Archive of March 28, 2007

Catechesis, clergy discipline, vocations urgent challenges facing Church in Italy says Cardinal Bertone

Rome, Italy, Mar 28, 2007 (CNA) - In a letter to the new president of the Bishops’ Conference of Italy, Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said the urgent pastoral needs in Italy have to do with the evangelization of young people and adults, as well as with clergy discipline and a renewed promotion of priestly vocations.

In a letter dated March 25, Cardinal Bertone highlighted the work done by Cardinal Camilo Ruini during his 15 years as head of the bishops’ conference, and he called the election of Archbishop Bagnasco “a sign of continuity in the consolidation of the Christian witness and of the promotion of the family and an encouragement for pastors to face not only these issues, but also the challenges that await this ecclesial community, with an authentic spirit of collegiality.”

Cardinal Bertone recalled his years as Archbishop of Genoa and he expressed his concern over “the advance of secularization and the progressive weakening of the Italian ecclesial fabric.”

For this reason, Bertone noted the need for pastors of the Church, “to give priority to the evangelization and catechesis of young people and adults,” as well as to the “recovery of a motivated clergy discipline” and to a “common effort” to promote priestly vocations.

The Vatican Secretary of State emphasized that in political affairs, the Church in Italy can always count on “the cordial collaboration and respectful guidance of the Holy See.”  

“In recent months I have been able to appreciate the work which the Pontiff has entrusted to this Secretariat, his interest in promoting relations with states and attending to the affairs that, always for pastoral purposes, should be treated with civil governments.  I am conscience that such a role requires particular solicitude for this noble country, formed in the Christian faith and upon whose territory, by divine will, rests the Chair of Peter,” Cardinal Bertone said.

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Puerto Rican Catholics demand legal defense of traditional marriage

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mar 28, 2007 (CNA) - More than 10,000 Catholics gather last weekend in front of the Capitol building in San Juan to demand the Puerto Rican Congress defend marriage between one man and one woman.

The protest was organized by the Bishops’ Conference of Puerto Rico and included the recitation of the rosary “for the truth, life, human dignity, marriage, and the family.”

Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez of San Juan participated in the protest and told reporters, “We are here to celebrate the truth, life, human dignity, marriage and the family as gifts of the Creator for the wellbeing of humanity and the unity of the human race.”

The Puerto Rican Congress is currently debating a reform of the Civil Code that would widen the definition of marriage to include unions between two persons who live together in a “voluntary, stable, public and continuous” relationship during a period of “no less than three years.”

It would also allow for legal recognition of sex changes and would make same-sex unions equivalent to marriage.

Father Fernando Felices, who graduated with a degree in law from the University of Harvard, told the EFE news agency, “This issue is about giving special treatment for a particular kind of behavior which, even though they are adults, society must decide whether or not to allow.”

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Argentinean politicians reject Health Minister’s bid for congressional sea

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 28, 2007 (CNA) - Representatives of various political parties in Argentina have criticized the congressional candidacy of the country’s Health Minister, Gines Gonzalez Garcia, due to his promotion of the culture of death, support for the widespread distribution of the morning after pill, and the legalization of abortion in the country.

Congresswoman Maria del Carmen Alarcon questioned Garcia’s candidacy saying, “He sees the only solution to poverty and health problems as the legalization of an abortion, a crime so aberrant to Argentina.”

“One of the greatest differences between the members of the current government and many of us is that they are cultivators of death.  Don’t they realize they are always invoking the past, death, and tragedy in order to get more power and look good?” she wondered aloud.

Carlos Traboulsi, a congressional candidate of the Christian Democratic Party, said, “You cannot serve both God and the devil.  He needs to choose at some point.  You cannot be Minister of Health and carry out the greatest policy of genocide in the history of Argentina through abortion, hiding its true harm to women’s health and to the future existence of our country, taking the lives of the defenseless, who are the unborn,” he stated.

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Film premiere attracts Major League Baseball’s biggest stars

Phoenix, Ariz., Mar 28, 2007 (CNA) - The Arizona Desert set the stage Sunday night for the World Premiere of a breathtaking new film featuring some of the biggest stars in Major League Baseball. Champions of Faith: Baseball is a stunning one-hour sports documentary, which depicts America’s favorite pastime as a metaphor for life.

