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Archive of February 7, 2007

Church grew in the homes of the faithful, Pope Benedict says

Vatican City, Feb 7, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI's catechesis during this morning's General Audience was dedicated to the Roman couple Priscilla and Aquila, who collaborated with St. Paul in Corinth.  The Holy Father emphasized how the early Church was born and grew in the homes of the faithful.

The Pope recalled that Priscilla and Aquila were expelled from Rome by the Emperor Claudius following disturbances in which some followers of Christ were implicated, they arrived in Corinth about the year 50 and there met Paul who, like them, was a tentmaker.

Due to her active role in the Christian community in Rome, the Pope noted, Priscilla, along with her husband Aquila played a vital role in the early Church, "welcoming into their house the groups of local Christians when they came together to hear the Word of God and celebrate the Eucharist.”  

“This kind of meeting,” the Pontiff noted, “is called in Greek 'ecclesia.' ... Thus it was the Church that gathered in Priscilla and Aquila's house to celebrate Christ in the holy mysteries. So we see that the Church came into being in the houses of the believers.”

"Until the third century," the Holy Father added, "Christians did not have their own specific places of worship," and so during the first and second centuries "the houses of Christians became true 'churches.'”

“Thanks to the faith and the apostolic commitment of lay faithful, of families, and of couples like Priscilla and Aquila, Christianity has reached our own generation. It did not grow only thanks to the announcement of the Apostles. To put down roots in the people, to develop, it needed the commitment of these families, who provided the 'humus' for the growth of the faith,” the Pope emphasized.

"And still, it is only in this way that the Church grows. In particular, this couple showed how important the actions of Christian married couples are! ... All houses can be transformed into little churches."

"It is not by chance that in his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul compares the marriage bond to the communion that exists between Christ and the Church. We could even say that the Apostle indirectly models the entire life of the Church upon that of the family. The Church is, in truth, the family of God."

"So,” Benedict concluded, “we render homage to Aquila and Priscilla as models of a married life responsibly committed to the service of the entire Christian community. And in them we see the model of the Church, family of God for all times."

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Death penalty “difficult to justify” in modern age, Church reaffirms

Vatican City, Feb 7, 2007 (CNA) - Made public today was a declaration of the Holy See delivered during the course of a world congress on the death penalty, held in Paris, France from February 1st to the 3rd.

"The Paris congress," reads the French-language text, "is being celebrated at a time in which, because of recent executions, the campaign against the death penalty is facing new and disquieting challenges. Public opinion has become sensitized and has expressed its concern for a more effective recognition of the inalienable dignity of human beings, and of the universality and integrity of human rights, beginning with the right to life."

As in previous meetings on the same subject, "the Holy See takes this opportunity to welcome and affirm once more its support for all initiatives that aim to defend the inherent value and inviolability of all human life, from conception to natural end. In this perspective, it is worth noting that the use of the death penalty is not just a negation of the right to life, but also an affront to human dignity."

"The Catholic Church continues to maintain that the legitimate authorities of State have the duty to protect society from aggressors," but "some States traditionally include the death penalty among the means used to achieve this end," an option "that is difficult to justify today."

States now have new ways "of preserving public order and people's safety," which include "offering the accused stimuli and encouragement" to mend their ways. Such non-lethal means of prevention and punishment "correspond better to the common good and conform more to the dignity of the human person."

Any decision to use the death penalty involves many dangers," such as "that of punishing the innocent, and the temptation to foment violent forms of revenge rather than true social justice." It is also "a clear offense against the inviolability of human life ... and, for Christians, an affront to the evangelical teaching of forgiveness."

"The Holy See," the text concludes, "reiterates its appreciation to the organizers of the congress, to governments, and to everyone who works ... to abolish the death penalty or to impose a universal moratorium on its use."

