Archive of June 20, 2007

Church issues guidelines for pastoral ministry to prostitutes, street children, and homeless

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Church has issued a set of guidelines for those traveling on roadways and those working in pastoral ministries for the liberation of street women, the pastoral care of street children, and the pastoral care of the homeless.


Archbishop Marchetto, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, explained the ways the Church should respond to these pressing situations.


In order to respond effectively to the first of these, said the archbishop, "it is important to understand the factors that push ... women into prostitution, the strategies used by intermediaries and traffickers to make them submit to their will, the paths along which they move from their countries of origin to those of destination, and the institutional resources needed to face the problem.


Fortunately the international community and many non-governmental organizations are seeking ever more energetically to combat criminal activities and to protect the victims of human trafficking, developing a vast range of resources to prevent the phenomenon and to rehabilitate its victims back into social life.


"The Church," he added, "has the pastoral responsibility to defend and promote the human dignity of those exploited by prostitution, and to work towards their liberation, providing economic, educational and formative support to this end. She ... must also prophetically denounce the injustices and violence perpetrated against street women and invite people of good will to commit themselves to the defense of their human dignity, ... putting an end to sexual exploitation."


Archbishop Marchetto described the issue of street children, as "a phenomenon of unimaginable proportions, ... 150 million according to the International Labor Organization." He identified its causes in "the increasing disintegration of families, ... immigration which uproots people from their familiar environment and disorientates them, and conditions of extreme poverty."


"In order for children to have a future in life, it is of fundamental importance to infuse in them a feeling of self-confidence, self-respect and dignity, ... so that they develop a genuine desire to resume studying ... and to create dignified and gratifying life projects, through their own efforts and not dependent upon others." In this area, he continued, "it is necessary to seek out and meet the young people in the places they gather, on the streets, ... and in the 'hotspots' of our metropolises."


"They become a multitude without a name and without a voice, incapable of defending themselves or of finding the resources to improve their future." Fortunately, "there is no lack of pastoral responses, ... though insufficient, by parishes Catholic organizations ecclesial movements and new communities."


In closing, Archbishop Marchetto highlighted "the close link of the pastoral care of the road with its source, Christ the Lord in the mystery of His incarnation, and with the Church and her preferential option for the poor, who must be evangelized while respecting everyone's freedom of conscience and letting oneself, in turn, be evangelized by them."

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Benedict--St. Athanasius teaches us that those who draw near to God are able to truly draw near to mankind

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2007 (CNA) - Benedict XVI’s general audience today was held inside of Paul VI hall. The theme of the Pope’s teaching was the figure of St. Athanasius of Alexandria (circa 300-373), whom he called a "column of the Church," and a "model of orthodoxy in both East and West."

After noting how St. Athanasius' statue was placed by Bernini, alongside statues of other doctors of the Church (St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine), in the apse of the Vatican Basilica, the Pope described the Alexandrian saint as a "passionate theologian of the incarnation of the 'Logos,' the Word of God," and "the most important and tenacious adversary of the Arian heresy which then threatened faith in Christ by minimizing His divinity, in keeping with a recurring historical tendency which is also evident in various ways today."

Athanasius participated in the Council of Nicaea, when bishops established "the symbol of faith ... commonly known as the Nicaean Creed. The Creed affirms that "the Son is 'of one substance' with the Father, precisely in order to highlight His full divinity which was denied by the Arians. ... The fundamental idea behind St. Athanasius’ theological labors was precisely that God is accessible ... and that though our communion with Christ we can truly unite ourselves to God."

Nonetheless, the Arian crisis did not end with the Council of Nicaea "and on five occasions over a period of 30 years, ... Athanasius [bishop of Alexandria from 328] was forced to abandon his city, spending 17 years in exile." In this way, however, "he was able to support and defend in the West ... the Nicene faith and the ideals of monasticism."

The saint’s most famous work "is his treatise 'On the Incantation of the Word'," in which he makes the startling but true statement that the Word of God “was made man that we might be made God; and He manifested Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father; and He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immortality."

Athanasius is also the author of meditations upon the Psalms and, above all, of one of the most popular works of ancient Christian literature, "the 'Life of St. Anthony,' the biography of St. Anthony Abbot which ... made a great contribution to the spread of monasticism in East and West."

The life of Athanasius, like that of St. Anthony, the Pope concluded, "shows us that 'those who draw near to God do not withdraw from men, but rather become truly close to them'."


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Robin Williams attacks Catholic priests and points out lack of consequences

, Jun 20, 2007 (CNA) - Robin Williams has decided that he won’t pay any consequences for ridiculing the Church in public, says The Catholic League. On Monday night’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Williams equated all priests with pedophiles and mocked confession.

