Archive of March 30, 2007

Catholic League outraged over six-foot chocolate Jesus

, Mar 30, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic League is calling for a boycott of the Roger Smith Hotel in New York City, after its Lab Gallery decided to display a 6-foot tall nude and anatomically correct sculpture of the crucified Christ in milk chocolate. World-renowned artist Cosimo Cavallaro titles his work “My Sweet Lord.”
The Roger Smith Hotel, located on street level in the heart of New York City, will display Cavallaro’s chocolate creation from April 1 to 7. The exhibit will be viewed from the street.

Matt Semler, creative director of the Lab, calls it Cavallaro’s “most dramatic piece of his career.” It is made with over 200 pounds of chocolate, which has been donated by the San Francisco based Theo Chocolate Company. 

The Lab’s press release for the exhibit includes a picture of the chocolate sculpture, which has the caption: “Jesus, The 485,460-Calorie Messiah.”

“As I’ve said many times before, Lent is the season for non-believers to sow seeds of doubt about Jesus. What’s scheduled to go on at the Roger Smith Hotel, however, is of a different genre: this is hate speech,” said Catholic League president Bill Donohue. “And choosing Holy Week—the display opens on Palm Sunday and ends on Holy Saturday—makes it a direct in-your-face assault on Christians.”
Organizers “are lucky that angry Christians don’t react the way extremist Muslims do when they’re offended,” said Donohue.

“And if he tries to spin this as reverential,” he said, referring to James Knowles, president and CEO of the Roger Smith Hotel, “then he should substitute Muhammad for Jesus and display him during Ramadan.”
Donohue said he is contacting scores of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu organizations, as well as secular groups concerned about religious hate speech and the degradation of culture, to launch a boycott of the hotel.

“The only thing that those who operate the Roger Smith Hotel understand is when they get hit in the pocket book. So that’s exactly where we’ll hit them,” Dononhue said.

The exhibit is cosponsored by artnet, the respected on-line art gallery and art magazine.

A picture is available on the Internet.  (Click here.) 

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Federal law enforcement officials order Christian group to stop praying on sidewalk

Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2007 (CNA) - The Christian Defense Coalition is claiming that their First Amendment rights have been violated after their public celebration of the Stations of the Cross was brought to an end when they were ordered by federal officers to leave a public sidewalk in front of the Library of Congress while they were kneeling in prayer.

The group of 10, which was carrying a 7-foot wooden cross, had been granted a permit by the United States Capitol Police and were not blocking pedestrian traffic.

It is common for Christians to pray the Stations of the Cross through the streets leading up to Easter and during Holy Week.

According to the Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star, some passers-by were admiring and appreciative of the public prayer.

The newspaper reported that Rev. Patrick Mahoney, the coalition’s director, had applied for a permit to hold a demonstration but did not have it on him when officials asked for one. He said he did not need one because there were fewer than 20 people in the group.

"It is a sad thing when American citizens are praying on a public sidewalk and they are told they have to get up and they are told they have to show their ID," said the Protestant minister, who is no novice to public demonstrations.

But the police said his permit was for public grounds and that he entered Library of Congress property when he brought the group into a curve in the sidewalk, reported the Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star.

The coalition calls the incident a trampling of the First Amendment and a gross violation of protecting religious expression in the public square. It is now discussing its legal options with the American Center for Law and Justice.

"One of the cornerstones of our democracy is the right of every America to peacefully express their views in the public square free from government interference and harassment,” said Rev. Mahoney.

“All citizens, regardless of their faith traditions, should be able to publicly express them with the full assurance that their beliefs will not be trampled or crushed by public officials or law enforcement,” he stated.

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Pro-life official urges senators to back cloning ban

Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2007 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops’ Pro-Life Secretariat is urging senators to support a bill that will prohibit human cloning. The Human Cloning Prohibition Act was reintroduced by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) yesterday.

Shortly before the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a similar bill in 2003, the bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities urged Congress to “ban this practice outright.”

“Cloning dehumanizes human procreation, treating new human life as a mere laboratory product made to specifications,” the bishops’ committee wrote. “The allegedly lofty goals proposed for cloning cannot outweigh the grim reality of the activity itself.”

The bill has precedent domestically and overseas. “Five states and over 20 countries have similar complete bans on cloning. The United Nations has urged its member nations to enact such bans to preserve human dignity and protect women's health,” noted Deirdre McQuade, director of Planning and Information for the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.

