Vatican City, May 31, 2007 (CNA) - The Holy See and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced the establishment of diplomatic relations today. The creation of a relationship at the ambassadorial level is a boost to the Christian population of the UAE, which numbers around one million people.
The new diplomatic arrangement was arranged because of a desire to promote “bonds of mutual friendship and of strengthening international cooperation,” according to a Vatican communiqué.
A note attached to the communiqué recalls that the United Arab Emirates is located along the central-eastern coast of the Arab peninsula, and has Abu Dhabi as its capital city. It has a surface area of 83,600 square kilometers and a population of more than four million including a large percentage (more than 70 percent) of foreign workers, mostly from other Middle Eastern countries, Pakistan, India, Philippines and Bangladesh. The official language is Arabic.
The majority of UAE citizens are Muslim, which is the official religion of State. "The constitution," of the UAE, "affirms the principle of religious freedom and that Christians are able to perform their public religious activities in churches and parish centers."
Out of the more than four million citizens, "there are more than a million Christians, mostly Catholics, of more than a hundred nationalities who contribute to the social wellbeing of the nation.” The communiqué notes that, “Various religious congregations offer educational services in seven schools,” and that there “are seven churches in the country where Mass is celebrated in various languages and rites.”
Fundamental to the establishment of the relationship between the two states, is the expectation that the authorities (of the UAE), “maintain cordial relations with the Catholic Church and will approve the building of new centers of worship.”
Edinburgh, United Kingdom, May 31, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the highest ranking prelate in Scotland, spoke out strongly against the evils of abortion this afternoon. He also issued a warning to Catholic politicians, as well as any Catholic, who in any way cooperates in encouraging or allowing abortion.
The occasion for the cardinal’s address was the 40 year anniversary of the passage of the 1967 abortion act in Scotland, which legalized abortion.
Noting how today’s reading comes from the feast of the Visitation, the cardinal urged his flock to adopt Mary’s attitude of accepting new life with joy.
“The joy of that meeting holds out to us the message of delight that should accompany every pregnancy. With every life conceived God acts directly to create a new and unique human being, a person destined to life everlasting.”
However, the opposite reaction is often how people welcome news of an unplanned pregnancy, said O’Brien.
The leader of the Church in Scotland detailed how the legalization of abortion has marred the country. “In those 40 years the loss of life has been staggering. Around 7 million lives have been ended as a consequence of that one piece of legislation…the scale of the killing is beyond our grasp. In Scotland we kill the equivalent of a classroom full of school children every day.”
The prelate also lamented the way that the 1967 law was presented. “We were told that backstreet abortions were killing women and had to be decriminalised. We were told abortion would only be used in extreme cases. We were told medical scrutiny would be rigorous. We were told a pack of lies and misinformation masquerading as compassion and truth.”
The Cardinal said that he is concerned not only with the lives that have been lost, but also with the lives being led by the members of his flock.
Speaking to politicians he said, “I speak most especially to those who claim to be Catholic. I ask them to examine their consciences and discern if they are playing any part in sustaining this social evil. I remind them to avoid cooperating in the unspeakable crime of abortion and the barrier such cooperation erects to receiving Holy Communion. As St. Paul warns us “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.”
O’Brien concluded by exhorting Christians to work to build a society that does not tolerate attacks on innocent and defenseless life. He also noted signs of hope in the battle to protect life, “earlier this month it was reported that many doctors are no longer willing to cooperate in abortion. They know, better than most, the humanity of the unborn.”
Canberra, Australia, May 31, 2007 (CNA) - Australia's bishops are discussing Amnesty International’s new policy to advocate for the decriminalization of abortion worldwide, with the intention of presenting a unified response.
Many Christians, especially Catholics, are expected to resign from the human rights organization and perhaps establish an alternative human rights organization because of the new policy. Some expect the Church in Australia to cut its ties with Amnesty altogether.
The group has 2.2 million members and supporters worldwide, many of them are church-based, including about 72,000 in Australia. Amnesty estimates that 500 Catholic schools in Australia have member groups, as do other Christian schools.
Amnesty's international executive board adopted the policy last month as part of its campaign to curb violence against women. Previously Amnesty was neutral on abortion.
Amnesty’s Widney Brown said the policy calls for legal access to abortions for pregnancies resulting from sexual violence, or that risk the mother's life or health.
Fr. Chris Middleton, head of St Aloysius' College in Sydney, told The Age newspaper that Amnesty's Australian membership would be deeply hit by this policy decision.
