Baghdad, Iraq, Jun 19, 2007 (CNA) - A Chaldean priest, abducted by unknown gunmen in Baghdad, was freed this past Sunday according to the Missionary News Service Agency (MISNA).
Fr. Hani Abdul Ahad was abducted in the Iraqi capital on June 6 along with four young people. A group of unidentified gunmen blocked their road as they returned to Fr. Ahad’s parish. The four young people were released two days after the kidnapping.
Bishop Shlemon Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, confirmed that the priest was freed, is well and has returned to his parish. The bishop confirmed that kidnappers had demanded a ransom for the priest.
Fr. Ahad is the eighth Chaldean priest to be kidnapped.
“We call for everyone to pay attention to our situation, because the Christians of Iraq are in a very terrible situation. We have nothing against anyone, we only want to rebuild Iraq,” the bishop told MISNA.
According to Baghdadhope.com, the kidnappings are “part of the phenomenon of the persecution of the Iraqi Christians and is an effective method to spread more terror in the now-scanty Christian community of the capital.”
“Abducting a priest is handier,” says the website, “because it ensures money and because it sends out a clear message: if the representatives of the Church, who … are forced to take personal security measures, are the victims of abductions and violence, what certainty is there for the ordinary man?”
, Jun 19, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore underwent brain surgery yesterday to drain excess fluid from his brain, the Baltimore Sun reported. He is said to be in good condition following the 90 minute surgery that occurred without complications.
"The cardinal is awake, a little groggy but in good form," said Bishop W. Francis Malooly at a news conference on Monday.
Keeler needed the surgery, the bishop said, because of an abnormal build up of cerebrospinal fluid on his brain. The excess fluid is thought to have been caused by head trauma that the cardinal suffered in an October car accident while he was vacationing in Terni, Italy. Also traveling with the Cardinal was his good friend, Father Bernard Quinn, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who was killed in the accident.
During the accident, Cardinal Keeler also suffered a broken ankle but has since recovered from the break through physical therapy. According to Bishop Malooly, Keeler was still having trouble walking. This led doctors to notice the build up of fluid and decide to perform surgery.
The operation involved the placement of a shunt, or tube, into the cardinal’s skull that will drain the excess fluid from his brain and into the abdominal cavity, where
the body can safely absorb it.
Keeler's physicians will check in about three weeks to make sure an appropriate amount of fluid is being released through the shunt.
Dr. Michael A. Williams, neurology director for the adult hydrocephalus program at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, said that if too much fluid is released through the shunt, the brain itself might get smaller, creating space between it and the inside of the skull. Consequently, doctors may be adjusting the flow of the fluid through the shunt.
Keeler is still hoping to attend the ordinations of four new priests for the Archdiocese Of Baltimore on Saturday, if his condition permits, though Bishop Malooly will perform the ordinations. "He does bounce back quickly, though - that's his track record," Malooly said.
At 76, Keeler is the average age for diagnosis for normal pressure hydrocephalus, according to medical experts. The cardinal has served as the Archbishop of Baltimore since 1989 and was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1994.
When Keeler turned 75 last year, he submitted a letter of resignation to the Vatican as required by canon law. But Pope Benedict XVI has not accepted Keeler's retirement or indicated when a replacement might be named.
Vatican City, Jun 19, 2007 (CNA) - A rather interesting document was issued today on the pastoral care of the road. The guidelines were created for the purpose of bringing care for the human person even to the roadways, since the Gospel should be preached everywhere.
The instructions were issued by a department of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People under the leadership of Cardinal Renato Martino.
The document - published in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian - is divided into four sections: The pastoral care of road users, pastoral ministry for the liberation of street women, the pastoral care of street children, and the pastoral care of the homeless.
Cardinal Martino indicated that the idea of preparing this document arose during the First European Meeting of National Directors of the Pastoral Care of the Road, held in 2003. "Its aim," he said, "is to guide and coordinate all the ecclesial bodies in the world of the pastoral care of the road, and to encourage and stimulate episcopal conferences of countries in which this form of pastoral care does not exist, to organize it."
