Aparecida, Brazil, May 14, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI concluded his historic trip to Brazil Sunday, saying that the residents of South America “have given whole-hearted proof of their faith in Christ” and their love for the office of the Pope.
The Holy Father departed Sunday evening from the International Airport of Sao Paulo / Guarulhos where he was met by Jose Alencar Gomes da Silva, vice-president of the Federal Republic of Brazil, Archbishop Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo, Bishop Luiz Gonzaga Bergonzini of Guarulhos, and numerous other religious and civil authorities.
Before boarding his Alitalia flight bound for Rome, Pope Benedict conveyed his pleasure at the opportunity to inaugurate the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean. He said that "The signs of enthusiasm and the deep piety of this people of the Land of the Holy Cross will remain for ever impressed in my memory.”
He added his prayer "that the Lord will assist religious and civil leaders to give renewed impulse to the initiatives that are awaited by all for the common good of the great Latin American family."
In addition to his work with the Episcopal conference in Aparecida, the Holy Father also spent time with numerous religious authorities and orders of religious during his pastoral visit. He ended his brief airport address thanking everyone for having "contributed to the splendor of these days, filling those taking part with joy and hope - 'gaudium et spes!' - for the Christian family and for its mission in society."
After landing on Rome, the Pope proceeded directly to his Castelgandolfo summer residence where he will remain through the week.
Read the full homily for the inauguration of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops at: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20070513_conference-brazil_en.html
Washington D.C., May 14, 2007 (CNA) - President George W. Bush intends to appoint three new members to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. The new members — two of whom are well known Christians — include Michael Lewis Cromartie of Virginia, Talil Eid of Massachusetts, and Leonard Leo of Virginia.
Leo received his law degree from Cornell Law School in 1989. He is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court, D.C. Circuit, Federal Circuit, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey Bars.
Leo serves as the Executive Vice President of The Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies, an organization dedicated to traditional legal principles and interested in the current state of the legal order. He manages the projects, programs and publications of a nationwide network of about 35,000 lawyers and directs its ABA WATCH project, which monitors the activities of the American Bar Association.
Since May of 2002, Leo has been a member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a Catholic organization that emphasizes the provision of services to ill and disabled members of the community. He also serves on the board of directors of the Youth Leadership Foundation, the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, and the Catholic Action Network. He resides in Arlington with his wife Sally and their four children — Margaret, Anthony, Elizabeth, and Thaddeus.
Michael Cromartie is Vice President at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and he directs both the Evangelicals in Civic Life and Religion & the Media programs. He is a senior advisor to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and a senior fellow with The Trinity Forum.
He is the host of Radio America's weekly show "Faith and Life"; an adjunct professor at the Reformed Theological Seminary; and an advisory editor of Christianity Today. He is also on the board of directors of Mars Hill Audio, and served as an advisor to the PBS documentary series With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Christian Right in America.
Cromartie has contributed book reviews and articles to First Things, Books and Culture, Crisis, the Washington Times, The Reformed Journal, Insight, Christianity Today, Stewardship Journal, World, and The Presbyterian Journal. He is the co-editor, with Richard John Neuhaus, of Piety and Politics: Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Confront the World (1987; now in its fifth printing).
In 2004, Cromartie was appointed to a two-year term on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. In 2005, he was elected chairman of the commission.
Fatima, Portugal, May 14, 2007 (CNA) - In the presence of hundreds of thousands of faithful at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, the former Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Pope’s special envoy to the event, presided at the Mass celebrating the 90th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary, which began on May 13, 1917.
In recalling the apparitions to Lucia dos Santos and Francisco and Jacinta Marto, Cardinal Sodano emphasized, “Fatima triumphed over the incredulity of the world, the opposition of the authorities and the reservations of the Church. The beloved Cardinal Cerejeira, Patriarch of Lisbon, rightly states, ‘It was not the Church that imposed Fatima, but rather Fatima that imposed on the Church.”
During his homily Cardinal Sodano reminisced about the visits of Paul VI and John Paul II to the famous shrine. Paul VI’s visit took place some forty years ago, while John Paul II visited Fatima in 1982, 1991, and 2000, and he beatified Jacinta and Francisco, the two visionaries who died at a young age.
Cardinal Sodano emphasized the “profound devotion” of John Paul II to Our Lady of Fatima, noting that on May 13, 1982, the pontiff visited the shrine to express his gratitude for being saved from the attempt on his life. “Here, the ‘Totus Tuus’ Pope made a solemn act of surrender and consecration of all humanity to Mary,” he recalled.
The cardinal also noted that although Benedict XVI was in Brazil at the Shrine of Aparecida, “he is present here,” united to “our singing of the glories of Mary.”
Europe’s “surreptitious apostasy”
In commenting about the message of Mary in the apparitions, Cardinal Sodano prayed to the Mother of God, “to once again show her maternal solicitude for the men and women of our day, who are sometimes tempted to stray from God in order to prostrate themselves before the ‘golden calf’ of the banalities of the earth.”