He predicted that Amnesty’s Third World membership would be reduced to a partisan and ideologically exclusive group.
This new policy would also weaken the campaign against capital punishment in the United States by driving a wedge between its two most vocal critics, Amnesty and the Catholic Church, he said.
Amnesty has been criticized for its secrecy regarding this policy change. It had initially announced that it would have an international debate on this policy in Mexico City later this year, but its leadership council went ahead with the policy decision instead.
Brown told The Age that Amnesty had not publicized the policy, but said there was a full consultation process and the organization was not trying to hide the change.
Amnesty’s spokesperson framed the current backlash as similar to its decision to oppose the death penalty in the 1960s and to advocate for same-sex relationships in the 1980s and 1990s.
, May 31, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Adrian Doyle of Hobart has confirmed plans for a new $12-million Catholic high school in Kingston that would introduce a new policy requiring at least 75 percent of the students be Catholic.
St. Aloysius Catholic College, set to open in 2009, would be the first school to operate with the new 75-percent policy, which he said, would ensure a "very strong Catholic ethos and vision" in the schools.
The archbishop said about 40 percent of the current student population in Tasmanian Catholic schools is not Catholic.
The new policy will require an exemption under Tasmania's Anti-Discrimination Act, which the State Government will consider later this year. It would be slowly rolled out across the state.
The new school will also meet the growing demand for Catholic education in the region. Other Catholic high schools have either had to turn students away or squeeze them in, taking in students beyond their usual capacity.
"The establishment of this new Catholic College, which will be an extension of the existing St Aloysius Primary School, will be a wonderful opportunity to provide Catholic Education at the secondary level to the growing number of students who live in the Kingborough area," Archbishop Doyle said in a statement.
The new co-ed school will be a “green building” built on church-owned vacant land. It will operate with solar power and have efficient water use.
St. Aloysius Catholic College will be able to accommodate 360 students and have a strong emphasis on performing arts.
St. Louis, Mo., May 31, 2007 (CNA) - A new tie-exchange movement, originating at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store in St. Louis, hopes to promote a spirit of spontaneous generosity among men.
The “Totally Instantaneous Exchange”, TIE for short, came about when a simple compliment was given.
The first Totally Instantaneous Exchange occurred at a recent meeting of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in downtown St. Louis, after store manager Richard Lane complimented the tie of his colleague Bob Duplantier, who works at the organization’s national office in Maryland Heights, Missouri.
Lane insisted he was just complimenting the tie and didn't expect Duplantier to give it to him on the spot, but he insisted, and thus launched the TIE movement.
"It's an idea that's been percolating in my head for many years," Duplantier explained. "I was leaving a diner in uptown New Orleans 30 years ago when the manager spotted the vintage tie I was wearing and offered me $20 on the spot. It was my favorite tie, so I turned him down.
"Later, I felt bad about it. Imagine the good will that could be generated if everyone responded to compliments by making a gift of the thing admired," he said.
The two men worked out the TIE protocol: When someone compliments you on the tie you're wearing, you have to take it off, sign and date the back of it, and give it to him. The recipient must agree that he, too, will pass it on the next time someone compliments the tie.
It didn't take long to put the new protocol into practice. The very next day, another member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Brian Freel from Atlanta, complimented Duplantier’s tie.
Denver, Colo., May 31, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver is calling for support for the current Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (S. 1348). The bill is currently in debate in the U.S. Senate. The debate is expected to continue into early June.
Leaders from both political parties have taken the right course in advancing the bill, said the archbishop. The bill is not ideal, he said, but it does push a vital reform process forward.
“Many groups, including the American Catholic bishops, oppose some elements of the current legislation and hope for changes during the legislative discussion,” he said. Nonetheless, it is a promising start, he added.
The archbishop said Americans are right to worry about public security, jobs, respect for the law, and the solvency of public institutions.
“People who seek justice for immigrants sometimes downplay these worries, or write them off as veiled prejudice. This is a mistake. These are legitimate concerns and proper areas for debate,” he said. “But they need to be weighed in light of other legitimate concerns.
“Millions of undocumented workers already live here,” he pointed out. “They already contribute to American life. Most are innocent, hard-working people. They deserve more than a daily stream of overheated anxiety from talk show hosts.”
