Archive of March 29, 2007

Denver Archbishop, Catholic young adults take faith to downtown streets

Denver, Colo., Mar 29, 2007 (CNA) - Young Catholics of Denver are joining with their Archbishop, Charles Chaput, in an effort to reach-out and evangelize the very heart of their city.  “Takin’ it to the Streets” aims at engaging the community — both religious and secular — in extensive conversations about the Catholic Church and Her teachings.

The evangelization program aims at “igniting the faith of the Catholic community and sparking the faith of those encountered,” says event coordinator Maria Gartner.

The full-day event March 31 will begin at 8:30 a.m. with Eucharistic adoration and prayer at Denver’s downtown Holy Ghost Church. Missionaries will then move out in pairs or threes, seeking opportunities to interact with the downtown community. Meanwhile, others will remain at the church to pray for the missionary efforts.

Archbishop Chaput will conclude the daylong efforts with a Mass at 4 p.m. at Holy Ghost Parish. The Mass will be followed by prayer, personal testimonies of conversion and musical praise.

According to the archdiocese, the event is modeled after missions sponsored by the international Emmanuel Community, a movement begun in France in the 1970s. The Emmanuel Community’s mission focuses on compassion, community service, and public worship of the Eucharist.

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Knights of Columbus still strong after 125 years

New Haven, Conn., Mar 29, 2007 (CNA) - One hundred and twenty-five years after its founding, the Knights of Columbus remains a viable Catholic organization, registering continuous growth over the last three decades.

"At a time when many fraternal organizations are finding it difficult to attract new members, our continued membership growth is a testament to our history of 125 years of faith in action," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson on the occasion of the Knights’ 125th anniversary.

The laymen’s association marks its 125th anniversary today. Over the last 35 years, the organization has experienced uninterrupted membership growth.

During the period from 1972 to today membership has grown nearly 50 percent, from 1.15 million members in ‘72 to 1.72 million members today, with each year seeing steady increases. The Knights of Columbus is currently the world's largest lay Catholic membership organization.

"Father Michael J. McGivney founded an organization dedicated to safeguarding the faith and financial well-being of families, and our continued growth speaks volumes to the importance of those goals, which are as relevant today as they were in 1882," said Anderson in a statement.

As a fraternal benefit society, the Knights of Columbus provides its members a variety of life insurance products for the financial stability of their families. One of the most highly rated insurance companies in North America, the K of C has more than $62 billion of life insurance in force and consistently earns the industry's highest ratings for fiscal management and ethical business practices.

The Knights of Columbus has also been involved in American public life. Before and throughout World War I, the Knights ran "Army Huts" – facilities that provided recreation, snacks and comfort items to the troops near bases and near the front. The huts were a predecessor to the now-international United Service Organizations (USO).

During the 1920s, in direct opposition to the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights lobbied President Calvin Coolidge to pressure the Mexican government to stop its persecution of Catholics in Mexico. The lobbying paid off, and an accord was reached between the Church and the Mexican government.

In the 1950s, the Knights of Columbus led the effort to have the words "under God" added to the Pledge of Allegiance. The organization continues to speak out on important social issues – especially in the area of the protection of human life.

Last year, the Knights of Columbus donated more than $139 million and 64 million volunteer hours to charity.

Some of the notable Knights over the past 125 years include Joyce Kilmer, Babe Ruth, John F. Kennedy, and Jeb Bush.

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Philippine Cardinal calls for an end to political killings

Manila, Philippines, Mar 29, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, archbishop of Manila, has called for an end to all political killings in the Philippines, whether perpetrated by government troops or communist rebels.

"We should tell the government as well as the rebels that it is wrong to kill," Rosales said in comments published in major newspapers Tuesday. "It is not one-sided. It is both sides."

Cardinal Rosales’ comments come in the wake of accusations by left-wing and human rights groups that the Philippine military has killed, abducted and tortured hundreds of political activists since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power in 2001.

They claim more than 800 people, mostly left-wing activists and human rights workers, have been killed and about 200 others have disappeared.

Some have gone as far as saying that the current situation is as bad as 1972-1981, when late dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law.

"What's going on now is nothing as compared with martial law," the Cardinal reportedly said, dismissing these claims.

While Arroyo's government denies supporting abuses against political activists and insists it is taking action to stop them, presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye reportedly acknowledged the Cardinal's words as "fair."

The government has called on investigators from the European Union to asses the cases of extrajudicial killings with forensics. The government said it would also welcome the participation of the UN Commission of Human Rights and the U.S. government.

"We believe that a more balanced view of the Philippine human rights situation is crystallizing and we acknowledge the fair statement of Cardinal Rosales as we welcome the fielding of a team from the European Union (EU) to help our law enforcers get to the root of these crimes," Bunye was quoted as saying.

