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Archive of February 12, 2007

Vancouver archbishop attacks cell phone porn campaign

Vancouver, Canada, Feb 12, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Raymond Roussin of Vancouver is speaking up and threatening to take action after Canadian cell-provider Telus announced its decision to make pornographic photos and videos available through its cell phones.

Canada's second-largest wireless provider introduced the service in January. The photos and videos range from $3 to $4 each.

"Given the increasing awareness about the problem of sexual addiction to pornography through internet access, and the abuse that this perpetuates on vulnerable persons, Telus's decision is disappointing and disturbing," the archbishop told the B.C. Catholic newspaper.

The B.C. Catholic reports the archbishop plans to raise his concerns with parishes and schools throughout the archdiocese and will direct Catholic institutions to terminate their contracts with Telus Mobility.

Telus spokesman Jim Johannsson told Canadian Press that the company is neither breaking the law nor is it providing something that has not been available on cell phones for some time.

Johannsson said the material available for download is not considered obscene under Canadian law. He admitted that the company has been received a growing number of complaints about the new service.

Meritas Mutual Funds, a fund which aims at socially responsible holdings, and which has Telus shares in its portfolio, has said the company’s new business decision is disappointing.

"We're disappointed that a company that is seen in many respects as an excellent company ... is making a decision that certainly moves them down a notch within their industry,” said Meritas CEO Gary Hawton.

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Pro-abortion referendum in Portugal fails

Lisbon, Portugal, Feb 12, 2007 (CNA) - The Socialist Prime Minister of Portugal, Jose Socrates, conceded late on Sunday that despite his party’s tremendous efforts to grant broader access to abortion in the country, a pro-abortion referendum has failed to pass due to insufficient voter participation.

With nearly all the votes counted, the referendum, which would have legalized abortion for whatever reason, up until the 10th week of pregnancy, had gained 58 % of the vote.  The other 42% of voters came out against the proposal.

However, despite a multi-million dollar campaign on the part of the abortion industry and the socialist government, only 44% of the country’s 8.9 million registered voters participated.  Under Portuguese law, a referendum must involve over half of the country’s registered voters in order to pass.

Socrates, for his part, says he will remain undeterred in his quest to change the law in Portugal.  With the failure of his referendum, the Prime Minister has vowed to legalize abortion by way of parliament, a body over which his Socialist party holds strong control.

Under current law, abortion is allowed only in cases of rape, fetal malformation, or if the mother's health is in danger, and only in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

This is the second referendum proposed by pro-abortion groups in Portugal in less than 10 years.  In 1998, a majority of Portuguese voters rejected a similar proposal, though that referendum was declared void due to low turnout as well.  Following the 1998 referendum’s failure, a systematic pro-abortion campaign was initiated, directed especially at the country’s youth.

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Mexican bishops call for human dignity safeguards in country’s Constitution

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 12, 2007 (CNA) - The Press Office of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico has issued a statement saying it is “necessary and urgent” that the country’s Constitution be updated on the basis of a “reconsideration” of human dignity, in order to “bring the social trials our country is experiencing to a happy ending.”

In the statement, the Press Office indicated that such an update should “begin with a reconsideration of the dignity of the person, of his rights and obligations, of the history of our nation and of the new national and international scene that allows our people to have fundamental norms more in accord with our human, cultural and institutional identity.”

The statement stressed that in their 2000 pastoral letter, the bishops called for a complete overhaul of the country’s political system, which would demand serious reflection about “which things should remain and which things should be modified.”

It also insisted that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, subscribed to by Mexico, “should help our society” and Mexico’s parliament “to make it explicit and manifest that all laws have their basis in the inalienable dignity of the human person and his fundamental rights.”

The statement came as Mexico celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Constitution of 1857 and the 90th anniversary of the Constitution of 1917.  The celebrations have “sparked debate on the need to revise our Magna Carta and adapt it to our national reality,” the bishops said.

