Vatican City, May 28, 2007 (CNA) -
This morning in the Vatican, the Pope received His Beatitude Issac Cleemis Thottunkal, major archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankars, India. According to tradition, the Syro-Malankar Church is able to trace its founding back to St. Thomas the apostle who evangelized India.
A synod of the Indian bishops recently selected Issac Cleemis Thottunkal as the head of the Syro-Malankaran church and at his meeting with him Benedict approved of this decision. "As Peter's Successor, I happily confirmed the Synod's decision." Thottunkal was chosen for his current office by the Synod of the Syro-Malankar Church on February 8.
The Pope emphasized how as head of the church his Beatitude must pursue a two-fold path of faithfulness that will continue to enrich the Church.
“On the one hand, through faithfulness to the Apostolic See you will always participate fully in the universal breath of the one Church of Christ; on the other hand your fidelity to the specifically Eastern features of your tradition will enable the whole Church to benefit from what in His manifold wisdom the Spirit is saying to the Churches'."
"As head and shepherd of the Syro-Malankar Church," the Pope continued, "Your Beatitude has been entrusted with the mission of leading and sustaining the Christian witness and ecclesial life of the faithful of that noble Church throughout the vast Indian Sub-Continent and the other regions where Syro- Malankar Catholics are found."
Going on to refer to the challenges of the current moment, the Holy Father expressed the view that "now is a time of new evangelization, a time of constantly renewed and convinced dialogue with all our brothers and sisters who share our Christian faith, a time of respectful and fruitful encounter between religions and cultures for the good of all, and especially the poorest of the poor.
"Our commitment to evangelization needs to be constantly renewed, as we strive to build peace, in justice and solidarity, for the whole human family. May you always draw strength from the Lord and from the collegial support of your brother bishops - the members of the Synod."
Benedict XVI concluded by assuring the major archbishop of his prayers for bishops of the Syro-Malankar Church, to whom he also sent a special greeting for "the happy occasion of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Syro-Malankar hierarchy."
London, England, May 28, 2007 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict, according to the Guardian, has expressed a desire to meet with the parents of the missing four-year-old Madeline McCann. The couple has drawn strength from their Catholic faith throughout the ordeal of their daughter’s disappearance on May 3rd.
"We are currently exploring the possibility of a visit by Gerry and Kate McCann to meet the Pope in Rome in the near future," family spokesman Clarence Mitchell confirmed yesterday.
A meeting with the Pope would be "profoundly important" to the couple and would help strengthen the faith to which they have publicly turned in recent weeks, according to the Guardian.
The couple is making efforts to expand the reach of the search for their daughter beyond Portugal to other parts of Europe with the help of grassroots Catholic groups and other organizations.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Westminster, has been working to arrange a visit with the Pope so that Benedict can have the opportunity to support the couple with his prayers and encouragement.
A spokesperson for Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said: "The cardinal is conscious of the prayers of the entire Catholic community in this country for the McCann family at this distressing time.
"The cardinal also assured Dr McCann of his prayers for the safe release of Madeleine and for the rest of the family."
The couple plans to also travel to Spain, Germany and Holland in their search for their daughter. They have been offered the use of a private jet by a British entrepreneur and have raised a substantial amount to mount a more widespread search.
The family's first campaign victory, apart from keeping Madeleine's name and picture in the news, was to force Portuguese police to finally release a description of a man believed to have carried a child away from the apartments where Madeleine vanished.
The woman who saw the man is a friend of the McCann family and dined with them that night. She was reported yesterday to be wracked with guilt that she did nothing to stop the man.
"She thought it was odd, but thought it was the man's own child," a police source told the Press Association. "He was walking urgently, neither running or walking."
Oklahoma City, Okla., May 28, 2007 (CNA) - Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry did not veto a pro-life bill on Wednesday, making Oklahoma the only state this year to pass legislation that would prohibit certain abortions in state-funded medical facilities, reported CNHI News Service.
Senate Bill 139 prohibits abortions in state medical facilities or by state employees, unless the life of the mother is threatened, the pregnancy poses the risk of impairment to major bodily functions, or in the case of rape or incest.
Henry recently vetoed another bill, Senate Bill 714, which did not allow the provision on rape or incest. Democratic senators sustained the vote during two override attempts. Henry, a Democrat, may not have had the votes this time around to sustain his veto had he made that decision.
Henry said he would challenge proponents of the bill to work with the medical community and other interested parties to address the absence of a concession in the bill for lethal birth defects in the next legislative session.
Joseph Scheidler, national director for the Pro-life Action League, believes using the risk to the mother or the chance of these fatal anomalies as a reason to allow abortions is an emotional ploy.
“Abortion is not a life-saving surgery,” he said, adding that medicine is sophisticated enough now that very few women die because of a pregnancy.
