Vatican City, Jan 29, 2007 (CNA) -
After praying the Angelus with thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope launched an appeal for peace in Lebanon and in Gaza.
"Over the last few days, Lebanon has again been bloodied by violence," he said. "It is unacceptable to use such methods to support a political position. I feel immense sadness for that dear people, and I know that many Lebanese feel the temptation to abandon all hope and are disoriented by what is happening.”
"I make my own the powerful words pronounced by His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, denouncing those fratricidal clashes. Together with him and with other religious leaders, I invoke God's help so that all Lebanese without distinction may be able to, and want to, live together to make their country a real common home, overcoming all those self-seeking attitudes that are an impediment to true concern for the nation."
"To Christians in Lebanon," he concluded, "I repeat the exhortation to be promoters of real dialogue between the various communities, and upon everyone I invoke the protection of Our Lady of Lebanon."
Pope Benedict went on to call for an end to violence in the Gaza Strip. He expressed his "spiritual closeness to all the population," and gave assurances of his prayers "so that, in everyone, the will to work together for the common good may prevail, starting down peaceful paths to resolve differences and tensions."
London, England, Jan 29, 2007 (CNA) - There is mounting support among members of Parliament to grant Catholic adoption agencies an exemption from proposed legislation that would give same-sex couples the right to adopt children.
According to a report from The Guardian, divisions over plans to force Catholic adoption agencies to consider same-sex couples as parents spread to the Conservatives yesterday.
Conservative David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said he would "almost certainly" vote for Catholic agencies to be exempted from the law, a view reportedly shared by an increasing segment of Conservative Party.
"It's a challenge between the very proper right of gays to be protected from discrimination [and] the very proper right of children to have the best available adoption service,” Davis was quoted as saying. “These are very, very badly damaged children and, actually, the Catholic Adoption Society is the best to deal with that."
Andrew Tyrie, the shadow attorney general, has said Catholic agencies must be allowed to continue their work. And Edward Leigh, a senior Conservative backbencher, said the government's likely decision was "an appalling prospect for religious liberties".
While Conservative leader David Cameron supports gay adoption, he has said he will give his MPs a free vote on the bill next month. Labour MPs will not be given a free vote.
Both the Catholic and Anglican archbishops spoke in favor of the exemption last week.
Washington D.C., Jan 29, 2007 (CNA) -
Fr. Robert Drinan, the only priest ever elected as a voting member of Congress, died peacefully Sunday at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington; he was 86.
According to the Associated Press, Fr. Drinan had suffered from pneumonia and congestive heart failure during the previous 10 days.
The Jesuit ran for elected office in 1970, over the objections of his superiors, on an anti-war platform. The priest, who urged the Catholic Church to condemn the Vietnam war as "morally objectionable", was said to consider politics a natural extension of his work in public affairs and human rights.
But his 10 years as a representative of Massachusetts was not without controversy. The priest-politician spoke and voted in favor of access to abortion.
He also opposed the draft and worked to abolish mandatory retirement. He became the first member of Congress to call for the impeachment of Richard Nixon in view of the administration's bombing of Cambodia.
Fr. Drinan left office in 1980, after Pope John Paul II issued a directive barring priests from holding public office.
However, he continued his activism and served as president of Americans for Democratic Action, giving speeches nationwide on hunger, civil liberties, and the arms race. In 1996 Fr. Drinan made waves by speaking in support of President Bill Clinton’s veto of the partial birth abortion ban.
Prior to his political career, Fr. Drinan was the dean of the Boston College Law School from 1956 to 1970. During the 1960s, he called for the desegregation of public schools and urged students to become involved in civil rights.
In the 1990s, the priest testified against the impeachment of Clinton, saying that impeachment should be for an official act, not a private one.
He had received more than 20 honorary degrees in his lifetime.
Vatican City, Jan 29, 2007 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI will take another important step in dialogue with the Islamic world this Thursday, when the Vatican receives a delegation headed by Prince El Hassan Bin Talal, younger brother of the King of Jordan.
The Pontiff will receive the members of the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies; an agency which was founded by the Jordanian Prince in Amman, to provide “a venue in the Arab world for the interdisciplinary study and rational discussion of religion and religious issues, with particular reference to Christianity in Arab and Islamic society.”