Commenting on the first part of the document, Cardinal Martino expressed the view that "Church and State, each in its own field, must work to create a generalized public awareness on the question of road safety and promote, using all possible means, ... an adequate education among drivers, travelers and pedestrians."
Referring to the evangelization of the road, the president of the pontifical council recalled that the Church also aims at "the religious formation of car drivers, professional transporters, passengers, and all those people who, in one way or another, are associated with roads and railways." In this context, he recalled the fact that in many countries there are "fixed or mobile highway chapels, and pastoral workers who visit motorway service areas and periodically celebrate liturgies there."
One item of particular interest is the list of 10 Commandments for drivers which could be of use for those prone to “road rage”. The commandments are:
I. You shall not kill.
II. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.
III. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.
IV. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.
V. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.
VI. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.
VII. Support the families of accident victims.
VIII. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.
IX. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.
X. Feel responsible towards others.
The full text of the document can be found at: http://220.127.116.11/news_services/bulletin/news/20451.php?index=20451&lang=en
Vatican City, Jun 19, 2007 (CNA) - THE CEREMONY FOR THE REOPENING OF THE CATHEDRAL of Noto, Italy took place yesterday morning. For the occasion, the Pope sent a message to Bishop Giuseppe Malandrino of Noto thanking everyone who participated in the rebuilding work following the sudden collapse of the building 11 years ago. The Holy Father also expresses the hope that the reconstructed cathedral, "a true masterpiece of the Sicilian Baroque and heritage of humanity, ... may, in its beauty, be an invitation for the diocesan community of Noto to grow in communion and in apostolic fervor."
NEW HUMANISM FOR EUROPE, the role of universities, is the theme of a European meeting of university professors which is due to be held in Rome from June 21 to 24 to mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome (1957-2007). The congress is being promoted by the president of the Italian Republic, the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) and the Office for the Pastoral Care of Universities of the Vicariate of Rome.
"THE HUMAN FAMILY, COMMUNITY OF PEACE," is the theme of the Pope's Message for the 41st World Day of Peace, due to be celebrated on January 1, 2008. A communique made public today affirms that the theme chosen by Benedict XVI "is based on his conviction that the perception of a common destiny and the experience of communion are essential factors in the realization of the common good."
Vatican City, Jun 19, 2007 (CNA) - The selection of a new director of the Institute for the Works of Religion (I.O.R.) was made public today by the Press Office of the Holy See. The new director general will be Mr. Paolo Cipriani who is replacing Mr. Lelio Scaletti.
The I.O.R. is more commonly known as the Vatican Bank which oversees the finances for the Vatican City State.
Following the above-mentioned appointment, Mr Lelio Scaletti, present Director General of the I.O.R., who has happily completed his eightieth year, will leave the operational running of the Institute on 1 October 2007; he will retain the title of Director General Emeritus and will continue to make his precious services available to the I.O.R..
At its last meeting, the Supervisory Council - whose Members are Professor Angelo Caloia (Italy), President; Mr. Virgil Dechant (U.S.A.); Dr. Robert Studer (Switzerland); Dr. Manuel Soto Serrano (Spain) and Dr. Ronaldo Hermann Schmitz (Germany) - expressed their warm gratitude to Mr Lelio Scaletti for his long and generous service, and then expressed their good wishes to Mr. Paolo Cipriani, new Director General, in his work.
Mr. Paolo Cipriani was born in Rome on 29 August 1954, he is married and has 2 children. Before entering the service of the I.O.R. he worked in the "Banco di Santo Spirito" and the "Banca di Roma", acting also as representative of these institutions in Luxembourg, New York and London.
Providence, R.I., Jun 19, 2007 (CNA) - A leading abortion activist has filed a complaint with the IRS in an attempt to silence Bishop Thomas Tobin, who said he could never support Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, who believes abortion should be legal.
In his May 31 editorial in the Rhode Island Catholic, the bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, called the former New York mayor’s pro-abortion views "pathetic," "confusing," and "hypocritical."