McQuade added that the cloning agenda “poses a tremendous risk to women, as it would require exploiting countless women as egg factories. Women have died from the hormonal manipulation required for egg extraction. Others have become seriously ill or lost their natural fertility at a young age.”

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Archbishop warns radical secularism could turn Spain into atheistic society

Madrid, Spain, Mar 30, 2007 (CNA) - In his latest pastoral letter, Archbishop Agustin Garcia Gasco of Valencia warns that “the radical secularism that we find the Spain of today constitutes a utilization of the power of the State to establish a society as if all citizens were atheists, with no regard for religious freedom and its repercussions in public life.”

According to the AVAN news agency, in his letter entitled, “The Freedom to Believe,” the archbishop explains that “in the Spain of today there is an interest in spreading a way of life in which any reference to God is considered a deficiency in intellectual maturity and in the free exercise of freedom.”

The Archbishop of Valencia says the task of “unmasking the national secularism that they are seeking to impose on us,” which he said has nothing to do with “health secularism,” is “necessary and urgent.”

Radical secularism, he continues, “often advances because of the lack of consistency of believers, who are attracted by the temptation to hide our faith from public life.”

The archbishop says it is all too easy “to cease being Christians in the workplace, in politics, or while having fun with friends.”  Nevertheless, he warned, “It is difficult for someone who denies Jesus Christ and hides his Christianity in public to believe that he sincerely loves God with his whole heart.”

“To believe—or to cease to do so—is a personal act in which each one exercises his freedom to accept or reject God’s will for his life,” he warned, noting that “an act of faith is a significant expression of the dignity of the human being and of the freedom of each person,” although “we don’t make this decision in an isolated way.”

The archbishop emphasized that the Church, “which has received as her own mission the custody of the gift of faith,” knows that wherever such things as “error, lies, manipulation, malice, hatred, resentment, blackmail, coercion,” “injustice, oppression, exploitation or any kind of violence, it is extremely difficult for the human being to discover his own dignity, his incommensurable value and the gift of God’s love.”

In his letter, Archbishop Garcia-Gasco encouraged the faithful to have a “correct understanding of healthy secularism,” which “protects those who do not accept God but at the same time recognizes the right of religious freedom with all its consequences, including respect for those who freely desire to practice their faith in an appropriate way.”

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Proposed law would lead to 150,000 more abortions per year in Mexican Capital, pro-lifers warn

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 30, 2007 (CNA) - The National Pro-Life Committee in Mexico has warned that if a proposed law legalizing abortion in Mexico City is passed, the number of abortions in the Mexican capital would increase from 30,000 to 150,000 per year.

The president of organization, Jorge Serrano Limon, revealed the data while announcing that he had sent a letter to the government asking it to drop the proposal to legalize abortion in Mexico City.

He also noted that in 2006, 96 women died in Mexico as a result of clandestine abortions, and not 1,600, as the proposed law claims.  He called the proposal “law of blood” that would take the lives of thousands of Mexicans.

“Legalizing abortion is true betrayal,” Serrano Limon wrote in his letter, “as well as the most cowardly of crimes that attacks the life of the innocent and the dignity of women, irremissibly harming them.”

He said that instead of pushing women into abortion, they should be given “options” for “resolving the psychological, social, economic and health pressures that they face.”

Serrano Limon also announced plans for civil resistance to the laws and he encouraged doctors to refuse to carry out abortion.

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Chinese parish begins 13 hours of daily Eucharist adoration

, Mar 30, 2007 (CNA) - The parish of St. Peter and Paul in Yuan Lang, in the Diocese of Hong Kong, has begun Eucharistic adoration for 13 hours daily in response to the recent apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis by Pope Benedict XVI.

According the diocesan bulletin Kong KoBao, cited by the Fides News Agency, the pastor, Father Gervais E Baudry, said daily adoration of the Blessed Sacrament leads to closer union with Christ: “Adoration helps us make Jesus the centre of our life as individuals, as a family, as a parish. It is a source of encouragement and comfort,” he said.

He added that said the parish had decided to begin with 13 hours but the target was “24 hour adoration in response to the Holy Father’s appeal.”  Recently more than 300 Chinese Catholics participated in a Mass celebrated by the Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, in which he emphasized the importance of the Eucharist in light of the Holy Father’s exhortation.

