Archive of February 16, 2007

Portuguese bishops call meeting to analyze referendum vote on abortion

Lisbon, Portugal, Feb 16, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of Portugal say the “yes” vote in Sunday’s referendum on abortion is by no means the end of the battle to defend life. They are expected to hold a special meeting today to analyze the pro-abortion results of the national referendum, held Feb. 11.

There are questions about the referendum results will be binding since the necessary quorum of voters was not reached. Only 43.6 percent of the country’s eligible voters went to the polls. Of these, 59.25 percent voted for abortion.

But Prime Minister José Sócrates has said the referendum results will lead to legal access to abortion in the first ten weeks of pregnancy despite the low turn-out at the polls.

Archbishop Jorge Ortiga, president of the Portuguese bishops’ conference, said the referendum results should be carefully analyzed.

"The result is not decisive and the Church is of the opinion that the question of human life should not be treated with a referendum, because a majority vote cannot turn what is evil into good,” the archbishop said in a statement. “The Church will continue to be a channel of prophetic denouncement and active solidarity."

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Puerto Rican archbishop rejects legalization of homosexual unions

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Feb 16, 2007 (CNA) - The President of the Puerto Rican Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan, reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s opposition to a move that would make homosexual unions equal to marriage.  The archbishop warned that such a move in Puerto Rico would obscure “the fundamental values that belong to the common and original patrimony of the human family.”

During a speech before the Puerto Rican Senate, which is debating a reform of the Civil Code, Archbishop Gonzalez explained that making the two equal would affect the moral fiber of society.  He pointed out that while the Church does not reject homosexuals as persons, mankind cannot redefine nature as it is created by God.
“Some statutes of the Civil Code would do irreversible damage to the dignity of the human person and would constitute an attack upon the integrity of the Puerto Rican family,” he warned. 

The archbishop made his comments during special hearings held by the Senate committee charged with reforming the Civil Code.  Committee leaders Jorge De Castro Font and Liza Fernandez publicly stated their opposition to passing laws in support of any kind of consensual civil union, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

Senator Jose Emilio Gonzalez moved to eliminate the proposals for homosexual unions from the reforms under consideration, arguing that it was meaningless to debate something that was not going to be approved.  However, the other members of the committee, including De Castro Font, voted to leave the proposals in place in order to allow other members to express their opinions on the issue.

The committee will be debating reforms of the Civil Code each Wednesday until the end of March. 

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Chinese University students prepare for virtual meeting with the Pope

, Feb 16, 2007 (CNA) - Hundreds of Catholic University students in Hong Kong are scheduled to take part in a meeting of European and Asian Catholic Youth with Pope Benedict XVI, Saturday March 10th.  The students are to link up with the Holy Father who will be with other European and Asian young people at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

The Fides News Agency has reported that the Chinese students will meet at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Hong Kong where they will be able to participate in the youth meeting by way of satellite.  

The event is being organized by the Counsel of European Bishops Conferences and the office of Office for University Pastoral Care of the Vicariate of Rome.
Father Michele Calastra, spiritual director of the Federation of Catholic Students of Hong Kong, told Fides that "Pope Benedicto XVI has not yet come to Asia, but by these means, he will be able to be put in contact with the faithful of Hong Kong."

"We will be able to see the Pope and the Pope will be able to see us from Rome, he will be able to see our Cathedral, we will be able to pray together and pray the Rosary," he added.

The Chinese students will lead the recitation of the first Luminous Mystery in Cantonese.

In addition to the Chinese students, the meeting also expected to include youth from Calcutta (India) and Manila (Philippines), by way of satellite.

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Condom handout a failure of leadership, NY bishops say

, Feb 16, 2007 (CNA) - In a joint statement released yesterday, Cardinal Edward Egan, head of the Archdiocese of New York, and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn sharply criticized Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration for distributing free condoms last Wednesday.

The launch of the subway-themed condom handout took place on Valentine's Day. New York officials explained their hope that a distinctive design - featuring the words "NYC Condom" in the fonts and colors used in the subway system - will let them track usage with their annual community health survey.
Responses, they claim, will be used to determine the effectiveness of the contraceptive’s distribution.

The bishops described the initiative as "tragic and misguided,” and said that "our political leaders fail to protect the moral tone of our community when they encourage inappropriate sexual activity by blanketing our neighborhoods with condoms," the statement said.

