, May 22, 2007 (CNA) -
Plans by Italy's RAI television network to air a BBC program on sexual abuse have been condemned by Italian Church leaders. However, the program is not certain to air because Mario Landolfi, who heads RAI's parliamentary oversight committee, has requested a ban on its broadcast. According to Landolfi, the program unfairly attacks the Church.
An editorial in the daily Avvenire, published by the Italian bishops' conference, accused the bloggers who posted the video of "calumny against the Church and the Pope.” The Italian version of Google has also posted the documentary which has become the most viewed video on the site, according to the Guardian.
The BBC program, "Sex Crimes and the Vatican," aired in England last October, drawing bitter protests from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster.
The firestorm of criticism began when RAI made plans to purchase the program from the BBC and broadcast it on its "Year Zero," popular current affairs show hosted by Michele Santoro.
The focus of the BBC presentation is Crimen Sollicitationis, a Vatican document that was promulgated in 1962. The program described that document as "secret," and claims credit for exposing it, although the full text of Crimen Sollicitationis was published in 2001 and covered extensively by Catholic publications in 2002.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops responded to these allegations back in 2003 stating, “the document is being taken out of context, that it's a church law that deals only with religious crimes and sins. And that the secrecy is meant to protect the faithful from scandal.”
Crimen Sollicitationis covers canonical discipline for priests accused of the sexual misconduct-- including, but not limited to, the sexual abuse of minors. Because the document emphasizes the confidentiality of canonical trials, the BBC report suggested that the Vatican policy, and its enforcement by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, was an effort to conceal evidence of abuse. According to Avvenire, the BBC report missed the crucial distinction between canonical and civil trials, and noted that the Vatican document did not require victims of abuse to remain silent. On the contrary, paragraph 15 of the document "obliged anyone knowledgeable of sexual abuse committed in the confessional to tell authorities or they would be excommunicated."
The BBC program distorts the facts of the case, Avvenire said, in order to raise “accusations against Joseph Ratzinger of being the individual responsible for covering up the crime of pedophilia by priests."
Vatican City, May 22, 2007 (CNA) - Yesterday in the Vatican, the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel held a plenary session in order to continue negotiations on article 10, para. 2 of the "Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel" of December 30 1993. The spirit of the talks was one of, “great cordiality, mutual understanding and good will.”
According to a communique made public by the working commission late yesterday afternoon, the Holy See delegation was led by Msgr. Pietro Parolin, under-secretary for Relations with States, while the Israeli delegation was headed by Aaron Abramovich, director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The agreement between the Holy See and Israel focuses on the mutual recognition of the two entities, the need for protection of Christians and their holy sites in the Holy Land, and economic matters.
In 2003, the late Holy Father John Paul II wrote that, “the fact that we have been able to reach an accord on the full recognition of the legal personality of the Church’s institutions is a source of satisfaction, and I am pleased that an accord also appears close at hand regarding related fiscal and economic matters.”
Yesterday’s talks “took place in an atmosphere of great cordiality, mutual understanding and good will, and produced important progress and hope for yet further advances in the coming months.” The next meeting of the commission will take place in the first half of December 2007, in Israel, and in the meantime the commission will continue upon its task at the 'working level'."
Vatican City, May 22, 2007 (CNA) - In a message sent to the president of the Republic of Rwanda for the national day of mourning on the 13th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, Pope Benedict XVI called on Christians in the country to make their faith the foundation of an authentic and enduring reconciliation.
The genocide in Rwanda took place in April 1994, when rival Hutus and Tutsis began slaughtering each other, leaving more than one million dead. Several of the leaders behind the massacre are still on trial at the he International Court at The Hague.
“I desire to unite myself to the pain of the nation and to prayers for the victims of this horrible massacre, without distinction of creed, ethnicity or political opinion," the Holy Father said in his message.
The Pontiff added, "I hope that all Rwandans, guided by their civil and religious authorities, commit themselves with greater generosity and effectiveness in favor of national reconciliation and the building of a new country, in truth and justice, in fraternal unity and peace."
Benedict XVI concluded his message saying, “The Christian faith, shared by the majority of the Rwandan people, if it is lived with coherence and fullness, constitutes an effective aid in overcoming a past of errors and death, whose culminating moment was the genocide of 1994. At the same time, this faith inspires confidence in the possibility offered to all Rwandans, reconciled with one another, of building together a better future, of discovering again the newness of love, which is the only force that can lead to personal and social perfection and guide history towards the good.”