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Gospel must be announced where secularism and individualism have taken hold, Holy Father affirms

Abuja, Nigeria, Feb 7, 2007 (CNA) - In the Vatican Basilica this morning, the Pope met with prelates from the Italian region of Lombardy, who are currently in the course of their "ad limina" visit. Pope Benedict told the bishops along with several groups of Catholics from their various dioceses that it is an ever more important task of all the faithful to announce the Gospel in areas where secularism, individualism, and hedonistic consumerism have taken hold.

The Church, the Pope told them, "has an important role she must continue to play in Lombard society: announcing and bearing witness to the Gospel in all areas, especially where there exist the negative traits of hedonistic consumer culture, of secularism and individualism, where old and new forms of poverty appear with worrying signs of youth alienation and phenomena of violence and criminality.”

Lombardi currently one of the wealthiest regions of Italy, yet it is also the one with the lowest birthrate in all of Italy.

“Although public institutions and various educational organizations at times seem to suffer moments of difficulty there is, however, no lack of ... moral resources in your people, so rich in noble family and religious traditions.”

"Your field of activity is thus truly immense," the Holy Father added. "On the one hand you must defend and promote the culture of human life and legality, on the other, an ever more coherent conversion to Christ is needed, at both an individual and community level.”

“Indeed,” the Pontiff continued, “in order for our faith in man, made in God's image, to increase, we must penetrate more deeply and coherently into the mystery of Christ and proclaim His message of salvation.”

“We must do everything possible to gain an ever better understanding of the figure of Jesus, so that our knowledge of him is not just 'second hand,' but cones through prayer, liturgy and love for others. This is clearly a difficult commitment, but there is comfort in the words of the Lord: 'Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age'."

The Holy Father called for "an intensification of your evangelical witness so that Christians in all fields, guided by the Holy Spirit that dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful as in a temple, may become living signs of supernatural hope. I encourage you, dear bishops," he concluded, "to guide the dynamic people of Lombardy along this path, relying in all situations on never-failing divine assistance."

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Poor formation in the faith leads to “silent fleeing of faithful” in Brazil

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Feb 7, 2007 (CNA) - The secretary general of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNNB), Bishop Odilo Scherer, said the volubility and the lack of religious instruction in Brazil are the causes of the serious “silent flight of the faithful” the Church is experiencing in that country.

In noting that the Church is experiencing a “silent flight of Catholics,” the bishop recalled that this constitutes a serious problem for the Church in Brazil, as “here the faithful are more fickle.”

“Brazilians are very religious but have little instruction about the Church and religion,” he explained.

Bishop Scherer, who has been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as adjunct secretary of the upcoming 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council, mentioned the “silent flight” as one of the issues that will be discussed at the upcoming meetings in Aparecida in May.

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Renowned documentary on monastic life makes US debut

, Feb 7, 2007 (CNA) - A feature-length documentary on monastic life, which has had unexpected success on the big screen in Europe and Canada, will be released in theatres across the United States this month.

“Into Great Silence” is a nearly three-hour film, by German director Philip Groning, on life inside the Grande Chartreuse — the great, historic Carthusian monastery in the French Alps.

The film was released in France on Dec. 20, and had 18,500 viewers in its first week. According to La Croix, more than 120,000 moviegoers saw the film in a very limited number of French theatres.

“Into Great Silence” is described as a “very strict, next-to-silent meditation on monastic life in a very pure form.” The documentary does not include any interviews, commentaries or music, except for the monks’ chanting. The narrative relies on rhythm, on sound and movement.

This is the first film ever made about life inside the Grande Chartreuse and is the result of a longstanding and trusted relationship between Groning and the General Prior. The last photos of the place were taken in 1960, when two journalists were allowed inside the monastery, provided no monks were depicted.

Groning first had the idea for the film 21 years ago. He met the Carthusians for the first time 19 years ago. When the director first pitched his film idea to the monks one year later, they said it would be too early to make the film. They had told the director to hold off for about 10 or 13 years. The monks finally called Groning five years ago, asking if he was still interested in making the film.