Leno invited the actor on to his show to plug his upcoming movie “License to Wed,” in which he plays a Protestant minister who forces a couple to go through marriage preparation courses. However, the experience of portraying a minister didn’t seem to engender any respect for the clergy in him.

Williams pretended to play a game with Jay Leno where a pedophile is hidden under a cup. “Here we go. Find the priest, find the pedophile. Find the priest, find the pedophile. Here you go right now. Move ‘em around, move ‘em around. Oh, you found the pedophile.”

Williams then put his hand over his groin, saying, “You have to realize that if you are a Catholic priest, you have retired this. That’s it—no more sex.” Then he took a shot at confession: “But they are going to put you in a small dark box and people are going to tell you the nastiest sexual stuff they have done.”

Bill Donahue was angered by the fact that, “Isaiah Washington lashes out at one gay person in private, and he is banished from ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ Robin Williams lashes out against all priests in public, and he suffers no consequence.”

Pointing out that the actor has calculated the risks of targeting the Church, Donahue quoted an interview with MoviesOnline in which Williams recently said, “‘you can’t poke fun at certain religions,’ but ‘we just made major fun of the Catholic Church but hey, they don’t blow you up.’” Donahue said this makes Williams not just “a bigot and a liar” but also “a coward.”

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Catholic convent desecrated, school ransacked in attacks in Gaza Strip

Gaza City, Jun 20, 2007 (CNA) - A school and convent belonging to the Gaza Strip's tiny Roman Catholic community were ransacked, burned and looted during clashes around a major security headquarters nearby, reported The Associated Press.

Crosses were broken, a statue of Jesus was damaged, and prayer books were burned at the Rosary Sisters School and nearby convent, said Fr. Manuel Musallem. In addition, the doors of the convent were knocked open with mortars and furniture was damaged. Prayer books in the chapel were burned.

The damage reportedly took place Thursday but wasn't reported until days later because of the chaos that has prevailed since Islamic Hamas militants wrested power in Gaza, Fr. Musallem said. The religious compound is located near a key security headquarters Hamas captured Thursday on the final day of its Gaza takeover.

Gunmen used the roof of the school during the fighting, and the convent was desecrated, Fr. Mussallem said.

Seven computers were removed, but three were brought back after the vandalism was reported to the deposed prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh.

Haniyeh condemned the attack on the religious compound and President Mahmoud Abbas of the rival Fatah movement said in statement late Sunday that the “barbaric” attack was the act of Hamas' militia.

Hamas lawmaker Salah Bardawil denied that Hamas was involved, saying: “The Christians are our brothers in Gaza and everywhere, and we will protect their holy places and school, as we do our Islamic schools,” he reportedly said. “But there are some dirty elements who work to harm Hamas' image ... and relations, but this will not happen.”

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Cardinal Pell to be interrogated by parliamentary committee

Sydney, Australia, Jun 20, 2007 (CNA) - Australia’s Council of Civil Liberties has slammed the idea of having Cardinal George Pell interrogated by a parliamentary committee over his comments on therapeutic cloning and stem-cell research, calling it absurd.

"George Pell is entitled to freedom of speech and to engage in political discourse,'' council president Cameron Murphy said.

"From time to time you get all sorts of religious leaders who make comments that are out of step with the community, whether it's George Pell or Sheik Hilaly, and I think in a democratic society you have to have a degree of tolerance.”

The Greens Party yesterday won approval to have the cardinal interrogated by the parliamentary committee for contempt, reported The Telegraph.

Under the Crimes Act, contempt of Parliament is a highly serious offence punishable by up to 25 years in jail. The move, unheard of in recent history, was swiftly condemned as an absurd attack on free speech.

Cardinal Pell warned Catholic lawmakers last week that they would face religious consequences if they supported a bill allowing therapeutic cloning. The vast majority of MPs ignored the cardinal's warning and supported the bill, but numbers are expected to be closer when it goes to the Upper House later this month.

In an effort to muzzle the church leader ahead of the vote, Greens MP Lee Rhiannon pushed ahead with her contempt claims and yesterday won approval from Upper House president Peter Primrose.

Premier Morris Iemma and Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell, both Catholics who voted against Cardinal Pell's wishes, also condemned the Greens’ push to have the cardinal interrogated.

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15 sex-abuse trials to begin in July, diocese expected to settle

Los Angeles, Calif., Jun 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is expected to settle hundreds of clergy sex abuse claims as a series of trials are set to start this summer.

Fifteen trials, involving 172 of the more than 500 alleged victims, are scheduled to be heard by juries over six months, beginning July 9, reported The Associated Press.