Asunción, Paraguay, May 22, 2007 (CNA) - The Thomas More Institute of the Catholic University of Asuncion has organized a series of conferences with the renowned Spanish exorcist, Father Jose Antonio Fortea, scheduled for June 7-13.
The conferences will be held at the Catholic University’s Great Hall, where Father Fortea will speak about his new book, “Between Books and Demons. J.A. Fortea, An Autobiography.”
On Friday, June 8, he will speak at the Hotel Granados Park on the topic of the final judgment and particular judgment—“the reality of heaven and hell.”
On Saturday, June 9, Father Fortea and guest priests will speak at the Archdiocesan Catholic Charismatic Center on the Bible as “the living and eternal word of God,” “Spiritual combat and the invisible world of angels and demons,” and on the “importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”
Last year when Father Fortea visited Paraguay, more than 10,000 people attended the different events, and in less than one week his book “Summa Daemoniaca” sold out.
Lahore, Pakistan, May 22, 2007 (CNA) - "The Pakistani government should protect us Christians", demands Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, who is also chairman of the Pakistani bishops' conference, in an interview with the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
"We Christians are citizens, just like everyone else, and wish to have the same rights. And outside countries should likewise make more effort to speak up for our safety", he adds. According to the archbishop, Christians in Pakistan feel more insecure than ever before. "It distresses us that Christians are threatened, in an attempt to force them to convert to Islam. This is something that has never happened before", he adds.
Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha has witnessed an increasing radicalisation among Muslim believers. "They want to introduce a stricter form of Islam, above all the sharia law. Women would then no longer be able to leave the house to go to work or to school and they would have to wear veils."
Recently Muslim fanatics attacked businesses in the capital, Islamabad, where videos were on sale which the extremists regarded as contrary to Islam. On 5 May, in the northwest of the country, some 50 Christian families, some of them Catholic, some Protestant, received anonymous threatening letters, calling on them to convert to Islam. They had 10 days time to decide, the letter told them; otherwise they could expect violent consequences. So far these threats have not been carried out, but the people are still living in fear. Christian communities throughout the country have expressed their solidarity with these threatened families.
There are also attacks against Christians in other regions of Pakistan. A few days ago, according to a spokeswoman for the "Daughters of Saint Paul", some of the sisters of their order had got caught up in a demonstration in Karachi and were physically attacked. The nuns were able to get to safety; however their cars were stoned by the demonstrators and wrecked.
According to Archbishop Saldanha the situation is becoming ever more threatening for Christians. "The entire country is now in a crisis."
Marie-Ange Siebrecht, the head of the ACN section that deals with Pakistan, travelled to Pakistan last year and has appealed to the Western world: "We must help these persecuted Christians, who are often an example to us in the Faith", she says. "On my journey I asked one poor Christian how he could endure it all. He told me, 'When I look at Christ on the cross, then my sufferings seem small to me.'
There are around 1.5 million Christians living in Pakistan, and some 1.1 million of them are Catholics. ACN supports Catholics in Pakistan, not only materially, but also through its worldwide appeals for prayer and solidarity with them.
Aparecida, Brazil, May 22, 2007 (CNA) - During morning Mass at the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference in Aparecida, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Ecuador, Bishop Nestor Herrera, said evangelization “has formed the Christian culture that identifies our people of Latin America and the Caribbean.”
“We need to find new ways to make the faith and daily life consistent, in order to incarnate in believers the life that comes from Baptism,” Bishop Herrera said.
“We cannot hide our peoples’ lack of education in the faith,” he continued. “Now we need to provide concrete and clear guidance for the evangelization and ministry of our particular churches.” “The words of Jesus comfort us: Have courage, I have overcome the world,” the bishop added.
He expressed hope that the example of those who first brought the gospel to the new world, the example of the saints, and of the Blessed Mother, would “encourage us in our pastoral ministry and fill us with enthusiasm for the new evangelization to which we are called.”
, May 22, 2007 (CNA) - Last Tuesday a priest in India was seriously wounded when two young men assaulted him at a school in southern Delhi.
Father George Philip, a member of the Pallottine religious order, suffered a serious gunshot wound after he was attacked at the St. Vincent Pallotti School, where he serves as the director.
The Pallottine General House in Rome confirmed the report to Fides and said the 37 year-old priest underwent surgery to remove a bullet from his chest.