Groning spent a total of six months living with the monks, between 2002 and 2003, during which he filmed, recorded sound, and edited the feature length film. He took part in daily life there, and lived like a monk in a cell. “[I] took part in this incredible balance between seclusion and community,” he said.

The director admitted that it was not easy at all to write about a film with nearly no words. “At some point, this film took on form, became a monastery – space and not a narrative,” he said.

“Basically, a ‘normal’ film always works with language – and language overlays time,” the director said. “I think that the most profound experience a viewer can make when watching a film is to get a feel for time.”

“Usually this experience is masked by the story. In a film about silence – a ‘silent’ film – this experience of time is swept up to the surface. Nothing detracts from it,” he continued.

“And this, in turn, is directly connected to the way the monks live: in an absolutely rigid temporal structure that lays down when something has to be done and the rules according to which it has to be done.”

A shorter version of the film has also been cut for international TV sales; a book of photographs and a CD release of chanted masses and services will be created. The film was made with a budget of over 700,000 Euro.

For screening locations, visit: http://zeitgeistfilms.com/playdates.php?directoryname=intogreatsilence

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European Union increases pressure on Nicaragua to legalize abortion

Managua, Nicaragua, Feb 7, 2007 (CNA) - A top EU official has threatened Nicaragua with suspension of economic aid if the government of Daniel Ortega does not reverse its decision of last October and legalize abortion in the country.

Marc Litvine, an EU liaison for Nicaragua, said that for the current EU leadership, the issue of the legality of abortion “is linked to aid programs against poverty and to the rights of women,” therefore, “we hope that the new government will be capable of opening the debate and discussing it outside the passion of the electoral season.”

In an interview published in “El Nuevo Diario” of Managua, Litvine said the EU is “concerned” about the criminalization of abortion, and he called the move by the Nicaraguan Congress to pass the law “hurried” and criticized lawmakers for what he called the lack of debate.

Commenting further on sovereign domestic issues in Nicaragua, Litvine said, “That’s where I see one of the contradictions of the new government; it claims to be progressive, very modern, and it is going backwards because for us (the pro-life law) is a step back.”

The statements by the EU official came as the pro-abortion organization “Human Rights Watch” has launched a campaign to pressure Nicaragua to accept abortion.

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Archdiocese of Boston set to end ownership of hospitals

Boston, Mass., Feb 7, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Boston has preliminarily agreed to transfer ownership of the six hospitals in its Caritas Christi Health Care system, including the historical Caritas St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Brighton, to the nation's largest Catholic hospital chain.

According to the Boston Globe, the archdiocese has signed a letter of intent with St. Louis-based Ascension Health, which operates more than 70 hospitals in 20 states. In coming months, officials will negotiate details of the agreement, including how much compensation, if any, the archdiocese will receive.

According to the plan Ascension will assume Caritas Christi's debt -- about $278 million as of 2006. No immediate changes in operations are expected, and Ascension has no stated intentions to close any hospitals. The archdiocese hopes to complete the deal by July 1.

The deal is expected to bring more money and expertise to a system facing increasingly complex challenges in the Boston healthcare market. Caritas Christi is the second-largest hospital chain in Massachusetts, but its technology is not keeping pace with that of other hospitals.

The transfer to Ascension Health also ensures that current procedures related to abortion and the distribution of birth-control, which are counter to Catholic teaching, will remain in place.

Ellen Lutch Bender, President and Chief Executive of Bender Strategies LLC, a healthcare consulting firm in Boston, spoke to The Globe about the benefits of the plan. "The decision by the archdiocese to sell to Ascension assures the Church that their values and mission will be preserved,” Bender said. “At the same time, the Cardinal now removes himself from the responsibilities of running a business of enormous complexity, regulation, and sophistication.”

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Bishop praises NGO for excluding contraception requirement from aid to the poor

Madrid, Spain, Feb 7, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Tarazona, Spain, praised the efficient and generous work of the organization Manos Unidas to help to the poor and needy, underscoring that the Catholic NGO, in contrast with other aid organizations, does not make acceptance of contraception a condition for helping poor countries.