Ray Boucher, the lead plaintiff's attorney, said trials are set every three weeks between July and January. Many of the cases will be presented as "serial cases," in which the alleged victims of one priest group their claims before the same jury. Some trials will involve as many as 40 alleged victims at once.

The AP reported that a Los Angeles Superior Court judge recently ruled that Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, must testify in one of those cases. The same judge also decided that four alleged victims may seek punitive damages from the archdiocese.

Faced with these trials, legal experts said the archdiocese may seek to come to a settlement before jury selection. Cardinal Mahony recently issued an open letter, indicating that the archdiocese would sell its high-rise administrative building and is considering the sale of about 50 other nonessential church properties to raise funds.

But archdiocese attorney Michael Hennigan said the complexity of the situation could make settlements before the trials difficult.

"We work on settlements every day and I've been hoping for a settlement for five years," he told the AP. "It would be nice if we could get it done before these trials, but I'm not sure we can."

The archdiocese reached a $60-million settlement with 45 victims last December. Several religious orders in California also reached multimillion-dollar settlements in recent months, including the Carmelites, the Franciscans and the Jesuits.

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Korean priests renew their vocation, pledge to emulate martyr

Seoul, South Korea, Jun 20, 2007 (CNA) - Priests of the Diocese of Wonju, South Korea, recommitted to their vocations and pledged to sanctify their lives daily by following the model of Fr. Thomas Choe Yang-eop, Korea's second native priest.

Fr. Choe is known as the "Martyr of Sweat" for walking an average of 2,800 kilometers a year to visit Catholics in remote villages, before his death in 1861 from exhaustion and typhoid. A cause is underway for his canonization.

Fr. Choe was born in 1821, the first son of St. Francis Choe Kyong-hwan. He was ordained a priest in 1849, five years after St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon was ordained the first Korean priest.

About 60 priests gathered at the diocesan-run Baeron Shrine in Jecheon, 120 kilometers southeast of Seoul, where Fr. Choe is buried, to celebrate World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, reported UCA News.

The late Pope John Paul II instituted the observance in 1995, to be marked annually on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, June 15 this year.

Archbishop Paul Tschang In-nam, apostolic nuncio to Bangladesh, was visiting his home and attended the event. He told the priests that they should resemble Christ, act like him and try to unite with Jesus through continual prayer.

"First, we should meditate on the words of Jesus. With the spirituality obtained from meditation, we should feed the faithful and heal their wounds," he said. He stressed poverty, celibacy and modesty as key factors in the sanctification of priests.

Compared with the physical hardships of Fr. Choe, "we work in a much more comfortable environment," said Fr. Patrick Tjung In-tjun, vicar general. However, nowadays "we are at a crisis in fulfilling our priestly ministry and living as priests."

Pointing to the materialism and secularism in South Korea today, he said keeping faith might seem "ridiculous" in this milieu. "In this situation we priests are tempted to follow the world. We should place Jesus as our focal point and avoid temptation," he said.

In 2006, the Diocese of Wonju counted 65,556 Catholics, 96 priests, 42 parishes and 49 mission stations.

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Famous papal photographer announces retirement

Rome, Italy, Jun 20, 2007 (CNA) - The famous papal photographer, Arturo Mari, has announced he will retire from the post he has held for more than 50 years.

The quiet and discreet Italian photographer, who took some of the most moving images of Pope John Paul II, including pictures of the attempt on his life on May 13, 1981, announced this week he will finally retire and hand his post over to his up-to-now assistant, Francesco Sforza.  Throughout the pontificate of John Paul II, Mari accompanied the Pope on all of his travels without taking a single vacation or sick day, which he attributed to “the incredible energy which the Holy Father gave me.”

Mari, whose wife is from Ecuador and taught him Spanish, was especially fond of the Pope’s travels to Latin America.

In April of this year, Mari photographed one of the most significant papal events of his life: the priestly ordination of his own son, Juan Carlos Mari, who became a priest for the Diocese of Rome.

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Archbishops says Venezuelans have no faith in government-run elections

Caracas, Venezuela, Jun 20, 2007 (CNA) - The vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, Archbishop Roberto Luckert, said recent actions by the Chavez government, such as the closing down of Radio and Television Caracas, have left the nation disillusioned and that Venezuelans no longer have in faith in the electoral process.

“The people have lost hope and the desire to vote,” he said.  “It seems ridiculous to waste time and money to go to the polls when we know nothing will come of it.  The people don’t believe in this country’s electoral process.  Our discouragement only grows,” the archbishop stated.

His comments came upon the heels of a proposal by the National Electoral Council to hold a referendum on whether to remove local officials from office.  However, the proposal was not warmly received by the country.

Archbishop Luckert also expressed his support for students protesting in defense of freedom of expression and autonomy for the country’s universities.  “They are taking to the streets to defend constitutional rights,” he said, calling the protests “oxygen of the youth” after years of lethargy in the face of the country’s problems.

