, May 17, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer at the United Nations, spoke to the UN Human Rights Council today about the pressing need to help indigenous peoples. He congratulated the commission on the importance of their work, but then went on to urge them to not stand by while people are being taken advantage of.
The Archbishop emphasized the importance of a speedy adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP), which was recently postponed.
Without the acceptance of the Declaration many poor indigenous peoples remain powerless to overcome their often oppressive circumstances. Migliore warned states that they are not just harming indigenous people, but also robbing themselves of the good that these people could contribute to the state. States should not “be oblivious to the economic progress for all that could be achieved by a greater regard for the particular genius of indigenous peoples and what they may be willing to contribute when their good will, not just their free, prior and informed consent, is sought and received.”
The issue of the exploitation of natural resources at the expense of those who inhabit the land was also raised by the Holy See’s delegation. “The rush to exploit resources which we are witnessing in many places not only puts the natural habitat under stress; there is sometimes little evidence of any good in political, social or economic terms, in favour of the peoples where such resources are found.”
Archbishop Migliore concluded his address with an exhorting the UN body not to delay adoption of the Declaration. “[T]he Holy See believes that we should all work towards a consensus adoption of the Declaration; but even the absence of such a consensus should not be a pretext for delaying the vindication of the legitimate concerns of indigenous peoples.”
, May 17, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore has sent a written invitation to the Pope, asking that he pay a visit to Baltimore when he comes to address the United Nations in New York.
Though a date has not been established, Catholic News Service has reported that a UN trip is likely to take place next year.
The trip would be the pope's first visit to North America since his election in 2005. Cardinal Keeler invited Pope Benedict to visit the Basilica of the Assumption, the first cathedral in the United States, and the new Our Daily Bread Employment Center, which will be dedicated this month.
Created in 1789, the Archdiocese of Baltimore is the premier see from which other major U.S. dioceses were formed.
Fr. Joseph S. Rossi, professor of church history at Loyola College, said: "There is no more symbolic city in America than Baltimore, as far as Catholic heritage.”
He suggested that the Pope could round out a U.S. tour by acknowledging the growing Latino Catholic community with a stop in the South or West. Los Angeles, the largest archdiocese, would be the perfect bookend to his trip, he said.
, May 17, 2007 (CNA) - Catholic League president Bill Donohue said the 18 House Democrats, who chided Pope Benedict XVI, “are twice a disgrace.” The Democrats took it upon themselves to correct the Holy Father for allegedly saying he agreed with the Mexican bishop who reportedly invoked excommunication against the Catholic lawmakers who voted to legalize abortion in Mexico City.
The Democrats wrote: "Religious sanction in the political arena directly conflicts with our fundamental beliefs about the role of democratic representatives in a pluralistic America -- it clashes with freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution. Such notions offend the very nature of the American experiment and do a great disservice to the centuries of good work the church has done."
The problem for the Democrats is that they got their facts wrong, thus disgracing them for the first time, said Donohue.
“What happened was at first confusing, but was quickly clarified,” Donohue acknowledged. First, no Mexican bishop ever invoked excommunication against any lawmaker for legalizing abortion. In fact, the Mexican bishop in question merely noted that support for abortion is incompatible with receiving Communion, and politicians who have done so should not attempt to receive it.
“On May 9, in his extemporaneous remarks aboard a plane going to Brazil, the Pope initially gave the impression that he favored excommunication of the lawmakers. Shortly thereafter—on that same day—his remarks were amended, making moot the idea that he favored such a penalty.”
“On May 10, the Vatican presented the pope’s official statement. That statement did not speak to excommunicating anyone—it simply restated Church teaching that Catholic legislators who advocate abortion rights should not go to Communion.”
“The Catholic Democrats who signed this statement had plenty of time to get their facts straight,” said Donohue. “But in a defensive rush to judgment, they decided to take their game to the Pope; thus did they disgrace themselves for a second time,” said Donohue.
Maggie Gallagher, a nationally syndicated columnist, wrote in a separate article that these 18 Democrats have it backward.
“Separation of church and state does not mean elected officials get to tell religious leaders to whom they must give religious sacraments, on pain of public excommunication from ‘the American experiment,’” she wrote.
Gallagher referred to the first GOP debate earlier this month and the response former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gave when asked what he says to Roman Catholic bishops who withhold Communion from Catholic politicians.
"I don't say anything to Roman Catholic bishops,” Romney said. “They can do whatever the heck they want. Roman Catholic bishops are in a private institution, a religion ... I can't imagine a government telling a church who can have communion in their church. We have separation of church and state, and it's served us well."