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Hong Kong diocese organizes youth prayer meeting

, Feb 12, 2007 (CNA) - More than 120 young people attended a prayer meeting at St. Andrew’s Parish church, organized by the Archdiocese of Hong Kong’s Commission for Vocations. According to the Fides News Service, the prayer meeting, held Jan. 21, focused on God’s love for humanity and humanity’s response of love for God. The theme was: “I truly love you.”

The event invited young people to pray for vocations and to contemplate God’s love and how, through this Love, the Lord calls every person to love others. Fr. Paul Kam Po Wai, the first Hong Kong priest sent on mission to Africa, shared his faith journey with the young people.

A young participant asked the priest how he should respond to God’s call.

“How did Mary reply to the Lord for the birth of Christ?” Fr. Kam replied. “She said: ‘Be it done as you will!’”

“If a young person hears the Lord’s call he or she must have the courage to accept the call, like Mary accepted the mission entrusted by the Lord,” he said.

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Catholic mother continues to fight unwanted divorces

Fall River, Mass., Feb 12, 2007 (CNA) - A Catholic mother and a law professor are proposing that couples entering a religious marriage sign a simple contract designed to give marriage safeguards that civil law no longer provides.

Marie "Bai" Macfarlane, 43, founded Mary's Advocates, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote the sanctity of marriage. She's also collaborating on the True Marriage Project, set up by Professor Stephen Safranek, a co-founder of the Ave Maria School of Law, reported The Anchor, the diocesan newspaper of Fall River, MA.

They're in touch with others in a growing national grassroots movement to reform no-fault divorce and rescue marriage from being "optional, disposable, and redefinable."

Safranak's True Marriage Project has designed to assist couples who want their religious vows legally protected. It offers a pre-nuptial contract - a Solemn Marriage Covenant Proclamation – that would ensure disputes would be managed by the Church or by mediators who share the Church's view’s on the Sanctity of marriage.

The couples agree to submit to the Church's teachings and canon law as the basis of their understanding of the legal duties and responsibilities in marriage.

Bai started in this new apostolate after being subjected to a divorce herself. She married William "Bud" Macfarlane Jr. in 1990. The couple had four sons whom she home-schooled as they grew. Bud left in 2003, then obtained a no-fault divorce and full child custody.  

According to The Anchor, Safranak appealed Macfarlane's divorce case to the Ohio Supreme Court, asking that it recognize the religious nature of the marriage and its attendant rights and responsibilities.  

Bai claimed she and her husband had bound themselves in a lifelong sacramental covenant and no civil judge could dissolve this. She claimed divorce was a violation of her religious freedom and asked that jurisdiction be transferred to an ecclesial court.

“The only reasons for licit separation according the terms of my marriage agreement would be if I was dangerous, had committed adultery, or was making it impossible for my family to practice their faith," Bai told The Anchor, referring to Church law. "Since I did none of those things, I can't be forcibly separated from my family."

According to Bai, the court punished her by giving Bud primary child custody because she refused to stop home-schooling (one of Bud's demands which was supported by a court ruling) and because she fought the divorce. In the custody case Bai was characterized as a "religious extremist."

In November, the Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear her appeals case. She followed up, however, by submitting a canon law petition to the tribunals of the Diocese of Cleveland and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, asking them to investigate and to inform Bud that he should uphold the terms of their marriage since it had not been annulled.

When these tribunals declined to hear her petition, she appealed to the highest ecclesial court possible, the Roman Rota, where her petition is now pending.

Louisiana, Arizona, and Arkansas have passed statutes allowing for more committed marriages. In 1997, Louisiana passed a law allowing couples to enter into a "covenant marriage," which would bind the spouses legally and allow divorce only for "definite cause," such as adultery, a felony conviction and imprisonment, desertion for over a year, or abuse of the spouse or a child. Those who voluntarily enter into covenantal marriages must take marriage preparation courses and marriage counseling should problems arise.

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Archbishop co-authoring science fiction novel

Newark, N.J., Feb 12, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop John Myers of Newark is well known for his authoring of numerous pastoral letters on subjects from the Eucharist, to the family, to terrorism. But the archbishop has put his pen to paper to tackle a different genre of writing — science fiction.

