Lisbon, Portugal, Feb 8, 2007 (CNA) -
Portugal's top cleric urged followers to reject abortion as the predominantly Catholic country heads into a weekend referendum on whether to do away with the country's pro-life legislation.
Currently, abortion is only allowed in the European country until the 12th week of pregnancy in cases of rape, a malformed fetus or if the woman's life is in danger. But Sunday’s referendum might change that.
Sunday's referendum will ask voters if they agree with the legalization of abortion, regardless of the circumstances, until the 10th week of pregnancy.
Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo is urging Catholic voters to consider the sanctity of life when casting their votes.
The conscience of Christians regarding abortion "must be illuminated not only by natural light but also by the word of God and the teachings of the Church," said the cardinal in a text published on the Archdiocese of Lisbon website.
Throughout the campaign toward the referendum, Catholic bishops and clergy have been vocally opposed to any changes to the abortion law.
In a 1998 referendum, voters upheld the existing abortion law by 51 percent to 49 percent, but the result was declared void as nearly seven out of 10 voters stayed away.
Orlando, Fla., Feb 8, 2007 (CNA) - Students across the United States and around the world will be celebrating St. Valentine's Day by educating their peers on the value of sexual purity.
Leading up to Feb. 14th, which doubles as the Fourth Annual Day of Purity, young people are promoting the choice of purity by distributing flyers, wearing Day of Purity T-shirts and LivePure wristbands, and organizing events in their schools, communities and churches.
The Day of Purity, an international project of Liberty Counsel, is designed to raise awareness about the dangers of promiscuous behavior, to promote abstinence and to inform young people who have already engaged in sexual activity, that it is possible to make a fresh start and to practice abstinence.
More than three million U.S. teens are infected each year with sexually transmitted diseases, and the country has the highest teen pregnancy rate among developed countries. In addition, 20 percent of the annual 1.3 million abortions in the U.S. are performed on teens, says Rena Lindevaldsen, international coordinator for the Day of Purity.
“Students are sending a message to their friends, parents, churches, communities, legislators, and the media that it's time for a positive change in the culture," she said.
Day of Purity participants obtain a planning manual, wristbands, T-shirts, informative flyers and other useful information from the official Day of Purity web site, http://www.dayofpurity.org.
Day of Purity also has a "myspace page" at http://www.myspace.com/dayofpurity and a page on facebook.com to reach students who want more information.
Milwaukee, Wis., Feb 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Milwaukee will cooperate with a judge’s order to release 3,000 pages of insurance records and confidential files related to a priest who had been convicted of molestation.
The Wheeler news service reported yesterday that the archdiocese will go along with the courts decision and release the files related to Fr. Sigfried Widera.
Fr. Widera was convicted in Wisconsin in 1973 of sexual perversion. However, the archdiocese transferred him to California in 1981. He was facing 42 counts of child molestation in the two states when he leapt to his death from a hotel balcony in Mexico in 2003.
According to the Associated Press, Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman wrote in his 59-page ruling that the files on Fr. Widera prove that “priests with known sexual proclivities have been handed off from location to another without regard to the potential harm to the children of the Church.”
The judge struck down the archdiocese’s arguments for keeping the documents private, including claims that the records were protected by third-party privacy rights, the First Amendment and the confidential business rights of the archdiocese.
The ruling sets a precedent for the release of confidential files of other priests, attorney Raymond Boucher told the AP.
Attorney Donald Steier, who represents accused priests, disagrees. He said the order only applies to the files of priests who are dead and only in cases in which a diocese has not sought protective orders during litigation.
“Apparently, Milwaukee turned all these files over during the litigation phase without protective orders,” Steier was quoted as saying.
Last year, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee agreed to pay eight California victims $13.3 million, in addition to nearly $15 million they received in 2004 from the Diocese of Orange, in California. Fr. Widera’s files from California were already made public.
The archdiocesan spokeswoman, Kathleen Hohl, refused to speak to the Wheeling News Service about the ruling, but said the documents would not be released for at least 30 days.
Konigstein, Germany, Feb 8, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Vojtech Cikrle, Bishop of Brno, Moravia, spoke with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) recently, telling the Catholic charity that the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic remains in bad shape.