Hollywood, Calif., May 28, 2007 (CNA) - The latest American Idol winner, 17-year-old Jordin Sparks, is outspoken about her Christian faith and a pro-life advocate, reported LifeSiteNews.com.
Several photos have circulated online of Jordin participating in pro-life and Christian events. One in particular, which allegedly originated from Jordin’s MySpace page, shows Jordin holding the poster of a stop sign with the words “Stop Abortion Now”. Several other photos show Jordin performing at a 2006 pro-life rally in Phoenix.
Jordin’s artistic career began in the realm of Christian music, singing at her home church, Calvary Community Church, and at Christian festivals. In 2004, she finished second at the Music in the Rockies competition for aspiring Christian musicians. She has also toured and recorded songs with several well-known Christian artists.
On the American Idol website, Jordin says she “prays and breathes” before she goes on stage. She also says if she were to win she would thank God and her parents before anyone else.
Pam Wiedmann, Jordin’s grandmother, was interviewed about her granddaughter in January by the Arizona Republic. She told the newspaper that Jordin’s "faith is so important to her, and she wants to maintain that throughout this whole process."
Vatican City, May 28, 2007 (CNA) - After careful evaluation of the merger between the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for Culture, the decision has been made to return independence to the Inter-Religious Dialogue Council.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in an interview today with the Italian daily La Stampa, announced that the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue will return to being "a dicastery in its own right, whereas previously it had been merged with the Pontifical Council for Culture." This move marks a re-emphasis on the importance of Inter-Religious Dialogue for the Secretariat.
In March 2006, Pope Benedict had announced that the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue would be combined with the Pontifical Council for Culture, under the oversight of a single person: Cardinal Paul Poupard. Although this move left the two agencies intact, the general consensus was that this marked a down grading of the agencies.
However, the recent encounters between the Church and other religions have reinforced the necessity of inter-religious dialogue-- and especially for dialogue with Islam. This became particularly obvious in the heated disputes that arose after the Pope's speech in Regensburg last September. Cardinal Bertone explained that in light of these exchanges, it is necessary to reinstate the previous status of the Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue.
During his interview with La Stampa, the prelate did not mention who the head of the council would be. The previous leader was Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, a well known expert on Islam, who was sent to Egypt as a papal nuncio following the merger of the councils last March.
Cardinal Bertone also revealed another curial change in his conversation with La Stampa, by indicating that the Pontifical Commission for Cultural Patrimony would become a part of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
Given these changes, further speculation is circulating as to what other changes will be made within the Roman Curia.
Brighton, Mass., May 28, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Boston announced May 24 that it has reached an agreement in principle with Boston College for the sale of additional property from the archdiocese's Brighton campus for $65 million. Closing on the property is expected to be completed by Aug. 1st.
In 2004, the archdiocese sold 43 acres of its Brighton campus to Boston College, which included the cardinal's residence and other buildings, for $99.4 million. As part of this agreement, the archdiocese retained an option to sell additional property on its Brighton campus to the college.
The two institutions completed a subsequent sale of the archdiocese’s Lake Street tribunal property in 2006 for $8 million.
"Proceeds from this sale will allow the Archdiocese to invest resources for the benefit of our parishes, clergy, St. John's Seminary and the many important programs that serve a large number of people," said Cardinal Sean O’Malley.
However, St. John's Seminary will remain at its current location, as Cardinal O’Malley promised. The Archdiocese has seen a significant increase in the number of men who have expressed interest in priesthood and religious life. Earlier this year close to 100 men attended discernment retreats.
The new pastoral center building will be on Brooks Drive in Braintree and is owned by the philanthropist Tom Flatley. This 140,000 square foot building will house all of the current departments now housed on the Brighton campus. Other agencies and departments located throughout greater Boston will also move to this new site. The move is expected to occur by July 2008.
Rome, Italy, May 28, 2007 (CNA) - Several Italian media outlets, including some that are not usually friendly to the Holy Father, have acknowledged that Pope Benedict XVI’s discourse to the Italian bishops this weekend showed that the Pope is surprisingly familiar with the complex Italian reality.
The Italian daily “Avvenire titled its article, “He talks about Italy as if he knew it better than us,” which summarized reaction of the local press to the Pope’s discourse to the Italian bishops in which he addressed not only the numerous pastoral challenges that the Italian bishops are facing, but also the historic role of Catholicism in the building of the nation and the right of the Church to participate in the public square and the building of society. “This is no longer a new Pope. Benedict XVI speaks to the Italian bishops as one who feels a part of this Church, of which he is the Primate, in addition to being the Pontiff,” according to the article, written by Dino Boffo. “He knows it even on personal level,” he added.
Boffo praised the Pope for seeing things “that we Italians don’t see” and for encouraging the bishops to face the difficulties of a culture that is increasingly secularized.
