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Archive of February 27, 2007

Vietnamese police officially announce investigation of Catholic priest

Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb 27, 2007 (CNA) - Vietnamese police have moved a high-profile priest to house arrest after accusing him with disseminating propaganda intended to undermine the communist government.

Authorities have moved Fr. Nguyen Van Ly from his home in the central city of Hue, where he was under virtual house arrest, and taken him to a smaller parish outside the city, where he remains under house arrest, reported the Associated Press.

Authorities say Fr. Ly, a member of the Vietnam Progression Party, was plotting with overseas democracy activists to start a new political party called Lac Hong. Vietnam's communist party does not tolerate challenges to its single-party rule.

Police have not formally charged Fr. Ly and are continuing to investigate.

Fr. Ly’s history with the Vietnamese government is tense. He gave written testimony in 2001 to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom urging the U.S. not to ratify a bilateral trade agreement until the communist government improved its human rights record.

Fr. Ly has spent more than a decade in prison for his activism and is one of the best-known members of Vietnam's small dissident community. He was last imprisoned in 2001, when he was sentenced to 15 years, but was released two years ago in a prison amnesty.

Vietnam and the Vatican are currently discussing the possibility of establishing diplomatic ties. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung visited the Pope last month. 

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Church in Scotland may launch legal battle against same-sex adoptions requirements

Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Feb 27, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Scotland is threatening to take legal action to block a new UK law which could force Catholic adoption agencies to close.

Homosexual couples were given adoption rights under Scottish Parliament last year, but ministers reassured the Catholic Church that Catholic agencies could remain exempt.

However, the Parliament of the United Kingdom recently passed an Equality Act which overrules the Scottish legislature’s assurances opens Catholic adoption agencies to prosecution if they refuse to adopt to couples on the grounds of their homosexual lifestyle.

The new legislation would make it illegal to discriminate against homosexual couples in the provision of any goods or services, including adoption.

The Catholic Church insists this would force them to close agencies, as it would be against their religious beliefs to place a child in a homosexual household, reported The Scotsman.

While England has denied the Catholic Church an exemption, some Scottish ministers were reportedly lobbying for a special exemption over the weekend. The Scottish Executive, however, insists that the legislation will go ahead as stated, without exemptions, and will give Catholic agencies two years to come into line with the law.

The Bishop's Conference in Scotland is now seeking legal advice on their rights and on a possible judicial review.

John Deighan, parliamentary officer for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said the question is whether the UK government is stepping over its competence by bringing into law regulations that do away with rights under the European Convention of Human Rights.

“We are not even being allowed to follow our consciences in saying we think married couples provide a better home," he told The Scotsman.

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Mexican archdiocese denounces manipulation by U.S. association of clerical abuse victims

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 27, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Mexico City has launched a fierce criticism of the organization Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which has filed a lawsuit against Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico before the California state court.

The official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Mexico, “Desde la Fe,” says that SNAP is not representing the true victims of priestly abuse, but seeking to extort the Catholic Church in Mexico.  The group is “using supposed victims in an immoral way and defaming Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera,” the paper said.

SNAP has accused Cardinal Rivera of covering up abuse committed by Joaquin Aguilar, a Mexican priest who worked in the Archdiocese of Mexico City before Rivera became archbishop there and later worked in Los Angeles.
 
“Desde la Fe” notes that Bernardo Fernandez del Castillo, the Cardinal’s lawyer, said the Catholic Church in Mexico would soon present documentation showing that SNAP’s accusations constitute calumny.  The lawyer has also publicly stated that that Cardinal Rivera never covered up for the Aguilar, who is currently a fugitive.

“Cardinal Norberto Rivera has never hidden Father Aguilar from justice, nor has he hidden his whereabouts from authorities or from officials of the Church in Mexico or in California, and he is unaware of [Aguilar’s] whereabouts today,” the lawyer said.