Cardinal Egan and Bishop DiMarzio also accused Bloomberg's administration of hypocrisy, by encouraging condom usage while also acknowledging abstinence is the only fail-safe method.

"By their actions, they ignore that truth and degrade societal standards," the leaders said.

"The taxpayer money that is being spent to distribute condoms and promote the attitude that 'anything goes' would be far better spent in fostering what is true and what is decent," their statement said. 

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Penalty kicks determine winner of Priests’ World Championship Soccer match

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Feb 16, 2007 (CNA) - The Third World Championship of Priests’ Soccer ended Wednesday in Sarajevo with the Poland beating out home team Croatia in a dramatic penalty kick finale.

The World Championship of Priests’ Soccer, which was held in 2005 in Austria and in 2006 in Croatia, was organized this year by the Archdiocese of Sarajevo and the Franciscan Order.

The championship began last Tuesday with teams competing from Austria, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia and Poland. Cardinal Vinko Puljic, Archbishop of Sarajevo, thanked the organizers of the event and said, “In this way, too, priests communicate the message of the Gospel to all of society.”

The final game between Poland and the defending champions from Croatia, was a closely contested match which was ultimately decided by penalty kicks.

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Archbishop’s prayer for the family distributed in Cuba

Havana, Cuba, Feb 16, 2007 (CNA) - The international organization Aid to the Church in Need is distributing five thousand copies in Cuba of the Prayer for the Family written by Archbishop Emeritus Pedro Meurice Estiu of Santiago, as a tribute to his long years of service.
Officials from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN ) said the initiative was started in response to the announcement of Archbishop Meurice’s retirement when he reached the age of 75 in order to ensure that his legacy would be preserved among the faithful.  For this reason, five thousand copies of the prayer written by the archbishop were printed, together with images of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The president of ACN, Hans-Peter Rothlin, stressed the importance of the initiative.  “Cubans love holy images and symbols, but they have very few images and devotional objects,” he explained.

He said the pamphlets were an appropriate means of evangelization and of reminding Catholics of the teachings of the Church on the family.  “With a strong family, the Cuban people will be able to overcome any problem,” Rothlin stated.

The initiative has the support of current Santiago de Cuba Archbishop Dionisio Garcia, who expressed his determination to continue with the work in support of the family started by his predecessor. 

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Pro-life doctor reveals dark side of pro-abortion pressure in Nicaragua

Managua, Nicaragua, Feb 16, 2007 (CNA) - One of Nicaragua’s top pro-life leaders and the president of the Nicaraguan Association for Life, Dr. Rafael Cabrera, spoke up this week about the harassment and pressure the people and government are receiving from various international organizations and authorities to reverse its decision to outlaw abortion.

Cabrera stressed the decision to outlaw therapeutic abortion was not fueled by the election battle, as some have suggested, but rather it was the culmination of a “10 year-long struggle.”  He said he was “offended by the intrusion from ambassadors and international organizations such as the UN, which are invading our sovereignty and threatening us with the suspension of economic aid if we do not give in to their whims.”

In response to EU official Marc Litvine’s comment that it was “unforgivable” that Nicaragua did not debate the issue outside the context of the elections, Cabrera said his statement was one of “absolute ignorance and disrespect for the will of the Nicaraguan people,” and he decried the attitude that “we should have to copy what other countries do.  I cannot accept the statements of somebody who ignores this situation and ignores history.”

He went on to note that the attempt to make a distinction between abortion and “therapeutic” abortion is a sign of ignorance, as “abortion is the elimination of a living baby from the womb of the mother, period.”  

Abortion is a “multi-million dollar industry,” Cabrera stressed, related to “the issue of genetics, stem cells, the manufacturing of vaccines that are made from the tissue of aborted fetuses.  And since Europe has begun imposing a few restrictions on genetic research, what better place to collect tissue for their research than here in the poor countries.”

Cabrera underscored that abortion providers are concerned about the law because “they are losing business,” and he noted that “the example of Nicaragua is having repercussions in Latin America.  Ecuador has already seen strong demonstrations, as well as the Dominican Republic.  And so these international organizations say: we must sink Nicaragua so that the other countries do not rebel, so that the poor countries do not rise up and we can continue to dominate.”

