Archive of January 24, 2007

EWTN to air special Lenten programming, rollout new series

Irondale, Ala., Jan 24, 2007 (CNA) - EWTN will air special Lenten programming and a dynamic new series in February, starting with the Ash Wednesday Mass, celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI, live on Feb. 21 at 11 a.m. (all times Eastern U.S.)

The Mass will be followed by "Ash Wednesday Mediations," with Fr. Benedict Groeschel at 12:30 p.m.

Fr. William Casey will host a Lenten parish mission each Sunday of Lent at 10 p.m. (rebroadcast at 2 p.m.).

Biblical scholar Scott Hahn will host a new series, "Letter and Spirit" on Mondays at 9 p.m. The program will look at the vital connection between the Bible and the liturgy.

"Life On The Rock" will feature Oregon State University's baseball coach, Pat Casey, and "EWTN Live" will feature the Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City and Fr. Tom Euteneuer, president of Human Life International.

Other special programming in February includes "Bernadette: Her Vision Became a Legend" on Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. (rebroadcast on Feb. 15 at 1 p.m.). Shot on location in France, this documentary tells the remarkable story of the young peasant girl to whom Our Lady appeared in Lourdes, France.

"Project Amazon" follows 20 lay Catholic missionaries, with medical training and other skills, into the heart of the Amazon jungle as they seek to provide for those in need. It will air on Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. (rebroadcast on Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m.).

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Pope reveals outlook on Ecumenical dialogue

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2007 (CNA) - For a second week Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his Wednesday General Audience to the theme of Christian Unity.  The Holy Father laid out, for the faithful gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, his Pontificate’s outlook on Ecumenical dialogue.

Unity is something "that concerns the whole Church," said the Pope. By praying together "Christians become more aware of their status as brothers, though still divided."

"Looking back over the journey of these last 40 years, it is surprising how the Lord has reawoken us from the torpor of self-satisfaction and indifference, how He makes us ever more capable of 'listening' to one another, and not just of 'hearing' one another."

"Ecumenism," the Holy Father went on, "is a slow process, a long uphill journey, like all journeys of penance." Yet, despite the difficulties, "it also leaves ample space for joy, revitalizing pauses, and it enables us, from time to time, to breath the pure air of full communion with both lungs."

Experience has shown that the search for unity takes place "under many circumstances," said Pope Benedict, and he mentioned parishes, hospitals and local communities, especially "in regions where a gesture of good will towards a brother or sister requires great effort and a purification of memory.

"In this context of hope," he added, "we must place the meetings and events that constantly characterize my own ministry, the ministry of the bishop of Rome, pastor of the Universal Church." And he went on to recall the ecumenical milestones of the past year such as "the official visit of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, ... and of delegations from the World Baptist Alliance and from the Evangelical Lutheran Church."

The Holy Father also mentioned his meetings with "leaders of the Orthodox Church of Georgia," and the summit meeting of religious leaders in Moscow, Russia, in July 2006 at which Alexis II, patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, "with a special message, requested the presence of the Holy See."

After recalling the official visit of the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, The Holy Father went on to speak of his "unforgettable" trip to Turkey and his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul, underlining his "commitment to ensure that the embrace of peace we exchanged during the divine liturgy in the church of St. George in Fanar," translates into practical consequences.

"These moments," he concluded, "highlight the commitment - often silent, but deep - that unites us in the search for unity. They encourage us to make every effort to continue this slow but important uphill journey."

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is due to end tomorrow with the celebration of Vespers in the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls. 

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Media must contribute to the formation of children, not the corruption, Pope Benedict affirms

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2007 (CNA) - Today, on the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, Patron of Journalists, the Vatican made public Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the World Day for Social Communications.  In his message the Holy Father energetically urges the media to aim at contributing to the formation rather than the corruption of children.

The theme of this year’s Day of Communications, which will be celebrated on May 20th, is “Children and the Media: A Challenge for Education.”  This theme, the Holy Father says in his message, “invites us to reflect on two related topics of immense importance. The formation of children is one. The other, perhaps less obvious but no less important, is the formation of the media.”