Major League Baseball champions Mike Piazza, Jeff Suppan and Mike Sweeney attended the debut screening that unveiled an All-Star line-up of baseball greats speaking frankly about how their faith has shaped their Major League careers.

Designated hitter for the Oakland A’s and 12-time All-Star Mike Piazza was visibly moved. “This is not just a sports film,” Piazza said. “It’s a work of art.”

Mike Sweeney, captain of the Kansas City Royals and five-time All-Star, said the film “is a treasure that will inspire others for generations.”

“I have never, in my entire life, been more proud to be part of a fraternity or cast of men like this,” said Sweeney.

“It’s my hope that the film touches every household in America the way it has already touched mine,” said Tom Allen, who produced the film. He described the project as one of the most challenging and exhilarating experiences of his life.

Champions of Faith: Baseball will be available on DVD next month in English and Spanish subtitle formats, after the opening of the Major League Baseball Season.

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Georgia school district perpetuating anti-Catholic attitude, Donohue says

Atlanta, Ga., Mar 28, 2007 (CNA) - Catholic League President Bill Donohue is writing to Georgia’s State Superintendent of Schools, asking her to investigate a matter related to a substitute teacher who harassed a high school student for demonstrating a symbol of faith.

On Ash Wednesday, Feb. 21, a Catholic female student at White County High School in Cleveland, Georgia, had her ashes wiped off her forehead by a substitute teacher. When the girl’s classmates protested, the teacher verbally attacked the girl making untrue and derisive statements about Catholicism.
Donohue had first written to Paul Shaw, superintendent of the White County Board of Education, on March 5, wanting to know what disciplinary measures would be taken against the teacher.

Shaw replied that the principal resolved the matter. “The employee made an honest error in judgment,” he said in the substitute teacher’s defense, “and has been appropriately counseled and cautioned and I believe a similar incident will not be repeated.”
The teacher has since been dismissed from the high school, but for reasons wholly unrelated.
Donohue said he is not writing to the state superintendent of schools now regarding the teacher but regarding Shaw.

“For him to say that a teacher in his employ made ‘an honest error in judgment’ by wiping ashes off the forehead of a Catholic student on Ash Wednesday — and then berated her in front of her classmates — is beyond lame. It’s morally reprehensible,” Donohue said in a statement.

Donohue said his letter will be citing Georgia’s Code of Ethics for Educators and its section on Abuse of Students, which includes harassing behavior on the basis of religion.

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Florida bishop slammed for inaction by brother of Terry Schiavo

Tampa, Fla., Mar 28, 2007 (CNA) - Terry Schiavo's brother has written an open letter to Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, rebuking the prelate for his refusal to help save Schiavo.
Schiavo, a severely disabled Florida woman, died two years ago from dehydration in a high-profile case that had pro-life and pro-euthanasia advocates going head to head.

In his letter, which is available online, Bobby Schindler says Bishop Lynch refused his family's pleas for his help in their attempt to save Schiavo’s life. The letter was sent March 9; Schindler said he is still awaiting a reply.

Schindler cites Pope Benedict XVI, who has said “all Catholics have a duty to uphold the Church's pro-life teachings” and "bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values (the pro-life teaching of the Church) as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them."

Schindler proposes that bishops should not consider themselves above the scrutiny to which Catholic elected officials are subjected regarding the Church’s pro-life teachings.

In his letter, Schindler says he begs God “to spare us another successor of the apostles who would exhibit the same scandalous inaction and silence by which you remain complicit in my sister's murder via euthanasia.”

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Nun reportedly cured through intercession of John Paul the Great to be in Rome next week

Rome, Italy, Mar 28, 2007 (CNA) - The French nun who says she was cured of Parkinson's after she and her community prayed for the intercession of the late Pope John Paul II, will be in Rome on Monday, the Associated Press has reported.

Ceremonies will be held April 2 to mark the second anniversary of the pontiff's death and the closure of a Church investigation into his life and virtues.

The nun’s inexplicable cure from Parkinson's disease is likely to be accepted as the miracle needed to declare the beloved Pope “Blessed.”

It is unclear about whether she will ever come forward publicly. Currently, the nun remains anonymous, however, it is expected that her diocese and community will be announced on Sunday by her bishop, reported the AP.

