Archive of May 9, 2007

Brazil awaits Pope Benedict for apostolic visit

Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 9, 2007 (CNA) - This morning, Pope Benedict XVI left Rome  for a six-day trip to Brazil. His plane left from Rome's Fiumicino airport bound for Brazil At 9 a.m. this morning,. The 9,477-kilometer flight is expected to last twelve and a half hours and the papal plane is scheduled to land at the international airport of Sao Paulo / Guarulhos in Brazil in the mid-afternoon, at around 4.30 p.m. local time.

Together with the Holy Father, travelling with him, are Secretary of State, Cardenal Tarcisio Bertone, Cardenal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, Former Archbishop of Sao Paulo, and now Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, and finnaly Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints.

The Holy Father will be greeted at the airport by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the president of the Federal Republic of Brazil. Following the welcome ceremony, during which Benedict XVI will deliver a talk, the Pope will travel by helicopter to the "Campo de Marte" airport where he will be received by the local authorities.

At 6.10 p.m. (11.10 p.m. in Rome), the Holy Father will travel by popemobile to the monastery of Sao Bento where he will be staying during his time in Sao Paulo. The complex of buildings includes, apart from the Benedictine monastery, the Sao Benito College, one of the most prestigious schools in Sao Paulo, and the basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption.

Following a moment of prayer in the monastery's chapel, the Pope will appear at the balcony to greet and bless the faithful gathered below.

On Thursday, the Pontiff will first visit the President of the Republic, Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, as well as with representatives of other Christian confessions and religions. In the late afternoon, he will meet the youth at municipal Stadium in Pacambu, Sao Paulo. On Friday, Pope Benedict will canonize Blessed Frei Galvao during Holy Mass celebrated at the Campo Marte before a numerous crowed.

Pope Benedict's visit will be concluded with the Inauguration of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate and the Caribbean in the square in front of the Shrine of Aparecida on Sunday.

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Church Does does not interfere into Politics, says Pope aboard plane taking him to Brazil

Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 9, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict, on his way to Brazil for a five day apostolic visit, reminded the journalists aboard the airplane bringing him to Brazil, that the Church "does not interfere into politics, we respect the non-religious character of the State, but the Church gives a framework in which social questions can beanswered adequatly."

Pope Benedict on Wednesday warned Catholic politicians they risked excommunication from the Church and should not receive communion if they support abortion.

Pope Benedict referred to such important issues happening on the continent regarding the respect to life, as abortion laws are being enacted in Mexico, and Colombia. It was the first time that the Pope, speaking to reporters aboard the plane taking him on a trip to Brazil, dealt in depth with a controversial topic that has come up in many countries, including the United States, Mexico, and Italy.

"Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon (church) law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ," he said about the stance of Church authorities to excommunicate the parliamentarians who supported the vote.

"They (Mexican Church leaders) did nothing new, surprising or arbitrary. They simply announced publicly what is contained in the law of the Church... which expresses our appreciation for life and that human individuality, human personality is present from the first moment (of life)."Under Church law, someone who knowingly does or backs something which the Church considers a grave sin, such as abortion, inflicts what is known as "automatic excommunication" on themselves, the Pope added. The Pope said parliamentarians who vote in favor of abortion have "doubts about the value of life and the beauty of life and even a doubt about the future."

"Selfishness and fear are at the root of (pro-abortion) legislation," he said. "We in the Church have a great struggle to defend is a gift not a threat."
"The Church says life is beautiful, it is not something to doubt but it is a gift even when it is lived in difficult circumstances. It is always a gift," the Pope concluded.

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Panel of Cardinals recognize heroic virtues of Pope Pius XII in procedure for beatification

Rome, Italy, May 9, 2007 (CNA) -

On Tuesday evening, a 30-member panel of top Catholic prelates voted in favour of recognising Pius's "heroic virtues" - the key requirement for beatification, the penultimate stage before sainthood.

Details of the meeting were not released but Italian media reported on Wednesday that the vote revealed reservations among some cardinals who urged "prudence". The decree now goes to Pope Benedict for a final green light. Then, before the beatification ceremony can go ahead, the Vatican must approve a miracle attributed to Pius's heavenly intercession.

Born into a noble Roman family, Eugenio Pacelli has frequently come under attack for not speaking out more forcefully while Hitler was hunting down and exterminating European Jews.

Supporters have also pointed out that, under the pope's orders, convents, monasteries and other Catholic institutions threw open their doors to Jews who were hidden and protected there. Many were also hidden in the Vatican.

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Illegal immigrant workers in UK must be respected, says cardinal

London, England, May 9, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic primate of England and Wales called for the rights of illegal immigrant workers in the UK to be respected.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the archbishop of Westminster, said he does not want to encourage illegal immigration but he believes more attention should be paid to the fair treatment of undocumented migrants in the country, reported Relevant News.