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74 year-old Brazilian to be ordained to the priesthood in August

, Mar 30, 2007 (CNA) - On August 19, Valdomiro Marcon will become one of the oldest men in Brazil to be ordained to the priesthood.  At 74 years of age, he says that what he desires most is to celebrate Mass in order “to die in peace.”

As a young man he left the seminary to join the army and marry.  Six months ago he became a widower after 46 years of marriage.  He has three children and five grandchildren.  He never lost his desire to serve God as a priest.

According to a report in the Brazilian daily Correio Braziliense, Valdomiro “with the anxiousness of a teenager, he awaits the day in which he will stand at the altar to celebrate the first Mass of his life.”

“Will my heart be able to take it?” Valdomiro reportedly asked with much emotion and anticipation.

Valdomiro was born in Rio Grande do Sul.  At the age of 9 he lost his mother and his father was left to care for him and his six brothers.  At the age of 11 he was sent to the Capuchin friary, but when he was 18 he was told he did not have a vocation.

After his stint in the military, he studied accounting and worked at a bank. He met his wife Lelia and was married at the age of 29.  In 1975 he attended a parish retreat and had a profound encounter with God and decided to make a greater commitment to his faith through the charismatic movement.

In 1991 he began to study theology and after his wife died of cancer, he decided to enter the priesthood.

“I want to spend my life helping and consoling people. I want to let God have my own life,” Valdomiro said.

“My love is now dedicated to God.  The little [money] that I had I have given to my children.  I don’t need much to love.  My faith is enough,” he stated, adding that his choice to become a priest is not an attempt to run away from the pain caused by the death of his wife.  “It’s not an escape, it’s not because I feel empty, it’s my desire to be useful, to help my neighbor,” he stressed.

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Three thousand march against abortion in Mexican city of Jalisco

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 30, 2007 (CNA) - More than three thousand people marched peacefully through the streets of the Mexican city of Jalisco this week in order to express their opposition to the legalization of abortion and their commitment to the fundamental right to life that should be respected from the moment of conception.

The protest began at Jalisco’s Parque de la Revolucion and ended at the Cathedral, where Mass was celebrated. Afterwards the rosary was prayed for all aborted children and for the protection of pro-life laws in Mexico.

Hundreds of mothers from different organizations such as the Life and Values Foundation, Mission Women, Woman for Woman, as well as students and children participated in the march.

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Murder of Iraqi sisters stokes fear of Christians, archbishop says

Baghdad, Iraq, Mar 30, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, has described how the murder of two elderly Catholic sisters has shocked an entire community and heightened fears about the spread of anti-Christian violence in the country. Speaking to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), he said that a Dominican nun telephoned him late in the evening on Monday the 26th to report the death of Fadila Naoum, 85, and her 79-year-old sister Margaret.

The archbishop said robbers broke into their home near Kirkuk’s City Hall and close to a Dominican convent where the nuns had close links with the sisters.

Describing Margaret as “dynamic” and very active in the Church, Archbishop Sako said Fadhila was bed-ridden. In a message to ACN on Tuesday, 27th, just hours after conducting the funeral, Archbishop Sako wrote: “We took care of Margaret and Fadhila. I am really moved and upset about the bad situation which appears to go on without end.”

The Archbishop said that contrary to previous reports, the sisters were not consecrated religious, but merely blood sisters who were very active in the Church and who lived the single life together.  He went on to say that a police inquiry was underway but no arrests had been made.

He said he believed it was an attempted robbery and not necessarily religiously-motivated.  But he added that the murders were likely to stoke fears that Kirkuk would begin to suffer the same anti-Christian violence which has begun to spread from Baghdad and Mosul. He said: “There are reports about how Christians in Kirkuk are now beginning to panic. But I am telling them not to be afraid. The situation here is not the same as in Baghdad and Mosul.” The violence in both cities and elsewhere has sparked a Christian exodus but Archbishop Sako said Kirkuk had so far only received 30 displaced families.

In his message, Archbishop Sako went on to report that the Kurdish city of Ainkawa was “not prepared” for the influx of Catholic communities. Ainkawa and the surrounding Erbil region is now home to Babel College, St Peter’s Seminary, and a number of female religious congregations, which have now been evacuated from the Baghdad area. 

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London Cardinal responds to U.K.’s new “intolerant” gay-rights laws

London, England, Mar 30, 2007 (CNA) - In his first major response to the passage of a new “anti-discrimination” law in the United Kingdom, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said he feared the Labour Party has turned to "legislating for intolerance" in a speech on Wednesday.