The avid fan of "Star Trek: Next Generation" and the "Dune" novels by Frank Herbert, began working with longtime friend and author Gary K. Wolf, creator of "Roger Rabbit," about three years ago to co-author a new science fiction novel, reported the Star-Ledger Staff.

"Space Vulture" is a fast-paced intergalactic tale about a heroic marshal and a con man, who team up with a widow and her two children to fight Space Vulture, the "most villainous marauder in the cosmos," Wolf told the newspaper. Wolf already has three other science-fiction novels under his belt.

The co-authors were friends in middle school, where they discovered their mutual interest in science fiction. The men, who grew up in Earlville, Ill., stayed close while their careers took different directions. Myers became a priest and then a bishop, and Wolf worked as an author.

The archbishop said he worked on the book at night, when he didn't have appointments, or at his summer residence. The two would tease out themes and devise plots over the phone, and would edit text via e-mail.

Myers told the newspaper that he tried to weave moral themes through the text, but it is not written as an overtly Christian or Catholic book. The characters pray when they’re in tough situations and there’s also a conversion of sorts when the con man has a change of heart and decides to care for the young boys who come into his custody.

Wolf and the archbishop will split the money for the 400-page book, which is scheduled to be published by Tom Doherty Associates later this year or early in 2008. The total deal is in the low six figures, said Moshe Feder, the book's editor.

According to the Star-Ledger Staff, Archbishop Myers, 65, said most of the money from the book will probably go into college funds for his nearly three dozen nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.

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You are never alone, Pope tells the world’s sick

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2007 (CNA) - At the conclusion of the 15th annual World Day of the Sick, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a large group of infirm pilgrims who had gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica for a late Sunday Mass with Cardinal Camillo Ruini.  The Holy Father reiterated themes from his weekly Angelus message, encouraging the pilgrims to offer their sufferings to the Father and to remember that Christ and the Christian community are with them.

A large majority of the Mass’s attendees came from UNITALSI (Italian National Union for Transport of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines) and the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi to celebrate the theme of this year’s World Day, the theme of which was, “Pastoral and spiritual attention to the incurably ill.”

On a day when the Church also celebrates the first apparitions at Lourdes, France, a place where many miraculous cures have been attributed to the prayers of the Mother of God, the Pontiff reminded the crowd that, “Mary, who with her faith accompanied her Son even to the foot of the cross, she who was associated by mysterious design with the sufferings of Christ, never tires of exhorting us to live and to share with serene trust the experience of pain and illness, offering it faithfully to the Father and thus completing what is lacking in our flesh for the afflictions of Christ."

Going on to refer specifically to the seriously ill, the Holy Father called for them to be made aware "of the material and spiritual closeness of the entire Christian community. It is important not to leave them abandoned and alone as they find themselves facing such a delicate moment in their lives." In this context, Pope Benedict praised the work of doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, volunteers, religious and priests, "who dedicate all their energy to the sick, concerned, like the Good Samaritan, not for their social status, the color of their skin or their religious belief, but only for their needs. In the face of each human being, and even more so if tried and disfigured by illness, shines forth the face of Christ."

In the grotto of Massabielle, at Lourdes, "human suffering and hope, fear and trust, come together,” the Pope continued.  “How many pilgrims, comforted by the gaze of the Mother, find in Lourdes the strength to put the will of God into effect more easily, even at the cost of sacrifice and pain.”

“May no one, especially people undergoing harsh suffering, ever feel alone and abandoned,” Pope Benedict concluded.

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Puerto Rican bishop says proposed bill against the family is “aberrant”

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Feb 12, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Felix Lazaro of Ponce said recently that new changes to the Civil Code regarding the family scheduled to be debated in the Legislative Assembly this week “are an aberration, an attack on human dignity.”

“I think that the statutes on the family in the proposed Civil Code are full of aberrations, in the sense that they degrade the family, they degrade the person and the dignity of the human being,” he said.