The newspaper also points out that SNAP has not provided any evidence for the accusations against the Cardinal and that during the last six months the organization has simply “carried out a media campaign against Cardinal Rivera based on lies, contradictions and outright calumnies,” as was made clear on February 20.

On that date, the paper indicates, SNAP officials failed to show up for a hearing that was part of their lawsuit against Cardinal Rivera and Cardinal Mahony.  They claimed their absence was due to a failure to complete translation of a letter of notification about the lawsuit.

Their absence “is proof of only one thing: they have no evidence, they are not concerned about legal issues but rather about the media, and their intention is to wait for the Archdiocese of Mexico to become ensnared in the nets of their blackmail and extortion, which will not happen,” the paper asserts.

The SNAP episode, the paper continues, stands in stark contrast with Cardinal Rivera’s open decision to voluntarily testify before the court.  “Desde la Fe” called the Cardinal’s attitude of openness a “clear sign that he has nothing to fear, that he is sure of his innocence and that he intends to confront the lies and calumnies that are intended to not only hurt him but the entire Mexican church.”

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Archbishop backs FBI involvement in investigation into murder of Salvadoran lawmakers

San Salvador, El Salvador, Feb 27, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle has called for a thorough investigation into the gruesome murder of three Salvadoran lawmakers and their driver who were in Guatemala to participate in the Central American Parliament.
 
Representatives Eduardo D’Aubuisson, William Pichinte, and Juan Ramon Gonzalez, together with their driver, were killed by more than 15 gunmen on February 19 as they were driving through a poor section of Guatemala City.  Afterwards the gunmen set fire to their car and burned their remains.

Eduardo D'Aubuisson was the son of Robert D’Aubuisson, who a UN commission named as responsible for ordering the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

“There must be a full investigation of the facts, the background and the consequences,” the archbishop said during a press conference after Sunday Mass.

Archbishop Saenz said he supported a plan by the government of El Salvador to request assistance from the FBI for the investigation.

He said assistance from international organizations in the investigation would be essential.

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Priesthood and marriage demand “ordered affectivity,” says seminary rector

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Feb 27, 2007 (CNA) - The rector of the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in the Dominican Republic, Father Victor Masalles, said this week both married life and the priesthood require an ordered ability to love and therefore the Church cannot accept candidates for the priesthood who display deep-seated homosexual tendencies.

In an interview on the Catholic television channel “Televida,” Father Masalles warned, “When a priest has homosexual tendencies and he is in charge of a youth group, if he is not clear about his affectivity and does not have it ordered he is going to get into trouble and is going to cause harm.”

Father Masalles noted that even with ordered affectivity, “a married man has to struggle…how much more then in the life of the celibate in which stability and clarity should be shown, how much more then in a priest with a candidate.”

“Christianity will always be attacked, it will always be accused of homophobia, of discrimination,” he stressed.  Nevertheless, he added, “We cannot allow a candidate who promotes the gay culture to become a priest.”

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Spanish cardinal calls on faithful to avoid turning Holy Week into “vacation period

Toledo, Spain, Feb 27, 2007 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, warned this week against the “secularization of Holy Week, which has been de-Christianized and even paganized and has become a time for short vacations, for tourism, or just resting.”

According to the Cardinal, as reported by Europa Press, many people have the lost the sense of sacred that characterize the days of Holy Week and no longer attend the many religions celebrations and processions even as mere spectators.

“Let’s admit it,” the Cardinal continued, “sometimes we ourselves are to blame, as in the case of Holy Week, because we often consider it more important that certain processions be declared of national or regional tourist interest than the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the accompanying of the Lord and his most Holy Mother on their paths or stations,” he said.

“This makes me very said and concerns me greatly, because we are moving towards a generalized secularization,” Cardinal Cañizares stressed.  “In new times it is necessary to find new ways of living and celebrating the faith, the only faith,” he said.