“After the fall of communism, the situation of the Church is not easy in the Czech Republic,” Bishop Cikrle said during his visit, “we have only 25 seminarians from the five Bohemian dioceses, while 70 from the three dioceses of Moravia,”
“In my diocese, more than 50 percent of the about 1.5 million inhabitants are baptised. Mass attendance, however, is at just about 100,000,” the bishop added.
Bishop Cikrle, who is head of the Czech Bishops Conference Committee for the Family, said that the situation of the family “is not different” from the rest of Europe. “About 67 percent of all marriages are being divorced. Also, many of our young people do not marry, because they do not want to bind,” he said.
The bishop thanked ACN and the charity’s benefactors: “We have brothers in Faith who help us being strong. During the Masses, priests pray for our benefactors.”
Vatican City, Feb 8, 2007 (CNA) - The Pope today received participants in the annual meeting of bishops, friends of the "Focolare" movement, who are considering the theme: "Christ crucified and abandoned, light in the cultural night," and participants in the ninth congress of bishops, friends of the Sant'Egidio Community, who are studying the question: "The globalization of love."
The Pope told the bishops that their closeness to these movements "highlights the vitality of new groupings of the faithful, and expresses the communion between charisms that constitutes a typical 'sign of the times.'"
This "multiplicity and unity of charisms and of ministries is inseparable from the life of the Church," said the Holy Father. "The Holy Spirit wants the variety of the movements [to be] at the service of the one Body which is, of course, the Church, and He brings this about through the ministry of the people He has placed to run the Church of God: the bishops in communion with Peter's Successor."
"In the wealthy Western world where, although cultural relativism does exist, there is no lack of a widespread desire for spirituality, your movements testify to the joy of the faith and the beauty of being Christian. In the vast deprived areas of the earth, they communicate the message of solidarity and stand alongside the poor and weak with that love, human and divine, that I sought to bring to everyone's attention with my Encyclical 'Deus caritas est.'"
"The Focolare movement," he continued, "highlights the charism and service of unity, which it puts into effect in various social and cultural fields ... and through ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. The Sant'Egidio Community, placing prayer and liturgy at the core of its own existence, wishes to be close to those suffering distress and social marginalization."
"Together we can face with greater fortitude the pressing challenges that call our attention at the beginning of this third millennium," such as "the search for justice and peace, and the urgent need to construct a more fraternal and united world, starting with the countries from which a number of you come, wracked by bloody conflicts."
Benedict XVI made particular mention of Africa "a continent," he said, "that I carry in my heart and that I hope may finally see a period of stable peace and real development. The forthcoming synod of African bishops will surely be an appropriate moment to show the great love that God reserves for the beloved people of Africa."
Wellington, New Zealand, Feb 8, 2007 (CNA) - Family Life International says an increasing number of elderly New Zealanders are concerned about being euthanized by medical staff.
“In the last 12 months, we have seen a marked increase in enquiries from people who want to know what they can do to legally protect themselves from people like Dr. [Philip] Nitschke, who believes that medical staff should be allowed to kill patients,” says Family Life International media spokesperson Brendan Malone.
The Australian medical doctor founded Exit International, a pro-euthanasia organization, in 1997. The group actively lobbies for pro-euthanasia legislation.
“Older New Zealanders appear to be particularly frightened by the increasing promotion of euthanasia, which promotes the false idea that elderly people are a burden on society and that it is a good thing to prematurely end their lives,” Malone said.
“Dr. Philip Nitschke’s claims that you can have safe and legal euthanasia are completely countered by the experience of the Netherlands, where, since the advent of decriminalized euthanasia, thousands of people have been euthanized without giving consent, and many elderly people are scared of hospitals and doctors.”
Family Life International offers a generic patient protection document that many people have adopted and specified for their own situation.
“Patient protection documents allow people to take legal steps to protect themselves from the ever increasing threat of euthanasia” says Malone.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 8, 2007 (CNA) - In comments this week about a controversial school course which the Spanish government wants mandated throughout the country, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares of Toledo said, “Education for Citizenship is terribly bad, not only because of its content, but also because it disfigures the truth about man.”
