last month, shortly after the arrest of hundreds of unauthorized immigrant workers at Swift meatpacking plants across the country, the archbishop received an e-mail that expressed contempt toward illegal immigrants and hope that “their families starve to death.”

The archbishop expressed sadness and shock in response to the e-mail. “Something is deeply wrong with the heart and the head of any person who thinks like this,” he wrote.

“How we treat the weak, the infirm, the elderly, the unborn child and the foreigner reflects on our own humanity. We become what we do, for good or for evil.”

“The Catholic Church respects the law, including immigration law,” he continued. “We do not encourage or help anyone to break the law. … But we won’t ignore people in need, and we won’t be quiet about laws that don’t work — or that, in their ‘working,’ create impossible contradictions and suffering,” he stated.

“Despite all of the heated public argument over the past year, Americans still find themselves stuck with an immigration system that adequately serves no one.”

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God will call us to account for the good and bad we have done our brothers and sisters, Pope warns

Vatican City, Jan 12, 2007 (CNA) - In keeping with an annual tradition, Benedict XVI today received members of the General Inspectorate for Public Security at the Vatican, to whom he expressed his "appreciation and recognition" for their service.  While speaking to those entrusted with securing the Vatican for visitors, the Pope recalled that all men and women are “called to be the guardians of our fellows.”
 
"I well know, also from personal experience, how important for pilgrims and tourists is your discreet presence in the places that constitute the heart of Christian Rome," said the Pope. Many of the people "who visit St. Peter's Basilica or pause under Bernini's imposing colonnade see your faces and not infrequently avail themselves of your help."
 
"You have the task of protecting and overseeing sites that have inestimable value for the memory and faith of millions of pilgrims, places that contain great treasures of history and art; above all places where, by some inscrutable mystery, the living encounter of the faithful with the Lord Jesus takes place. The People of God, pilgrims, all people understand, as they pass by you, that they enjoy a special and reassuring protection."
 
The Holy Father concluded with a reflection which, he said, applies to us all: "we are called to be the guardians of our fellows. The Lord will call us to account for the responsibilities entrusted to us, for the good and bad we have done to our brothers and sisters; whether we accompanied them carefully on the daily journey, sharing the anguish and joys of their hearts; whether we stayed beside them discreetly but constantly, helping and supporting them when the path became more difficult and tiring."

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Venezuelan bishop responds to Chavez’s latest attacks on Church

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 12, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Roberto Luckert Leon of Coro, who was a target of one of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s infamous diatribes this week, called the president’s actions an attempt to discredit the Church as a voice of legitimate criticism.  

The Venezuelan President, who is beginning his third term, has a notorious aversion to public criticism.

During his re-inaugural ceremony, Chavez gave his oft-repeated speech about the country’s “irreversible” march towards Socialism, calling Jesus “one of the greatest socialists of history” and announcing his intentions to do away with presidential term limits.

“The State respects the Church, the Church should respect the State, I do not want to return to the era of confrontation with the bishops, but it’s not my choice, it’s that of the Venezuelan bishops.  I’ll be here ready to fire, in defense of the Venezuelan State,” Chavez said in his discourse.

He criticized Archbishop Luckert and called him an “example of the oligarchy in the Venezuelan Catholic Church.”

“Archbishop Lucker is going to be waiting for me in hell, he is not going to heaven.  He is going to hell, I am sure that he will not go to heaven, I don’t think he will go,” Chavez stated.

“How he loves to trample upon the truth, tell lies and trample upon the figure of the head of State. That makes him happy.  Be happy, Archbishop, and may God forgive you because I think that is not the way of Christ. It is the way of deceit, evil and infamy.  Forgive him, Lord, perhaps he knows not what he does,” Chavez continued.

In a radio interview, Archbishop Luckert responded calmly by pointing out that Chavez’s statements “speak more about him than about his enemies,” and he expressed regret that the president seems to want to “see every institution submit to him and sing his praises.”

“The objective of the president is to discredit the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, but unfortunately he is not going to be able to succeed,” the archbishop said.

“Today, he sent not only me to hell, President Fox, Cardinal Castillo and the justices of the Supreme Court are going with me,” Archbishop Luckert quipped.
 
“It’s all part of Chavez’s personal campaign to discredit the Church in Venezuela” the archbishop went on.  “But he is not going to succeed because the Church has been around for two thousand years and he is temporary. He’ll last until 2021.”

“But anyway, may the Lord grant him a long life so he can see the mess is creating in this country,” he said.

Archbishop Luckert ended his comments on a conciliatory note, praying that the Lord would "enlighten our president so that he will truly take our country down the path of progress and unity for all Venezuelans.”

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Pope, Vietnamese Prime Minister to hold meeting, amidst thawing relations

Vatican City, Jan 12, 2007 (CNA) - An upcoming meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung Jan. 25 at the Vatican is an important sign of improving relations between the Vatican and Hanoi’s Communist government.