Aparecida, Brazil, May 17, 2007 (CNA) - The archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, said Wednesday that although the bishops have not excommunicated lawmakers who voted to legalize abortion in Mexico City, they “are impeded from receiving Communion.”
While fielding questions from reporters, the Mexican cardinal explained that while “nobody has sent a declaration to any politician or lawmaker,” it must be stated that “we also have to repeat what the traditional doctrine of the Church is: Voting for those kinds of laws is not compatible with the reception of Communion, which is not the same as excommunication.”
“We are saying that this way of thinking is not compatible with Eucharistic Communion, we are not going to deny them the Eucharist. Every human being can have the forgiveness of the Church and of God when there is repentance,” the cardinal explained.
Commenting on the statements by Pope Benedict XVI during his flight to Brazil, Cardinal Rivera underscored, “We feel very supported in our ministry because it is our duty to defend fundamental rights, as a integral part of the Gospel, and to proclaim the right to life.”
Cardinal Rivera denounced the legalization of abortion in Mexico City as “a decision made only by a select group of lawmakers who never once consulted with the people. This was the agenda of a group of lawmakers: first pass laws on homosexual unions, second pass laws on human life both on abortion and euthanasia, and this only by the representatives of the Federal District Assembly.”
The Church’s role is not to pass laws, he went on, but rather “to evangelize, to form consciences. Our task continues to be same. At no time do we see ourselves as victors nor we do we feel defeated. We are urged on by what is our right, which is to defend human rights,” the cardinal said.
Addressing the issue of freedom of expression, Cardinal Rivera stated, “I defend the right of all citizens to express themselves, the right to freedom of thought, freedom of expression. It’s not only a right of the press, it’s a right of every human being. Those who come together to defend life cannot be stripped of this right,” he said.
Asked about a final document of the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council, the cardinal said, “As part of the Gospel, of the good news, of evangelization, we should include a call to defend the family structure, human life as a fundamental right. Why do I want the right to have food and to have housing if I don’t have the right to life?” he asked.
In commenting on conscientious objection, Cardinal Rivera underscored that the Church has always supported it “because nobody can act against his principles and convictions. Therefore the Church will continue to encourage those who have recourse to it. The very law passed in the Federal District allows for such action.”
, May 17, 2007 (CNA) - Two underground Church leaders from Wenzhou, eastern China, received prison sentences in March, six months after their arrest upon returning from a pilgrimage in Europe.
Frs. Peter Shao Zhumin and Paul Jiang Surang (alias Jiang Sunian), vicar general and chancellor of the diocese respectively, were arrested on Sept. 25, 2006, in Shenzhen, southern China. They were subsequently transferred to Putaopeng Detention Center in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, 1,380 kilometers southeast of Beijing.
According to a report by UCA News, the two priests were charged with "illegal exit," and then sentenced in March. Word of the priests’ imprisonment is only now coming out because of the concealment by the government.
The sources told UCA News that Fr. Shao has been sentenced to nine months, and Fr. Jiang to 11 months, as the latter is a "repeat offender." Fr. Jiang was imprisoned, from 2000 to 2004, for illegally publishing hymnals.
Since the two priests have already been detained for about six months as of March 2007, a source told UCA News that Fr. Shao will be released in late June, and Fr. Jiang in late August.
The underground Catholic community in Wenzhou has known about the sentencing, but the Catholics have not been allowed to visit their two Church leaders, the source said.
Quezon City, Philippines, May 17, 2007 (CNA) - Church groups worked with local citizens to decrease violence during this year’s elections in the Philippines, held May 14.
In a May 15 press statement, National Police Chief Oscar Calderon said the number of violent incidents during the 2007 election totaled 217; there were 249 incidents in 2004 and 269 in 2001.
Bishop Joel Baylon of Masbate told UCA News that he was "grateful" politically motivated killings in Masbate province were "not as bad" as in the 2004 national elections.
The province, comprising a few small islands southeast of Manila, recorded 15 fatalities during this year's election period, compared with 24 in 2004.
Bishop Baylon said his diocese continues to condemn the "culture of violence in the province" and will intensify its efforts to help educate the people.
The bishop believes peace and order during the election period have improved, crediting two external factors and one internal factor: voting in Masbate was placed directly under the control of the Commission on Elections and the mass media kept close watch. Bishop Baylon cited the local Christian people as the internal factor.