“The complex challenges facing education today are often linked to the pervasive influence of the media in our world,” the Holy Father writes.

“Indeed,” the Pontiff continues, “some claim that the formative influence of the media rivals that of the school, the Church, and maybe even the home.”

“The relationship of children, media, and education can be considered from two perspectives: the formation of children by the media; and the formation of children to respond appropriately to the media.”

“Within this framework, training in the proper use of the media is essential for the cultural, moral and spiritual development of children,” he continues.

“Educating children to be discriminating in their use of the media is a responsibility of parents, Church, and school. The role of parents is of primary importance. They have a right and duty to ensure the prudent use of the media by training the conscience of their children to express sound and objective judgments which will then guide them in choosing or rejecting programs available,” the Pope writes.

“In doing so, parents should have the encouragement and assistance of schools and parishes in ensuring that this difficult, though satisfying, aspect of parenting is supported by the wider community,” Benedict adds.

“Media education should be positive. Children exposed to what is aesthetically and morally excellent are helped to develop appreciation, prudence and the skills of discernment. Here it is important to recognize the fundamental value of parents’ example and the benefits of introducing young people to children's classics in literature, to the fine arts and to uplifting music. While popular literature will always have its place in culture, the temptation to sensationalize should not be passively accepted in places of learning.”

The duty of the media

Pope Benedict also writes in his letter that while many in the media, “want to do what is right, we must also recognize that those who work in this field confront special psychological pressures and ethical dilemmas which at times see commercial competitiveness compelling communicators to lower standards.”

“Any trend to produce programs and products - including animated films and video games - which in the name of entertainment exalt violence and portray anti-social behavior or the trivialization of human sexuality is a perversion, all the more repulsive when these programs are directed at children and adolescents,” the Pontiff says.

“How could one explain this ‘entertainment’ to the countless innocent young people who actually suffer violence, exploitation and abuse,” the Pope asked.

For this reason, he continues, “again I appeal to the leaders of the media industry to educate and encourage producers to safeguard the common good, to uphold the truth, to protect individual human dignity and promote respect for the needs of the family.”

“The Church herself, in the light of the message of salvation entrusted to her, is also a teacher of humanity and welcomes the opportunity to offer assistance to parents, educators, communicators, and young people,” he says, concluding, “Her own parish and school programs should be in the forefront of media education today.”

Read the entirety of the Holy Father's message here:

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British adoption agencies may be forced to close due to “anti-discrimination” laws, Cardinal warns

London, England, Jan 24, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has warned that 12 Catholic adoption agencies will be at risk of closure if the Blair administration enforces legislation, designed to give same-sex couples the same protection against discrimination under the law as ethnic minorities.

The Archbishop of Westminster has warned that the law, which is part of the Equalities Act of 2006, would create a “serious difficulty” for the Church by forcing Catholics to "act against the teaching of the Church [on family life] and their own consciences". Currently, gay couples who approach Catholic adoption agencies are referred to other agencies.

The act is expected to come into effect in April.

However, according to a Jan. 22 report in the Guardian Unlimited, Prime Minister Tony Blair seems to be wavering on the issue.

The Blair administration has considered allowing Catholic adoption agencies exemption from the gay rights legislation, but the prime minister's official spokesman told the British newspaper that Blair still had to decide on the issue.

Blair's official spokesman reportedly said: "This is an issue with sensitivities on all sides and the prime minister recognizes that, and that is why it is worth having some discussions in government before we come to a decision.

The spokesman said the key thing to remember in this debate is the interests of children.

Weekend reports speculated that both Blair, whose wife and family are Catholic, and Ruth Kelly, who heads the Department for Communities and Local Government and is a member of Opus Dei, were in favor of allowing the church some form of exemption.

In a letter sent to Downing Street, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor reiterated that the Catholic Church "utterly" condemns all forms of unjust discrimination, violence, harassment or abuse directed against gay people.