The cardinal expressed concern that the traditional Holy Week processions have lost a degree of religious meaning and have become mere “cultural expressions, devoid of the content and the faith that should animate them.”  He cautioned Catholics not to reduce Holy Week to mere participation in the processions or to strip them of genuine evangelical and Christian sentiments.

“What is most important is the Passion and Resurrection of Christ,” the Cardinal stressed, “the mystery of the Passion of Christ, of the only God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead, events that are central to our faith and to the history of humanity.”

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Ukrainian Catholic Bishop says unity is still a struggle

Konigstein, Germany, Feb 27, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Mykola Simkaylo of Kolomyia-Chernivtsi, speaking during his recent visit to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), that the Church in Ukraine continues to struggle for unity.  The bishop also took time to praise the work of President Viktor Yushchenko in the unification process.

“President Yushchenko is personally acting as a catalyst to reconcile the various factions of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. The Greek Catholic Church, under the leadership of Patriarch Lubomyr, also strives for the goal of unity set out in the words of Christ: ‘ut unum sint.’”

“While we speak of two Church – Catholic and Orthodox – we pray the same Creed, expressing joint faith in the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We trust that God will guide both Churches to a ‘communio’ of Divine Mercy- a meeting of hands and hearts.”

Speaking about the current political situation he stressed, “some people want to defame our president, although he has used all his limited powers to foster national consolidation. In such a political situation, after so many years of totalitarian rule, it is impossible to make rapid progress. Various tendencies must be balanced out and channelled into a common stream, leading the Ukrainian people to mature self-determination, to a common national idea and equal well-being for all citizens.”

Asked about his own priorities, Bishop Simkaylo underlined the importance of faith instruction of children and youth, which also presupposes a good formation of catechists and teachers of religion.

“And we must strive for official State recognition of all degrees and studies in the area of religion and theology. It was only quite recently that the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, as the first such Catholic institution in Ukraine, was allowed to grant degrees recognized by the state to its graduates. A lot of lobbying is required on the part of the Church to broaden this precedent, Apart from this there are 20 churches still under construction in his Eparchy, which has 260,000 faithful, 210 priests, 70 seminarians, and 25 sisters.”

Reflecting on ACN’s 60th  anniversary and the 90th anniversary of the apparitions at Fatima, Bishop Simkaylo said: “We humbly turn to Our Lady of Fatima, that through her intercession God may send the world more people like Fr. Werenfried (founder of ACN) and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who devoted their lives to helping others in need.”

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In preparation for upcoming General Synod, Special Council for Africa meets in Rome

Vatican City, Feb 27, 2007 (CNA) - The Special Council for Africa of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops met in Rome on February 15 and 16 to discuss preparations for that continent's second synodal assembly.
 
According to a communiqué made public today, the meeting, presided by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, was attended by two Cardinals and six archbishops and bishops.
 
At the beginning of the meeting, Archbishop Eterovic referred to the various areas of special concern for the Church in Africa in the light of the theme of the forthcoming Synod, "The Church in Africa, in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace," and of the "Lineamenta," or preparatory document of the Synod.
 
The participants in the meeting highlighted the dynamism of the African Church, the increase in the number of Catholics (3.1 percent) being greater than the growth of the population (2.5 percent).
 
In order to favor the widespread distribution of the "Lineamenta" - which were published in June 2006 - they has been translated into various local languages such as Swahili. The bishops have also organized prayer and study meetings at university centers on the theme of the Synod. "It is especially sought to involve lay people," the communiqué reads, "to commit themselves to an integral improvement of the living conditions of all Africans: economically, culturally, from the point of view of healthcare and, above all, spiritually."
 
The communiqué continues: "Consideration was also given to the idea of involving representatives from other religions in the pre-synodal preparations, in order to respond, if possible together, to the current challenges facing the continent, which is seeking a more just and peaceful society ... and ever greater reconciliation."
 
During the course of the meeting of the special council, attention also turned to the criteria for participation, which will be put before the Holy Father prior to the official convocation of the Second Special Assembly for Africa.
 