"I think people here have also already started to manifest that they don't like [violence] and have started to become more vigilant," he said. The people, he said, were armed with the powerful weapon of truth and the "light of Christ."
As well, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voters recruited more than 1,000 volunteers in the province to assist in a variety of ways with the election process. Most were young people, who ran errands, such as bringing food to polling places.
Msgr. Vera Cruz is vicar general of Iligan Diocese, which covers the Lanao del Norte. He described the overall conduct of the election there as "orderly," in that no one was killed by gunfire or other violence.
Still, he called the election "scandalously shameful" because of rampant vote-buying before and during the polls, with votes selling for between 2,000 and 3,000 pesos ($42 – $63 USD).
Aparecida, Brazil, May 17, 2007 (CNA) - During his visit to the Farms of Hope in Brazil, which offers a drug rehabilitation program for young people, Pope Benedict XVI was formally handed the 10 millionth copy of the Aid to the Church in Need’s Children’s Bible in Brazilian Portuguese by Hans-Peter Röthlin, president of the international charity body.
The Children’s Bible has become an “integral part of the catechetical program at the diocesan level,” said Bishop Manoel Delson Pedreira da Cruz of Caico, Brazil. Copies of the Bible have been distributed to the poorest communities of Brazil and have been translated into Portuguese, Guarani and Tucano.
ACN has already distributed 45 million copies since 1979, in no less than 153 different languages and in 138 different countries. The books contain a simplified retelling of key Bible texts in 99 short chapters. For many children, the Bible is the first book they touch with their own hands, as many families lack the money to be able to buy books. Therefore, the Bible serves not only as a catechetical but also an educational tool, especially in Africa and Latin America.
Baghdad, Iraq, May 17, 2007 (CNA) - The Patriarch of the Ancient Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Addai II, has called on the Prime Minister and the Iraqi parliament to put an end to the tragic situation that Christians in Iraq are enduring due to the constant threats and attacks against them.
“Those who are in positions of responsibility must put an end to the persecution of Christians because all of us, Muslims and Christians, are part of one family, we are children of the same land,” the patriarch said.
“The violence against Christians in Iraq, but especially in Baghdad and Mosul, is against the spirit of Islam,’ Mar Addai said, adding his voice to that of the other Patriarchs, Mar Emmanuel III Delly of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Mar Dinkha IV of the Assyrian Orthodox Church of the East and Mar Gregotios Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syrian Catholic Church.
“The actions of armed groups are forcing Christians from Baghdad, district by district. After Dora, the violence has become fiercer and has reached the western districts of the capital,” the website Baghdadhope reported.
In addition to being subjected to threats, killings, and protection payments, Christians are also being forced to leave their own homes leaving everything behind. The armed militants then force the Christians to pay an “exit fee” of $200 per person and $400 per car, the website explained.
In Dora, Addai II said, “Only the families that agree to give a daughter or sister in marriage to a Muslim can remain, which means that the entire nuclear family will progressively become Muslim.” Homes, he said, that are not seized by force are being legally turned over by family members of hostages, who are told that is the only way to see their loved ones released.
“God loves us and protects us and therefore we should not be afraid. He will not leave us alone because we are children of hope, and after the darkness the sun will shine again,” Addai II stated.
Analysts worry that the departure of the Christian community from Iraq, which has roots going back to antiquity, could make it more difficult to pacify the country.
Aparecida, Brazil, May 17, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Emeritus Estanislao Esteban Karlic of Parana told participants of the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council that the mission of the disciple is first and foremost to proclaim God and to confess that nothing in life that does not lead us to Him has any worth.
Failing to share the material and spiritual goods of this world, the archbishop said, is to fail in our love for God. But first and foremost, we must give back to God by loving Him, rather than focusing only on social justice, he said during his remarks.
“God, who is holy, calls us to be saints,” Archbishop Karlic emphasized. The CELAM Conference, he added, has as its immediate goal, the “evangelization and sanctification of our continent.” “What is at stake here is the holy history, our history, and that of our brothers and sisters in America.”
During his remarks, he explained that the history of man is divided between “love for himself to the point of scorn for God and love of God to the point of scorn for himself.” Each day man is called to choose God, and to convert by means of “intellectual change and the prolonged practice of being moral, which despite the difficulties is possible and right.”
Likewise, the archbishop reminded participants that to be a disciple is a gift from God. When man encounters Christ, he learns he is made in the image of God and that he is called to be a child of God through Christ. He also comes to understand that “the family is the sanctuary of love and of life” and that “the human community is destined for fraternity.”
