Vatican City, Jun 6, 2007 (CNA) - Today marks the start of the G8 summit that is being held in Heiligendamm, Germany. At the end of the general audience today in Rome, the Pope delivered a message specifically addressed to the leaders assembled for the summit.
The assembly includes the seven most industrialized countries in the world plus the Russian Federation.
The Pope recalled how on December 16, 2006 he had written to Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, at the beginning of the German presidency of the European Union, "thanking her, in the name of the Catholic Church, for the decision to keep the theme of world poverty on the agenda of the G8, with specific reference to Africa.
Chancellor Merkel replied to Benedict on February 2nd assuring him that the group would keep its promises. However, as recent news reports have noted, the level of relief for Africa in 2006 did not see the promised increase.
"Now," he added, "I should like to make a further appeal to the leaders meeting at Heiligendamm, not to retreat from their promises to make a substantial increase in development aid in favor of the most needy populations, especially those of the African continent.
The Holy Father also drew attention to the second millennium goal that speaks about primary education. The goal’s purpose is, 'to achieve universal primary education - to ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015.'
Indicating that the attainment of this goal is directly connected to many of the others the pontiff called to mind the help that the Church provides.
"It must not be forgotten that the Catholic Church has always been at the forefront in the field of education, reaching places, particularly in the poorest countries, that State structures often fail to reach. Other Christian Churches, religious groups and organizations of civil society share this educational commitment. According to the principle of subsidiarity, this reality should be recognized, valued and supported by governments and international organizations, among other things by the allocation of sufficient funding, so that greater efficacy may be guaranteed in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. Let us hope," he concluded, "that serious efforts be made to reach these objectives."
Vatican City, Jun 6, 2007 (CNA) - Continuing his catechesis on the connection between Jesus and the Church, the Holy Father spoke today on St. Cyprian, "the first African bishop to achieve the crown of martyrdom." The Pope exhorted the 40,000 gathered and all the faithful to unity using the works of St. Cyprian.
Cyprian, said the Pope, "was born in Carthage to a rich pagan family" and "converted to Christianity at the age of 35. ... He became a priest and later a bishop. During his brief time as a bishop, he had to face the first two persecutions authorized by imperial edict, that of Decius (250) and that of Valerian (257-258)," following which many faithful "renounced their faith, or at least failed to comport themselves correctly when under trial. These were the so-called 'lapsi,' that is, the 'lapsed'."
Cyprian was "severe but not inflexible towards the 'lapsi,' giving them the chance of forgiveness after an exemplary penance." The saint also "showed great humanity and was pervaded by the most authentic evangelical spirit in exhorting Christians to offer fraternal help to pagans during the plague." But he was "irremovable in combating the corruption and sins that devastated the moral life, especially that of avarice."
St. Cyprian was concerned more with pastoral issues than with profound theological insights. “He wrote above all for the edification of the community and to encourage the faithful to good behavior.”
In the saint's works, the Holy Father explained, "the Church is by far the topic most dear to him. He distinguishes between the visible hierarchical Church and the invisible mystical Church, at the same time forcefully affirming that the Church is one, founded upon Peter. He never tires of repeating that 'whoever abandons the chair of Peter, upon which the Church is founded, deludes himself if he believes he remains in the Church'."
Hence, "the indispensable characteristic of the Church is unity, as symbolized by the seamless robe of Christ; a unity that finds its foundation in Peter and its perfect realization in the Eucharist," said the Holy Father.
He then referred to Cyprian's teaching on prayer "which highlights how in the Our Father Christians are shown the correct way to pray." That prayer refers to "us" and "our" rather than to "me" and "mine," said the Pope, "so that he who prays does not pray only for himself. Ours is a public and community prayer. ... The Christian does not say 'my Father,' but 'our Father,' even when praying in the privacy of a closed room, because he knows that everywhere and in all circumstances, he is a member of the one Body."
"Cyprian, then, lies at the origins of that fruitful theological-spiritual tradition that sees the heart as the privileged place of prayer. ... It is there that God meets and talks to man, ... and man listens to God."
"Let us make our own that 'understanding heart' about which the Bible and the Fathers speak," the Pope concluded. "We have such great need of it."