Boffo concludes his article noting how recently the President of Italy strongly urged that the Church’s voice be heeded. “It was a warning that certainly becomes more significant after the meeting yesterday with the Italian bishops,” he wrote.
Rome, Italy, May 28, 2007 (CNA) -
In an interview with the Italian socialist newspaper “Repubblica,” the president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Cardinal Julian Herranz, said it was false that the Holy See hides or protects priests guilty of abuse or sexual misconduct, and that instead abusive priests receive “very serious punishments” of an ecclesial nature that pose no detriment to civil proceedings.
The interview focused on the BBC documentary “Sexual Crimes and the Vatican,” which was supposedly based on an internal memo of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document reaffirmed the inviolability of the seal of confession, but the documentary said was intended to “protect and hide” abusive priests.
Cardinal Herranz told “Repubblica” that canonical legislation includes “very harsh penalties, the maximum that can be inflicted upon a priest.” The publication also places, “the well-being of children… at the very heart of the Church, just as it was at the heart of Jesus Christ.”
The cardinal explained that the document upon which the British documentary was based, the 1962 Vatican instruction “Crimen Sollicitationes,” not only was not intended to shield possible abusers from canonical penalties, but that it must be interpreted in light of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which “considers these kinds of acts as very serious offenses and gives precise indications on procedures and penalties.”
Cardinal Herranz explained that faced with a possible case of abuse, the bishop has the duty to open an immediate investigation with three main objectives: “preventing scandal, safeguarding the freedom of the witnesses, and guaranteeing that justice is done.”
The process could lead to the suspension of the priest, including his complete removal from the clerical state, without prejudicing any civil proceedings which may be initiated.
Cardinal Herranz denounced the “dishonest intentions” of the documentary, which attempted to implicate Pope Benedict XVI when he was still prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” however, in reality, “in 1962, he was merely a priest.”
According to the Spanish priest, the BBC report, which will soon be aired in Italy on the RAI network, “aims to sully the face of the Church and smear the Catholic priesthood.”
Mexico City, Mexico, May 28, 2007 (CNA) - Representative Gerardo Villanueva Albarran of the Democratic Party of the Revolution (PRD) announced he will put before the Mexican House of Representatives a plan to modify the concept of abortion in order to promote its legalization on a national scale.
Albarran’s plan is to modify the Federal Penal Code substituting the phrase, “Abortion is the death of the product of conception at any moment during pregnancy,” with the phrase, “Abortion is the interruption of pregnancy once the viability of a fetus is established.”
Albarran, who also holds a key position in the Mexico City government, has sent two aids to the Mexican Institute of Social Security and the Institute of Social Security and Services for State Employees, asking them to conform to the law recently passed by the Mexico City Legislative Assembly legalizing abortion in the capital.
In response, both institutes said abortions would not be performed in their facilities since they are not governed by Mexico City laws but by federal legislation.
Rome, Italy, May 28, 2007 (CNA) - On May 29th hundreds of thousands of Christians will march in Delhi to protest against the sectarian violence, especially that which is being inflicted by Hindu fundamentalists.
The march will take place in silent prayer as a way to ask the government to respect the fundamental rights of freedom of conscience and religion. The “All India Christian Council,” and the Catholic organization “All India Catholic Union,” which are organizing the march, said that so far in 2007, there have been more than 100 episodes of violence against Christians.
“Priests, religious, laity and the faithful have been killed, wounded or mistreated, women have been raped,” the organizers said in a statement. “Christian workers are mistreated and humiliated, while the police tolerate violence,” the statement indicated.
The protestors will deliver a message to the Prime Minister of India and the chief of police, calling for an end to the violence “against a peaceful and small religious minority in India.”
Christians make up around 25 million of the total population of 1 billion in India.
Aparecida, Brazil, May 28, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Odilo Scherer of Sao Paulo said last week, “The presence of the new communities and movements is a great treasure today for Latin America and the Church.”
In statements to CNA, the Brazilian archbishop, who is participating in the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM), said the phenomenon of the movements and new communities “is ever more significant in the life of the Church because it is animated by a mystical strength according to each one’s charism.”
He said the CELAM conference in Brazil is giving particular attention to the new movements and communities, encouraging them to continue to form disciples and missionaries that have an active presence in society and work for the transformation of the world “so that our peoples may have life in Him.”
Asked if the Church would accept the legalization of abortion in some cases, as has been suggested by liberation theologian Fr. Betto, Archbishop Scherer was clear in his response: “No. The position of the Magisterium of the Church regarding abortion is clear. Legalizing abortion in some cases means going against a basic principle: the human person, human life, must always be respected.”
Human life “must never be sacrificed for some other interest, whatever that interest may be. Human life has a primary value and therefore it must be respected always, and therefore I don’t think the Magisterium of the Church can be in agreement with the legalization of abortion in some cases,” Archbishop Scherer stated.