Archive of February 2, 2007

Holy See suspends Bishop Lugo from episcopal office but does not release him for political candidacy

Asunción, Paraguay, Feb 2, 2007 (CNA) - Through a declaration made public from the Congregation for Bishops yesterday, the Vatican has suspended, “a divinis” the Bishop Emeritus of San Pedro, Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, following his decision to run for his country's presidency in 2008.  The Holy See, however, did not grant the Bishop his requested “laicization,” which is constitutionally necessary for a Paraguayan presidential candidate.

The Apostolic Nunciature in Paraguay made public the decree, signed by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops,  according to which Lugo will, “remain in the clerical state and continue to be obliged to its inherent duties, although suspended in the sacred ministry.”

Likewise, the letter reminds Lugo that “the episcopacy is a service accepted freely and forever,” and clarifies that in his case a Canonical exception for directly assuming political work does not apply.  

“The exception to the prohibition mentioned in that Canon does not apply in your case:  Paraguay, in fact, is a free and democratic nation and the Church, whose rights are respected, is (politically) represented by committed laity,” Cardinal Re explains.

In this way, he adds, “the candidacy of a bishop would be a cause of confusion and division among the faithful, an offense to the laity and a ‘clericalization’ of the specific mission belonging to laypersons in the political life.”

“The Holy See, therefore, does not perceive the existence of a just and reasonable cause, as required by Canon 90, to grant the requested dispensation,” the Cardinal said.

At the same time, the Nunciature made public a second letter from Cardinal Re, sent to Bishop Lugo at the beginning of January, in which he was notified that Pope Benedict XVI had rejected his request for laicization – to no longer be considered a priest (although according to Catholic Theology the ordination of a priest results in an ontological change which can never be “undone.”)

Prior to the release of the Vatican letters Lugo had told the EFE news agency that even if the Vatican did not grant him a laicization, he has renounced his clerical state publicly in order to meet Paraguayan Constitutional requirements that no religious may run for the presidency or vice-presidency of the country.

“I have taken the necessary steps so that the Constitution permits me to be a candidate.  I believe that the opinion which the Vatican can put forth, whether permission, declination, or suspension, which I believe is the most feasible, will not influence whether or not the Constitution permits me to run,” he said a few hours before receiving Cardinal Re’s letter.

The 55 year-old bishop had announced his decision to pursue the presidential nomination in a public message, released on Christmas.

Lugo has already received sharp criticism from the current Vice President of Paraguay, Luis Castiglioni, who accused him of being an “imposter” and a “violator” of Canon Law and the Constitution, arguing that Lugo began posturing himself for a political run a year prior to his resignation as Bishop of San Pedro.

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Vietnam, Vatican to discuss diplomatic ties

Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb 2, 2007 (CNA) - The Vietnamese Communist government and the Vatican will discuss the possibility of establishing official diplomatic relations, following the Jan. 25 meeting between Vietnam's prime minister and the Pope.

Le Dung, a spokesman for Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that the Vatican had made a proposal, and that ongoing relations would “follow a roadmap.”  However, he added, no date has been fixed for the formalization of diplomatic ties.

According to Reuters, Dung told reporters yesterday that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has “assigned the diplomatic agencies to conduct discussion to work out appropriate measures.”

Last week the Vatican called the prime minister’s visit an “important step” towards normalizing diplomatic ties and said it was pleased with “concrete progress” toward religious freedom in Vietnam in recent years.

About one-tenth of Vietnam's 84 million people are Catholic, the second highest number of Catholics in Asia after the Philippines. Buddhism is the main religion.

At the same briefing with reporters yesterday, Nguyen Te Doanh, Deputy Chairman of the Government Committee on Religious Affairs, announced that the government would recognize two new religions by the end of the year, bringing the total to eight.

The two are Pure Land Buddhist Home Practice Association (with 1.45 million followers) and Tu An Hieu Nghia (nearly 71,000 followers). The government said it was also recognizing the Missionary Christian Church, a sect of Protestantism.

In 2005, Pope Benedict created a new diocese in Vietnam. Over the last few years the Vatican has appointed bishops after consultation with Hanoi.

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Milingo seeks guidance of self-proclaimed Messiah

Seoul, South Korea, Feb 2, 2007 (CNA) - Former Catholic Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo has been secretly staying in Seoul to study the theology of the Unification Church, founded by the controversial Rev. Sun-Myung Moon, South Korea’s “The Hankyoreh,” divulged yesterday.

