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Archive of February 19, 2007

Former Charismatic Episcopal archbishop joins Roman Catholic Church

Richmond, Va., Feb 19, 2007 (CNA) - A former archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church (CEC), Randolph Sly, has been received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, along with his wife, Sandra.

Sly was a founder of the CEC in 1992. He recently shared how their decision to join the Roman Catholic Church came from an extended time of discernment. They were welcomed into the Church in November 2006 at St. Benedict Parish in Richmond. They currently reside in northern Virginia in Potomac Falls and are members of Our Lady of Hope Parish.

“We were at a point last summer, personally and ecclesiastically in the CEC, where I felt a change was coming,” he said in a statement released over the Christian Newswire. “Sandy and I had found ourselves moving deeper into catholic Christianity …. More recently, the draw toward full communion in the Roman Catholic Church had grown greater and became a very strong call in the six months prior to our conversion.”

Prior to his time with the CEC, Sly was an important voice of the “Convergence Movement”, which worked to draw together the evangelical, charismatic, and liturgical/sacramental streams of the church.

He has been in active pastoral ministry for more than 30 years, first with the Wesleyan (Methodist) Church and then with the Charismatic Episcopal Church, where he last served as archbishop of the eastern province.

Currently, Sly is president of Common Good, a movement dedicated to the Church’s social teachings. A published author and communications specialist, he is working on several book and media projects.

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Priest confessors are “active instruments of divine mercy,” Pope reminds in address on Sacrament of Penance

Vatican City, Feb 19, 2007 (CNA) - Today in the Vatican, the Pope received Cardinal James F. Stafford, major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, prelates and officials of that tribunal, and those priests and prelates who hear confessions at the basilicas of Rome.  The Holy Father reminded those gathered and all priests of their role as transmitters of the mercy of God to the world.
 
In his address to them, the Pope pointed out how a confessor, "following the Church's Magisterium with gentle insistence, becomes a minister of the consoling mercy of God, he emphasizes the reality of sin, and at the same time reveals the limitless renovating power of divine love, the love that restores life."
 
"Experiencing the Lord's tenderness and forgiveness, penitents are more easily persuaded to recognize the gravity of sin, and more determined to avoid it in order to remain and grow in a renewed friendship with Him."
 
The confessor is "an active instrument of divine mercy," said the Holy Father. "Therefore, he must unite a highly-developed spiritual and pastoral sensitivity with serious theological, moral and educational training making him capable of understanding people's life experiences. Furthermore, it is good for him to know the social, cultural and professional background of those who come to the confessional, in order to be able to give appropriate advice and spiritual and practical guidance."
 
Priests must not forget that in the Sacrament of Penance they are "fathers, spiritual judges, teachers and educators," said the Pope, adding that "this calls for constant 'aggiornamento'." In this context, he also mentioned the advantages of "the courses of the so-called 'internal forum' promoted by the Apostolic Penitentiary."
 
"We cannot preach forgiveness and reconciliation to others if we do not experience these things personally. Although it is true that in our ministry there are various ways and instruments with which to communicate the merciful love of God to our brothers and sisters, it is nonetheless in the celebration of this Sacrament that we can do so in the most complete and exalted manner. Christ has chosen us, dear priests, to be the only ones with the power to pardon sins in His name. This then, is a specific ecclesial service to which we must give priority."
 
Many people in difficulty "seek the comfort and consolation of Christ," Pope Benedict concluded. "How many penitents find in confession the peace and joy they were seeking for so long! How can we not recognize, also in our own time marked by so many religious and social challenges, that this Sacrament must be rediscovered and presented anew?"

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Pro-life leader denounces Socialist party deceptions in Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal, Feb 19, 2007 (CNA) - In a press conference on the results of the February 11th referendum on abortion in Portugal, the President of the Portuguese Federation for Life (PFL), Isilda Pegado, has denounced what she called the lies of the ruling Socialist party, saying the government has deceived voters on the issue.

Pegado said the government’s “electoral strategy” was one of deception.  During the campaign, leaders of the Socialist party guaranteed voters that “abortion would not be liberalized and, therefore, the law would require that women receive counseling and assistance.”

Days after the referendum, Alberto Martins, “the leader of the Socialist party made statements denying this,” Pegado said.  Martins reiterated the opposition of the Socialist majority to obligatory counseling for women who seek an abortion up to the tenth week, saying such a requirement would jeopardize the “free autonomous decision” of the woman.
 
Pegado argued that these statements indicated that “abortion would be completely available up to the tenth week and simply on the basis of the will of the mother.”  She said it was a serious matter of concern that “what was said by the Socialist Party before contradicts what was it said 48 hours later to the Portuguese people.”

Pegado said many questions remain about the government’s policy on abortion, such as whether or not ultrasounds would be performed before abortions, whether women would be allowed to see them, and if there has been sufficient information made known to the public about the physical and psychological consequences of having an abortion.

The Portuguese law “does not limit the number of abortions women can freely request, and therefore we are facing a law that could be one of the most liberal in all of Europe,” she stressed.