This is the highest-level meeting ever to be scheduled between the Catholic Church and the government of Vietnam.

Since becoming pope in 2005, Benedict has said he wants to formalize ties in Asia to countries which currently lack diplomatic relations with the Holy See, especially Vietnam and China. In a speech Monday to diplomats accredited to the Holy See, Benedict hailed Vietnam's adhesion to the World Trade Organization, which it officially joined on Thursday, reported The Associated Press.

Vietnam has six million Catholics; after the Philippines, it has the largest Catholic population of any Asian country, according to the AP.

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Polish bishops to gather in plenary assembly to discuss Wielgus case

Warsaw, Poland, Jan 12, 2007 (CNA) - The executive committee of the Polish Bishops’ Conference will meet this Friday in a special session to discuss “the state of the Church in Poland following the events of recent days,” after Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus of Warsaw resigned amidst reports he collaborated with the Communist regime’s secret police decades ago.

A press release by the Polish bishops quoted conference president Archbishop Jozef Michalik as saying, “If we look at what has happened, we should humbly thank the Lord because the truth has won out in the end.  We should thank God for Archbishop Wielgus’s decision to offer his resignation and also Pope Benedict XVI for accepting the resignation immediately, thus solving the problem.”

Archbishop Michalik underscored that “for the Christian, priest or bishop, there is only one set of ethics.  Lying is always wrong.  Collaborating with dishonest men for dishonest causes is also wrong,” he said.

The Apostolic Nuncio to Poland, Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, said, “The media should act responsibly in the way in which it makes known the contents of documents from the Communist regime, in order to avoid causing greater harm.”

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Poll: France no longer Catholic

Paris, France, Jan 12, 2007 (CNA) - A leading French religious magazine declared on Tuesday that France is “no longer a Catholic country” after a poll indicated that the number of French Catholics dropped by 30 percent in the past decade.

"In its institutions, but also in its mentalities, France is no longer a Catholic country," wrote Frederic Lenoir, editor-in-chief of Le Monde des Religions.

In the early 1990s, French Catholics made up over 80 percent of the population. According to the poll, they currently make up 51 percent, and only half of these said they believe in God. The latter said they retained a Catholic identity because it was family tradition.

Meanwhile, the number of atheists rose from 23 percent in 1994 to 31 percent.

Only 10 percent of the French population attends church regularly.

Still, Catholicism remains by far the dominant religion in France. The poll shows that Muslims make up four percent of the population, Protestants, three percent, and Jews, one percent.

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Cardinal Bertone: 2006 Papal Visits plant fertile seeds for the universal Church

Vatican City, Jan 12, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, emphasized that Pope Benedict XVI’s major apostolic trips of 2006, “have set foundations and have planted very fertile seeds in the international community, in local churches, as well as in the Universal Church."  

The Prelate highlighted the Pope’s trip to Poland saying that for Pope Benedict it was, "a great act of gratitude for the nation that gave us Pope John Paul II - a nation that has suffered during its history because of extremism and regimes that tormented it."  

The Pope, recalled Cardinal Bertone, "was received…not as a foreigner but like the Vicar of Christ, with a lot of enthusiasm on the part of the Polish Church, a Church that is alive, brave, faithful, and one that has been immersed, as we have indicated before, in moments of uncertainty."  

In Bertone’s opinon, the trip to Germany "allowed the Holy Father to rekindle the relation between faith and reason, a topic much loved by John Paul II and one that Pope Benedict has taken up again, developed, and expanded on with his reflections - first as a cardinal and now as Pope."

The Cardinal said, the Pope’s visit to his homeland "made the foundation for his important trip to Turkey: a trip focused on approaching the problem of Islam - with its central speeches and the meetings with religious and political personalities of that world, of that nation, of the Islamic world.”

Therefore, Bertone said, the trip was, “the trip of openness, of the extraordinary reception and the reaffirmation of the firm intention of the Church to continue the Dialogue and the convergence of all the healthy resources of the religions and of the societies to reach the progress, the promotion of life, the family and of peace.”  

"The trip to Spain focused on the role of the family, of the true family in accordance with the plan of God, of the family based on marriage, on the relation between man and woman and on the identity of man and woman that should not be replaced by any intention or human project," assured Cardinal Bertone.  

“Thousands upon thousands of families met in Spain," continued the Prelate, "they are also proof of the will that society desires to continue the plan of God for the family, despite the difficult moments, the sufferings, the difficulties of a modern life at times very intricate and complex, above all in the family life, that at times is neither protected, nor accompanied by adequate legislative nor economic initiatives."