"Rudy's explanation is a classic expression of the position on abortion we have heard from weak-kneed politicians so frequently in recent years: 'I'm personally opposed to but don't want to impose my views on other people.' The incongruity of that position has been exposed many times now," Bishop Tobin wrote.
The bishop said Giuliani’s views lead him to think of the “sad figure of Pontius Pilate … who personally found no guilt in Jesus, but for fear of the crowd, washed his hands of the whole affair and handed Jesus over to be crucified.”
According to LifeNews.com, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service June 13, asking that the agency look into whether Bishop Tobin violated his diocese’s tax-exempt nonprofit status.
In a statement, the group’s executive director Barry Lynn said the bishop “appears to have violated federal tax law by attacking Giuliani.”
“Federal tax law forbids non-profits to use organizational resources to support or oppose candidates for public office,” said Lynn.
“If the bishop wants to join the political fray, he should do so as an individual without dragging along his tax-exempt diocese,” Lynn said in the news release. “A church is not a political action committee, and it should not act like one.”
IRS officials would not comment on the case until it determines if the complaint has any substance. The Diocese of Providence maintains Tobin did nothing wrong and did not endorse or oppose any political candidate.
Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, has jumped into the mix as well, calling for more people to follow Bishop Tobin’s suit.
"It is not Barry Lynn who is the problem," Fr. Pavone said. "The problem is that we don't have more voices like Bishop Tobin's.
“The bishops are, in fact, with us on this issue. Their legal advisors, however, draw the line of caution much more strictly than the government does, and that's what needs to change,” the priest added.
“I'd like to hear what the same legal advisors would say if political candidates started calling for the abolishment of the Catholic Church and the imprisonment of the clergy. Would we find our voices then?”
Rome, Italy, Jun 19, 2007 (CNA) - A top official of the Filipino military, Marine General Mohammad Ben Dolorfino, announced this week that military officials have been in contact with the kidnappers of Italian priest Father Giancarlo Bossi in an attempt to secure his release.
“Visual contact of Father Bossi has been made and he appears to be in good physical condition,” General Dolorfino stated. He said former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an Islamic separatist group, are believed to be responsible for the kidnapping.
“The situation at present is that the particular area of the kidnappers is already contained and negotiations are ongoing,” the general said. “They are now contained in that area. Imagine two brigades and a battalion cordoning the area. They have nowhere to run, their options are limited,” he added.
Father Bossi, 57, is the third Italian priest to be kidnapped in western Mindanao. He was kidnapped on June 10 by a dozen armed men shortly after celebrating Mass in the town of Payao.
Two days later, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the military to assist in the rescue effort. A US spy plane also carried out reconnaissance missions over the area where the priest is being held.
Dublin, Ireland, Jun 19, 2007 (CNA) - People living in the world's conflict areas, particularly in the Middle East, should draw inspiration from Northern Ireland's ability to compromise after nearly four decades of bloodshed, said the president of the Republic of Ireland, Mary McAleese.
McAleese, a Belfast-born Catholic, said Monday in a speech to a Protestant-dominated city council in Northern Ireland that both parts of Ireland are benefiting from an "emerging culture of courtesy in which wisdom and experience are shared and partnerships encouraged where it makes sense to do so."
The Associated Press reported that McAleese said the Irish Republic wants to invest in better relations since the May 8 revival of a Catholic-Protestant administration in Northern Ireland, which was a goal of the province's 1998 peace accord.
The mostly Catholic south has committed to spending more than 400 million pounds (US$800 million) on improving cross-border roads in the British territory, she said.
"There can be little doubt but that we have entered an unprecedented era, one characterized by the confluence of peace, prosperity, parity of esteem and partnership," McAleese was quoted as saying. "No previous generation has known such a time."
Lisburn, a mostly Protestant suburb of Belfast, hosts the headquarters of the British army in Northern Ireland. The army has been significantly scaled back in recent years and Lisburn's council has 20 politicians from the British Protestant majority, seven from the Irish Catholic minority, and three from the neutral Alliance Party.
Lisburn's mayor, Alliance member Trevor Lunn, invited McAleese to speak in hopes it would encourage greater power-sharing. For decades, Protestant members have refused to let Catholics lead most council committees or hold the annually appointed mayor's post.