The bishop made his statements in a letter supporting the 2007 campaign against hunger by Manos Unidas, an organization that grew out of the Catholic Action movement in 1960 and was officially established in 1978.

In his letter Bishop Fernandez said the “ecological disaster” of below replacement birth rates in Europe is now being imposed by some on poor countries.

“There is an effort to impose this policy, to take this path with poor countries.  There are enough resources in the world for everyone, and then some.  But, in order for everyone to have what they need, we must share and even give up some of what we have.  There are national and international organizations that make acceptance of a sweeping contraception policy a condition for aid.  We will give you humanitarian aid if you sterilize women and if you drastically (no matter how) reduce the number of births,” Bishop Fernandez stated.

On the other hand, he emphasized, “Manos Unidas has preferred to take a different approach—that suggested by Jesus Christ and by the Gospels. Moved by love, share what you have with those who have not.”

“Instead of making the table smaller so there is more for us to eat, Manos Unidas prefers to make the table bigger so that, by giving up a little bit of what is ours, we can give something to those who have nothing.”

“And this is an approach that has been very effective in 40 years of service.  In 2005 alone, Manos Unidas gave more than $57 million in aid,” he said.

Lastly, in reference to the 2007 Manos Unidas campaign, Bishop Fernandez said, “You know how to read, they don’t.  We can change that.”  “Hunger is sometimes not just for bread, but also for culture,” he noted.  “A person who knows how to read has a path forward in life and can better take care of himself,” the bishop stressed.  He encouraged everyone to participate.

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Black pro-life leader says abortion ratios point to racism

Washington D.C., Feb 7, 2007 (CNA) - Abortion is a multi-million dollar a year business that makes most of its money by killing black children, says Day Gardner, president of the National Black Pro-Life Union.

In a statement released yesterday, Gardner called on African Americans to open their eyes to the fact that more than 1,000 black children die each day by abortion.

“These children are denied their most basic human right -- which is the right to life; a right which our ancestors so proudly worked for, marched for and many of them died for,” she said.

Since abortion was legalized in the U.S., more than 44 million children have been killed by abortion, and 15 million of them were black children, Gardner pointed out. More than 37 percent of all abortions are performed on black women annually. Last year, more than 400,000 black babies were aborted.

“Abortion has become the number one killer of black people in this country -- killing more African Americans than accidents, heart disease, stroke, crimes, HIV-AIDS and all other deaths combined!” she said.

“What bothers me is we are very quick as a people to recognize racism everywhere else except the one place that truly affects all of us,” she said. “Most blacks will agree that racism is sill very much alive, yet say nothing when abortion facilities are placed purposefully in minority and poor communities. This is no accident!”

“Abortion providers need us to make their blood money,” she said in her statement. “If we as black people say no to abortion, the industry will cease to exist.”

“We are the underground railroad of our time, and it's up to us to make abortion a thing of our historical past,” she said. “If we stand united against this horrific practice ... we shall overcome this, too.”

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Important pro-life victory in Panama: government steps back from legalizing abortion

Panama City, Panama, Feb 7, 2007 (CNA) - In the wake of massive protests called for by Archbishop Dimas Cedeño of Panama City, the Panamanian government has discontinued an effort to legalize abortion.

Representative Wiberto Quintero, a member of the government commission that was considering the change, told reporters the laws related to abortion in the current penal code would remain on the books and that no reforms to legalize abortion would be introduced.

Panama’s National Assembly is currently reviewing modifications of the country’s penal code, with the legalization of abortion being one of the most controversial proposals.

Quintero said the members of the commission made the decision to maintain the current law after “listening to the people” and after meeting with leaders of the Catholic Church and of other organizations.

On Monday large numbers of Panamanians protested outside the National Assembly demanding the elimination of all exceptions to the criminalization of abortion in the country.

Pro-life groups in Panama also criticized the statements by an Argentinean advisor to the commission, Luis Shisisola of the United Nations Program for Development, who told the commission on January 31, “Social values change with the times,” and, “There are no absolute values.”

