Mosul, Iraq, Jun 4, 2007 (CNA) - The senseless campaign against Christians in Iraq has claimed yet another group of victims. Yesterday morning Fr. Ragheed Aziz Ganni was shot and killed in Mosul along with three sub-deacons after they had finished celebrating Mass. The names of those murdered are: Fr. Ragheed Aziz Ganni and sub-deacons Basman Yousef Daoud, Ghasan Bidawid and Wadid Hanna.
The Holy Father sent his prayers and condolences to the families of those killed by the terrorists saying, “[I] willingly join[s]the Christian community in Mosul in commending their souls to the infinite mercy of God our loving Father and in giving thanks for their selfless witness to the Gospel.”
Benedict called people to be inspired by the example of the martyrs and, “reject the ways of hatred and violence, to conquer evil with good and to cooperate in hastening the dawn of reconciliation, justice and peace in Iraq.”
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has also reported that it received a letter from Fr. Ganni written just four days before he was killed.
The agency, which supports the formation of priests, related that, “The 34-year-old priest had studied at the pontifical Angelicum University in Rome with the financial support of ACN, and had concluded his studies in ecumenical ecclesiology there.”
In his letter to ACN, Fr. Ganni spoke with courage and gratitude. "I only wanted to tell you that I always pray for you all, that the Lord might preserve you from all evil." He considered it a "privilege" that he had always been able to witness to the way in which "Divine providence is revealed through many quite humble people whose only goal is to work for the Kingdom of God by following the example of Jesus".
The late Iraqi priest also mentioned his gratitude for the chance to meet the founder of ACN, Fr. Werenfried van Straaten, before he died in 2003. The mission of the agency is to, “write a martyrology of the modern age", and to do so "not in a scholar's study but as an eyewitness, and hence with great compassion and profoundest sympathy.”
Fr. Ganni now joins the ranks of these martyrs in his willingness to, “give a great deal more for his country… Ragheed Ganni had even given his own blood.”
Toronto, Canada, Jun 4, 2007 (CNA) - Arnold Schwarzenegger told a Toronto newspaper that his Catholic faith does not impact his decisions as governor of California.
“I always said that you should not have your religion interfere with government policies or with the policies of the people,” Schwarzenegger was quoted as saying in The Toronto Star. The former actor was in Canada at the end of May for a three-day trade mission.
“I am a Catholic and a very dedicated Catholic, but that does not interfere with my decision-making because I know that stem-cell research, the way we are doing it in California ... is the right way to go and will save, very quickly down the line, lives and cure a lot of these illnesses,” said Schwarzenegger, referring to embryonic stem cell research.
After signing a $30-million research agreement with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Schwarzenegger told the Star his support for stem-cell research was based on his father-in-law’s struggle with Alzheimer's.
He referred to his father-in-law, Sargent Shriver, as having had “one of the most brilliant minds in the world.” Shriver worked under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and began the Peace Corps.
The newspaper said McGuinty, who is also Catholic, shared Schwarzenegger’s views on faith and politics.
“I would argue... there's one moral imperative that transcends all faiths, all culture and all traditions, it would be this fundamental desire to relieve pain and suffering and death where we find it,” McGuinty told the Star.
Wichita, Kan., Jun 4, 2007 (CNA) - The IRS has sent an inquiry letter to Spirit One Christian Center, stating that "a reasonable belief exists that your organization has engaged in political activities."
The letter, dated April 20, 2007, cites church marquee signs, specifically a sign that read: "Sebelius accepted $300,000 from abortionist Tiller, price of 1,000 babies."
The church feels that the IRS is overstepping its bounds by trying to limit the free exercise of religious belief and free speech regarding the sanctity of life. “The IRS has turned into a Gestapo, a speech police, who says if you're Christian, there are some things you can not say or preach.”
"The shocking arrogance of the IRS to attempt to intimidate the Church of Jesus Christ back into the closet must be confronted," said Rev. Flip Benham of Operation Save America in a statement.
Vatican City, Jun 4, 2007 (CNA) - In an interview published this Sunday by the Italian Catholic daily “Avvenire”, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, announced that the Motu Propio authorizing the universal celebration of the Mass of St. Pius V—known as the Tridentine Mass—will be made public “soon.”