“Mary knows that the eternal salvation of her children is at risk, and therefore, she respects the call of Jesus: ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel.’ The message of Jesus thus becomes the message of Mary. It is a strong and decisive example like that which only a mother knows how to give to her children in the important moments of their lives,” he added.
Later on Cardinal Soldano emphasized, “In our day it seems that many have strayed from the Father’s house. We unite together here in prayer to Mary, that she might enlighten their consciences and make the prodigal children return home to the Father’s house. We make particular mention of those who live in Europe and are tempted to abandon the faith that was their strength throughout the centuries.”
The countries of Europe, he went on, are experiencing “a surreptitious apostasy that cannot leave us indifferent.” “We entrust to the Immaculate Heart of Mary the destiny of mankind and of the peoples of our continent, and we commit ourselves to putting again at the heart of our society that leaven of the Gospel that fermented its history throughout the centuries,” the cardinal said in conclusion.
Washington D.C., May 14, 2007 (CNA) - The Mid Atlantic Dialogue of Muslims and Catholics is expected to publish its joint statement later this year on the central principles of the Catholic and Sunni Muslim marriage traditions.
Members of the dialogue met at Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston, NY, April 17-19, to conclude its first round of work.
Convened in 1996 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Islamic Circle of North America, the working group has looked at Catholic and Muslim perspectives on marriage and how the respective traditions treat the issue of interfaith marriage, which has become increasingly common as a result of demographic shifts.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the dialogue put aside the topic of marriage in order to examine over the course of several sessions the relationship between religion and violence.
But lately the group has been moving toward the completion of a pastoral document designed to inform clergy, couples, and marriage preparation personnel about the central teachings on marriage of both faiths.
The document, called “Marriage: Catholic and Sunni-Muslim Perspectives”, is expected later this year. It is a clear strives to balance pastoral sensitivity with legal requirements on both sides. For example, Islamic law does not recognize a marriage between a Muslim woman and a Catholic man, but does recognize a marriage between a Catholic woman and a Muslim man.
In view of the spiritual welfare of couples and children, the dialogue group did not wish to encourage interfaith marriages.
Also included at the April 17-19 meeting were presentations on religious education. Dr. Safaa Zarzour of the Council of Greater Chicago Muslim Organizations spoke about the experience of Muslim educators working on a project with the Archdiocese of Chicago on a Muslim-Catholic curriculum that has been underway since 1998.
Professor Sandra Keating of Providence College, who is also a consulter to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, presented a critical reflection on the book, “What Do We Want the Other to Teach About Us?” This book challenges the reader with the perspective of the “religious outsider” as a component of teaching fairly and objectively about a particular religion. Since the vocation of teaching draws on personal experience, it is crucial that teachers be aware of the distinction between a personal view and that of the historic faith community.
Rome, Italy, May 14, 2007 (CNA) - Tens of thousands of families rallied Saturday in Rome to pressure Italian Parliament to reject legislation that would grant new rights to same-sex and other unmarried couples.
The Cabinet of Prime Minister Romano Prodi passed the legislation at the center of the debate in February, and the bill now requires parliamentary approval.
The "Family Day" rally drew unexpected hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. It was organized by lay Roman Catholic groups and family associations. Though the demonstration was endorsed by Italian bishops, neither the Vatican nor the Italian bishops' conference was behind it.
People from across Italy gathered in the massive St. John Lateran piazza. The demonstrators were entertained by singers, speakers and a brief video featuring the late Pope John Paul II speaking in 1988 about the need to protect the traditional family.
Clowns and stilt-walkers mingled with the crowd to entertain the children.
By the end of the day, organizers said as 1.5 million people had shown up, though police did not give a final estimate. Earlier, police had put the growing number of participants at 250,000.
Halifax, Canada, May 14, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Hailfax’s Archbishop Terrence Thomas Prendergast S.J. as the new metropolitan archbishop of Canada’s capital of Ottawa.
Archbishop Prendergast will now become shepherd to some 411,000 Canadian Catholics. He succeeds outgoing Archbishop Marcel Andre J. Gervais who resigned his position after having reached the Church’s required retirement age of 75.
Madrid, Spain, May 14, 2007 (CNA) - The bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Madrid have called on the faithful to vote responsibility in the upcoming local elections on May 27 and to keep in mind Catholic teachings as they cast their votes for choices that are “compatible with the faith and with natural law.”
In a message the bishops recalled that Catholics must keep certain principles in mind when voting. Among these is the “defense of the fundamental rights of the person, above all the right to life in all if its stages.” “Abortion, abortifacient contraceptives and euthanasia,” they stressed, “can never be justified in favor of social policies, considering the aforementioned rights.” In addition, the bishops emphasized the importance of “the defense of religious freedom, its appreciation and public expression, especially that of the Catholic faith, “which has shaped our history,” as religion is a “constitutive element of the person and assists in the moral and social progress of the human community.”
The message also emphasized the principle of the defense of the family and of authentic marriage, as well as the right of parents to choose the kind of education they desire for their children, “according to their religious and moral convictions.”
The bishops also said the faithful should place importance on “the promotion of a culture that is open to moral and religious values,” and on “openness in solidarity to immigrants and the promotion of a just social order.”