Vatican City, Jun 6, 2007 (CNA) - The spokesman for the pope, Fr. Fredrico Lombardi, dismissed any intention of an attack on the Holy Father by a young German man at today's Wednesday audience.
At 10:35 am local time today, as the Pope was making his way through the crowds in his Popemobile, a 27 year-old German man attempted to board the vehicle. The man, who was wearing a baseball cap, jumped over a wooden barricade as the Pope passed by in his open-topped jeep and attempted to get into the car.
The man was stopped by the Pope’s bodyguards and taken away for questioning.
Upon determining that there were no other threats to the Holy Father, the 27-year-old was committed to a psychiatric hospital.
A Vatican spokesman said later that the man had shown "clear signs of derangement" but had "no intention of trying to kill the pope".
"He was just trying to draw attention to himself," the Vatican said, emphasizing that the man had been unarmed.
However, the incident brought back memories of the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in 1981.
John Paul was shot and seriously wounded in the abdomen in the attack in the same square by Turkish national Mehmet Ali Agca who may have been in the pay of any one of a number of communist intelligence agencies. John Paul II later met Agca in prison and forgave him for the attempt on his life.
Washington D.C., Jun 6, 2007 (CNA) - During the 19th and 20th centuries U.S. culture was largely Protestant and thus resistant to Catholic beliefs and culture. This atmosphere allowed that passage of many state laws that were, in fact, "anti-Catholic" measures. These same measures are now preventing states from enacting school voucher programs that would help parents pay for private schools, according to testimony delivered Friday to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Thirty-five states have amendments prohibiting state funding of "sectarian" schools. They are often called "Blaine Amendments," a reference to U.S. Rep. James Blaine, who in 1875 led an unsuccessful effort to add the amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The original effect of the amendments was to prohibit funding of Catholic schools that were established as an alternative to the non-denominational Protestant education being offered in the early public school system. As religion was gradually pushed out of public schools, the amendments came to be applied more broadly, prohibiting funding of any religious school.
The amendments now pose a major hurdle for proponents of school choice who believe religious schools offer better educational opportunities for poor families who could not afford private tuition without government vouchers.
Anthony Picarello, vice president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that Blaine Amendments are "the last constitutional weapon available to attack democratically enacted, religion-neutral school voucher programs or social service programs that contract with faith-based providers."
Opponents of school choice have tried to overturn voucher programs under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which requires Congress to "make no law respecting an establishment of religion."
The Supreme Court, however, ruled, first in Mitchell v. Helms (2000) and then again in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002), that programs allowing parents to choose religious schools from among a pool of private and charter schools does not violate the First Amendment.
Richard Komer, a senior litigation attorney at the libertarian Institute for Justice, testified that "as long as we persist in funding the vast majority of our children's educations through the existing public school model, this hideously expensive failure will continue."
He pointed to successful school voucher programs like the one in Milwaukee, Wis., established in 1995. Komer said the system has increased student performance and has challenged the public schools to provide better education due to the competition with private schools.
Others argued that Blaine Amendments serve an important purpose of keeping a "wall of separation" between church and state and said they wouldn't sacrifice that principle to fix problems with the education system.
"I don't think I should have to pay for the education of divinity students or programs which subsidize religion-based schools," American Atheists President Ellen Johnson said. "I do not believe that any American should be compelled to finance, directly or indirectly, religious schools, which are simply extensions of churches," Johnson went on to say.
She added that she would not sacrifice the principle of separation of church and state for improvements in the public education system. "I am not willing to sacrifice the one for the other," she said.
Lincoln, Neb., Jun 6, 2007 (CNA) - More than 100 Lincoln Catholics gathered on less than an hour’s notice outside the Cathedral of the Risen Christ June 1 to show support for their bishop.
The supporters of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz gathered in response to the actions of the nine members of Call to Action. The Call to Action contingent came to Lincoln to call attention to Bruskewitz’s refusal to participate in the U.S. bishops’ annual sex abuse audit, reported the Lincoln Journal Star.
Call to Action had petitions, signed by more than 1,000 people nationwide, asking Bishop Bruskewitz to comply with the annual study of whether local dioceses are in compliance with the Church rules to prevent and respond to sex abuse.