Milingo’s relationship with the Rev. Moon first became public when the self proclaimed “second Messiah” officiated a marriage between Milingo and Maria Sung, a woman who is a member of the Unification Church.  Milingo, who has excommunicated himself from the Catholic Church, is now reportedly learning Korean to study with Moon.

A source close to Moon’s Unification Church admitted to “The Hankyoreh” Moon is indeed planning to study Moon’s theology and that, "the reason why we have been mum regarding his visit here is so as not to stoke the anger of Catholics."

Moon’s theology is centered around the idea of him being the "Lord of the Second Advent" who is providing the "physical salvation" that Jesus was unable to accomplish because he was executed and never got married.  According to the Associated Press, it is Moon’s opinion that Jesus gave only "spiritual salvation."

Milingo first shocked the Catholic world by announcing his marriage to Sung in 2001.  After meeting with Pope John Paul II and current Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Zambian prelate renounced his marriage to Sung and took up residence in Rome.

However, in July 2006, Milingo left Rome to lead a married-priest conference in Washington and to reestablish his supposed marriage to Sung.  

In September 2006 Milingo ordained four married men as Catholic bishops without Papal mandate.  The former archbishop’s excommunication was formally announced following the act.

Last week, Milingo showed up at a Unification Church gathering held in a central Seoul hotel, urging again that the Vatican allow Catholic priests to marry. According to sources, he is expected to attend an international gathering at the Marriott Hotel in Seoul, between Feb. 20 and 23, which will culminate in a birthday party for Moon.

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Australian Catholics offer aid for poor children hoping to attend World Youth Day

Sydney, Australia, Feb 2, 2007 (CNA) - The coordinator of World Youth Day 2008 (WYD), Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, announced this week that financial aid will be available for young people from poor countries who desire to attend the event.

Speaking to reporters, the bishop said, “For many people from Oceania this will be their only chance to attend a World Youth Day.”  Therefore, “one of our main ideas was to make sure that pilgrims from developing nations in Oceania paid as little as possible” in order to attend the event in Sydney.

“In reality the price of the packages for pilgrims from poor countries in most cases” will be less than they were for WYD 2005, Bishop Fisher explained.  Prices for young people from more developed countries will be “almost the same as they were in 2005.”

With their registration young people will receive “a backpack with a program of the event, the necessary passes for various services and for special access to the events.”

Sydney is the host of the upcoming World Youth Day, schedule to take place from July 15-20, 2008.  World Youth Day was started by John Paul II in the mid 1980’s. 

According to organizers in Sydney, more than 500,000 young people are expected to attend the event.  For more information see: 

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Spanish government requests assistance of Church for underaged immigrants

Madrid, Spain, Feb 2, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Conference of Religious in Spain, Brother Alejandro Fernandez Barrajon, announced yesterday that the Spanish government has requested the Church’s assistance in helping 900 underage immigrants who have come to the Canary Islands.  Brother Fernandez, said no agreement had yet been reached as to what the Church’s cooperation will look like.

During a press conference, Brother Fernandez said talks are currently taking place and that in order to reach an agreement, there must be “some minimum guarantees of follow-up for these minors, a guarantee that their rights are going to be respected—which is frequently not the case now—and that their legalization is ensured.”  Without those guarantees, he added, “we will not be able to provide assistance” because “we are witnessing difficult situations related to the human rights of minors.”

Brother Fernandez explained that his organization, as well as Caritas Spain and the Bishops’ Conference “have wanted to respond to this petition in a positive way,” and therefore, he said, “we are in a process of dialogue.”  He said that 250 of the 500 immigrants are in need of urgent care.

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Support of the family is real solution to teen pregnancies, Chilean bishops declare

Santiago, Chile, Feb 2, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua, has issued a statement reiterating the position of the Church on the defense of human life and affirming that solutions to social problems such as teen pregnancy must come from “reinforcing the commitment of the family to educate their children in the proper use of sexuality.”

Bishop Goic noted that the Church’s position on the government’s “National Norms on the Regulation of Fertility” is known throughout the country.  “Experts and diverse institutions in the country have expressed similar misgivings,” he said.  “Nevertheless, the government has shown its intention to implement a document that embraces unilaterally a partial vision of man and of society.  It contains public policies that have been adopted without listening to large portion of Chile.”

“What we are talking about is a strengthening of the commitment of the family in the education of their children in human sexuality, and about adopting certain forms of counseling, especially for adolescents.  These essential aspects should have first priority both for individuals and for public policies,” he said.