“Discipleship should always lead to committing one’s life to the Lord, as the martyrs did,” Archbishop Karlic stated. The Church has always had martyrs, he said, “who suffer persecutions that require mortifications and humiliations that constitute true martyrdom.”
He also reaffirmed the importance of the Eucharist and of prayer, which should be of special importance during the CELAM conference.
Washington D.C., May 17, 2007 (CNA) - A group of Catholic Democrats in the US Congress recently objected to comments of Pope Benedict XVI about the fact that legislators favoring the legality of abortion should not receive Communion. They said, "Advancing respect for life and for the dignity of every human being is, as our church has taught us, our own life's mission."
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, issued a response, saying, "Faithful Catholics, as well as those in the pro-life movement from every denomination, have had enough of this double-talk. It is not possible to advance 'respect for life and for the dignity of every human being' while tolerating the dismemberment and decapitation of human beings still in their mothers' wombs. These legislators do not only contradict their faith; they contradict the very meaning of public service, and should not be in public office any longer. If they cannot muster the will to protect defenseless children, they should resign.”
Fr. Pavone added that Priests for Life will make efforts to hold the politicians accountable for their support of abortion. “[We] will challenge them to publicly acknowledge that when they say "abortion," they are talking about the same thing described in those medical texts, that is, the dismemberment and decapitation of tiny humans.”
The head of Human Life International, Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, also weighed in on the matter. “It is an embarrassment that a Catholic, much less a member of Congress should make such an absurd statement. Even if this statement were true, the Holy Father answers to a Higher Power.”
Fr. Euteneuer concluded that, “If they have that much of a problem being Catholic, no one is forcing them to stay.”
Washington D.C., May 17, 2007 (CNA) - According to the Associated Press, a priest close to Tony Blair says that the prime minister will declare himself a Roman Catholic on leaving Downing Street.
Father Michael Seed, who is known for bringing high-profile politicians and aristocrats into the Catholic fold and who says Mass for the Blairs in Downing Street each week when they are in London, made the prediction to friends at a recent memorial service.
Last night, when contacted by The Times, he did not deny his comments, but said he did not know if Blair would ever be received “formally” into the Roman Catholic Church.
The prime minister’s formal reception into the Church would require him to take part in a process called the rite of Christian initiation for adults (RCIA), followed by Confirmation, and the reception of Holy Communion.
Father Seed said: “He’s been going to Mass every Sunday. He goes on his own when he is abroad, not just when he is with his wife and children.”
Another Church source said that many of the early saints and martyrs were not baptized. Such people were held to have had a “baptism of desire.”
He said that Blair was a Catholic by desire and that this did not necessitate a formal conversion. “He is an ecumenical Catholic,” said the source. “He is a liberal Catholic. In terms of his private life, he is a Roman Catholic.”
Although technically an Anglican, Blair only “darkened the door” of Anglican churches on state and other formal occasions, he added.
However, the source did not mention if Blair’s well known views on homosexuality, same-sex adoption and abortion will change. The prime minister’s views on these matters have recently brought him into conflict with the Church, particularly on the issue of adoption by homosexuals.
Downing Street would not comment on the suggestion that Blair would declare himself a Catholic. A spokesman said: “This story is always circulating in one form or another. The P.M. remains a member of the Church of England.”
Blair has always been reluctant to discuss his religious beliefs. Alastair Campbell, the former Downing Street communications chief, famously told one interviewer: “We don’t do God.” The prime minister has also indicated in the past that he attended Mass so that his family, all Catholics, could worship together.
To receive Blair into the fold would be a triumph for the Roman Catholic Church, which has in the past two decades in particular regained its confidence, recovering from the centuries of persecution that followed the Reformation.
Blair has been criticized for receiving Communion at Catholic Mass. Cardinal Basil Hume, the late Archbishop of Westminster, wrote to him in 1996 demanding that he should cease taking Communion at his wife’s church in Islington, although he added that it was “all right to do so when in Tuscany for the holidays ... as there was no Anglican church near by.”
Blair made it clear that he did not agree with Cardinal Hume’s opinion, writing in a pointed letter to him: “I wonder what Jesus would have made of it.”
Writing in The Tablet, the Catholic weekly, Father Seed described how the prime minister had regarded his time in office as akin to a “vocation."
He first made contact with Blair when the family moved into No. 10, and strengthened their links with The Passage, Britain’s largest homelessness center, attached to Westminster Cathedral. Blair launched the government’s policy on homelessness there in 1998. Father Seed says that being prime minister is both a cross and a privilege.