Bishop Bruskewitz has been identified as the only bishop who has declined to participate in the audits.
Rachel Pokora, president of Call to Action-Nebraska, reportedly said Bishop Bruskewitz has drawn criticism from some for his excommunication of those who belong to the group Call to Action. She believes that her group represents the majority of Catholics nationwide who want bishops to fully comply with the annual sex abuse study.
The bishop has said his diocese is in full compliance with all civil and Church laws regarding abuse of minors. He also pointed out that the audit is not mandatory. In discussions about his refusal other U.S. bishops have upheld his right to opt out.
Nevertheless, the non-participation raises questions and does not guarantee that children of the Lincoln diocese are protected, said Call to Action members.
The Call to Action members had planned to deliver their petition to the bishop’s office, but several police officers prevented them from crossing onto church property. Call to Action members said they would deliver them by mail or courier, reported the Lincoln Journal Star.
Doug Vandervort, who headed up the supporters’ petition campaign, noted that the 1,400 signatures came from people in Lincoln and several other states and were collected in 31 hours, whereas the Call to Action collection was done over several months.
Supporters of the bishops say they believe the diocese’s safeguards against abuse are working. They gathered outside the chancery with their petition, and the bishop came out to accept it.
He reportedly called his supporters kind and asked them to pray that Call to Action members return to the true faith. The bishop considers Call to Action anti-Catholic.
Asked about a case this week in which a student at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary (not the diocesan seminary) was arrested on suspicion of possessing child pornography, a bishop’s supporter reportedly said the fact he was identified and apprehended shows diocesan policies and procedures are effective.
Aboard the papal plane, Jun 6, 2007 (CNA) - The archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, said he would continue to call those who promote the crime of abortion “children of darkness,” and that if members of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) felt he was referring to them, it was their problem, since he said he was speaking as he was supposed to as a bishop.
“I called those who promote abortion children of darkness and I will continue to do so because abortion is murder, it is a crime and it is homicide. The Gospel of St. John says it is the devil, who is the prince of darkness, and those who promote homicide are children of darkness,” the cardinal said.
Likewise, he said he has not been contacted by the government to respond the lawsuit filed against him by members of the PRD in Jalisco over his comments on abortion. He called the lawsuit a tactic to divert attention away from the issue. “I don’t respond to gossip,” the cardinal said. “A bishop can’t say anything different than what I said,” he added.
Vienna, Austria, Jun 6, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Alois Kothgasser of Salzburg has refused to receive an honorary birthday present from the Austrian president in protest of the practice of abortion in the country.
The archbishop said his actions were meant to express his disagreement with the construction of an abortion clinic financed by the regional government several years ago. “The defense of life in all of its stages is not a subject that is up for discussion. The right of the human person to self-determination cannot include the possibility of killing another human being,” Archbishop Kothgasser said during the program “Report” broadcast by ORF-TV.
“My desire is for there to exist a common pledge to give life all of the possible opportunities, so that a society is created that is open to welcoming children,” he said.
Rome, Italy, Jun 6, 2007 (CNA) - On the same day as Father Ragheed Ganni’s funeral, Muslim fundamentalists sent another message of hatred to Catholics, this time attacking two churches in Iraq. Fr. Ragheed, along with three deacons were killed just this past Sunday after they had finished celebrating Mass.
According to the AINA news agency, two churches were attacked in the Baghdad district of Dora. At St. John the Baptist’s in Hay Al-Athoriyeen, several security guards who protect the church were killed, and St. Jacob’s in Hay al Asya was vandalized and forcibly turned into a mosque. St. Jacob’s had previously been attacked in October of 2004.
The attacks coincided with the funeral Mass for Father Ganni which was being celebrated in Karamles by Archbishop Faraj Rahho of Mosul amidst tight security. The minister of finance of the regional Kurdish government, Sarkis Aghajan, attended the service.
On June 7 in Rome Msgr. Philip Najim, procurator of the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans, will celebrate a Mass in memoriam of Father Ganni and the three deacons who were killed with him.
Prague, Czech Republic, Jun 6, 2007 (CNA) - Tens of thousands of young pilgrims from Central Europe are expected to converge on the Marian sanctuary of Mariazell for a three-day youth event, Aug. 12-15.