During the interview, Cardinal Bertone, said the Motu Propio that would be signed by Pope Benedict XVI would authorize any priest to celebrate the Tridentine Mass without the need for prior approval by the local bishop.
The Vatican secretary of State said Catholics “will not have to wait long” for the publication of the Motu Propio, adding that the Pope “has written an accompanying letter that explains the reasons for the decision and why he hopes the authorization will be calmly accepted.”
Cardinal Bertone did not say whether the Motu Propio would open the possibility for the return to communion with the Rome of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, founded by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who was excommunicated by the Vatican on June 30, 1988 after ordaining four bishops without the Pope’s consent.
The cardinal also said the Pope’s letter to Catholics in China would also be published soon, and that it has “already been approved by the Pope and is being translated into various languages.
Rome, Italy, Jun 4, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI canonized Malta’s first saint on Sunday. St. George Preca founded the Society for Christian Doctrine, popularly known as “Museum”. This is the acronym for the Latin phrase Fr. George would use to educate Malta in its love for God and neighbor — Magister Utinam Sequator Evangelium Universus Mundus (Divine Teacher, May the Whole World Follow Your Gospel).
Among the 5,000 Maltese who attended, including the Mediterranean country’s president and prime minister, was the five-year-old boy whose miraculous healing from severe liver problems was attributed to the intercession of Fr. George.
The healing of Eric Catania was the definitive second miracle required to canonize the Maltese priest. The boy’s identity had been kept secret according to the wishes of the family but was revealed recently by a British tabloid.
In 2001, the newborn Eric had developed severe liver problems and was sent to a local hospital. The baby’s condition worsened and he was sent to King’s College Hospital in London.
His only hope of survival was a liver transplant. A few days before the surgery, however, doctors learned that the available organ would be rejected by the child’s body.
Hopeless, the child’s parents prayed for the miraculous intercession of Blessed George Preca. They even placed a glove on the child that was used for Fr. George’s exhumation.
Four days later, on July 24, 2001, doctors discovered that surgery was no longer required because Eric’s liver had miraculously started to function normally.
Eric was in Rome with his parents and 40 other family members for the canonization. He also received his First Communion yesterday from the Pope.
The Canonization Mass had strong Maltese input. Six excerpts from Fr. George’s writings were read at the beginning of the ceremony, 10 Maltese priests concelebrated with the Pope, and 50 Maltese priests distributed Holy Communion.
Rome, Italy, Jun 4, 2007 (CNA) - Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, showed the original letter from Sister Lucia containing the third secret of Fatima, which the Vatican revealed in 2000, for the first time on television.
During the program “Porta a Porta” on the RAI Uno network, the cardinal first opened an orange envelope with a translation in Italian of the letter, and then he opened a white envelope and showed the original letter written in 1944.
The cardinal read the phrase that appears on the outside of the envelope: “Through express order of Our Lady, this envelope can be opened in 1960.” Inside is the letter in which Sister Lucia revealed the third secret of the Fatima apparitions of 1917.
In 2000 Pope John Paul II decided to reveal the secret, which did not refer to any worldwide catastrophe, but rather to the attempt on his life on May 13, 1981.
Rome, Italy, Jun 4, 2007 (CNA) - US President George W. Bush said this weekend he hopes to speak with Pope Benedict XVI about Cuba and “it’s desire to be free” during his upcoming meeting with Pontiff on June 9 at the Vatican.
In an interview published by the Italian daily “La Stampa,” Bush said, “If the Pope wants to, I would like to talk about Cuba and its desire to be free.”
The president said he is traveling to the Vatican to “listen” to the Pope and that he shares with the Holy Father “a common respect for life and for the dignity of man.”
Regarding China, Bush said he would encourage the Holy Father speak with clarity “about religious freedom” and to continue “standing up for Catholics” in that country.
This will be the first time President Bush meets with Benedict XVI. Bush was last in Rome in April of 2005 for the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
Konigstein, Germany, Jun 4, 2007 (CNA) - Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe is training young adolescents to reinforce his police units by using brainwashing techniques in army camps.This information was given by Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
President Mugabe is under extreme pressure, and state control is growing, said the archbishop, adding that at a recent gathering of priests, some of these young police had appeared, insisting on being present at the meeting. When they were told that this was not possible and refused access, they demanded to speak to the chairman of the meeting. The meeting was an entirely non-political one at which no political issues were discussed.