Pegado said she expected constitutional scholars to weigh in on the issue, as the issue was only decided by “one-fourth of the Portuguese electorate.”  The results of the referendum indicate that only three out of ten Portuguese voted in favor of abortion.  “Two out of ten voted no and five out of ten didn’t vote,” she said.

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Relativism and agnosticism have led to crisis in marriage and the family, Madrid cardinal says

Madrid, Spain, Feb 19, 2007 (CNA) - During a day of study and reflection for the priests in his archdiocese, Cardinal Antonio Rouco of Madrid offered his analysis of the current status of marriage and the family in Spain and the whole of Europe.  The Cardinal told his priests that relativism, agnosticism, and “laicism” have led to “the biggest crisis in the entire history of Europe” regarding the concept of man and of marriage and the family.

During his remarks, the cardinal said that this crisis leads to another of a demographic nature, because “if marriage fails, the family fails and the physical existence of a nation is jeopardized.”  

The Cardinal said that throughout Europe there is a serious opposition between faith and reason, which leads “Europeans to massively declare themselves agnostics and to live as such.”

Democracy threatened

Thus, he continued, people are only interested in “whatever can give them power,” and the “dictatorship of relativism” is taking place, in which “the claim that there is no truth is defended.”  

This produces, Rouco said, a “crisis of social and juridical order” that affects “the fundamental principles of the existence of the person.”

This relativism, he added, ends with the dominance of the strongest and “threatens the existence of democracy.”  The right to life is endangered under such circumstances, he said, with those in power claiming they can “define when a human being is a human being.”

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Pope encourages Latin America to deepen Catholic identity

Vatican City, Feb 19, 2007 (CNA) - On Saturday Pope Benedict XVI met with the Apostolic Nuncios of Latin America at the conclusion of the preparatory meeting for the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM), reminding them that the true identity of the Latin American countries was created by the encounter between their cultures and the Christian faith.

“The encounter between these cultures and the faith in Christ was an answer for which such cultures awaited interiorly (…), an encounter that should be deepened and that has created the true identity of the peoples of Latin America,” the Holy Father said.
 
Referring to the upcoming CELAM meeting in May in Brazil, the Pontiff noted that it’s purpose would be “to define the main priorities and to awaken a renewed fervor for the mission of the Church in service of the Latin American peoples in the concrete circumstances of the beginning of the 21st century.”

Regarding the relationship between the Church and the different states in Latin America, the Pope added, “The Church, sign and instrument of unity for the entire human race, is naturally in tune with the legitimate aspirations of the people for greater harmony and cooperation, contributing that which is proper to her, the Gospel.”

“The Catholic Church is the institution that enjoys the greatest credibility among the Latin American peoples,” the Pope continued.  “She is active in the lives of the people, esteemed for the work she carries out in the diverse fields of education, health care and solidarity with those who are most poor.”

The challenge for the Church, he said, is to “reaffirm her adherence to Christ, in order to bear witness to a mature faith that is full of joy.  The spiritual potential of Latin America is truly enormous, where the mysteries of the faith are celebrated with fervent devotion and trust in the future is nourished by the growth of priestly and religious vocations.”

“An immense missionary and evangelistic potential is offered by young people, who constitute more than two-thirds of the population, while the family continues to be a primordial characteristic of the Latin American culture,” the Pope went on.

The Holy Father also said special attention should be paid to “lobbies capable of adversely affecting the legislative process.  Divorce and civil unions increase, while adultery is observed with unjustifiable tolerance.”

“It must be reaffirmed,” he continued, “that marriage and the family have their basis in the most intimate nucleus of the truth about man and his destiny; only upon the rock of stable and faithful conjugal love, between a man and a woman, can a community worthy of the human being be built.”

Lastly, the Pope also underscored the work of the Church in “caring for values and for the conscience in order to form mature lay people, in educating young people with appropriate vocational plans, in being committed to adequately informing public opinion about the great ethical questions according to the principles of the Magisterium of the Church and in having an effective presence in the media in order to respond to the challenge of religious sects.  The ecclesial movements most certainly constitute a valid resource for the apostolate,” the Pope stressed.

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Government should avoid both “savage capitalism” and Marxism-Leninism, say Venezuelan Catholics

Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 19, 2007 (CNA) - In a statement issued at the conclusion of their Ordinary Assembly, which took place January 26-28, the National Council of Laity of Venezuela (NCLV) said the country’s government should avoid “both savage capitalism and Marxist-Leninist ideology, in order to guarantee respect for the dignity and freedom of the human person.”

In its statement dated February 7th and made public on February 12th, the NCLV expressed its total rejection of “the concentration of powers by the President of the Republic and the special powers” allowing him to temporarily rule by decree, “because they exclude the opinion and participation of the powers established in our Constitution and of those of the sovereign people of Venezuela.”

The association also demanded that the reform of the Venezuelan Constitution be done correctly, and it called on the State to safeguard the absolute rights of the human person “whose dignity cannot be neglected,” “freedom of education, recognizing the family as fundamentally responsible for the education of their children,” and society “as the protagonist in the building of the country.”