The youth pilgrimage represents a Central European forerunner to the pilgrimage that will take place in Loreto Italy this coming September, in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI.
The theme of the August gathering is “Re-awakening". Youth unemployment and the future of Europe are the main social issues to be discussed. The gathering will include eucharistic celebrations, workshops, and a candlelight procession.
The gathering is designed for religious and non-religious youth. The youth pilgrimage was the idea of the Austrian bishops, who had made an appeal for greater unity among Central European youth in 2004.
The Austrian bishops will be present, in addition to Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, and the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko. Cardinal Pell is hosting World Youth Day in his archdiocese in July 2008.
Vatican City, Jun 6, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, has been elected the new president of Caritas International by the 162 members gathered for the organization’s 18th General Assembly at the Vatican.
Cardinal Maradiaga, who is also president of the Bishops’ Conference of Honduras, will take up the post on June 9. He expressed gratitude for the election via telephone from the Honduran capital.
“I thank the General Assembly from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “I appreciate the trust you have placed in me. At Caritas we have to work for the needs of the poor.”
“If we are going to be true disciples and missionaries, we need to encourage our members to be more socially and pastorally committed. Especially at this time, we must share our goods and fight social injustice. On the 40th anniversary of Populorum Progressio, we must promote development as the way of alleviating and overcoming poverty,” he added.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 6, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has approved October 28th as the date of beatification for 498 martyrs who gave their life for Christ during the religious persecution of the Spanish Civil War.
The announcement about the 23 causes was made by Bishop Ricardo Blazquez, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain.
During their last meeting in April, the bishops of Spain announced that the beatification would take place in October, pending approval by the Holy See.
Manchester, N.H., Jun 6, 2007 (CNA) - On Tuesday night a Republican presidential debate was held in New Hampshire between Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. During the course of the debate, the moderator, Wolf Blitzer, asked Giuliani about Bishop Thomas Tobin’s criticism of his position on abortion.
Just as Giuliani attempted to answer, lightning struck the building and caused the sound system to go haywire. When the former mayor tried to answer the question a second time, lightning struck the building again accompanied by a loud clap of thunder. When the other two candidates heard the thunder a second time they both slowly and quietly backed away from Giuliani.
Making light of the situation, Giuliani quipped, "Look, for someone who went to parochial schools all his life, this is a very frightening thing that's happening right now."
Washington D.C., Jun 6, 2007 (CNA) - Wisconsin Right to Life learned late yesterday that a bill to foster the creation of cloned human embryos, for the purpose of using them in research that will kill them, will be on the floor of the U. S. House of Representatives today, Wednesday, June 6. The legislation, House Resolution 2560, is sponsored by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Co.), who interestingly had opposed similar legislation in 2003.
"This is a blatant move on the part of the House Democratic leadership to ram the DeGette bill through the U.S. House," said Susan Armacost, Legislative Director of Wisconsin Right to Life.
According to Armacost, the bill is deceptive because it is labeled “as a "ban" on human cloning, but it is nothing of the sort! It is a bill to legitimize the use of cloning in order to create any number of human embryos for use in research that will kill them. The killing of human embryos is opposed by 75% of the public, noted Armacost.
Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), co-chairman of the Bipartisan Pro-Life Caucus, said about the bill that, “the legislation makes it a crime to allow a cloned human being to survive past a certain unspecified point. In other words, this bizarre piece of legislation would make it illegal-not to kill a cloned human being.”
In another illogical move, the legislation states that, “if a woman was to have a cloned human embryo implanted in her womb, she could go to jail for up to 10 years and/or be fined up to $10 million.”
H.R. 2560 is a "clone-and-kill" bill, which would pave the way for establishment of human embryo farms in the United States," said Wisconsin Right to Life.
The cloning vote which will occur today is only one day before the House is scheduled to take up S. 5, a bill to mandate federal funding of the kind of research that requires the killing of human embryos. The embryos utilized under S. 5 would be created by in vitro fertilization, not cloning.
To view the letter sent by the National Right to Life Committee to the House can be viewed at: http://www.nrlc.org