The following day, the bishop will forward the documentation on the alleged miracle to the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which will then convene a panel of medical and theological experts to study it.

The nun shared her experience in an article she wrote for "Totus Tuus," the official magazine of John Paul's beatification case. In it, she wrote of being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in June 2001, that she had a strong spiritual affinity for John Paul because he too suffered from the disease. She said her symptoms had worsened in the weeks after the pontiff's death on April 2, 2005.

The nuns of her community prayed for her, and exactly two months after John Paul's death, she awoke in the middle of the night cured, she wrote.

Msgr. Slawomir Oder, the Polish prelate who is the postulator for John Paul's beatification cause, announced last year that the case of the French nun was the most compelling he had found.

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Dublin Archbishop calls Northern Ireland agreement “a new hope”

Dublin, Ireland, Mar 28, 2007 (CNA) - Speaking to the Religious Information Service of Italy, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin praised a new power-sharing agreement between leaders of the Catholic and Protestant parties of Northern Ireland as a new hope for all of Ireland.

The archbishop said the event, which brought members of the Nationalist Sinn Fein party and Unionist Ulsters together to talk, “is an epoch-making event and puts an end to years of violence, pain and misery for thousands of families.”

“It is the beginning of a new hope for all those who live here,” Martin said.

The Archbishop expressed his hope that the agreement will bring an end to years of partisan fighting between those who wish to see Northern Ireland united with the rest of the island and those who would like it to remain part of the United Kingdom. “Now the politicians of both sides can move from ideological positions to pragmatic position,” the archbishop said.

“They can work to prove we can live in peace,” he added, “work not only to build a fair, peaceful society but also to create all it takes to progress, such as roads, basic services, promoting an economy in which all citizens will have the same opportunities.”

These tasks, he added, “must be carried on by Dublin and London in cooperation with Belfast for the people of Northern Ireland.”

“The success of this new chapter depends on the involvement of all sides. The only possible future for Ireland is one which gives space to mutual understanding, between London and Dublin, between the North and the South, between Unionists and Nationalists, between Catholics and Protestants, between believers and non believers.”

“The building and reconciliation process will be a priority for the Church. What we have to do,” the Archbishop continued, “is bring to light the most creative things we have in our traditions and join efforts for an Ireland in which everyone will feel they belong.”

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Authentic teaching of Christ is imparted by way of the bishops, Holy Father reminds

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2007 (CNA) - Addressing the more than 20,000 people crowded into St. Peter’s Square for today’s General Audience, Pope Benedict continued his catechesis on Saints of the early Church, turning today to St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons and "the first great theologian of the Church."  The Holy Father recalled that this great fighter of heresy, who was born in Smyrna in the second century, is a reminder that the true teaching of Christ continues to be imparted by the bishops, who themselves received it from the Apostles, and is readily available to all the faithful.
Irenaeus was a disciple of Bishop Polycarp, who had known St. John the Evangelist. Moving to Gaul, he became one of the priests of the young Christian community of Lyons and, having been sent on a mission to Rome, managed to escape the persecution of Marcus Aurelius in which his predecessor, Bishop Pothinus, was martyred.
Irenaeus, said the Pope, was above all a pastor "who defended true doctrine," in particular against the gnostic heresy "which considered the faith taught by the Church as a form of symbolism for simple people ... while [Gnostic] initiates and intellectuals, understanding what lay behind the symbols, would be able to create an elitist and intellectualist form of Christianity."
Another feature of gnosticism was its dualism, the Holy Father noted. "In order to explain the existence of evil in the world they held that alongside the good God was a negative force which produced material things."
However Irenaeus, "solidly rooted in the biblical doctrine of creation ... defended the divine origin of matter, of the body ... no less than that of the Spirit." And "the heart of his doctrine is the 'rule of faith' and its transmission, which coincides with the Apostles' Creed."
"Thus, authentic teaching is not that invented by intellectuals over and above the simple faith of the Church. The true Gospel is the one imparted by the bishops who received it from the Apostles in an uninterrupted chain. They taught no more than this simple faith, which is also the real profundity of God's revelation.”