The Pope and Prince Hassan also met in 1999, when a Muslim youth requested that the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, lend his support for the creation of the Royal Foundation. Since 1999, Cardinal Ratzinger has been one of the most important international supporters of the initiative.
Santa Fe, Ariz., Jan 29, 2007 (CNA) - New Mexico's three Catholic bishops met with Gov. Bill Richardson on Thursday to urge him to reconsider proposed state funding for embryonic stem cell research.
The governor's budget includes $3.8 million in capital funding and $2.2 million in recurring funds to build a new facility for stem cell research, but it does not specify the type of stem cell research.
Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe distinguished between embryonic stem cell research, which kills innocent human life, and other research that is not problematic and uses adult stem cells and stem cells taken from amniotic fluids, reported the Alamogordo Daily News. He expressed concern that embryonic stem cell research could lead to human cloning.
"We hope that there wouldn't be public money used to develop the research that is ethically problematic," Sheehan reportedly said.
According to the newspaper, Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces said the bishops do not want to put a stop to advances in modern medicine but they are against unethical research, such as that which uses embryos.
Archbishop Sheehan said Richardson listened to their appeal, but did not make any commitment. A spokesperson said the governor would consider the bishops’ concerns.
Rome, Italy, Jan 29, 2007 (CNA) - Why is Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Archbishop Emeritus of Milan, distancing himself from the Church on an issue as critical as that of euthanasia? Vatican analyst Sandro Magister provides the complex answer to that question in his latest weekly column set to be released tomorrow.
The secular press has given wide coverage to the decision by Cardinal Martini to write a front-page article for Italy’s top business daily “Il Sole 24 ore,” in which he justifies certain forms of euthanasia that are not only against the teachings of the Church, but also in clear opposition to recent statements by Pope Benedict XVI on the issue.
In Magister’s article, to be published in four languages this Tuesday, the Vaticanista offers a unique angle on the debate in Italy, which heated up after the death of Piergiorgio Welby, a paralyzed man who demanded and obtained euthanasia with the cooperation of doctor.
According to Magister, the decision by Cardinal Martini to set himself on a collision course with the Italian bishops and with the Holy See is “a controversy that has its own immediate explosiveness, its history, and its developments.”
The article will be published by the Italian weekly “L’Espresso” and will include the responses that Martini’s article has generated and that have been largely ignored by the Italian and international press. The article can be read Tuesday at http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/index.jsp?eng=y
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan 29, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Marcelo Palentini of Jujuy said last week that secularism, that is, “religious indifference,” along with the drop in “births as a result of an anti-childbirth campaign,” and the belief that “pleasure is what gives meaning to life” are affecting vocations in the Argentina.
According to the newspaper “Jujuy al Dia,” the bishop said that “as the birthrate drops there are fewer young people and therefore fewer candidates for the priesthood” and that this decrease is also related to “the general pace of society, in which it seems that pleasure or having fun is what gives meaning to life and in which priestly or religious life is thought to be nothing more than giving things up, while that is simply not the case.”
“It does means giving things up,” the bishops said, “but it also means finding the meaning of life in interior peace and serenity.”
Nevertheless, Bishop Palentini also said, “There are never enough priests, since the demands are so great. Add to this the change in mentality from before when a priest sat at the parish waiting for the people to come, to today when he goes out to where the people are, getting dirty on the outskirts of town, which demands more time and greater preparation, always considering that the priest by vocation must be missionary.”
While he noted that “in some places in Argentina there is a decrease in the number of priests, in others the numbers are holding or increasing,” it couldn’t be said that vocations have dropped as a whole in the country, since while they have decreased in “religious institutes,” there is “a small increase in diocesan seminaries. In Jujuy the numbers are holding and in recent times the outlook appears brighter,” he said.
London, England, Jan 29, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has done his part to encourage the Roman Catholic chaplaincy at one of Great Britain’s top universities. According to the Times of London, the Holy Father made an unprecedented personal donation of £2,000 (~$3,917 USD) to the Roman Catholic chaplaincy at the University of Cambridge, last week.
It is reported that the Pontiff, who himself was a university professor for many years, intended the donation to signal his “encouragement and support,” for the ministry program.
The Times reports that school’s Fisher House chaplaincy is staffed by two priests and a Dominican nun and is currently in the midst of a £2 million foundation appeal.