"We know that there are up to half a million immigrants who are undocumented and therefore, it is my view, and I think the view of many, many others, that some way should be found for these undocumented people who work in our country, who contribute to our economy, that their rights should be respected," he told BBC Radio 4 Today program.

The interview aired before the cardinal presided at a multilingual Mass in Westminster Cathedral in central London for migrant workers, followed by a procession and rally. The cardinal and the Anglican bishop of Southwark, Dr. Tom Butler, addressed the rally in Trafalgar Square.

The Strangers into Citizens campaign is pressing for a one-time amnesty for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants living in the UK.

Under the proposals, refused asylum seekers or visa overstayers, who have been in the country for four years or more, would qualify for a two-year work permit with no access to benefits.

Those qualifying for the work permit could remain at the end of the two-year period, subject to criteria, such as an English test, no criminal record and employer and sponsor references.

The campaigners argue that such a scheme would end exploitation of illegal immigrants and the undercutting of British workers. It would also mean the British state could increase tax revenues.

A recent report by the Von Hugel Institute found that the Catholic Church in the capital is ministering to thousands of illegal immigrants.

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Catholic League questions accuracy of PBS docudrama on Inquisition

, May 9, 2007 (CNA) - Catholic League president Bill Donohue has raised some concerns about a four-part docudrama on the Inquisition. “The Secret Files of the Inquisition” will air on PBS, starting tonight.

Donohue bases his critiques on the advertisement of the film on the PBS website, which states: “For over half a millennium a system of mass terror reigned. Thousands were subject to secret courts, torture and punishment.”

“This is plainly dishonest,” says Donohue.

Donohue cites British historian Henry Kamen, author of The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision, who posits that almost all the conventional wisdom about the Inquisition is wrong.

According to Kamen, the Inquisition’s courts were more human than the secular courts at the time, since the former allowed defendants to be represented by an attorney.

Historian Edward Peters also argues against the commonly held view of the Inquisition. “Modern historiography has completely blown the old Inquisition propaganda out of the water. No one seriously contends that hundreds of thousands or millions were killed, or that the Protestant countries were any more humane than Spain was,” Peters states.

Donohue also claims that contemporary scholars refer to the commonly held view of the Inquisition as “the Black Legend,” a tale of lies spun by Elizabethan England.

Donohue offered the following facts:
Of the approximately 125,000 cases tried by the Spanish Inquisition, 1 percent resulted in the death penalty.
Of the so-called witch hunts, secular courts executed 50,000 (not all of whom were women); less than 100 were killed by the Inquisition.
Solzhenitsyn once compared the killings that took place in the Soviet Union in 1937 and 1938 to the killings that took place during the Spanish Inquisition and found that 20,000 were killed per month in the U.S.S.R. and 10 were killed per month during the Inquisition.

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Nigerian Primate installs new bishop despite requests from Canterbury, Presiding Archbishop

, May 9, 2007 (CNA) - Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola rejected requests from both Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and proceeded with the May 5 installation of a leader for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), reported Episcopal News Service.

Archbishop Williams and Bishop Jefferts Schori had sent separate letters urging Akinola to reconsider his decision to install Bishop Martyn Minns.

Bishop Jefferts Schori had said the installation "would display to the world division and disunity that are not part of the mind of Christ" and would "not help the efforts of reconciliation."

Archbishop Akinola responded to Bishop Jefferts Schori's letter, saying that CANA provides "a safe place for those who wish to remain faithful Anglicans but can no longer do so within The Episcopal Church."

Archbishop Akinola also criticized Bishop Jefferts Schori for appealing to the ancient church "when it is your own Province's deliberate rejection of the biblical and historic teaching of the Church that has prompted our current crisis."

Archbishop Akinola said he only received Archbishop Williams’ letter after the ceremony. "CANA is for the Communion and we are more than happy to surrender it to the Communion once the conditions that prompted our division have been overturned," he said in response to Archbishop Williams’ letter.

The installation service was held at the Hylton Memorial Chapel, a nondenominational Christian event center in Woodbridge, Virginia.

In his sermon, Bishop Minns reportedly said that the Anglican Communion "is wrestling with irreconcilable truths" and offered CANA as a "gift" to those in the Episcopal Church "who crave a different theology."

"The Church of Nigeria itself has almost nothing to offer," Archbishop Akinola reportedly told those gathered. "We are doing this on behalf of the Communion. If we had not done this many of you would be lost to other churches, maybe to nothing at all."