“There is no secret doctrine behind the shared creed of the Church, there is no superior form of Christianity for intellectuals," the Pope emphasized.
"In adhering to the faith publicly transmitted by the Apostles to their successors, Christians must follow what bishops say, they must especially consider the teaching of the Church of Rome ... which because of her antiquity has the greatest degree of apostolicity ... and has her origins in the columns of the apostolic college, Peter and Paul.”
According to Irenaeus, "apostolic tradition is 'public,' not private or secret. The contents of the faith transmitted by the Church were received from the Apostles and Jesus. The apostolic tradition is 'unique,'” he said, “despite the diversity of languages and cultures."

The transmission of apostolic tradition "does not depend upon the capacity of more or less learned men." It is "pneumatic," guided by the Holy Spirit "which makes the Church alive and young, rich in her many charisms."
In his Italian-language greetings at the end of the audience, the Pope addressed bishops and faithful from dioceses in Sicily. The Sicilian bishops are currently undertaking their "ad limina" visit to Rome.
"Through your example, support priests, consecrated people and the lay faithful of Sicily that they may continue to bear witness to Christ and His Gospel with renewed enthusiasm and zeal," the Holy Father told the prelates. "May no fear ever enter your hearts to agitate you. Those who follow Christ are not afraid of difficulties, those who trust in Him move forward confidently. Be builders of peace in legality and love, offering light to the men and women of our time who, though oppressed by the cares of everyday life, hear the call of the eternal truths."

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Holy See “disappointed” after Israeli delegation cancels meeting

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2007 (CNA) - The Press Office of the Holy See released a brief statement expressing its regret after the Israeli delegation to the Vatican’s Permanent Bilateral Working Commission suddenly cancelled its participation in a meeting which was scheduled to take place on Thursday.  The Israeli delegation said it was unable to attend due to “the current international political situation.”

The meeting, according to the press release was “to consider certain questions associated with negotiations concerning article 10 para. 2a of the Fundamental Agreement (which was signed on December 30, 1993 and came into effect on March 10 1994).”

"On March 26,” the Vatican statement says, “the Israeli delegation made known the impossibility of its participating in the meeting, due to the international political situation.”

Today an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman explained to Reuters that the delegation's trip to Rome "has not been cancelled but delayed."
He said the head of the delegation, Foreign Ministry Director General Aaron Abramovich, had too many unexpected, last-minute commitments such as visits by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The Vatican said it was disappointed but understanding, “The Holy See, while understanding the reasons, notes the circumstance with disappointment and hopes as soon as possible to be able to agree with the Israeli side a new date for calling the plenary.”

According to the Religious Information Service for Italy, the last plenary of the Commission took place 5 years ago. The purpose of the permanent bilateral Commission is the signing of on overall treaty on all the questions linked with taxation and properties of the Church in Israel. In particular, the Catholic Church is attempting to continue the same tax exemptions it received in 1948, when the State of Israel was born. Also important for the Church is the restitution of confiscated ecclesiastical properties. 

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Elderly nuns attacked, killed in their home in Iraq

Baghdad, Iraq, Mar 28, 2007 (CNA) - Two octogenarian Chaldean Catholic religious sisters are being mourned after being attacked in their home in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk.

Kirkuk Police 1st. Lt. Marewan Salih, told the AP that the two women were stabbed multiple times by intruders who raided their home Monday night near Kirkuk's Cathedral of the Virgin in Kirkuk. They lived alone and there was no sign of a robbery, Salih said.

Sister Margaret Naoum, 79, was stabbed seven times as she stood in the garden just outside the sisters' home. The attackers then found Sister Fawzeiyah Naoum, 85, lying on the sofa inside, recovering from eye surgery last week. She was stabbed three times.

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Italian bishops to legislators: Legalization of civil unions “unacceptable” and “dangerous”

Rome, Italy, Mar 28, 2007 (CNA) - The Permanent Council of the Italian Bishops Conference, led by new president Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, has sent a firm message to members of the Italian Legislature – voting for the legalization of civil unions, which would pave the way for legalized homosexual “marriage,” is not compatible with the Catholic faith and is dangerous to society.

The Italian legislature is in the process of considering a proposal known as the Dico Bill which would provide legal recognition, equal to marriage, for any cohabiting couples, those couples which are homosexual.

“The legalization of civil unions,” the bishops said, is, “unacceptable on a principle level; it is dangerous on the social and educational level.”

