Archive of January 16, 2007

John Paul II gadget a hit on Italian newsstands

Rome, Italy, Jan 16, 2007 (CNA) - A new gadget offering a digitally recorded blessing from the late Pope John Paul II has been selling like hotcakes at Italian newsstands.

The palm-size device, which has a small picture of John Paul mounted on an electronic card, is being offered as a free gift with a new Catholic monthly, called Benedicat Vos, Italian news agency ANSA has reported. At the press of a button, the user hears the late Pope’s voice offer a blessing in Latin.

About 35,000 of these cards have been purchased so far and the magazine’s publisher, Efelia, says it will distribute another 35,000 copies in the next few days.

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Catholic archbishop opposes government-imposed Hindu practice

Mumbai, India, Jan 16, 2007 (CNA) - The practices of one religion should not be imposed on people of other religions, said a Catholic archbishop in response to a recent government decision to make a Hindu ritual compulsory in all public schools and colleges.

Archbishop Pascal Topno of Bhopal told the Indian Catholic News Service on Monday that he has nothing against Hindu rituals but "people from other communities should be given the freedom and the choice to say no to it.”

The Madhya Pradesh state government announced its decision to hold mass Surya Namaskar recitations in institutions across the state on Jan. 25. Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation is a prayer offered to the sun god and a main component of yoga.

The decision is reportedly a precursor to a new yoga policy. The government said it would encourage private schools and colleges to participate in the program as well.

The archbishop told ICNS that the Church has not received any direct orders from the government about participating in the ritual to date.

Muslims have also voiced opposition to the government’s decision, threatening to keep their children home from school on Jan. 25.

“Similarly, one of our commandments also means that we should not bow down in front of any idol or any other god," Archbishop Topno reportedly said.

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New bishop in Mexico youngest in the world

Vatican City, Jan 16, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has named 38 year-old Father Emigdio Duarte Figueroa, until now the rector of the Diocesan seminary in Culiacan, the new auxiliary bishop of Culiacan, making him the youngest bishop in the world.

Father Duarte Figueroa was born on May 5, 1968 in the city of Guamuchil in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.  After receiving a degree in computer science, he studied philosophy at the seminary in Culiacan and theology at the seminary in Guadalajara.

Figueroa was ordained a priest on June 29, 1996, and he received a Doctorate in Moral Theology at the Pontifical Lateran  University in Rome.

Since 2001 he has been the rector of the diocesan seminary and a professor at the Catholic University. He has also served as the Episcopal vicar for the clergy and as chaplain for several religious communities.

The second youngest bishop in the world is also Latin American: Auxiliary Bishop Marco Perez Caicedo of Guayaquil.

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Vatican expert previews Pope Benedict XVI’s new book

Rome, Italy, Jan 16, 2007 (CNA) - In an article titled, “The Next Battle For and Against Jesus Will Be Fought by the Book,” Sandro Magister, a Vatican expert who writes for the Italian weekly, L’espresso, has published in five languages the complete preface from Pope Benedict XVI’s new book, “Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration.”  The upcoming release will be the first of an anticipated two volume set, with the first slated go on sale sometime this spring.  Magister predicts the new book, “will be the best-seller of the year.”

Though the book will not be released for several months, Magister notes, “a week does not go by without Benedict XVI preaching about the book’s protagonist: Jesus ‘true God and true man.’”  

The Holy Father, Magister says, is setting out to propose a true image of Jesus, in contradistinction to the prevailing academic trends which obscure or reject Christ outright.  Magister noted especially the Holy Father’s General Audience on January 3rd, in which he pointed out that the rejection of Christ is “unfortunately manifested and expressed today in many different ways.”

“It may be that today’s forms of rejection of God are even more subtle and dangerous than in the past,” the Holy Father said, “from explicit rejection to indifference, from scientistic atheism to the presentation of a so-called ‘modernized’ or ‘postmodernized’ Jesus.  This is Jesus as a man, reduced in various ways to a mere man of his time, deprived of his divinity, or a Jesus so idealized as to seem sometimes a character in a fairy tale.”

In the face of such propositions of a false Jesus, Magister insists, Pope Benedict offers the “true Jesus of history,” a Jesus who is, “true God and true man, and does not weary of offering his Gospel to all.”

“The upcoming book,” the journalist concludes, “intends precisely to pose the authentic Jesus against the false ‘modernized or postmodernized’ Jesus,” found in several recent publications.  “The Pope,” he says, “has taken another step in the book’s release – and in the battle for and against Jesus.”

Magister then includes an English translation of the book’s preface.

The Pope begins his preface recalling his youth and the exhilarating experience he had in reading books about Jesus.  

However, Pope Benedict continues, in the middle of the 20th century “a rift between the ‘historical Jesus’ and the ‘Christ of faith’ became wider and wider,” leading to an, “impression that we know very little for sure about Jesus, and that it was only later that faith in His divinity shaped His image.”