“The youth are fighting for Venezuela, for freedom, for respect for the constitutional rights of Venezuelans,” the archbishop said.  President Hugo Chavez’s threats against the autonomy of universities, he went on, are due to his rejection of “any dissent” from his Socialist policies, which the archbishop described as “a military autocracy.”  “They want to bring this country into the sea of happiness of Cuba, where there are not autonomous universities or freedom of expression,” he added.

Archbishop Luckert said the government’s arbitrary decision to close down Radio and Television Caracas has led to fears that Chavez will take similar steps against other entities and organizations.

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Catholic Church is preferred target of militant atheism, says Argentinean archbishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 20, 2007 (CNA) - During his weekly radio program, Archbishop Domingo Salvador Castagna of Corrientes said the Catholic Church is the preferred target of militant atheism.

The Argentinean prelate denounced what he called “the tactics of disparagement,” by which “modern man seems to reject whatever is religious, when in reality he is rejecting a God who guides his steps toward the achieving of his destiny.  He doesn’t know what to do with his life, and nevertheless, he rebels against the One who shows him what to do with it.  The way to successfully achieve this ‘rejection’ is to disparage those who bring him the guiding word and grace.”

Because of the Church’s firm commitment to truth and morality, the archbishop explained, she has become “the preferred target of ‘militant atheism’.

Evil has had a profound impact on society, he continued, and spiritual malaise will continue to be a problem as long as all of the blame is placed on one group while the other group portrays itself as mere victims.


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Catholic schools in Spain refusing to allow parents to opt kids out of controversial course

Madrid, Spain, Jun 20, 2007 (CNA) - The civil rights watchdog organization has reported that a number of schools run by religious congregations are not allowing parents to opt their children out of the controversial Education for Citizenship course. The EcP course blatantly promotes the normalization of homosexuality and the societal acceptance abortion among other issues.

The website has published a list of schools with how they rank in allowing parents to conscientiously object to the government-sponsored class.  The data for the list comes from several associations that are promoting the right of parents to exercise conscientious objection.

Several Catholic schools in Madrid, Toledo, Majadahonda, Valdemoro and Huelva are listed among those not allowing parents to exclude their children from the course.


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Leftist politicians push bill to legalize euthanasia in Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 20, 2007 (CNA) - As part of their anti-life agenda, which has been successful in getting abortion legalized and homosexual unions equated to marriage, lawmakers of the Democratic Party of the Revolution (PRD) have put forth a bill that would legalize euthanasia for terminally ill patients who manifest a desire to end their lives before a notary public and two witnesses.

“The issue is not about death with dignity but rather life with dignity; it’s about having a life of dignity in better conditions and not therapeutic cruelty,” Representative Juan Carlos Beltran, the main sponsor of the bill, told the AP.

Mexican Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova said the idea behind the bill refers to “a right that all people should have, to be able to request that extraordinary means not be used to keep them alive. I think it is quite correct.”

Speaking after the presentation of a Report on Human Development in Mexico for 2006-2007, Cordova said, “The issue should be discussed with the family and the patient should be in agreement.”  “The dignity of persons” should be respected, he went on, “and their lives should not be prolonged when there is no hope.”

He suggested an ethics committee be established in each hospital to discuss possible cases, “as we must be very cautious in order to ensure that there is in fact no chance of recovery, since medicine is not an exact science.”

Cordova explained that the new norms would allow “the patient to decide whether or not to allow extraordinary means to remain alive, without the need of consulting his family members, and therefore the process will be simpler.”

The law would require that the patient be in the terminal phase of his illness, that he has been diagnosed with a maximum of six months to live and that he, or his family if he is incapacitated, has given his consent.”

Representative Beltran said the bill would be sent to the Legislative Assembly of Mexico City this week for review in committee, before finally being sent to the main body during the next session in September.

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Pope reminds the world not to forget refugees

Vatican City, Jun 20, 2007 (CNA) - At the end of today's general audience, the Pope recalled the fact that today marks World Refugee Day, an initiative promoted by the United Nations "to ensure that public opinion does not lose sight of those who have been obliged to abandon their countries in the face of a real danger to their lives.

"Welcoming refugees and giving them hospitality," the Holy Father added, "is for everyone a vital gesture of human solidarity, in order to help them feel less isolated by intolerance and disinterest. For Christians, moreover, it is a concrete way to express evangelical love.

"It is my heartfelt wish that these brothers and sisters of ours, who have suffered such harsh trials, may be guaranteed refuge and the recognition of their rights, and I invite the leaders of nations to offer protection to all those who find themselves in such delicate situations of need."

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