The NCLV also reiterated its “total support” of the bishops and their recent pastoral letter, rejecting “every kind of attack against the Church, her pastors, and against religion, as well as the manipulation of the Gospel and even the very person of Christ.”  It also reaffirmed the centrality of family as “the first and fundamental school,” and that “the rights and duties of parents in the education of their children” must be defended.

The Venezuelan lay group demanded “respect for the rights of free expression of thought, ideas and opinions, and more so, for the transcendent dimension of each human being.  We proclaim the right to freedom of religion and worship, to public expression of religious beliefs and to the teaching of religion in schools.”

The group denounced recent threats against the media and situations of coercion.  The statement encouraged members of the media to remain true to their “responsibility to be potential transmitters of fundamental values, in accord with human dignity.”

It also renewed its own commitment to “watch over and defend respect for moral values,” to continue educating “young people and adults in the values and virtues of the Gospel and in the principles of the social teachings of the Church.”

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Church in Africa ponders future, reflects on past

Vatican City, Feb 19, 2007 (CNA) - The Church in Africa reflected on its last 50 years and pondered where it is headed at a three-day international conference last week.

The Feb. 15-17 conference focused on the theme “Evangelization, theology and salvation in Africa”. It was organized by the Catholic University of West Africa (Université Catholique de l’Afrique de l’Ouest/Unité Universitaire d’Abidjan) in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. It was sponsored by the Regional Bishops’ Conference of West Africa.

The conference marked the 50th anniversary of a conference held in Paris in 1956, which launched the beginning of modern-day African theology.

The participants reflected on the last 50 years and identified prospects regarding enculturation and evangelization in Africa and the rest of the world.

The secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Guinean-born Archbishop Robert Sarah, issued a message for the conference. He commended the meeting, saying that it testified “to the dynamism of your university and its determination to increase the quality of the life of the Church in Africa and Madagascar.”

“The questions posed by African priests already half a century ago, reveal awareness of the challenge of faith experienced by Africans, conscious of being both Africans and Christians,” the archbishop wrote in his message.

“The emerging Church in Africa and especially in the black world, is a challenge for all the baptized to announce and share the Good News, and a call to undertake a specific and inculturated discourse to explain the reasons for the faith and the sanctification of all Africans,” he continued.

“Our vocations as baptized Christians make us missionaries for the world in which we live,” he said.

Archbishop Sarah encouraged a renewed commitment to evangelization and suggested a few questions for the Church of Africa to ponder. They included: What have you done with your baptism? What are you doing about your faith in Jesus Christ? What will be your new missionary impulse in the difficult context of our continent?

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Reclaim Sundays for God and family, says bishop

Charleston, S.C., Feb 19, 2007 (CNA) - Catholics must reclaim Sunday as a holy day, dedicated to the Lord and to family, said Bishop Robert Baker of Charleston in a Feb. 9 letter to pastors.

Bishop Baker issued the letter as an example of how to concretely begin celebrating 2007 as the Year of the Family. The bishop declared 2007 the Year of the Family in the diocese, and the community is invited to attend several diocesan and parish events that will be organized in this regard.

In his letter, the leader of South Carolina’s Catholics challenged the status quo of using Sunday as merely another work day. He called for the restoration of “Sunday as a gift from the Father for the family.”

He offered examples of how to do this, such as refraining from work, shopping and “any private activity that conflicts with prayer or family involvement on a Sunday.”

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Global warming threats exaggerated, says Cardinal Pell

Sydney, Australia, Feb 19, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal George Pell is calling for caution regarding exaggerated claims of severe global warming and says he’s “deeply skeptical about man-made catastrophic global warming, but still open to further evidence.”

In his weekly Sunday Telegraph column, the cardinal-archbishop of Sydney said people have been “subjected to a lot of nonsense about climate disasters as some zealots have been painting extreme scenarios to frighten us.”

He called those who make claims about ice caps melting and ocean levels rising spectacularly “doomsdayers” and “scaremongers.”

He also called to account journalists who have called for Nuremberg-style trials for global warming skeptics and who have compared skeptics with “Holocaust deniers.” The media during the last 100 years, he also noted, has flip-flopped between promoting fears of a coming Ice Age and fears of global warming.

“What we were seeing from the doomsdayers was an induced dose of mild hysteria, semi-religious if you like, but dangerously close to superstition,” he said. “I would be surprised if industrial pollution, and carbon emissions, had no ill effect at all. But enough is enough.”

The cardinal acknowledged that enormous climate changes have occurred in world history, such as the Ice Ages and Noah’s flood. Long and terrible droughts are not infrequent in Australian history either, he pointed out.

He cited some scientific evidence to try to make sense of it and noted that the evidence on warming is, in fact, mixed.

He noted that:
•    Global warming has been increasing constantly since 1975 at the rate of less than one-fifth of a degree centigrade per decade.
•    The concentration of carbon dioxide increased surface temperatures more in winter than in summer and especially in mid and high latitudes over land, while there was a global cooling of the stratosphere.
•    The East Anglia University climate research unit found that global temperatures did not increase between 1998 and 2005.
•    A recent NASA satellite found that the Southern Hemisphere has not warmed in the past 25 years.

“The science is more complicated than the propaganda!” he concluded.

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