The government is doing everything and willing to work with everyone to provide justice to the victims of the so-called political killings, he added.

Military officials are investigating the alleged involvement of some soldiers in the killings, but blame most on communist guerrillas.

In a statement, Communist Party spokesman Gregorio Rosal said the Cardinal’s comments are "gravely unfortunate" and belittle the gravity of the situation. 

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French nun in John Paul’s beatification process identified

Paris, France, Mar 29, 2007 (CNA) - The previously anonymous French nun, who may have received a miraculous cure from God by the prayers of Pope John Paul II, has been identified.  Wednesday an official at the Paris maternity hospital of Sainte-Felicite said - on condition of anonymity - that Sr. Marie-Simon-Pierre is the French nun who was allegedly cured from Parkinson’s disease after she and her community of sisters prayed for the intercession of the late Pope John Paul II.

According to a report from The Associated Press, the nun is a member of the Congregation of Little Sisters of Catholic Motherhood, based in Aix-en-Provence in southeast France.

The official announcement of the alleged miracle, which has yet to be investigated by the Vatican’s Congregation of the Saints, is expected to be made during a Palm Sunday Mass this week by the nun’s bishop.

French newspaper Le Figaro was first to report the nun’s name, adding that she was 45 years old.

The nun is reportedly traveling to Rome for ceremonies Monday marking the second anniversary of the Pontiff's death and the closure of a church investigation into his life and virtues.

She is expected to be the main guest next week when the Diocese of Rome gives the Vatican tens of thousands of pages of documentation on John Paul’s holiness.

The sister’s miraculous cure through the intercession of the late Pope could provide the needed miracle to name John Paul II a “Blessed” of the Church.  

Only one document about the long-mysterious nun's experience has been made public: an article she wrote for "Totus Tuus," the official magazine of John Paul's beatification case.

She wrote of being diagnosed with Parkinson's in June 2001, having a strong spiritual affinity for John Paul because he too suffered from the disease, and of her worsening symptoms suffered in the weeks after the Pope died on April 2, 2005.

"I was losing weight day by day. I could no longer write and if I did try to, it was difficult to decipher. I could no longer drive ... because my left leg became rigid," Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre wrote.

However, she said, on June 2, 2005, after she and her community had prayed for John Paul’s intercession, and exactly two months after the Pope's death, she felt the sudden urge to pick up a pen: "My handwriting was completely legible ... my body was no longer pained, no longer rigid ... I felt a profound sense of peace."

Her neurologist and other doctors and psychologists who later examined her were at a loss for a medical explanation, Reuters reports.

In a phone interview on Thursday, Father Robert Aliger, a spokesman for the Diocese of Aix-en-Provence, described a humble nun who went through an "incredible" experience — an unexplained recovery from Parkinson's disease after she and her community of nuns prayed to John Paul.

"All those that knew her before and after see clearly that she is cured," he told the Associated Press.

According to the priest, the diocese in southeast France finished its investigation into the nun's claims last week and will present its conclusions in Rome.

Its four to five month investigation was based on medical records, blood test results, X-rays and doctors' reports, "so that the bishop can present a solid dossier in Rome," said Aliger.

"It's a voluminous dossier," he said. "There are five boxes — I saw them — of originals and a big box of X-rays."

The nun "had tears in her eyes" at the closing session of the investigation, he added.

"She is a gentle, reserved woman," he said. "She is a very simple, very ordinary person who is, I think, deeply moved by what happened to her."

The nun also underwent a psychiatric evaluation and had her handwriting analyzed, since a change in handwriting is a classic symptom of Parkinson's disease, the Rome-based cleric spearheading her cause, Monsignor Slawomir Oder, said this week.

The process to name the beloved Pope John Paul a Saint has been spurred on by cries from the faithful.  Pope Benedict XVI announced in May 2005 that he was waiving the traditional five-year waiting period and allowing the beatification process to begin. There is still no word on when any beatification or canonization might occur.

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Mexican bishops say votes will not change the Church’s fundamental respect for human life

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 29, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Luis Chavez Botello of Antequera-Oaxaca said this week that even if voters approve of abortion, the Church will not accept the legalization of abortion, because “it is not a question of a majority of votes but rather of the principle of the right to life.”

The archbishop’s statements came in response to the Socialist party’s effort to legalize abortion in the Mexican capital.  He said that those who seek the legalization of this practice demonstrate their lack of principle and their intent “to trample upon the rights of others.”

During a press conference, Archbishop Chavez Botello read a statement which he said was meant to provide “guidance and to point out the Church’s position on abortion, in view of the debate taking place in Mexico City.”