Mexico City, Mexico, May 14, 2007 (CNA) - In the wake of the recent approval of abortion in Mexico City, the National Action Party (PAN) has proposed a reform of the Constitution that would guarantee doctors the right to conscientious objection and to refuse to perform abortions.
According to Senator Alejandro Zapata Perogordo, who presented the measure before the entire Senate, its purpose would be “to guarantee the right of doctors to be exempt from a legal duty if it contradicts their moral convictions.”
Zapata lamented that Mexico has signed agreements on human rights, including the right to conscientious objection, and “up to now these have not been followed.”
He said the proposal also aims to “support citizens and their freedoms.”
The measure comes as the Legislative Assembly of Mexico City recently approved abortion up to the twelfth week and medical centers in the capital grapple with whether or not they are obliged to implement the policy.
, May 14, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro, has rejected a proposal by paramilitary leaders for the Church to be a filter for the release of information by the armed groups, saying the Church will not allow itself to be used an instrument to keep certain facts in the dark.
According to local media reports, leaders of the United Self-Defenses of Colombia who are currently imprisoned proposed that the Church act as a kind of filter for the release of their confessions. “The Church in no way can agree to be an instrument so that some of the truth remains in the dark. We want to collaborate so that everything comes out into the light,” Archbishop Castro said.
After meeting with President Alvaro Uribe, the archbishop reaffirmed the Church’s desire to collaborate in bring the full truth to light, “and naturally it is important to say it, so that this truth might contribute to forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Archbishop Castro said the Colombian president is committed to bringing out all of the truth, “the complete truth, without hiding one iota of the truth.” He also said President Uribe has rejected a proposal to filter the confessions through government officials.
Panama City, Panama, May 14, 2007 (CNA) - The Minister of Education in Panama, Miguel Angel Canizales, ordered the removal of four text books on sex education from the country’s schools, after complaints were raised over the contents of the books, which included the promotion of homosexuality among adolescents.
According to the newspaper “El Siglo,” Canizales canceled a planned evaluation of the text books which his office “intended to use to cement a sex-ed program throughout the country, after an avalanche of criticism” of the contents of the manuals.
El Siglo, which obtained copies of the manuals, said the contents could provide “the final push” any adolescent struggling with his or her sexuality would need to embrace homosexuality.
“One of the ‘exercises’ proposed in these manuals (aimed at fourth through sixth graders) invites the teacher to use a rope to make an imaginary uterus on the floor and have each student step inside, because they are going to need to be born again,” the article stated, quoting directly from the manual: “You will make a signal to indicate to each student that he or she will be born and should construct his or her identity, choosing from a group of color-coded cards (one color each for heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transvestite and transsexual) placed on a table. Ask them to return to their places and to reflect on their new identity, how they feel, interiorizing their new traits.”
According to Canizales, the text books were sponsored and drafted by the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, and the UN World Population Fund.
However, Fernando Carrera, a representative of UNICEF in Panama, claimed the manuals were “drafted by Panamanian professionals and not by international consulters.” El Siglo noted that the on the cover of each manual UNICEF is listed as one of the authors.
Lansing, Mich., May 14, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Carl Mengeling of Lansing is scheduled to undergo surgery today. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer and will have his bladder removed.
The 76-year-old bishop will take six to eight weeks to recuperate from the surgery. The faithful were asked to pray for their bishop at all weekend Masses.
"We know people have his best interests at heart, and cards and letters are gratefully received," said Michael Diebold, the diocese’s director of communications.
, May 14, 2007 (CNA) - Massachusetts Citizens for Life honored former Governor Mitt Romney on Thursday at their Mother’s day Pioneer dinner. Governor Romney is currently running for the Republican nomination for President.
Romney recounted his journey to his present day pro-life positions. . “I follow a long line of converts—George Herbert Walker Bush, Henry Hyde, Ronald Reagan.” He described how after studying embryo farming and cloning, he began to focus more on life issues. Until then he was publicly pro-choice and pledged to support Roe v. Wade. After speaking to scientists who supported embryo cloning for research purposes and studying the subject in great detail, he realized that “the Roe v. Wade mentality ha[d} so cheapened the value of human life that rational people saw human life as mere research material to be used, and then destroyed. The slippery slope could soon lead to racks and racks of living human embryos, Brave New World-like, awaiting destruction.”
He continued, "[w}hat some see as a mere clump of cells is actually a human life. Human life has identity. Human life has the capacity to love and to be loved. Human life has profound dignity, dignity undiminished by age or infirmity.”
As a result of this conversion, he stated that he publicly acknowledged his error. He sought to live up to his commitment to life by fighting to ban cloning and embryo farming. He sought to define life at beginning at conception rather than at implantation. Additionally, he supported abstinence education in schools.
Romney also warned against the growing trend in the courts to decide on issues that should be decided by the people. "Make no mistake: abortion and same-sex marriage are not rights to be discovered in the Constitution.” He reminded the audience of the important role the President plays in selecting judges who properly understand their limited roll as “servants of the law.”