However, the Cardinal said, "we believe it would be unreasonable, unnecessary, and unjust discrimination against Catholics for the government to insist that if they wish to continue to work with local authorities, Catholic adoption agencies must act against the teaching of the church and their own consciences by being obliged in law to provide such a service."

There are 12 Catholic adoption agencies in England and Wales that are responsible for about 4,000 voluntary sector adoptions. About 32 percent of the children they place have special needs.

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Cardinal George calls archdiocese to be aware of the interaction of their Catholic faith and the secular culture

Chicago, Ill., Jan 24, 2007 (CNA) - In his weekly column in, “The Catholic New World,” Cardinal Francis George expressed his tremendous concern over “the deprogramming of Catholics” and the “great tension” Catholics experience between “how their culture shapes them and what their Catholic faith tells them to hold.”

The Archbishop of Chicago said he was alerted to this when the mostly lay Archdiocesan Pastoral Council asked the Presbyteral Council to address “some contested mysteries of faith” during homilies at Mass over the course of the year.

The six topics that were decided upon include: the Eucharist, ordained priesthood, penance/reconciliation, marriage, the Blessed Virgin Mary and immigration.

“The first impression this list, minus the sixth concern about immigration, leaves with me is that we’re back to the Protestant Reformation,” wrote the archbishop.

“At the time of the Reformation, when the visible unity of the Church was broken for doctrinal reasons, the Mass became a memorial service for most Reformers, its unity with Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary became purely ‘spiritual’ and the objective, sacramental, substantial re-presentation of that sacrifice was denied,” he explained.

The loss of the sacrifice of the Mass in the Reformed churches allowed the ordained priesthood to be reduced to ministry, and the sacrament of reconciliation became unnecessary, “for neither the Church nor the priest mediated the penitent’s relationship to God’s mercy,” he explained.

“The individualism that is left when mediation disappears makes even the saints competitors with Christ, so there is no room for the Blessed Virgin Mary and other saints to pray for us or care for us,” he continued. “At best, they become reminders of good behavior in past history; devotion to them is classed as a form of idolatry.

“There are many good people whose path to holiness is shaped by religious individualism and private interpretation of what God has revealed. They are, however, called Protestants,” he said.

“The Second Vatican Council wasn’t called to turn Catholics into Protestants,” he wrote, referring to those who call for renewal in the Church by deviating from the foundations of the Catholic faith. “It was called to ask God to bring all Christ’s followers into unity of faith so that the world would believe who Christ is and live with him in his Body, the Church.

“What seems clear to me is that God is calling us to be authentically Catholic in our faith and also, perhaps paradoxically, Protestant in our culture,” he wrote. “We live where we are, not in some ideal world where everything works smoothly.”

“The one thing necessary is to live with discerning hearts and minds. We need to keep asking ourselves what is influencing our ways of thought, our decisions, our feelings and affections,” he wrote.

“A life of constant discernment is not always easy, but it’s joyful because it means living with the Holy Spirit, whose presence brings truth and consolation and unity,” he concluded.

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“Mona Lisa” died in 1542 as religious sister, Italian expert says

Rome, Italy, Jan 24, 2007 (CNA) - An Italian expert said this week the woman who posed for Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa, also known as Gioconda, died in 1542 as a religious sister in a convent in Florence, where she also may have been buried.

According to the Italian daily “La Repubblica,” Giuseppe Pallanti, author of the book, “Mona Lisa Discovered: The True Identity of Leonardo’s Model,” recently discovered information on the death of Lisa Gherardini, the woman who scholars agree posed for one of Da Vinci’s master works, in the archives of a church in Florence indicating that “the wife of Francesco del Giocondo died on July 15, 1542 and was buried at Sant’Orsola.”

The church of Sant’Orsola, where Lisa Gherardini died at the age of 63, is in ruins and is located near the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence.

“It was to this convent that Mona Lisa brought her youngest daughter, Marietta, who later became a religious.  And at that same place, as indicated in the last testament of her husband, who died four years before her, she lived out the last days of her life,” Pallanti said.  The Italian scholar has been researching the archives of Florence for the past three years.