In his statement, the archbishop recalled the Church’s teaching throughout the years on abortion.  “From the first century, the Church has affirmed the moral evil of all procured abortion:  ‘You shall not kill the embryo through abortion, you shall not put the newborn to death.’ This teaching has not changed, it remains unchangeable,” he stated.

In this sense, he recalled that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith pointed out in 2002 that a “properly-formed Christian conscience” cannot support a political policy or law that contains proposals contrary to fundamental aspects of faith and morals.

The statement, which was also signed by Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Campos Contreras, called for the “necessary and urgent” collaboration of doctors, teachers, psychologists, lawyers and politicians “to help confront responsibly this challenge and threat.”

“Is abortion really the best solution to a social and healthcare problem?” the archbishop wondered aloud.  “Why don’t we direct our efforts instead to improving health care and education?  Is the child in the womb really an aggressor and a dangerous enemy to be eliminated?  What credibility will human rights have when the fundamental right to life is abandoned?  Would those who support abortion continue to do so if they were the ones to be aborted?” the bishops asked in their statement.

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Martyred Spanish priest who died protecting seal of confession to be named “Blessed”

Valencia, Fla., Mar 29, 2007 (CNA) - The Holy See is moving ahead with the cause of beatification of Father Felipe Ciscar Puig, a Spanish priest who was martyred during the persecution of 1936 for protecting the seal of confession.

In statements to the AVAN news agency, the vice postulator of the cause, Father Benjamin Agullo, said Father Puig “is considered a martyr of the sacramental seal as he was shot for refusing to reveal the confession of a Franciscan priest who was himself executed.”

Francisco Father Andres Ivars asked to go to confession when he was in prison in August of 1936, suspecting that his execution was near.  “At that moment Ciscar was brought to the same prison. After the confession, they tried to get him to reveal the contents and in response to his denial to do so, the militants threatened to kill him,” Father Agullo said.

Since he remained unmoved, his captors organized a mock trial and condemned him to death.  Both Father Agullo and Father Ivars were driven by car to another location and were executed on September 8, 1936, the vice postulator of the cause explained.

Father Puig studied at the Seminary of Valencia and was ordained a priest in 1888.  After serving as pastor in various parishes, he served as chaplain for the Augustinian Sisters of Denia.

Fathers Ciscar and Ivars are part the cause of canonization of the Servants of God Ricardo Pelufo Esteve and 43 companions, including 36 Franciscans.

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European Parliament investigates Poland over law limiting homosexual propaganda

Rome, Italy, Mar 29, 2007 (CNA) - The Committee on Civil Liberties of the European Parliament has ordered an investigation into a future law against homosexual propaganda in Poland, in order to determine if the norm will violate EU laws.

According to international news agencies, the EU committee has requested that its internal services determine if the measure would violate an EU directive from 2002 barring discrimination in the workplace.  The review has been requested by Dutch EU representatives Kathalijne Buitenweg and Sophia In't Veld.

Several days ago, the Poland’s Minister of Education together with the Polish League of Families proposed a law protecting children in the country’s schools from aggressive and obscene homosexual propaganda that presents the gay lifestyle as “normal and acceptable.”

With this law’s passage administrators who allow homosexual activists to enter their schools and thus protect the rights of parents “to educate their children according to the values system that they choose.”

“The homosexual agenda is a threat to that freedom,” explained the spokesman of the League, Krzysztof Bosak, a well-known pro-family activist in Poland.  “In Poland homosexual activists have tried to distribute obscene pamphlets in schools.  This must stop, for the good of our children, so that their security and freedom are free of this harassment,” he added.
He also specified that “nobody is attacking persons with homosexual tendencies.  What we are opposed to the dangerous political and social movement that uses the problems of gays to promote an agenda that is dangerous for the foundations of our civilization.”

If the review concludes that the Polish law violates EU norms, the EU Parliament could ask the Committee and the EU Council to act against Poland.

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Church in Mexico has right to speak out against abortion, government officials affirm

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 29, 2007 (CNA) - In response to anti-clerical pressures from leftwing political parties to legalize abortion in Mexico City, the Secretariat for Internal Affairs in Mexico said the Catholic Church has every right to speak out in public on the issue of abortion.

In response to a plan that would make the killing of the unborn a legal act in the Mexican capital, the Archdiocese of Mexico began a campaign to mobilize the faithful against abortion.

The leftist coalition that promotes the legalization of abortion immediately denounced the Church before the Secretariat for Internal Affairs for supposedly meddling in politics illegally and convinced the government agency to act against the Church.

Nevertheless, Florencio Salazar, undersecretary for Population, Migration and Religious Affairs said the Church in Mexico, “as in any other democratic society, has the right to express an opinion.”