Nairobi, Kenya, Jun 19, 2007 (CNA) - Kenya’s first-ever national Catholic conference on HIV/AIDS is scheduled for June 24-28 in Nairobi.
Archbishop John Njue, chairman of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, told journalists the five-day conference would gather all of Kenya's Catholic health practitioners and stakeholders in the AIDS fight to share ideas, reported the Catholic Information Service for Africa.
The Kenya Catholic AIDS Taskforce will also launch the National Catholic AIDS Policy at the conference. The policy, titled "This We Teach and Do," was prepared for the Kenyan Episcopal Conference’s Commission for Health last August.
"While the way forward has not been very clear, the Church has never hesitated to provide service and leadership even in difficult areas and despite limited resources,” Archbishop Njue said.
“The policy will be of particular use to those who have to deal with challenging situations everyday, whether the challenge is moral, spiritual, psychological, or material, for the faces of HIV/AIDS are many and everyone is called to action," he continued.
Fr. Michale Czerny, SJ, the taskforce convener and director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network, said the conference is coming exactly 20 years after the Kenyan bishops raised the alarm on HIV/AIDS.
"Since then many Christians and other believers and people of goodwill have been responding to the pandemic with creative energy, courageous generosity and often pathetically inadequate resources," he said.
The Catholic Church in Kenya has 430 facilities offering care to more than five million HIV/AIDS-infected people annually, with more than 114 projects for orphans of AIDS and vulnerable children.
Bogotá, Colombia, Jun 19, 2007 (CNA) - Colombia’s Congress took another step this week towards making homosexual unions equivalent to marriage by approving a law that grants special rights to same-sex couples.
Approved by a vote of 62-43, the new law allows homosexual partners to leave their inheritance, health insurance and social security benefits to each other instead of to their closest relatives.
In order to meet the law’s requirements, homosexual partners only need to declare their union before a state official and be together for at least two years.
Marcela Sanchez, president of “Diverse Colombia,” a gay-rights group that pushed for the new law, called the measure a “first step” towards full legal recognition of homosexual marriage.
“There is still a whole gamut of rights restricted still to marriage such as maternity licenses, paternal rights, housing subsidies and adoption,” Sanchez said.
The law must still be signed by President Alvaro Uribe, who will have the last word on whether Colombia becomes the first Latin American nation to legalize homosexual couples at the national level.
Havana, Cuba, Jun 19, 2007 (CNA) - Marta Beatriz Roque, the Cuban economist who has become one of the most prominent dissidents in that country, led a peaceful march this past weekend to demand the release of Jose Antonio Mola Porro, a political prisoner sentenced to two years in jail.
Roque, who has herself been imprisoned and harassed for her efforts to bring democracy back to Cuba, led a group of over 70 dissidents who demanded the unconditional release of Mola Porro, who was released in 2006 but was taken back to prison in November of that year for participating in the Congress of Independent Libraries.
Last May 14 he should have been released, but without any trial he was sentenced to another year in prison.
The unprecedented peaceful march led by Roque reached the Attorney General’s office of the Camaguey Province, where Mola Porro’s wife presented a request for his release, while the 70 dissidents remained outside under intense scrutiny by state police officers.
London, England, Jun 19, 2007 (CNA) - The British Secret Service, MI6, has published an alarming report in the magazine Sunday Express revealing that some 200 million Christians in 60 countries around the world are at risk of suffering persecution.
The report reveals that in the Sudan, for example, “thousands of Christians have been massacred and the fundamentalist government has done little to protect them.” In Iraq, “the situation is grave: Christians do not have their own militia to defend them, and Sunni and Shiite factions accuse them of collaborating with the American ‘crusaders’ and among the hundreds of victims of kidnappings this year there are a growing number of Christians.”
The study also reveals that during the last year, at least seventy Christians were killed in Pakistan. In Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Christians who belong to the Russian Orthodox Church are often looked down upon: in these three republics of the former Soviet Union, Muslim preachers, ‘under the influence of Al Qaeda,’ present Christians as followers of a religion closely associated with the despised Western colonialism and they call for their expulsion,” the report states.