Another scholar and expert on Leonardo Da Vinci, Carlo Pedretti, thanked Pallanti for his discovery and requested that the ruins of the convent be searched in order to locate the remains of Lisa Gherardini.  “Thanks to modern technology, scientists can determine her physical aspect, including the details of her face, and thus make an important contribution,” Pedretti stated.

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Abortion rights activist who deceived New York Times takes aim at pro-life law in Nicaragua

Managua, Nicaragua, Jan 24, 2007 (CNA) - One of the parties involved in a recent scandal which saw the New York Time embarrassed over the publication of false information on abortion in Latin America is now launching an effort against a Nicaraguan law that prohibits so-called therapeutic abortion.

Maria Marta Blandon, who represents the pro-abortion corporation IPAS, has reappeared before the press to demand that the Sandinista government strike down the pro-life law, arguing that doctors in the country can no longer treat women who are showing symptoms of natural miscarriage.

Blandon is the pro-abortion feminist who used a Salvadoran woman named Karina del Carmen as the poster child for the victims of illegal abortion in that country.  In reality del Carmen had been sentenced to 30 years in prison for strangling her newborn baby to death.  Nonetheless, Blandon misrepresented the case in order to raise money to support the decriminalization of abortion in Central America.

The New York Times picked up the story, but later had to issue a correction after the truth came to light.  Blandon never appeared before reporters to answer questions about the matter.

However, this week she showed up in Nicaragua demanding that the government revoke the new law, despite the fact that doctors around the world acknowledge that advanced in medicine mean abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother.

According to Blandon, when the issue of therapeutic abortion was debated in the Nicaraguan congress last October, pro-abortion forces made a pact with the Sandinistas.  “We spoke with many representatives of the Sandinista Party who told us, yes, you are right, but this is a party decision and we can’t vote against it.  But don’t worry, vote for us in the elections and when we win we will clear this up,” Blandon stated.

She claims that a “witch hunt” has been unleashed in Nicaragua.  “Doctors do not want to treat women who show up at hospitals with miscarriage symptoms.  This law is harsh and conservatives held such sway in the previous administration that doctors now fear they will be committing a crime.  We have already seen cases of women checking in hospitals with miscarriage symptoms and nobody wants to treat them. In rural areas women have died,” she said, although she did not provide any specific data.

IPAS, which promotes abortion under the euphemisms of sexual and reproductive rights, has filed a suit before the Nicaraguan Supreme Court in order to reinstate therapeutic abortion.

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One-fourth of immigrants lose their faith in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Jan 24, 2007 (CNA) - According to a poll by the Social Foundation of the University of Francisco de Vitoria, 25% of immigrants lose their faith after moving to Spain.

As reported by the publication Alba, the poll, which was given to 500 immigrants from 36 different countries, showed that “99.2% of the respondents said they had religious convictions at one point in their lives, but 15% said they had lost them after moving to Spain, and 10% said they felt there were currently losing their faith.”

The study indicated that the reason for the loss of faith is due to the immersion of immigrants into “a hedonistic and consumerist society.”  It also said the values respondents selected as important also provided a clue to the problem.  “43.7% of respondents said good health is what makes them happiest; 23.7% said money; 18.9% said the family, and only 2.5% said God was their main source of happiness.”

Joaquin Saldaña, director of the Foundation, said these values seemed to be more important to respondents than moral and religious values.  However, moral and religious values “do not annul other moral values nor are they substitutes.  Quite the contrary,” he said.

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Success for Knights pro-life billboard project

Madison, Wis., Jan 24, 2007 (CNA) - A billboard campaign in the Diocese of Madison has proven its effectiveness in assisting women in their decision not to have an abortion and in reaching out to women who have.

The Knights of Columbus launched the campaign in October 2003, with the encouragement of Bishop Robert Morlino. The campaign began in conjunction with the opening of the Madison Planned Parenthood abortion center located on Madison's east side.

According to an article in the local Catholic Herald, this billboard was placed directly across the street from, and overlooking, the abortion center. The billboard reads: “I regret my abortion — and if you do too, there is hope …”

According to the Knights, Leslie Graves, a counselor with Rachel's Vineyard, reported that a young lady called her office and said she drove to the clinic every day to see that billboard.