Cabrera also denounced a “deceptive and manipulative report” by the Pan American Health Organization, which counted “non-therapeutic abortions in a study on therapeutic abortions,” and thus violating “the Constitution, which says that Nicaraguans have the right to be truthfully informed.”

He warned that the PAHO “is dependent upon the World Health Organization and the United Nations, which are two organizations that promote abortion in the world.  An organization that is supposed to be meant for the benefit of humanity is seeking how to prevent children from being born,” Cabrera said.

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US Catholics asked to continue support for Church in Eastern Europe

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2007 (CNA) - Catholics in the United States are being encouraged to continue supporting the Church in the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe through the national Eastern Church collection this Lent.

The U.S. bishops have suggested the national collection date to be Ash Wednesday, Feb. 21. The annual collection has been held in the U.S. since 1990. The funds reach the Church in Central and Eastern Europe through the international organization Aid to the Church in Need.

The program provides support for the formation and training of priests and religious; the development of catechetical programs, materials, and teachers; the establishment of mass media and communications apostolates; and the support of the Church's charitable works.

During the years of communist oppression, the Church in Central and Eastern Europe suffered grave wounds to its spiritual life and pastoral capacity to serve its people. For generations, Church leaders were killed or imprisoned. Catechists were persecuted, and churches, monasteries, and seminaries were closed or destroyed.

Today, after the fall of communism, the bishops of the region are faced with the formidable task of restoring Church structures and rebuilding the spiritual center of its communities.

The countries included in the work are 28: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

The theme for the 2007 Collection to Aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe is “Love is the only light,” based on Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical.

Collection materials highlight Magadan, Russia, a remote place where the light of Christ’s love has broken through in the lives of the people of the Nativity of Jesus Parish.

In a part of the world where prisoners of the Stalinist labor camps once fashioned rosaries from bits of their bread ration, a vibrant parish now worships in a new church building. Fully-trained catechists run marriage retreats to deepen family bonds and to heal the pain of broken families. Every Friday, a parish soup kitchen feeds the poor.

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Number of Catholics increases sharply in UK

London, England, Feb 16, 2007 (CNA) - According to a new study, the Roman Catholic Church in England has within a year found itself experiencing an unprecedented expansion due to the increase of Catholic immigrants.

Several Catholic parishes, mostly in London, have gone from being predominantly Irish-English and on the decline, to very busy and multi-ethnic.

A new report by the Von Hugel Institute at Cambridge forecasts that, if current migration trends continue, Catholic parishes will swell by hundreds of thousands over the next few years. This type of growth means Catholicism may become the dominant religion in Britain.

In 2005, there were 4.2 million Catholics in England and Wales, less than one-fifth of the 25 million baptized Anglicans and double the number of Muslims.

While Catholic parishes have responded positively to the influx, others have been overwhelmed, as these new immigrants go there for assistance with employment and social welfare. Most of the migrants settle in London, where some parishes are reportedly putting on Sunday masses from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to cope with the demand.

The Cambridge report, the results of which were run in “The Times of London,” calls on the Catholic hierarchy to act urgently to help the migrants and the clergy by providing more resources.

The Catholic dioceses of Brentwood, Southwark and Westminster commissioned the Von Hugel report last May to investigate the needs of migrants in London.

The report is based on a survey of 1,000 migrants from diocesan parishes, ethnic chaplaincies and the Polish vicariate. Researchers also ran focus groups and interviewed clergy. 

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Bishop, politician headliners at Catholic Men for Jesus Christ Rally

Newark, N.J., Feb 16, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop John Smith of Trenton and U.S. House Representative Chris Smith are two of the headliners at this year’s Catholic Men for Jesus Rally in New Jersey.

This is the 10th annual rally, aimed at inspiring Catholic men to proclaim, live and defend their faith.

It will be held at St. Veronica School Gym in Howell, N.J., located in the Diocese of Trenton, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For the 10th year, Bishop Smith will celebrate and preach at the closing mass. Other speakers, in addition to Chris Smith, include Joe Burke, president of Paraclete Enterprises and famed pilot who broke the sound barrier flying the F- 14, and Ed and Eddie Reinhardt, a father-and-son team from Colorado who will discuss the importance of marriage, family and forgiveness.

"We are encouraging all fathers, sons, and grandfathers to show that Catholic men will stand up and be counted," said organizer Jim Manhardt.

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