“Let it be said that I have great respect for all persons, whether they are homosexuals or transsexuals.  Each person deserves my greatest respect, but I do not understand why a transsexual, if he was born male, would want to become a woman,” he added.

Bishop Lazaro stressed that rights emanate from God and that abortion and the adoption of children by homosexual couples are not rights.  “They are counter rights, they are the pretensions of small groups that want them but they are not based on human nature,” he stated.

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Venezuelan archbishop calls for Chavez to stop posturing and address urgent problems

Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 12, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Baltazar Porras Cardozo of Merida has criticized the Hugo Chavez regime for its ambiguity and urged the government, “rather than worrying about the Venezuelan-style 21st century socialism,” to address such urgent problems as unemployment, the quality of education, and national security.

Talk of “21st century Venezuelan socialism suggests much but defines nothing,” the archbishop said.  “It could be anything, from an iron-clad, tropical dictatorship—Cuban, North Korean, or Iranian style—to a regime of complete freedom and respect for institutions, like faraway and chilly Norway,” the archbishop said.

He criticized the Chavez government for hiding behind ambiguities and engaging in deliberate equivocations in order to advance its agenda

While Archbishop Porras admitted that socialism has some advantages, “as a political system it has been a disaster.”  However, he warned, “This does not mean that capitalism is a universal panacea,” because while it has its virtues, it possesses in itself “the virus of inequality and of the marginalization of the weakest in society.”

He stressed the urgency of coming up with creative solutions to the country’s most pressing problems, including “unemployment, quality education, decent housing and respect for life in the face of such insecurity and abuse of power.”

Archbishop Porras recalled the teachings of John Paul II, who said, “The Church values the democratic system” inasmuch as it allows citizens to participate in political choices and to elect and “control their own leaders.”  “An authentic democracy is only possible in a State of laws and based on the correct understanding of the human person,” the Pope taught.

Recently President Hugo Chavez said Venezuela is moving towards “21st century socialism,” and the country’s National Assembly passed legislation granting Chavez the power to rule by decree for one and a half years.

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Number of world’s Catholics remains steady, number of priests grows slightly

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2007 (CNA) - Monday morning, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. presented the Holy Father with the 2007 edition of the "Annuario Pontificio," or pontifical yearbook.  According to the stats compiled in the new book, the percentage of the world which is Catholic remained unchanged, while the number of priests slightly increased.

According to the yearbook’s newly compiled stats for the years between 2004 and 2005, the number of Catholics increasing in the world from 1,098 million to 1,115 million, a growth of 1.5 percent.  However, because this growth is very similar to that of the population of the planet (1.2 percent), the percentage of Catholics in the world remained substantially unchanged at 17.2 percent.

A geographical analysis of these variations shows that over the period 2004- 2005, the number of Catholics in Africa grew by 3.1 percent, while the population of the continent grew by 2.1 percent. In Asia and the Americas the number of Catholics also increased slightly with respect to the population (2.71 percent against 1.18 percent in Asia, 1.2 percent against 0.9 percent in the Americas). In Europe, the number of Catholics grew slightly while the population remained almost stationery.

In 2004-2005, the number of religious and diocesan priests passed from 405,891 to 406,411 (a growth of 0.13 percent). However, the distribution of priests differed from continent to continent, with their numbers growing in Africa and Asia (respectively, by 3.8 percent and 3.55 percent) and falling in Europe and America (by 0.5 percent), and in Oceania (by 1.8 percent).

The number of candidates to the priesthood, both diocesan and religious, also increased overall, passing from 113,044 in 2004 to 114,439 in 2005 (an increase of 1.23 percent). However, vocations are most numerous in Africa and Asia, they are falling in Europe and are stationary in Oceania.

A communiqué also noted that in 2006, 12 new episcopal sees were created, as well as nine metropolitan sees and one apostolic administration; 180 new bishops were also appointed.

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Lk 12:35-38

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First Reading:: Eph 2: 12-22
Gospel:: Lk 12: 35-38

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Lk 12:35-38

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