The Cardinal was referring to the recently approved Sexual Orientation Regulations during Thirtieth Thomas Corbishley Memorial Lecture, which he delivered on “The Kingdom of God and this World: the Church in Public Life” at Westminster Cathedral.

The government is imposing the recently approved Sexual Orientation Regulations on all public agencies and businesses, including those run by church groups. The new regulations, which become effective next month, require church-based adoption agencies to place children with homosexual couples. No exemptions have been given to faith-based groups.

"My fear is that, under the guise of legislating for what is said to be tolerance, we are legislating for intolerance. Once this begins, it is hard to see where it ends,” the Cardinal stated.

"The question," the Cardinal added, "is whether the threads holding together pluralist democracy have begun to unravel. That is why I have sounded this note of alarm.”

The Cardinal has warned that he may have to close nine Catholic adoption agencies if they are not exempted from the regulations.

"For my own part, I have no difficulty in being a proud British Catholic citizen. But now it seems to me we are being asked to accept a different version of our democracy, one in which diversity and equality are held to be at odds with religion,” he stated.

"We Catholics - and here I am sure I speak too for other Christians and all people of faith - do not demand special privileges, but we do demand our rights,” he continued. “We come not to impose, but to serve, according to our beliefs; and to be given the freedom and support to do so, as long as these do not undermine the rights and freedoms of others.

"I begin to wonder whether Britain will continue to be a place which protects and welcomes the works of people shaped and inspired by the church."

The Cardinal said he fears intolerance of Christianity. "So when Christians stand by their beliefs, they are intolerant dogmatists. When they sin, they are hypocrites,” he said. "When they take the side of the poor, they are soft-headed liberals. When they seek to defend the family, they are right-wing reactionaries."

He added: "What looks like liberality is in reality a radical exclusion of religion from the public sphere."

“Speaking as a Catholic Christian, as a bishop and a citizen of our great British democracy,” said the Cardinal, “I want to appeal for the freedom to believe and the freedom to serve the common good according to the convictions of our faith. For it is in the nature of who we Christians are to serve society, to be recognized by the sign of love, and to discover for ourselves and lead others to discover the inviolable dignity of every human person.”

“The Church,” he continued, “claims only its legitimate part in the political process – to assist the very reasoning which is fundamental to the pursuit of justice. The Church’s task is not to propose technical solutions to questions of governance or economic activity, but to help to form a social culture based on justice, solidarity and truth, for the common good.”

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Sister Marie Simon-Pierre speaks of miraculous cure at press conference

Paris, France, Mar 30, 2007 (CNA) - “All I can tell you is that I was sick and now I am cured.  It is for the church to say and to recognize whether it is a miracle,” so said the 46 year-old Religious Sister who many think may have been miraculously cured through the intercession of the late Pope John Paul II.  The French nun, the identity of whom was unknown to the world until this week, spoke to the press in today.

According to the Associated Press, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre stopped short of declaring her recovery a miracle, saying that was for the church to decide. But she said her life "totally changed" after her symptoms vanished in one night of prayer and mystery in 2005.

Smiling broadly, the French nun, whose claims could be accepted as the miracle that the Vatican needs to Beatify Pope John Paul II, said Friday that she was inexplicably and suddenly "cured" of Parkinson's disease - thanks to him.

"I am cured. It is the work of God, through the intercession of Pope John Paul II," told Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, smiling broadly before a barrage of television cameras.

"It's something very strong, very difficult to put into words," she told reporters in the southern French city of Aix en Provence.

Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre had been suffering from Parkinson's, a degenerative disease of the nervous system, since 2001, but has testified that she was cured in the night of June 2, 2005 after praying to John Paul II, whose final years were also marked by the disease.

The nun recounted how she had suddenly been able to write legibly after struggling for months to hold a pen, the disease having progressed to the point that she no longer controlled motion in her hand.

"I came across a sister who had helped me tremendously and I told her as I held up my hand, my left hand, 'look, my hand is no longer trembling'," she said. "John Paul II cured me."

"Since then I have not taken any treatment. My life has completely changed -- it was like a second birth for me," she added.

Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre said that her symptoms has steadily grown worse since her diagnosis with Parkinson’s in 2001.  Driving became practically impossible, she had difficulty walking, and her left arm hung limply at her side. She also could no longer bear to see John Paul on television, because he, too, was stricken - more seriously - with the disease.