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Number of Catholics on the rise in Africa, unchanged in rest of world

Rome, Italy, May 9, 2007 (CNA) - The latest edition of the Annuario Pontificio, the statistical directory of the worldwide Church, has revealed that the number of Catholics in the world has remained the same during the last five years, with the exception of Africa, where the number has increased significantly.

The new edition, prepared by the Central Office of Statistics of the Church and published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, indicates that the number of Catholics in the world rose from 1,045,000,000 in 2000 to 1,115,000,000 in 2005, which constitutes an increase of 6.7 percent.  This increase is in keeping with the world population growth rate, which currently stands at 6.9 percent.

Catholics made up 17.28 percent of the world population in 2000 and are currently 17.25 percent.
Africa is the continent with the greatest increase in Catholics with 18 percent, a significant number if one considers that the total African population grew from 14 percent during this time.

The number bishops increased from 4,541to 4,841 with an increase of 6.61 percent especially in Asia and America.
Priests number some 405,700 in the world, and the places with the greatest number of new clergy are Africa and Asia, with increases of 19.2% and 14.9% respectively. In America, as well as in Europe and Oceania, the number remains unchanged.  This is due to the increase in diocesan priests—with an additional 4000—as the number of religious priests decreased by 3000.

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Miraculous conception paves way for canonization of first Brazilian saint

Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 9, 2007 (CNA) - Sandra Grossi, 37, of Almeida in Brazil, came to believe that she would never have a child.  A medical condition in her uterus had resulted in three miscarriages: her babies died in the womb due to a lack of space to grow.

Sandra experienced the miracle that paved the way for the canonization of Friar Galvao.  Thanks to the blessed’s intercession, she gave birth to Enzo, a healthy boy who was born at 32 weeks, something not medically possible in cases such as his.  Sandra, together with her now 12 year-old son, is counting the minutes until the canonization of Friar Galvao.
Her story

Sandra had lost three babies.  She decided to adopt Isabela, who is now 12, and at the same time she became pregnant with her son, who has now just turned 8 years old.
Faced with her fourth pregnancy, a friend suggested she pray a novena to Frei Galvao.  To the surprise of her doctors, the bleeding she experienced during the first days of the pregnancy stopped on the first night of the novena.

Complications during her fourth month of pregnancy became more severe during the fifth.  “The uterus would not hold together. So I decided to pray to Friar Galvao again,” she said.

After overcoming this critical phase and against all prognoses, Sandra reached her 32nd week of pregnancy.  She overcame her final complications and Enzo was born.

Several hours after the birth, the baby began to suffer severe lung problems.  Sandra again prayed to Friar Galvao and the child regained his health.  Today he is health young boy.

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Young Brazilians will hold vigil on eve of canonization of Friar Galvao

Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 9, 2007 (CNA) - The festivities which Pope Benedict will attend Thursday at the Pacaembu Stadium, will continue hours later at the Campo de Marte, where thousands of young people will hold vigil on the eve of the canonization of the first Brazilian saint.

According to organizers, many participants who will attend the encounter with the Pope are expected to make the pilgrimage to Campo de Marte to await the canonization ceremony on Friday.

During the vigil, more than 50 different choral groups from local parishes will accompany the Orchestra of the Dramatic and Musical Conservatory of Sao Paulo.
Among the songs that will be performed at the vigil include the official song for the papal visit, “Pelos prados y campiñas,” an adaptation of Psalm 22, as well as two songs in honor of Fray Galvao.  Between each song, reflections by the future saint will be read.
Auxiliary Bishop Joaquim Justino Carreira of Sao Paulo said, “The grace of God with the coming of the Pope is being felt in our country.  I am referring especially to the joy, disposition and gratitude of the people involved in this event of such great magnitude.”

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Half of Baghdad’s Christians have fled due to violence

Madrid, Spain, May 9, 2007 (CNA) - A report published by the International Commission on Religious Freedom reveals that half of the Christian population that lives in Baghdad has fled to other regions or countries because of the chaos and sectarian violence that plagues the Iraqi capital.

According to the Commission, as many as 50% may have already fled the country.
The Associated Press reported on the case of Iraqi Christian leader Farouq Mansour, who was kidnapped two months by Al Qaeda.  Terrorists demanded his family convert to Islam or pay a ransom of $30,000.

After the ransom was paid, Mansour went to Syria with part of the Iraqi Christian minority.  “There is no future for us in Iraq,” Mansour said.
“Although Islamic extremists have targeted Iraqi Christians before, bombing churches and threatening religious leaders, the latest attacks have taken on a far more personal tone. Many Christians are being expelled from their homes and forced to leave their possessions behind,” the AP reported.

The Christian community here, about 3 percent of the country's 26 million people, has little political or military clout to defend itself, and some Islamic insurgents call Christians "crusaders" whose real loyalty lies with U.S. troops.