Police currently do not have a motive for the attack, but they said it appeared to be an execution. Initially it was thought to be a robbery, but the local Church officials suspect other motives.
In recent months Christian communities have noted an increase in attacks on religious minorities in India, with Catholic schools, institutes and convents being the most common targets.
Aparecida, Brazil, May 22, 2007 (CNA) - During a press conference at the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council, the Apostolic Vicar of Zamora (Ecuador), Bishop Fausto Gabriel Travez, said the vocational discernment of one who desires to enter religious life should be demanding and should help to discover the candidate’s “spiritual quality.”
Bishop Travez urged that candidates for religious life be carefully chosen. Sharing a few details about his own personal vocation, he recalled that as a child, “I was very mischievous,” and his father told him he was not fit to be a priest. As he grew older, he discovered that God was indeed calling him, and he encouraged all those who feel God’s call to respond with generosity.
Ann Arbor, Mich., May 22, 2007 (CNA) - A bill is being proposed in the Michigan house that would legalize adoptions by homosexual partners. Supporters of the bill point to the lack of opposition from the Michigan Catholic Conference as their reason for hoping the bill will pass. Detroit Free Press Columnist Brian Dickerson recently wrote, “The church’s neutrality underlines the fact that adoption and gay marriage are separate issues, practically as well as legally.”
To counter this false impression, the Thomas More Law Center revealed today that it has sent a letter to over one hundred members of the Michigan state House of Representatives informing them of the Catholic Church’s unequivocal opposition to adoptions by homosexual partners. The Thomas More Law Center is a national Christian legal advocacy group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Law Center’s letter extensively quotes from a 2003 document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith headed by then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. The document entitled, “Considerations regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to unions Between Homosexual Persons,” was intended to give direction to Catholic politicians and all persons committed to defending the common good of society. The document states: “Allowing children to be adopted by persons in such [homosexual] unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development.”
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center commented, “Not only does this House Bill violate Catholic doctrine, but it is a disguised effort to do an end-run around the state constitutional ban on same –sex marriages overwhelmingly passed by Michigan voters in 2004. Every citizen concerned with the common good of the community and our vulnerable children should oppose this Bill.”
The Law Center’s letter also expressed concern that if HB 4259 passed, it would cause Christian adoption agencies to withdraw from adoptions altogether rather than violate their religious principles. Typically, these Christian adoption agencies handle the hardest to place children. Thompson added, “Although the Catholic Church teaches respect for homosexual persons, the Church is emphatic that that respect ‘cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.’ Allowing homosexual partners to adopt children would be giving them such recognition.”
Ottawa, Canada, May 22, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has just named Most Rev. Terrence Prendergast, S.J. as Archbishop of Ottawa. At the time of his appointment, he was Archbishop of Halifax and Apostolic Administrator of Yarmouth.
Before making the appointment, the Holy Father accepted the resignation of Most Reverend Marcel Gervais as Archbishop of Ottawa in accordance with the Code of Canon Law which sets the age of retirement for bishops at 75. Archbishop Gervais has served the Archdiocese of Ottawa for 18 years and has generously served a year past his 75 birthday. The Holy Father has named Archbishop Gervais as Apostolic Administrator of the archdiocese until such time as the new bishop is installed and takes over responsibility for the diocese.
A native of Montreal, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1961 and was ordained a priest in 1972. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Fordham University, Master of Divinity and Doctor of Theology degrees from Toronto School of Theology and a Licentiate in Theology from Regis College.
Upon hearing of his new appointment, Archbishop Prendergast sent the following remarks: ‘Pope Benedict's nomination of me as Archbishop of Ottawa is exciting and frightening at the same time. I am buoyed by the Holy Father's confidence in entrusting me with the task; and I place my trust in the Lord's grace and our Lady's intercession to calm my fears and to help me say goodbye to the priests, religious and faithful of Halifax and Yarmouth who have been so good to me for nine years. Except for two summers ('68 and '70) studying classics at Ottawa U., I haven't spent extended times in Ottawa and the places I can find easily are few. One of them is the Jesuit community where my brothers have always made me feel welcome. I have great admiration for the episcopal leadership of Archbishop Gervais and pray I may be able to fill his big shoes. And I look forward to meeting the many wonderful people of the Church of Ottawa I have heard about, whether they speak French, English or another language. My request is that you please pray for me; I have already begun to pray for you.’