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Catholic League president points out anti-Catholic views of candidate’s team

, Feb 7, 2007 (CNA) - Bill Donohue, the President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, yesterday exposed the anti-Catholic backgrounds of two recent campaign staff appointments by U.S. Presidential hopeful, Senator John Edwards.  Donohue called the two hires “anti-Catholic” and “vulgar’ and demanded that they be immediately fired.

The Catholic League chief, who keeps an eye out for anti-Catholicism in the American public forum, pointed out that both Amanda Marcotte, Edwards’ new “Blogmaster” and Melissa McEwan, who will be his new “Netroots Coordinator” have histories of posting offensive comments against the Pope and the Church online.

“John Edwards is a decent man who has had his campaign tarnished by two anti-Catholic vulgar trash-talking bigots,” Donohue said, “He has no choice but to fire them immediately.”

As evidence, Donohue found a post by Marcotte on the Pandagon blogsite from December 26th, 2006, in which she claims that the Catholic stance on life issues is a plan to gain more money.  “The Catholic church is not about to let something like compassion for girls get in the way of using the state as an instrument to force women to bear more tithing Catholics,” Marcotte writes.

And on June 14th, the new Edwards “blogmaster” suggested that if the Blessed Virgin Mary had taken the Plan B, abortion pill after conceiving Jesus, the Church would be forced “to justify (its) misogyny with another ancient mythology.”

As far as McEwan, Donohue lists a string of vulgar quotations the web writer has posted against the Pope and Christian conservatives.  “What don’t you lousy [vulgarity]’s understand about keeping your noses out of our britches, our beds, and our families?” McEwan wrote of Christians on her blogspot.

The AP points out that Edwards put both bloggers on his payroll last week as part of his outreach to liberal voters and activists on the Internet.  In an attempt to gain a voice in the midst of an increasingly popular information field, several political campaigns and liberal organizations have been recruiting well-known bloggers to write for their websites.  The blogs or ‘web-logs’ involve quick journal-style entries of information, which usually include opinions and links to other sites.

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San Fran. Archbishop “very happy” about plan regarding homosexual adoptions

San Francisco, Calif., Feb 7, 2007 (CNA) - Speaking to a local radio station on Sunday, San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer said he is “really very happy” about a compromise plan that makes it possible for Catholic Charities adoption workers in his archdiocese to refer homosexual couples to adopt children.

Wednesday, the California Catholic Daily transcribed an on-air interview the archbishop gave to San Francisco’s KCBS, in which the Niederaruer lauded a plan that sees Catholic Charities employees working for a subsidiary of Family Builders by Adoption, an agency which provides adoptions to homosexual couples.

Asked his opinion of the agreement between Catholic Charities and Family Builders by Adoption, the archbishop commented that although Catholic adoption agencies could not remain open due to state law, “I’m really very happy with the decision made by the Catholic Charities CEO,” which, “was to work with the program on the Internet for finding homes for children, posting their pictures and being able to guide people who would be interested in this particular child to an adoption agency which could handle the situation.”

Catholic Charities San Francisco made the decision to close its adoption services after receiving clarification from the Vatican that Catholic organizations should not take part in the adoption of children to homosexual couples.  However, rather than removing itself completely from the adoption business, as its counterpart in Boston did a few months earlier, Catholic Charities San Francisco struck an agreement to pay workers who would labor for California Kids Connection, a web-referral service for the pro-homosexual-adoption Family Builders.

The archbishop said he respected the opinion of “those within the Church…who feel that even that is too much of an involvement, but I believe we have examined what we’re doing and vetted it very carefully, and what we’re really doing is putting potential adoptive parents in touch with adoption agencies that can help them.”

“The most important person in the adoption is the child,” Niederauer also said. “Important as it is for couples to be able to adopt a child if they want to, it’s most important of all that the child have a home.”

The archbishop noted that the Church’s teaching is that the child should have a mother and a father.

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Lk 12:13-21

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