The law would have dangerous effects on the family, the Italian prelates said, because it would deprive “the marriage pact of its uniqueness, which alone justifies the rights of spouses, which belong just to them.”

“An even more serious problem,” they continued, “would be the legalization of civil unions of people of the same sex, because, in this case, one would deny sexual difference, which is insuperable.”

The bishops note that their objections do not in any way, “compromise the acknowledgement of the dignity of every person.

“We confirm our respect and our pastoral concern to all,” the bishops write.

At the same time, they continue, “the law does not exist with the aim of giving juridical shape to any kind of life in common, or supplying ideological acknowledgments. On the other hand, the law’s objective is to guarantee public responses to social needs exceeding the private dimension of existence.”

“We are aware,” the bishops said, of the existence of “concrete situations in which juridical protections and guarantees may be useful for the person living together with someone. By principle, we are not against this kind of attention. However, we firmly believe that it is possible to pursue this objective within individual rights, without conceiving a new juridical figure which would be an alternative to marriage and the family, and would produce more damage than the one it intends to repair.”

According to ANSA the bill was created after long negations between was hammered out after long negotiations between Romano Prodi's centre-left allies. It was a supposed compromise between hard-line gay marriage campaigners on the left and more cautious centrists.

Catholic MPs have a "moral duty to express their disagreement clearly and publicly and to vote against any draft law that could give recognition to gay unions," the bishops also wrote, following a meeting.

The bishops also dismissed suggestions that they were interfering in national politics, saying it was their duty to speak out on "ethical principles which are fundamental for society's common good."

According to the most recent available figures from national statistics bureau Istat, the number of unmarried couples living together in Italy doubled between 1994 and 2003 from 227,000 to 555,000.

A survey published in the Corriere della Sera daily last month found that 49% of Italians opposed the DICO bill and 47% were in favor. Pollsters found that support for the bill would have been higher if the rights it contained had not been extended to gay couples as well as heterosexual ones.

About 40 associations, many of them Catholic ones, are organizing a 'Family Day' demonstration in Rome on May 12, ANSA reports. The groups are calling on the government to do more to support families and, although the Dico law is not mentioned in their manifesto, they oppose putting marriage on a par with "other forms of cohabitation."

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Work is path to holiness, recalls president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity

Rome, Italy, Mar 28, 2007 (CNA) - The President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, said this week that “in the life of the Christian, work becomes a path to sanctity, a school of sanctity.  And all this is not a utopia, but rather a treasure we should be committed to seeking out every day.”

In referring to the 19th International Youth Forum organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity and taking place March 28-April 1 in Rome, the archbishop explained that “work, despite its importance, is not an absolute and should not become an idol.  The man who works is called to be a conscious and responsible collaborator with God the Creator and Redeemer.  The apostle is diligent in doing everything for the glory of God.”

“Work,” he continued, “is an important factor in the personal fulfillment of men and women.  Generally many of our contemporaries superficially reduce it to a task whose purpose is work itself, to unbridled activism, a type of ‘drug’ that makes one forget about the essential things.  Therefore, we need to re-think it constantly and constantly seek out anew its deeper meaning.”

“The world of work is today an important areopagus for evangelizing.  Therefore we need courageous and convinced messengers of ‘The Gospel of work’.  Human work has a profound spiritual sense.  The reference to God is fundamental, as the Benedictine maxim says, ‘Ora et labora’,” Archbishop Rylko explained.

“The mobility and flexibility of work also generates conditions of precariousness and extreme uncertainty in the future, complicating the obtaining of fundamental realities for our lives such as marriage and the formation of the family,” he said.

In order to respond to this situation, Archbishop Rylko suggested young people seek a profound change of mentality “in order to overcome passivity and resignation and become courageous protagonists of their own future, investing their best energies in their own professional formation.  We need a true ‘cultural revolution’ in this area.  In order to seek out just solutions, the Social Doctrine of the Church is a good source which many have yet to discover,” he said.

“In the encyclical Laborem Exercens, the Servant of God, John Paul II reminded us that man is called to work not only ‘to have’ but above all ‘to be’ more, to mature in our own humanity.  Young Christians need to become the protagonists of a new culture of work,” the archbishop said.

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