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Block of anti-life NGOs seeking to bring “therapeutic” abortion back to Nicaragua

Managua, Nicaragua, Jan 12, 2007 (CNA) - A block of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is arguing that a recent decision to ban so-called therapeutic abortion in Nicaragua is unconstitutional and is seeking to get the law overturned.

According to media reports, medical associations and feminist movements, together with the controversial Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, and international legal advisors, have filed a case before Nicaragua’s Supreme Court regarding the country’s recent Penal Code reform, which resulted in a ban on “therapeutic” abortions.

The effort to ban “therapeutic” abortion, a term which usually covers any abortion deemed “necessary” to protect the life, health, or mental-health of the mother, was backed by former Nicaraguan president Enrique Bolaños.

According to feminist leader Maria Martha Blandon, the group must wait 60 days after the passage of the reform before filing an appeal, and the waiting period will end on January 15th.  She said the appeal would require a ruling by the entire Supreme Court.

The high court would have four months to study the case and hear testimony from experts.  “We know they are not experts in matters of human rights, health and reproductive rights, but we hope that this time we will be called and will be able to argue our case,” Blandon said.

Sources tell CNA that the NGOs are being advised by Monica Roa, the Colombian lawyer who successfully led an effort to get abortion decriminalized in her country.

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Latin American Bishops Conference meeting officially discussed at Vatican

Vatican City, Jan 12, 2007 (CNA) - The Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, which will be held in Aparecida, Brazil from May 13 to 31st, and which will be inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI, was officially discussed today in the Press Office of the Holy See.

Fr. David Gutierrez, director of the press office of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), affirmed that the conference - which will have as its theme "Disciples and missionaries in Jesus Christ, that in Him our peoples may have life ('I am the way and the truth and the life')" - will be inaugurated by Benedict XVI on May 13. The Pope will preside at a Mass, concelebrated with representatives of all Latin American bishops, and will pronounce an address during the opening session.
 
Fr. Gutierrez explained that a group of experts is currently selecting the themes from proposals being put forward by the various episcopal conferences. They will prepare a summary and, at the end of February, publish a preparatory document for the conference.
 
The presidents of the 22 episcopal conferences of CELAM will attend the Aparecida meeting, as will groups representing the prelates in each episcopal conference, for a total of 176, also including bishops from Canada, U.S.A., Spain and Portugal. Also present will be 24 priests, 23 male and female religious, and 17 lay people, as well as six ecumenical representatives.
 
The novelty of this conference with respect to the previous four held in 1955, 1968 1979 and 1992, said Fr. Gutierrez, is that on the closing day, when the final document is published, a "great continental mission" will begin.
 
Fr. Gutierrez also explained that the original intention had been to hold the meeting in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, but the idea was abandoned because the city lies at an altitude of nearly 5,000 meters and there were fears this might affect the health of the delegates, particularly the more elderly. Benedict XVI had then asked for the meeting to be celebrated at a Marian shrine, and Aparecida was chosen, a site that can hold 35,000 faithful and is visited annually by eight million pilgrims.

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Spanish Muslim group wary of efforts to open Cathedral of Cordoba to Islamic prayer

Madrid, Spain, Jan 12, 2007 (CNA) - The Islamic organization Al-Hidaya has spoken out against efforts to allow Islamic prayer in the Cathedral of Cordoba and warned that the group behind the move, the Islamic Council, does not represent all Muslims and is merely seeking the spotlight.

In an article published at ForumLibertas.com, Omar Ribas, a Muslim from Barcelona and a member of Al-Hidaya, which represents Muslims all over Spain, expressed his disgust at “the disconcerting presence in the media of a handful of persons, openly backed by the party currently in power,” who “act like they own the name Muslim, when in reality they are alien to the community, as they only act in their own benefit, seeking to subvert and steal the spotlight.”

Ribas said the Islamic Council, a small group of Muslims in Cordoba, “represents no one but itself.” In January of 2005, he explained, the group “was expelled from the Council of the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities.”

Tolerance and respect, separate places of worship

Ribas and Al-Hidaya issued a statement emphasizing that respectful and tolerant coexistence between Christians and Muslims requires separate places of worship.

Alluding to the precedent set by the Caliph Omar who, after the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the 7th century, opted not to pray in the most important church there because “if I do this, someday Muslims will use it as an excuse to take the church away from you,” the statement notes that “it is clear from this act that Christian places of worship should not be turned into mosques, and if that has happened in the past, it was against the norms of Islam.  Muslims do not want to take over the Church’s possessions.”

“We do not think therefore that it is appropriate to turn one religion’s places into those of another, nor to cause confusion by creating places in which both liturgies can take place at the same time.  The ancient aljama mosque of Cordoba in recent centuries has been a Christian cathedral, and therefore, unless the Church cedes it to Muslims voluntarily, it is a place of Catholic worship,” Ribas and Al-Hidaya said.

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