Bishop Goic said that such an approach would lead to “real prevention of the evils that we are seeking to overcome, and not the measures that are proposed by the new norms.”

“But in order for them to really be effective,” the bishop continued, “these tasks must be established upon the foundation of the nature and dignity proper to the human being, and they should be the fruit of ample dialogue in which diverse sectors of society are listened to, including those who reflect upon the person and his transcendent meaning.”

He also reiterated that the bishops are also concerned about “the social reality of teen pregnancy.  Nevertheless, the norm in its current form is not the solution the country deserves, as it puts already-conceived and completely defenseless human lives in danger.  With the same vigor as always, we seek to protect these lives in danger and we raise our voices to defend them.  Could we act in any other way if we were to be consistent with the Gospels?”

“The defense of life in all of its stages is one of the essential values of human existence and of all that safeguards his dignity,” Bishop Doic stressed.  He invited all Chileans “to maturely and calmly discern about this situation that constitutes a step backwards in the defense of life, and to renew all of the efforts possible to strengthen family dialogue, education in love, the commitment and witness for life and the dignity of persons.”

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Pope praises selflessness of deceased Cardinal

Vatican City, Feb 2, 2007 (CNA) - At midday today, at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope presided at the funeral of Cardinal Antonio Maria Javierre Ortas S.D.B., prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, who died yesterday in Rome - a few weeks before his 86th birthday.
In his homily, the Holy Father affirmed that the late Spanish cardinal, following the example of St. Don Bosco, would have wanted to live his Salesian vocation in direct contact with young people, in the mission lands, but Providence called him to other duties. Thus he became an apostle in the universities and in the Roman Curia, although without missing an occasion to continue his intense spiritual activity ... in the field of theology and in the wider field of culture, especially by animating groups of teachers and religious, and as chaplain to university students. His service to the Church was faithful and generous, always willing and cordial."
"Cardinal Javierre Ortas," he continued, "wanted his personal life and his ecclesial mission to be a message of hope. Through his apostolate, following the example of St. John Bosco, he strove to communicate to everyone that Christ is always with us. How often did he - son of the land of St. Theresa and of St. John of the Cross - pray in his heart: 'Nada te turbe, / nada te espante. / Quien a Dios tiene / nada le falta / ... / Solo Dios basta'."
"As a worthy son of Don Bosco, (Cardinal Ortas) was profoundly devoted to the Virgin Mary, whom he loved and venerated as Our Lady of Help. He sought to imitate the manner of discreet and generous service of the Madonna, 'Ancilla Domini.' He left his functions as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments 'on tiptoe,' in order to dedicate himself to another function, one that must never be abandoned: that of prayer." 

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2006 World Meeting of Families still having an impact in Africa

Rome, Italy, Feb 2, 2007 (CNA) - Several African dioceses are organizing congresses in which families that participated in the 5th World Meeting of Families in Valencia (Spain) share their testimonies and the messages that Benedict XVI delivered during the event.

The AVAN news agency reported that the Diocese of Gokwe (Zimbabwe) organized a congress in which local couples who attended the WMF shared their experiences with other families.  Bishop Angel Floro said the event in Spain provided “great motivation for pushing forward new family ministry projects.”

In Angola, congresses have been organized in the Dioceses of Luanda, Huambo and Benguela in which twenty families that went to Spain participated.  Father Francisco Reig of Valencia said the WMF was an “enriching” event and “was the first one attended by Angolan families.”
Father Reig, who has been a missionary in Africa for 12 years, said that during the meeting in Valencia the Angolan couples “realized that there are Christian families throughout the world who share the same faith, something that was very important for them.”

The fifty families from Madagascar and the Seychelles Islands who attended the WMF have also shared their testimonies at events organized by the NeoCatechumenal Way. 

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Czech bishop calls for inquiry into clergy collaboration with communist officials

Prague, Czech Republic, Feb 2, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, archbishop of Prague, has asked authorities to investigate possible collaboration between priests and the communist-era secret service, Prague Radio said Thursday.

The cardinal said the state police was known for using tough methods to force priests to cooperate during the communist regime, from the 1940s to the fall of communism in 1989.

Vlk has taken the measures in an attempt to avoid any embarrassing situations, such as those which occurred recently in Poland.

Last month Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus resigned from his appointment as archbishop of Warsaw after it was revealed that he had collaborated with communist authorities more than 30 years ago.

Cardinal Vlk proposed that a commission be established to conduct the investigation, dubbed Open Past. He reportedly spoke with Interior Minister Ivan Langer about the plan.