When seeing him, "I saw myself in the years to come, to be honest, in a wheelchair," she said.

Then, on the night of June 2, 2005, exactly two months after the pontiff's death, she said. In her room after evening prayers, she said an inner voice urged her to take up her pen and write. She did, and was surpassed to see that her handwriting - which had grown illegible because of her illness - was clear. She said she then went to bed, and woke early the next morning feeling "completely transformed."

"I was no longer the same inside. It is difficult for me to explain to you in words ... It was too strong, too big. A mystery."

"I realized that my body was no longer the same," she added. "I was convinced that I was cured."

Described by her colleagues as a gentle, reserved woman who had hoped to keep her identity under wraps, the nun coped well with the media spotlight. She looked a little bemused as journalists huddled around her, putting their microphones in place. Only once, when describing how her symptoms worsened after the Pope died on April 2, 2005, did she momentarily lose a little of her poise.

"Please excuse me, I'm a little emotional," she said.

Convincing evidence of a miracle -- usually a medical cure with no scientific explanation -- is essential in the beatification process, the first step to sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Rome diocese's website carries dozens of testimonials from individuals claiming cures at the hands of the late Pope, but to qualify as a miracle the recovery must be sudden, complete and permanent -- as well as inexplicable by doctors.

The nun is expected to travel to Rome for ceremonies marking the second anniversary of the Pontiff's death and the closure of a church investigation into his life. Pope Benedict XVI waived the customary five-year waiting period for the procedure to begin, clearly in response to popular demand that began with chants of "Santo Subito!" or "Sainthood Now!" erupting during John Paul's 2005 funeral.

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Pope encourages Ukrainians to carry their faith to other nations

Vatican City, Mar 30, 2007 (CNA) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of Tetiana Izhevska, the new ambassador of the Ukraine to the Holy See. He opened his French-language speech to the diplomat by thanking her for the invitation of Victor Iouchtchenko, President of Ukraine, to visit his country.
"Ukraine, which because of its geographical position has always had the vocation of being a gateway between East and West," said the Holy Father, "has over these years begun and developed a policy of openness and collaboration with other countries on the continent." He expressed his appreciation for this state of affairs which, he said, is contributing "to restoring Europe to its true dimension, ensuring conditions of fruitful exchange between ... the two cultural lungs that forged its history."
“I am sure that the Ukrainian nation - its life, culture and institutions profoundly impregnated with the Gospel - will concern itself with carrying the dynamism of its identity to other nations, while preserving its original characteristics. Indeed it is vital, in a world ever more strongly marked by globalization, to favor a serious and profound dialogue between cultures and religions, not in order to reduce them all to some impoverished syncretism but to help them develop mutual respect and cooperate ... for the common good. This will enable a reduction of the ever-present sources of tension and conflict between groups and nations, and guarantee everyone the conditions for lasting peace and development."
The Pope recalled "the good relations that exist between the government authorities and the Churches and ecclesial communities in Ukraine," where "believers enjoy religious liberty, an essential aspect of human freedom." In keeping with "a just distinction between the responsibilities of the religious and civil spheres, the State recognizes different forms of worship ... ensuring them equal rights before the law and thus allowing each ... to play its specific role for the common good of the nation."
The Holy Father also considered the question of the Catholic Church's involvement in the education of young Ukrainians, praising the efforts "of the Pan-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations to draw up a program concerning the teaching of Christian ethics in State schools."
Finally, the Pope mentioned the Catholics who live in Ukraine, both those of the Latin rite and those of the Byzantine rite, highlighting their "concern for the permanent dialogue between the Eastern and Western traditions." The Holy Father thanked President Iouchtchenko for the concern he has shown for the bishops of the Ukrainian Episcopal Conference of the Latin rite, and gave assurances of "the commitment of all Ukrainian Catholics to the wellbeing of the country."
"I know that their desire is to bear daily witness to the Gospel through acts of solidarity, ... through a will to build peace and a desire to consolidate the values of the family founded upon marriage," Pope Benedict concluded. "I am also aware of their wish to progress along the path of unity with their Orthodox brethren and with their brothers and sisters in other Christian communities. I encourage them, then, always to be willing to consolidate ecumenical dialogue, which is such a vital way to overcome difficulties."

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