In response to the accusations by abortion supporters, Salazar recalled that fifteen years ago the government reformed Mexico’s constitution to grant legal recognition to religious associations and ministers of worship, and he emphasized that “in a democratic system, the fundamental focus is tolerance.”

Some of the more radical abortion supporters had said they would file charges against Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, for his statements in favor of the right to life in Mexico and throughout the world.  On March 24, the Cardinal was in Mexico for the 3rd International Pro-Life Congress.
Salazar said no charges have been filed against the Cardinal, who he said “is not violating any law; he is addressing an issue that is part of the doctrine of the Church to which he belongs.”  Salazar added that despite calls by some pro-abortion lawmakers, the Cardinal was not “expelled from the country.”

The spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico, Hugo Valdemar, said the threats from lawmakers were a sign of their “intolerance and ignorance.”  “Cardinal Lopez Trujillo was invited to Mexico over a year ago and not in connection with the debate on the legal reform related to the legalization of abortion in Mexico City,” he added.

“None of the activities violate Mexican law, which guarantees freedom of expression for all, despite those who wish to monopolize the debate,” Valdemar said. 

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Report shows natural family planning reduces abortion and sterility in Chinese women

Madrid, Spain, Mar 29, 2007 (CNA) - A study by the Billings Foundation has revealed that the use of natural family planning could be a better weapon in combating abortion and sterility among Chinese women.

An article in the Spanish magazine “Alba” presented the amazing results of the study.  The use of natural family planning by four million Chinese women reduced the average percentage of abortions from 4.6% to 0.6%, and of 40,000 women who considered themselves unable to bear children, 39,000 achieved conception.

Maria Teresa Gutierrez Prieto, an expert in human sexuality and a promoter of natural family planning, told Alba the “intrinsic goodness” of these methods leads to greater self-esteem in women.

“A woman who knows her cycle loves herself more and is more committed.  Self-control helps one appreciate the other person and love him or her, and be at the other’s service, thus inspiring gestures of affection,” she said.

Gutierrez said NFP represents a “different anthropology.”  It’s not an “alternative” to artificial birth control, but rather is “based on respect for the body, the biological rhythms, and above all, on the idea that we are cooperators with God.”

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“Dare to love your families,” Pope tells Roman youth prior to hearing confessions

Vatican City, Mar 29, 2007 (CNA) - In advance of the 22nd annual World Youth Day, which will be celebrated this Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI met with thousands of Roman youth on Thursday night, leading them in a penance service, and hearing some of their individual confessions.  The Holy Father encouraged the young people to encounter God’s love in the Sacrament and challenged them to then go forth, living a life of Christian love.

The Holy Father welcomed the thousands of young people to a penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica, a liturgy he called, “a meeting around the Cross, a celebration of God’s mercy which in the Sacrament of Confession each of you can personally experience.”

“In every man’s heart is a thirst for love,” Pope Benedict told the young people, mentioning the theme of this year’s World Youth Day: “As I loved you, you must love one another.”  

Christians, he said, “can even less live without love. Actually, if a Christian does not find true love, he cannot even say he is really a Christian.”  For in love, a Christian is most like Christ, the Pope said.

“God’s love for us was made visible in the mystery of the Cross,” explained the Pope, calling it a “crucified love” that “has its height in the joy of Resurrection and Ascension” and “in the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  

Through this same Holy Spirit, the Holy Father continued, “this very tonight, sins will be remitted and forgiveness and peace will be granted.”

“Through Baptism,” the Pope added, “you are already born to a new life because of God’s grace.”  However, since this grace does not overcome fallen human nature, he said, God has given man, “the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confession.”

“Every time you do it with faith and devotion,” Benedict told the youth, “God’s love and mercy move your heart closer to Christ’s minister. To him you express your pain for the sins you have committed, with the firm intention not to sin ever again” and “with the willingness to receive with joy the acts of penance that he shows to you to correct the damage caused by your sins. Thus you experience forgiveness for your sins; reconciliation with the Church; the recovery, if lost, of your state of grace.”

“Christ attracts us to Him to join all of us, so that in our turn we learn to love our neighbors with the same love as His,” he emphasized.

Today, “there is such a need of a new ability to love our neighbors. As you leave this celebration”, be ready “to dare love in your families, in your relations with your friends and even with those who have offended you. Be ready to leave your mark, through a truly Christian testimony, on the ambiences in which you study and work, be ready to work hard in your parish communities”, in the associations and “in every sphere of society,” he challenged the young people.

After offering his words, the Holy Father stepped into a confessional box to join over 200 other priests in individually hearing the young peoples’ confessions.

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