The commission should be comprised of experts from the ministry archives as well as Church researchers.

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Uruguayan laypeople taking steps to evangelize country

Konigstein, Germany, Feb 2, 2007 (CNA) - Lay-faithful are taking the lead in ground-breaking initiatives to spread the Gospel in one of Latin America’s most secular countries – Uruguay. Facing an acute shortage of priests, Bishop Luis del Castillo of Melo in north-east Uruguay, recently discussed how lay catechists are at the forefront of a plan to revitalise the faith in a country where 75 percent of people have been baptised but only five percent are regular Mass-goers.

In a conversation with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) recently, the bishop explained that the Church faces a tough mission in Uruguay, whose long history of anti-clericalism means that the country has become as secular as Cuba. Fierce separation between Church and state goes back as far as 1908 and, unlike most other Latin American countries, no religious education takes place in publicly-funded schools.

In his interview with ACN, Bishop del Castillo explained how the lay faithful are increasingly taking their place alongside the clergy in developing programs of outreach and evangelisation.

The bishop said the role of lay leaders is becoming crucial, noting that in his diocese 135,000 people are currently served by just 18 priests – most of them foreign missionaries. In response, lay Catholics in rural areas have been leading simple “Liturgy of the Word” prayer services, training catechists, producing religious education literature, and appearing on the radio.

Describing those returning to the Church as “recovered Christians”, the bishop went said, “we encourage them to be missionaries and to accompany the priests in their visits to rural areas.”

Stressing that the initiatives were “small steps in the right direction”, the bishop said: “We are still fishers of men but unfortunately we cannot cast out our nets in the hope of getting a big catch. We have to go to people one by one.”

With baptism still popular, the bishop is encouraging lay people to catechise new parents, giving them leaflets, booklets, pictures, and posters for use with their children. “After they have had their children baptised,” said the bishop, “parents are reluctant to come to church. We want to teach parents the Faith so that their homes can become the ‘Domestic Church.’”

Bishop del Castillo thanked ACN, which he said had provided crucial help for Christians across Uruguay, especially in its support for priests, seminarians, and the distribution of ACN’s Bible for children.

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Schedule for Holy Father’s celebration of Lent and Easter released

Vatican City, Feb 2, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican made public today the liturgical schedule of Pope Benedict XVI between Ash Wednesday, which falls on Feb. 21st this year, and the Fourth Sunday of Easter.  The schedule includes the Pontiff’s traditional Holy Week celebrations, a Pastoral visit within Italy, and a celebration of Pope Benedict’s 80th birthday.
- Wednesday 21, Ash Wednesday. In the basilica of Santa Sabina at 5 p.m., blessing and imposition of the ashes.
- Sunday 25, first Sunday of Lent At 6 p.m. in the Apostolic Palace's "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel, beginning of the spiritual exercises of the Roman Curia.
- Saturday 3. At 9 a.m. in the Apostolic Palace's "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel, conclusion of the spiritual exercises of the Roman Curia.
- Sunday, 25, fifth Sunday of Lent. Pastoral visit to the Roman parish of St. Felicity and her martyr children. At 9.30 a.m., celebration of the Eucharist.
- Thursday 29. At 5.30 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, penitential celebration with young people from the diocese of Rome.
- Sunday 1, Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord. At 9.30 a.m. in St. Peter's Square, blessing of palms, procession and Mass.
- Monday 2. In the Vatican Basilica at 5.30 p.m., Mass for Pope John Paul II.
- Thursday 5, Holy Thursday. In the Vatican Basilica at 9.30 a.m., Chrism Mass. In the Basilica of St. John Lateran at 5.30 p.m., the beginning of the Easter Triduum with the Mass of the Last Supper.
- Friday 6, Good Friday. In the Vatican Basilica at 5 p.m., celebration of the Lord's Passion. Way of the Cross at the Colosseum at 9.15 p.m.
- Saturday 7, Holy Saturday. Easter vigil at 10 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica.
- Sunday 8, Easter Sunday. Mass in St. Peter's Square at 10.30 a.m. At midday, from the central loggia of St. Peter's Basilica, "Urbi et Orbi" blessing.
- Sunday 15, second Sunday of Easter. At 10 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Mass for the 80th birthday of Benedict XVI (born on April 16, 1927).
- Saturday 21 - Sunday 22, pastoral visit to Vigevano and Pavia, Italy.
- Sunday 29, fourth Sunday of Easter. At 9 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, priestly ordination of deacons from the diocese of Rome.

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