The proposed legislation would regularize the status of more than 12 million persons and expedite family reunification. Many family members have been waiting 20 years to be reunited with their families. “This would improve the lives of millions of our fellow human beings. It would also serve the needs of the American economy,” the archbishop noted.
Archbishop Chaput stressed the importance of moving on the legislation this year.
“While areas of the proposed legislation do arguably need improvement, Senate bill 1348 Immigration reform needs to happen this year, since no one will be eager to handle it in an election year,” he said. “We can no longer wait to address this pressing issue. Delaying a solution will only lead to more enforcement raids, bitter debate, confusion and resentment.”
The full text of the Archbishop’s press release is available at, http://www.archden.org/
Aparecida, Brazil, May 31, 2007 (CNA) - The Fifth General Conference of Latin American bishops, inaugurated May 13 by Pope Benedict XVI at the Brazilian Marian shrine of Aparecida, ended today with the reading of a final message, the approval of a lengthy document, and the announcement of a “Continental Mission.”
After 18 days of meetings, discussions and voting sessions, the Latin American bishops approved a final document that will be presented to Pope Benedict XVI on July 11. The vote of approval was 127 votes in favor and 2 against.
Documents from previous Latin American Conferences did not receive formal Vatican approval, but only “authorization for its publication,” thus making clear that they do not constitute official Magisterial teaching.
Nevertheless, the more than 200 page book is aimed at providing a guide for pastoral options to the Latin American Bishops.
“Faced with the challenges posed to us by this new era, we renew our faith, proclaiming with joy to all men and women of our continent: we are loved and redeemed by Jesus,” says the four page “Message to the People” released today and read by the Bolivian Archbishop Edmundo Abastoflor at a final press conference.
“The call to be disciples and missionaries demands of us a clear choice for Jesus and his Gospel, a coherence between our faith and our life... and even to be a sign of contradiction in a world that promotes consumerism, which distorts the real value of human beings,” the final message also says.
The message ends by affirming that, “We hope to be a lively Church, faithful and credible, nurtured by the Word of God and the Eucharist.” The bishops also commit themselves and the Church to, “promote missionary action,” “form lively communities,” “promote a mature laity,” “promote the active participation of women in society and the Church,” “keep our preferential and Gospel-inspired option for the poor,” “strengthen our family and life ministry,” “value and respect our indigenous and Africa-American people,” “promote interreligious dialogue,” turn “our continent into a model of reconciliation, justice and peace,” and “take care of creation, the house of all.”
The final document will be made public sometime in September after the Vatican has reviewed it. The document is divided into three main parts: the first section analyzes the social, political, economic cultural and pastoral reality of the region, the second section proposes an analysis of the “theology of discipleship,” and the third presents a wide range of pastoral suggestions.
According to Bishop Norberto Strotmann from Chosica (Perú) “the risk of the document is that, by trying to include too many options, we end up making no real options at all.”
“It obviously has the virtues and the limitations of a consensus text,” Bishop Strotmann also explained.
The Fifth General Conference of Latin American Bishops also concluded with the call to a “Continental Mission,” a region-wide pastoral initiative described by the final message as “a new Pentecost that will send us in search of the lapsed Catholics and for those who know little or nothing about Jesus Christ.”
The concrete aspects of this mission, which “has to reach to all, be permanent and deep,” were not discussed at Aparecida.
Details will be worked out in July by the presidents and delegates of all the Latin American Bishops’ conferences in Havana, Cuba.
At the same meeting, a new president for the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM,) will be elected.
Quebec City, Canada, May 31, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI could visit Quebec at a time that coincides with the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in July of 2008. The announcement was made in Aparecida, Brazil, by the archbishop of Quebec, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who said he hoped to receive a response from the Pontiff by the end of the year.
The Eucharistic Congress will bring together thousands of people from around the world to reflect on the theme, “Eucharist: Gift of God for the life of the world.” Activities at the congress will include catechesis, testimonies and Masses. “Everybody should be a part of this celebration and join in prayer and reflection,” the cardinal said.
He also said Canadian families would provide hospitality to the poor who want to participate in the Congress and that the archdiocese is seeking financial assistance to help bring families from Africa and South America.
More information on the Congress can be found at: www.cei2008.ca
Mexico City, Mexico, May 31, 2007 (CNA) - The rector of the Basilica of Guadalupe exhorted Mexican politicians this week to create laws that defend life and said the Catholic Church would always be committed to defending human life.