The Catholic academic community in Cambridge is dependent on the chaplaincy for its community life, and about 450 people attend Mass on Sundays.
The chaplaincy, in the center of one of England’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning reportedly has two choirs who sing in English and Latin and welcomes around eight converts into the Church each year. In recent years, there have been ten vocations to the priesthood coming out of Fisher House.
The chaplaincy receives no funds from the university and hardly any from the local dioceses.
Santa Fe, Ariz., Jan 29, 2007 (CNA) - The executive director of the Catholic Conference of New Mexico, Allen Sanchez, said this week of the bishops of that state are supporting a new law that would prohibit rooster fights because they foster violence and violate established principles regarding the treatment of animals.
“The Church teaches that we are supposed help God’s creatures and there are established principles about how to care for animals,” Sanchez said, adding that “it is now time to pass this prohibition and move on to more important issues,” such as the bishops’ support for the abolition of the death penalty and their opposition to embryonic stem cell research.
If the measure to prohibit rooster fighting passes, Louisiana would be the only state where the practice would still be legal. Defenders of the “sport” claim it is a Hispanic cultural tradition and therefore should not be prohibited.
“Rooster fights abuse the goodness of the creation of God and do not constitute a cultural treasure,” the bishops of New Mexico said in a statement.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 29, 2007 (CNA) - The diocesan phase of the investigation into the miraculous healing attributed to the intercession of Spanish foundress Blessed Dolores Sopeña has reached its conclusion. The miracle under study was that of a young girl who was inexplicably cured after falling from a fourth-story window.
The girl, identified as Dayanna Cantos, suffered “serious head trauma” from the fall and was in a deep coma with little chance of survival, doctors said.
Nuns from Blessed Sopeña’s congregation who knew Dayanna suggested to her mother she touch the girl with a relic of the Spanish nun and that they would pray a novena asking for her intercession. A few days later the girl emerged from the coma to the shock of her doctors.
This year the diocesan tribunal responsible for investigating the incident collected evidence and testimonies from the doctors, nurses and health care workers that cared for Dayanna, both at the time of the accident and during her recovery. Now the results will be sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Maria Dolores Rodriguez Sopeña was born in Velez Rubio, Spain, on December 30, 1848, and was the fourth of seven siblings. Because of her father’s career, the family moved to different cities and even spent a few years in Puerto Rico and Cuba.
Maria Dolores was known for her piety and devotion to those in need.
In Cuba she worked with the poor and founded the “Centers of Instruction” which offered Catechism classes, cultural instruction, and even medical care. The work inspired many to collaborate with her in the founding of three such centers in Cuba.
After her mother died in Cuba, her father retired and took the family back to Madrid in 1877. There she dedicated herself to caring for her home and her father, her work with the poor, and her spiritual life. She found a spiritual director and began to make the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius each year.
At the suggestion of the bishop of Madrid, in 1892 she founded an association known today as the “Sopeña Lay Movement.” She went to on establish other centers for the poor and working class people. In 1914 she founded a congregation of catechists.
Maria Dolores Sopeña died on January 10, 1918 in Madrid.
Vatican City, Jan 29, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican newspaper, "L'Osservatore Romano," has sharply criticized an article published by a weekly Italian newspaper based on a series of false confessions throughout Italy, calling it an "attack on religious sensitivities,” and a breach of “professional ethics.”
In order "to reveal" what Italian Catholic priests teach in confessionals on certain matters of ethics and morality, reporters of the weekly "L'Espresso" acted as penitents - an act the Church considers sacrilegious given the sacred nature of the Sacrament of Penance.
An editorial in L'Osservatore Romano denounced the act, saying it "has desecrated the sacrament...attacking the religious sensibilities of the faithful and deceiving the good faith of priests, seriously wounding the inviolability of pastoral ministry."
The Vatican newspaper called the report "shameless" and a "seriously unheard-of episode" accusing the weekly of crossing "the imposed limits of professional ethics."
Years ago, the Italian communist newspaper L'Unitá resorted to a similar method "to uncover" the political inclinations of Italian priests. The sacrilegious experiment, in both occasions, proved to be a useless journalistic abuse, as the results showed that an overwhelming majority of Italian priests teach in the confessional exactly what the Church preaches publicly.