Speaking during a special Mass for teachers, Cardinal Cañizares said, “We are in a crucial moment of cultural changes that are affecting educational institutions.” “Education for Citizenship is terribly bad, not only because of its content, but also because it disfigures the truth about man. Therefore we cannot accept it, because it distorts the truth about man.”
“Day in and day out you are at our schools to teach, and therefore, you need to encounter Jesus, to learn from him, the true Master, and from his infinite love for mankind, especially for the needy,” he told the teachers.
Offering an allusion to the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Cardinal said that like the poor man on the road, “young people today are also robbed; they are robbed of their hearts and are filled with ideology and pseudo-culture.”
He called on teachers to work together in the Church’s mission to provide education and to embrace a deeper sense of ecclesial communion. “The bishops have said many things about diverse aspects of the educational legislation and some sectors of the Church have not paid attention,” the cardinal said. “How much the enemies of the mankind they take advantage of our rifts in order to foster division,” he stated.
Managua, Nicaragua, Feb 8, 2007 (CNA) -
Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, Archbishop Emeritus of Managua, said this week that he was open to accepting a proposal made by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to head up a Peace and Reconciliation Commission, and said he would submit his decision to the Holy See for its approval.
“I have used the method of see, judge and act, and I would accept (the appointment) as long as the Holy See gives the green light,” the Cardinal said.
He noted that this commission, which is not part of the government and would not use state funds, would bring the concerns of the victims of war to authorities and would do “everything in its power to try to improve the lives” of these people, and he would only take on the role of facilitator.
Cardinal Obando underscored that by taking on the role he would not become “a member of the Sandinista government,” but rather that he would be working for those who suffered from the war.
Asked about the need for a Peace and Reconciliation Commission when there is no longer a war, he responded, “Peace is not only the absence of war.” “We can fall into the error (of thinking) that there is only peace when the sounds of artillery fire and guns cease, but if there is no food, if there is no medicine, if there are no schools, if there is no healthcare, that is a dangerous point of tension,” the Cardinal added.
Cardinal Obando said he had already informed the Holy See of his openness to accepting the proposal but that “the Pope would the only one who can really grant permission.”
San José, Costa Rica, Feb 8, 2007 (CNA) - In a message to the faithful on the occasion of the beginning of the 2007 school year in Costa Rica, Archbishop Hugo Barrantes Urena of San Jose said that Catholic education is a fundamental instrument of the Church for evangelization.
In his message published by “Eco Catolico,” the archbishop noted “the work that has been and is done by teachers, in different fields, ways and educational levels in our country, for the good of children and young people, for the purpose of raising up better citizens.”
Archbishop Barrantes recalled that parents have the responsibility of being the “primary educators of their children, a task to which teachers contribute from the classroom.”
However, he underscored that the Church, “as Mother and Teacher, in the process of the New Evangelization, contributes to this comprehensive formation through religion classes.”
Through the Church’s religious education she offers the Gospel to the human person, she provides religious principles and Christian ethics that strengthen the educational process in the doctrinal dimension, she seeks to achieve the dialogue between faith and culture and the coherence between faith and life in the educational process, so that students adopt Christian values as an element of cultural identity, necessary for an ecclesial commitment and service to the Gospel, and thus they can bring the Gospel into the sphere of the family, the workplace, the economy, science, art, literature and the media,” the archbishop said.
Therefore, Archbishop Barrantes encouraged “mothers and fathers, priests and all those charged with the care of childhood and youth education to support the religious formation that is provided by school religion classes, so that children and young people can have solid Christian principles in order to live out the commitment to be sons and daughters of God in the 21st century.”
Konigstein, Germany, Feb 8, 2007 (CNA) - Preaching chastity and fidelity are “the only way” to tackle an AIDS pandemic sweeping Zambia, according to a nun who has set up a hospice for people infected by HIV. Sister Maria Crucis Beards recently spelled out the ineffectiveness of condoms and how the devices actually encourage promiscuity.
In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), she said most Zambians wrongly believed that condoms provided a guarantee against the spread of HIV.