North Korea, China, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Uganda are other countries where Christians are persecuted. North Korea has sent some 50 thousand Christians to concentration camps, while in China some 40 thousand have suffered the same fate. The report also notes the increasing difficulties facing Palestinian Christians due to the progressive radicalization of the Islamic masses in the Middle East.
San Salvador, El Salvador, Jun 19, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador called for just immigration reform in the US this week and said US senators should not forget that they are part of “a country of immigrants and they should be mindful of the immigrants of today.”
“In the case of the United States, we should remember that all those who are in the Senate are immigrants or children of immigrants,” the archbishop said at the conclusion of Mass last Sunday.
“There is only one earth to be inhabited by the great human family,” he continued. “Therefore, there should be openness to immigration, which nevertheless should be regulated by the different countries; not to reject it, but to channel this need for work that people have.”
Immigration reform, he said, should respect “this general principle that we are all brothers and sisters and there should be considerable assistance for those who need to emigrate.”
The archbishop also called on countries in the region to reduce criminal activity on the US border, which has a negative affect on many others who only seek honest work.
He thanked President Bush for his efforts to achieve immigration reform and a temporary worker program while at the same time calling for respect for the law.
He also noted that countries in the region are benefiting from the remittances which immigrants send home. In 2006 El Salvador received more than 3 billion from immigrants in the US.
, Jun 19, 2007 (CNA) - Abortion may eliminate "unwanted" children, but it increases out-of-wedlock births and single parenthood, says John Lott Jr. in today’s Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Lott provided some astonishing numbers to back up his claims.
“In the United States from the early 1970s, when abortion was liberalized, through the late 1980s, there was a tremendous increase in the rate of out-of-wedlock births, rising from an average of 5% of all births in 1965-69 to more than 16% two decades later (1985-1989). For blacks, the numbers soared from 35% to 62%. While not all of this rise can be attributed to liberalized abortion rules, it was nevertheless a key contributing factor.”
As the debate about abortion has taken center stage in both the presidential campaigns and the nomination of recent Supreme Court Justices, Mr. Lott says that the time to evaluate the practical societal effects of Roe v. Wade has come.
Mr. Lott asserts that Roe did substantially increased abortions, “more than doubling the rate per live birth in the five years from 1972 to 1977.” Besides the doubling of the number of abortions, Lott sees four additional significant societal changes that were brought about by Roe:
Ø A sharp increase in pre-marital sex.
Ø A sharp rise in out-of-wedlock births.
Ø A drop in the number of children placed for adoption.
Ø A decline in marriages that occur after the woman is pregnant.
“Some of this might seem contradictory. Why would both the number of abortions and of out-of-wedlock births go up? If there were more illegitimate births, why were fewer children available for adoption?” said Lott.
Mr. Lott answers the question by saying that, “part of the answer lies in attitudes to premarital sex. With abortion seen as a backup, women as well as men became less careful in using contraceptives as well as more likely to have premarital sex.”
“But all these changes--rising out-of-wedlock births, plummeting adoption rates, and the end of shotgun marriages--meant one thing: more single parent families. With work and other demands on their time, single parents, no matter how "wanted" their child may be, tend to devote less attention to their children than do married couples; after all, it's difficult for one person to spend as much time with a child as two people can.”
“From the beginning of the abortion debate, those favoring abortion have pointed to the social costs of "unwanted" children who simply won't get the attention of "wanted" ones. But there is a trade-off that has long been neglected. Abortion may eliminate "unwanted" children, but it increases out-of-wedlock births and single parenthood. Unfortunately, the social consequences of illegitimacy dominated,” Mr. Lott said.
Addressing the current situation Mr. Lott wrote, “children born after liberalized abortion rules have suffered a series of problems from problems at school to more crime. The saddest fact is that it is the most vulnerable in society, poor blacks, who have suffered the most from these changes.”
“Liberalized abortion might have made life easier for many, but like sex itself sometimes, it has had many unintended consequences.”
Mr. Lott is the author of "Freedomnomics," which you can buy from the OpinionJournal bookstore.