During the Mass inaugurating the 5th Marian Congress, Msgr. Monroy prayed for the intercession of the Virgin of Guadalupe, asking that Mexican society would defend life from the moment of conception to natural death.
He also expressed support for the efforts by some government officials and by the National Commission for Human Rights to reverse the legalization of abortion. Regardless of the outcome, he said the Church would always campaign in favor of human life.
“No inconvenience can ever justify taking a life,” Msgr. Monroy said. He prayed that Mary of Guadalupe would protect the Mexican people from the difficult and sad situations they face, such as the crisis in morality, politics and the economy, as well as violence and the lack of security.
Aparecida, Brazil, May 31, 2007 (CNA) - The Executive Director of the Education and Family Association of Honduras, Gracia de Villeda, warned this week that gender ideology “has led us to become enemies of the family.”
In statements to CNA, Villeda said, “Gender ideology has made women turn against themselves, because it has led to scorn for maternity, which is one the characteristics and conditions inherent to our nature as women and it has led us to become enemies of the family.”
In response to an impoverished understanding of love in today’s world, she said, “families must work to truly teach their children to recognize that they are sold cheap love by the media and by the music they listen to.” Parents must teach their children that, “true love is love that is surrender and commitment,” Villeda said.
The Honduran expert, who was in Brazil for the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council, explained that gender ideology has led women to question the natural inclination they have to be mothers and wives, and that they have been made to feel that everything to do with children and the family “enslaves them.”
Children are a blessing, she continued, “that gives meaning to our lives and in no way prevents us from developing our qualities and capacities.” The key is “to know how to prioritize and order things properly in the different phases of life,” Villeda explained.
Within the “gender ideology,” she said, “sex is referred to as biologically defined while gender is a social construct, which is false, because biology is what defines and characterizes us, and just as each of our cells is genetically imprinted with the genetic code. In the same way, femininity characterizes women in their personality, who they are and what they do.”
Villeda stressed that gender ideology harms the family because “it turns women against their children and makes them view life at home as a burden instead of as a reality assumed by a freely chosen decision.”
She also said the incorporation of gender ideology into sex-ed text books for schools causes great harm because it promotes “a loss of sexual identity and generates identity confusion in the personality, and no public authority has the right to do such an irresponsible thing.”
Madrid, Spain, May 31, 2007 (CNA) - The Spanish daily “La Razon” is reporting that the process of beatification for 36 Benedictine monks who died in prisons and concentration camps in Communist Korea will soon begin.
The 36 martyrs died during the persecution of the Stalinist regime of Kim Il-sung between 1949 and 1952. According to “La Razon,” “this process will provide proof of the missionary work carried out by these religious during the years of their captivity. They offered comfort, spiritual support, administered the sacraments, preached, and gave hope to all those whom they met.”
As soon as approval is granted by the respective dioceses of Pyongyang, Hamhung and Takwon, promoters of the cause will begin to collect testimonies and documents for the diocesan phase. The Benedictines of St. Ottillia in Korea will play a key role in the initial phase.
The group of martyrs includes Abbot Bonifacio Sauer and Father Benedict Kim.
According to “La Razon,” the opening of the cause for beatification represents a step forward since previously the Seoul government attempted to cover up the facts surrounding the case and thus avoid a ‘diplomatic incident’ with the current Communist regime in North Korea.”
An estimated 300,000 Christians died or disappeared during the Communist persecution. Father Sabas Lee Seong-geun, vice postulator of the cause, told the Spanish daily, “They all died in North Korean prisons during the terrible wave of anti-Catholic persecution perpetrated after the Communists came to power.”
Konigstein, Germany, May 31, 2007 (CNA) - The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, has called for the recognition of “all the civil rights” of minorities in Turkey, including Christians, pointing out that the rights of Muslims are protected not only in that country but throughout Europe.
The Patriarch told Aid to the Church in Need that, “Christians in Turkey should enjoy the same rights as Muslims in the country and in Europe. We want not only the freedom to celebrate our faith in our churches, but also the recognition of all our civil rights, as is the case with our Muslim brethren in Turkey.”
Regarding the demands of Turkey that the Patriarch of Constantinople be of Turkish origin—which would place serious conditions on the election of the leader of the Orthodox Patriarchate—Bartholomew I recalled that he has at various times consulted with the government in Ankara but there has been no response. He proposed that the government grant Turkish nationality to whoever is elected Patriarch.
Asked about the upcoming elections set for June 22, he called on the government to “carry out radical reforms for the good of Turkey.”