The next meeting of the special council is due to be held on November 27 and 28, 2008.

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Catholic League, "Jesus' Tomb discovery is titanic fraud”

, Feb 27, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has released a statement denouncing a new television program which purports to show the “tomb of Jesus.”  Catholic League President, Bill Donohue, writes that James Cameron, who also directed the movie “Titanic,” has produced a “titanic fraud.”

Donohue says that the Discovery Channel show is just another in a laughable string of Hollywood productions aimed at discrediting the basic tenets of Christianity.  “Not a Lenten season goes by without some author or TV program seeking to cast doubt on the divinity of Jesus and/or the Resurrection,” Donohue writes.

“Last April,” the Catholic League President continues, “NBC’s ‘Dateline’ featured the wholly discredited and downright laughable claims of Michael Baigent, and two years ago ABC treated us to a special that questioned every aspect of the Resurrection. Now we have the Cameron-Jacobovici thesis.”

Donohue points out that the supposed evidence Cameron and his Director, Simcha Jacobovici, use was disproved 27 years ago.  “Israeli archeologist Amos Kloner was in charge of the 1980 investigation of the tomb that Cameron-Jacobovici have seized on 27 years later to make their allegations.”

“‘The claim that the burial site has been found is not based on any proof, and is only an attempt to sell,’ Kloner says. He adds, ‘I refute all claims and efforts to waken a renewed interest in the findings. With all due respect, they are not archeologists.’”

Indeed, Donohue continues, “Kloner has branded their claims ‘impossible’ and ‘nonsense.’ Moreover, he says there is ‘no likelihood’ that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb.”

Jacobovici has already been denounced by several famed archaeologists including Joe Zias, who spent 25 years as an archeologist for the Rockefeller University in Jerusalem.  Donohue included Zias’ comment that “Simcha [Jacobovici] has no credibility whatsoever.”

The director’s archeological credibility is further impugned, Donohue adds, “when one considers that he still believes the 2002 tale about an ossuary with the inscription, ‘James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.’”

“On June 18, 2003, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) condemned this claim as a modern forgery—this was the unanimous decision of a 15-member IAA committee. Agreeing with this decision were Harvard’s Frank Cross and Tel Aviv University professor Edward Greenstein.”

“The Discovery Channel aired the 2002 hoax and now it’s back with the Titanic fraud. It’s time the Discovery Channel discovered ethics and stopped with the sensationalism,” Donohue concluded.

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Los Angeles judge asks diocese to put bankruptcy on hold

Los Angeles, Calif., Feb 27, 2007 (CNA) - A Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge who is attempting to work out a settlement between the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego and sex abuse plaintiffs has asked the diocese to refrain from filing for bankruptcy until a second negotiation session can be held on Friday.

Judge Anthony Mohr made the request Monday after a negotiating session between lawyers for the diocese and the plaintiffs.  However, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, nearly six hours of negotiations on Monday failed to produce a deal to settle about 150 lawsuits brought by adults alleging they were molested by priests in incidents dating to the 1950’s.

Bishop Robert Brom has said that the diocese might be forced to file for Chapter 11 reorganization in the face of the numerous lawsuits, the first of which could begin as early as Wednesday.

Following the day of negotiations Judge Mohr summoned both sides into his courtroom, saying that he still held out hope that a settlement could be reached.

Mohr strongly urged Michael Webb, the diocese's lead counsel, to refrain from filing for Chapter 11 protection, noting that the trial in the first lawsuit could be postponed as settlement talks continued.

“We are at the point where I am still slightly encouraged,” Mohr said, adding his opinion that more discussions could yield a settlement.

Webb responded that he'd have to take it up “with the bishop and the committee who advises him on these matters.”

A bankruptcy filing by the diocese would halt litigation of four lawsuits scheduled for trial between now and June 1, as well as nearly 60 others that a judge has declared are ready to proceed.

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