Generally, there has been an increase in state interference. People are already being intimidated now, in anticipation of the elections scheduled for next year.
According to the archbishop, over 600 people were recently arrested, beaten, tortured and held for weeks. "This intimidation campaign is aimed at breaking the people", added Archbishop Ncube, saying that the government was increasing the level of fear "to the maximum". He himself saw it as part of his vocation to raise his voice aloud on behalf of the poor and helpless. He had no fear on his own account, he added.
The situation in the country is becoming ever more critical, with inflation now having risen to over 5000%. The official figures are not correct, according to the archbishop. The astronomical inflation has led millions to flee the country, many of them being children who often become victims of sexual exploitation. Altogether an estimated 3.5 million of the country's 12.9 million inhabitants had fled or are in the process of fleeing.
The mass exodus of people is leading to a collapse of many infrastructures in the country. For example, some 10,000 teachers have left Zimbabwe, hoping to find work in South Africa -- a development the Archbishop viewed with concern.
The humanitarian situation is likewise becoming ever more acute. More and more children are dying of malnutrition, according to Archbishop Ncube. Babies are especially at risk and often, by the time the mothers had taken them to hospital, they are beyond help.
The number of people without food has decreased, but life expectancy still continues to fall for the one million or more victims of HIV in the country, with a corresponding dramatic increase in the number of AIDS orphans. Currently, one in 10 children is already an orphan, making Zimbabwe the country with the highest rate of orphans in the entire world. There are 38,000 households run by children alone.
The Church is striving to provide charitable help, though this was no more than "a drop in the ocean", Archbishop Ncube said. He appealed urgently to the West to help the people of Zimbabwe.
Bogotá, Colombia, Jun 4, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Augusto Castro, has again called on the “Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia” (FARC) to have greater flexibility in reaching an agreement for the release its hostages, including three US soldiers.
The government of President Alvaro Uribe increased pressure on the FARC by offering incarcerated members of the guerrilla movement release from jail if they promise to renounce violence and participate in a rehabilitation program supervised by the Church or by another country.
With this measure, the government has rejected the FARC’s demand that federal troops be withdrawn from Pradera and Florida, two towns in southern Colombia.
250 rebels, including Rodrigo Granda—believed to be the “chancellor of the FARC”—have accepted the government’s proposal.
Nevertheless, the FARC has rejected the offer and insists that it will release its hostages only through direct negotiations and after troop withdrawals.
This Sunday, Archbishop Castro called on the FARC “not to insist on the withdrawal from the two towns” and to adopt “a change of attitude towards the humanitarian accord.” “I call on the FARC to respond to this gesture by the government and enter into different negotiations and not to be so rigid in its demands regarding Pradera and Florida,” the archbishop stated.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 4, 2007 (CNA) - Speaking with reporters after Sunday Mass, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City, expressed his support for public officials who are fighting the new law legalizing abortion in the Mexican capital.
Last week while the cardinal was in Aparecida for the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference, several government officials announced they would file a suit before the Mexican Supreme Court to reverse the new law.
Voters have the “right to proclaim the defense of human life,” Cardinal Rivera said, in expressing his support for the new efforts to stop the abortion law by various institutions. Such institutions, he said, “have the duty to defend the fundamental right of human life, and they have acted appropriately.”
He concluded his comments expressing hope that the meeting this week between Mexican president Felipe Calderon and Pope Benedict XVI would be “very positive for human life in Mexico.”
Vatican City, Jun 4, 2007 (CNA) - This morning the Pope received Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, the president of Mexico in an audience. He also met with the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the secretary for Relations with States.
The conference with the Holy Father and the two secretaries provided an occasion for the leaders to exchange views on the current international situation, with a special focus on the forthcoming G8 summit meeting. President Calderon will be attending the summit as a special guest.
"With reference to Mexico, attention first turned to certain aspects of life in the country such as emigration, indigenous peoples, and the struggle against violence and drug trafficking.
The position of the Catholic Church was also examined, above all in light of the important steps forward - already taken or yet to be taken - in her relations with the State. In this context, special mention was also made of the fact that this year marks, “the happy occasion of the 15th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Holy See.”
“President Calderon also renewed his invitation to the Holy Father to visit the country."