The situation created by such Theological reconstructions of Christ has harmed the faith, the Holy Father continues, “because it renders uncertain its authentic point of reference: intimate friendship with Jesus, on which everything depends, threatens to become a groping around in the void.”

Thus, he continues, “For my presentation of Jesus, this means above all that I trust the Gospels.”

“Naturally,” he says, “I take for granted what the Council and modern exegesis say about the literary genres, about the intention of various expressions, about the communitarian context of the Gospels and the fact that they speak within this living context.”

“While accepting all this as much as possible, I wanted to make an effort to present the Jesus of the Gospels as the real Jesus, as the ‘historical Jesus’ in the real sense of the expression.”

The Pontiff emphasizes that the book is not written as an attack on modern exegesis, which has, “made us familiar with a great quantity of sources and conceptions through which the figure of Jesus can become present to us with a liveliness and depth that we couldn’t even imagine just a few decades ago.”

“Naturally,” he adds, “to believe that even as a man He was God, and made this known by concealing it within parables while nevertheless making it increasingly clear, goes beyond the possibilities of the historical method. On the contrary, if one begins from this conviction of faith and reads the texts with the historical method and with its openness to what is greater, the texts open up to reveal a way and a figure that are worthy of faith.”

“I have sought only to go beyond mere historical-critical interpretation, applying the new methodological criteria that allow us to make a properly theological interpretation of the Bible that naturally requires faith, without thereby wanting or being able in any way to renounce historical seriousness.”

The book is, “absolutely not a magisterial act,” Benedict clarifies, “but is only the expression of my personal search for the ‘face of the Lord’ (Psalm 27:8). So everyone is free to disagree with me. I ask only that my readers begin with that attitude of good will without which there is no understanding.”

For the full version of the preface and additional commentary from Sandro Magister please visit the following link

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Pro-life organizations urge citizens to block anti-speech bill

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2007 (CNA) - The United States Senate will soon vote on Senate bill S1 that may prohibit advocacy groups including pro-life groups from sending e-mails informing voters about certain bills and urging them to contact their elected officials.  

Senate bill S1 is intended to reform lobbying in Washington and includes a provision in the disclosure of paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying. This provision would in effect create complicated and expensive reporting requirements on advocacy groups. Organizations such as National Right to Life, Family Research Council, American Family Association, and the Population Research Institute, along with many others are concerned.

Advocacy groups could be fined up to $100,000 for urging Americans to contact their elected officials if they do not meet quarterly reporting requirements, if passed in its current form.  Advocacy groups would be required to register with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

In a letter to U.S. Senators, obtained by, the National Right to Life organization wrote that the “net effect,” of the bill, “would be to chill activities that are essential to the healthy functioning of a representative system of government."
"If this provision is enacted,” the letter says, “many ordinary citizens will get less and less information from pro-life groups and other issue-oriented organizations about what is going on in Congress."

National Right to Life is urging lawmakers to adopt an amendment by pro-life Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah that would resolve the problems.  Bennett’s Amendment 20 would remove the provision relating to paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying.

Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, told LifeNews that he agrees that pro-life advocates should ask their senators to oppose the damaging provisions.

"This is a move to stop us from informing you about the issues you find important," he said.

"We don't oppose legitimate proposals to address unethical actions by Members of Congress, congressional staff and lobbyists," Perkins explained. "But nothing in those misdeeds provides any justification whatever for the idea that Congress should regulate the constitutionally protected efforts of groups such as ours to alert citizens regarding legislative developments in Congress."

Perkins says his group backs the Bennett amendment as well.

"The Senator realizes that just as it would be unconstitutional to monitor the press because of their contact with their readers, Congress has no business monitoring the motives of citizens who contact Washington to express their views," he said.

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No plans to discipline Pelosi, says Washington Archbishop

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Donald Wuerl says he has no plans to prevent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving Communion despite her overt support for abortion, embryonic same-sex research, and same-sex marriage.

The Archbishop of Washington, D.C., was criticized recently for failing to speak out against Pelosi’s attendance at a Mass on Jan. 3 at her alma mater, Trinity University.

While in San Diego on Jan. 13-14, the archbishop told the California Catholic Daily that Pelosi’s attendance at the Mass at Trinity “was a matter between the university and Nancy.”

“They were offering their location, and the Mass was celebrated by a priest with faculties, and there was no reason to make any comment,” he told the online newspaper.

When asked if he would advise ordained ministers to deny Pelosi Communion, the archbishop responded: “You’re talking about a whole different style of pastoral ministry. No.”
Pelosi has been criticized in some Catholic circles for publicizing her attendance at the Trinity University Mass and at St. Leo the Great Church in Baltimore.

Prior to the Mass at Trinity, American Life League president Judie Brown reportedly implored Archbishop Wuerl to intervene in the matter.

“Rep. Pelosi has a tremendous opportunity to make a difference for all human beings as the most powerful Catholic in Congress,” said Brown. “Unfortunately, she continually supports the very act that destroys life rather than protects it. It is for this very reason that a Catholic institution should not condone or support her position as a legislator.”