"She drove there every day just to see that billboard. It was her lifeline. She said that after the abortion her despair was so deep that she had taken a couple of overdoses of pills,” Graves reportedly said. “I think that billboard probably saved her life."

The Knights received another report from a young lady who’s friend was headed to the Planned Parenthood center for an abortion. But when her friend saw the billboard, she returned home and made an appointment at the local crisis pregnancy center instead. She carried her baby to term.

Amy Hying, a sidewalk counselor, says she sometimes points up to the billboard to share the 'Silent No More' message of how abortion hurts women.

“It is truly a great way to reach out to many women, and also many men, as they drive by on Highway 51," she said.

The Knights said they would like to see this campaign expand.

The diocese’s seminarians have also become involved in the project. Last summer they participated in a 24-hour prayer vigil, organized by the Knights, in front of the clinic.

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Holy Father thrilled upon receiving New Testament manuscript

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI expressed his gratitude and profound satisfaction upon receiving a papyrus containing one of the earliest known transcriptions of the New Testament.  According to an L'Osservatore Romano article, the Holy Father spent time examining the famous Papyrus Bodmer 14-15 this week.

The famous papyrus contains one of the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament, which dates back to the beginning of the 3rd century.  It includes fragments from the Gospel of Luke (including chapter 11, where the Our Father is found) and the first fourteen chapters of John.

On Monday the Pontiff met with met with Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican librarian and archivist, as well as the papyrus’s donors, the Frank Hannah family.

Up to now the papyrus had been preserved in Cologny, near Geneva (Switzerland), at the headquarters of the Bodmer Foundation, which owned the document.  Now it will be kept at the Vatican Apostolic Library.

The Holy Father expressed his gratitude and profound satisfaction for the privilege of receiving this important New Testament manuscript, which is of great historic, spiritual and critical value.

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African bishops take a look back and set plan for the future at evangelization congress

Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, Jan 24, 2007 (CNA) - In preparation for a second Synod of Africa, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) held a Pan-African Congress at Dar-Es-Salaam in Tanzania from the 15th to the 18th of January.  The gathered bishops evaluated the progress of evangelisation in Africa and planned for future evangelization projects.

The congress included a wide-ranging discussion on the topic of: "Evangelisation in Africa: Ecclesia in Africa in Retrospect and the Way Forward.”  According to Aid to the Church in Need, who was represented at the congress, the main purpose of the event was to assess how far evangelisation has progressed and to look ahead at the tasks of evangelisation that are still urgently to be addressed in the Church.

During the discussions the following matters were presented: Proclamation of the Good News, inculturation, and dialogue.  Amidst the many troubles seen in Africa, of course, those who took part in the Congress could not avoid talking about reconciliation, justice, and peace.

Christine du Coudray and Father Andrzej Halemba, who took part in the conference for ACN, stressed the importance of the family for the future of Africa

For his part, Father Patrick Thawale said, in his Jan. 17th speech about inculturation: “If we are seriously concerned about the well being of the Church and indeed of the whole world we should surely work hard to improve on the stability and strengthening of the family.”

According to Fides, the bishops were also addressed by the Prime Minister of Tanzania, who praised the Catholic Church's involvement in helping Africa to resolve her problems.  The prime minister called for a partnership between the Church and African States so that together they could embark upon prophetic actions that would help Africa to make use of her immense riches and to help her take her destiny into her own hands.  He stressed that both Church and State should work together to eradicate poverty, HIV/AIDS, corruption and bad governance.

In addition, the Congress discussed the way in which Christian minority groups in some countries are not allowed to freely express their faith.  Several representatives testified to the necessity of insisting on greater respect for religious liberty in their countries and told of their renewed efforts to witness to life and love in their evangelization.  

Congress participants also appealed to, “our brothers and sisters of the Islamic faith to understand that evangelisation is not meant to proselytise but to be a free proposal of God's love manifested in Jesus Christ,” Fides reported.

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