“I believe telling people about the importance of chastity and fidelity is the only way to tackle the crisis. Condoms have been freely available for 10 years or more and yet there’s been no obvious change in HIV levels. Clearly, condoms don’t work,” she said.
Sr. Crucis stressed the need for action against HIV, saying that up to 200,000 Zambians are in urgent need of HIV treatment with anti-retroviral therapy and about half of all general hospital admissions involve people infected with the illness.
Vatican City, Feb 8, 2007 (CNA) - In a brief but firm communiqué Thursday morning, Father Federico Lombardi S.J., Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, denied the validity of a story in the Italian daily "La Stampa." Lombardi said the story’s purported “revelations” which claimed that the Vatican Secretary of State has agreed to a request from the government of Italy to keep quiet on social issues and that the Holy See is receiving pressure from certain bishops over the appointment of the next President of the Italian Episcopal Conference are both false.
"Regarding news published this morning in an important Italian daily, I deny that a meeting has recently taken place between Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., and the Italian prime minister, Romano Prodi, or that a letter has arrived in the Vatican from bishops of Piedmont concerning the presidency of the CEI (Italian Episcopal Conference)," the press release said.
On Thursday, "La Stampa" published an article which rumored that Cardinal Bertone and Prime Minister Prodi had a "private" meeting in "the past weeks," in which the Secretary of state agreed that the Church in Italy would be less forceful in voicing its opinion regarding such public policy issues as the recognition of unmarried couples, a topic which is presently at the center of public debate in Italy.
The same article also indicated that Bishops of the Piedmont region, in Northern Italy had written a letter to Pope Benedict XVI asking him not to name Cardinal Angelo Scola as the new President of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CIS), due to the Cardinal’s close ties with the Milan-based Communion and Liberation movement.
In Italy, the President of the bishop’s conference is directly appointed by the Pope, who as the Bishop of Rome oversees the Church in Italy. The retirement of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, due to canonical age limits, and the sudden death of Ruini’s anticipated successor, 55-year old Archbishop Cataldo Naro, Archbishop of Monreale (Sicily), has brought a spate of media speculation lately.
Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 8, 2007 (CNA) - In a forceful editorial this week, Archbishop Ovidio Perez Morales, one of the most respected Church leaders in Venezuela denounced the march towards totalitarianism that the current government has undertaken.
The Archbishop Emeritus of Los Teques, cited a definition of totalitarianism offered by John Paul II, saying that it “destroys the fundamental freedom of man and violates his rights.”
“Through the use of heavy propaganda,” he continued, “it fosters violence and annihilates the sense of responsibility in the human person.”
“This is what happened in Europe (prior to WWII),” the archbishop stressed. “It became easy for leaders to lead ‘the masses’ towards armed conflict. Myths were spread, religious persecution and political discrimination were established, freedoms were crushed through legal maneuvering and police force, and psychological conditioning occurred through the monopolization of the media. Moral energy was weakened,” he said.
Archbishop Perez warned that the justification of certain actions based on popular support and electoral victories “must be the object of discernment…because Hitler could boast of such things. And legality was made subject to his ‘new order.’"
"For this reason," the archbishop said, "‘legal’ is not the same thing as ‘legitimate’ and ‘moral.’ As for the rest, sweeping electoral majorities is characteristic of already-established totalitarian systems.”
He noted that John Paul II identified the roots of totalitarianism “in the denial of the transcendent dignity of the human person, the visible image of the invisible God, and precisely for this reason, a natural subject of rights that nobody can violate; not an individual, not a group, not a social class or a nation or a State.”
Consequently, he went on, when in Venezuela officials talk about the “Socialism of the 21st Century” and use phrases like “one mind” and “one party,” what they are doing is dividing the people into “good citizens (revolutionaries, patriots, socialists) and bad citizens (counter-revolutionaries, anti-patriots, and capitalists).”
“Every totalitarian concept collides inevitably with Christianity, which sees God alone as absolute and worthy of adoration and Jesus Christ alone as Messiah! And it collides with every genuine concept of humanity, which has at the center and as fundamental reference, not the state, the ‘revolution,’ the ‘party,’ or the ‘leader,’ but the person.”