When Pelosi was sworn in as the Speaker of the House, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, praised Pelosi for championing “pro-choice values” for her nearly 20 years in public office. 

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Mt. Soledad Cross removal order vacated by appeals judge

Ann Arbor, Mich., Jan 16, 2007 (CNA) - The City of San Diego is no longer required to remove the Mt. Soledad Cross, according to a ruling by a panel of appeals court judges. Seventeen years ago, atheist Philip Paulson filed a lawsuit against the city and demanded that the cross be removed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided on Jan. 12 to vacate the district court’s order. The case was judged moot because the municipality no longer owns the land on which the cross stands.

Last August, President George W. Bush signed a Congressional Act that immediately transferred all title and interest of the cross and property to the federal government for its use as a national war memorial honoring U.S. veterans.

A citizens’ organization, called San Diegans for the Mt. Soledad National War Memorial, had spearheaded the successful referendary petition drive to transfer the memorial property to the federal government. Seventy-six percent of voters were in favor of transferring the property to the federal government.

Following the Congressional Act, the Thomas More Law Center filed a motion with the Ninth Circuit appeals court to “dismiss and vacate” the lower court ruling since the property no longer belonged to the City of San Diego. The Ninth Circuit agreed with the Law Center’s argument.

“We welcome this ruling,” said Richard Thompson, president of the Law Center. However, he noted that the battle to save veterans memorial is not over. ACLU filed a new lawsuit, this time against the federal government, to remove the cross.

“We must now turn our resources toward defeating them again. We are committed to that task,” said Thompson.

Over the past two years, the Law Center has represented the citizens’ group in favor preserving the cross without charge.

For more on the Thomas More Law Center, go to: 

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Parents demand a say in contents of controversial school course

Madrid, Spain, Jan 16, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the National Catholic Federation of Parents’ Associations in Spain, Luis Carbonel, is demanding the Ministry of Education allow parents to have a say in the contents of the controversial course “Education for Citizenship and Human Rights,” which the government is seeking to make mandatory, “in order to avoid having each local region in the country structure the course according to its own understanding of values.”

Carbonel said the contents of the controversial course should be subject to parental consent and that sections that parents object to should be excluded.  As long as parents are not allowed to exercise their right to educate their children according to their own values, Carbonel argued, the teaching of this course constitutes “illegitimate interference” by the State.

Carbonel said the federation supports the voluntary nature of the new course and its emphasis on “objective” rights and obligations outlined in the Spain’s constitution and in various international treaties, such as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

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Sunday should be center of Christian life, says Peruvian cardinal

Lima, Peru, Jan 16, 2007 (CNA) - During a Mass celebrating the 472nd anniversary of the founding of Peru’s capital, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, Archbishop of Lima, said Sunday should be the center of the Christian life.

“Sunday should be of such importance in our lives that we never miss Mass and the Sunday Eucharist, because it saves us through the Cross, it nourishes us in the Eucharist and resurrects us,” the cardinal said.  “We cannot live without celebrating the mysteries of the Sunday Eucharist,” he added.

Later Cardinal Cipriani underscored “the greatness and wisdom of our Catholic faith,” which has made Sunday, as instituted by Jesus Christ, the central day of the week.  Therefore, he said, “I invite everyone to allow that hope and that joy of going to church to be reborn.”

Amidst the large numbers of faithful gathered at the Cathedral, including many members of Peru’s indigenous communities, Cardinal Cipriani highlighted the importance of maintaining the faith by preserving religious traditions.

“Many times we lose sight of the traditions passed on to us by our parents and grandparents, such as praying, going to church, going to confession, praying the rosary, offering up our sacrifices out of devotion to Mary and Jesus.  And little by little, other things that are not part of the Catholic faith take their place,” he warned.  

“Take care of your traditions, and do not allow the desire for money to lead you to other traditions that are not good and that offend God,” the Cardinal said in conclusion.

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Venezuelan archbishop likens “21st century Socialism” to a “supermarket”

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 16, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Baltazar Porras of Merida said this week the 21st century Socialism touted by the Venezuelan government is ideologically vague, aims to “distract attention,” and “seems more like a supermarket.”

During an interview on Union Radio, the archbishop noted the government’s discomfort with a new document issued by the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, which demands that the government define 21st century Socialism.  Archbishop Porras characterized it as populist, authoritarian, and militaristic.

The archbishop also urged Venezuelans to understand that “democracy is not built upon authoritarianism or the loss of the autonomy which is proper to the different branches of government.”  He warned against proposals to suppress the power of mayors and city councils.

Such proposals, which have been put forth by President Hugo Chavez, could lead to “a weakening of local authority,” Archbishop Porras asserted, “because city councils would be able to solve very immediate and small problems, but everything else would depend on the central government, and this would constitute a significant step backwards.”

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