According to the report, "These groups face widespread violence from Sunni insurgents and foreign jihadists, and they also suffer pervasive discrimination and marginalization at the hands of the national government, regional governments, and para-state militias.”

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Pro-Life Committee begins campaign to prevent abortions for taking place in Mexico City hospitals

Mexico City, Mexico, May 9, 2007 (CNA) - The National Pro-Life Committee has launched an initiative to prevent abortions from taking place in Mexico City hospitals and to encourage healthcare workers to defend human life.

Committee president Jorge Serrano Limon said the purpose of the initiative is to persuade women not to go through with their abortions and to ask hospital administrators for permission to take possession of aborted fetuses in order to give them proper burial.
In addition to requesting proper burial for aborted children, Serrano said hospitals have also been asked to hold the babies for 10 days in case someone decides to claim them.
Serrano said the director of the Balbuena Hospital in Mexico City, Antonio Sanchez, said no abortions have yet taken place in that facility and that there have not been any requests thus far.  However, the pro-life leader said doctors are being pressured by authorities to give their backing to the new abortion law.

“They are concerned because they are being pressured against their will to perform abortions, and they are afraid of losing their jobs and that, in refusing to perform an abortion, they might be isolated from the medical community.  This is a hospital in favor of human life, and Marcelo Ebrard (the governor of Mexico City) is pressuring them,” Serrano stated.
He called Ebrard, as well “the doctors who practice abortions” and “women who have had abortions” to “conversion and repentance.”

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Benedict XVI: Liberation Theology was mere “millenarism” that would have no justification today.

Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 9, 2007 (CNA) - In his talk with journalist aboard the plane taking him to Brazil, Pope Benedict told the reporters that “ the Liberation Theology was a sort of “Millenarism” that would find no justification in todays Latin America, especially before the great social concern the Church manifests today.

He further explained that “ the mission of the Church is a religious one, However It is open to solutions to the great social problems,” he added.

“There is always space for a legitimate debate on how to create the conditions for Man's liberation and how to make effective the doctrine of the Church on giving Man the human and social conditions, through which values can grow.”

Nevertheless, the Pope made clear that today, “ the situation has greatly changed from when the Liberation Theology started.” “It's obvious that the light promises that made believe that through revolution, the conditions for a fulfilled life could be reached, were false. Everybody is aware of that now, and the question now is how does the Church can still be present in the struggle for justice. On this point, theologians and sociologists diverge,” he  added.

The Holy Father explained that before being Pope, as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, “we tried to free ourselves from false millenarism and politization. Millenarism is a heresy that believes in the imminence of the end of the World and the coming of a reign of peace and justice.”

During his May 9 flight to Brazil the Pope also spoke about Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was an outspoken voice for social change before he was gunned down by a right-wing "death squad" during a Mass at his cathedral in San Salvador. Commenting on a new book about the slain archbishop, the Pope said that the death of Archbishop Romero should not be seen simply as a political figure.

"He was killed during the consecration of the Eucharist," the Pope observed. "Therefore, his death is testimony of the faith.”

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Pope confirms excommunication of Mexican legislators who voted in favor of abortion

Aboard the papal plane, May 9, 2007 (CNA) - In statements to journalists during his flight from Rome to Brazil, Pope Benedict XVI, in a reference to legislators in Mexico City who voted in favor of legalizing abortion in the Mexican capital, confirmed that the excommunication of those who procure an abortion “is nothing new” nor is it “arbitrary.”

According to various media reports, the Pontiff recalled that Canon Law stipulates the automatic excommunication for anyone who procures an abortion.
Several weeks ago, the Archdiocese of Mexico noted that doctors and nurses who participate in abortions, as well as lawmakers who support the legalization of abortion, incur latae sententiae excommunication.

The Holy Father explained, “This excommunication was not arbitrary, but rather it is permitted by canon law which says that putting the innocent to death is not compatible with receiving communion, which is to receive the body of Christ.”
In this sense, he reiterated that Catholic authorities “did not do anything new, surprising or arbitrary.  They simply publicly announced that what is contained in the law of the Church (…) which expresses our appreciation of life and that human individuality, human personality, is present from the first moment of life.”

Likewise, he indicated that lawmakers throughout the world who vote in favor of abortion have “doubts about the value and beauty of life, and even doubt about the future.”  “Selfishness and fear are at the root of (pro-abortion) legislation. We, in the Church, have a great struggle to defend life,” the pope added during the press conference that last some 25 minutes.
 “The Church says that life is beautiful, it is not something to doubt but is a gift, even when one lives in difficult circumstances.  It is always a gift,” he said.

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