Archive of June 27, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI focuses on St. Cyril: a master of Catechesis

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2007 (CNA) - The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, greeted the thousands of pilgrims gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI auditorium this morning, continuing his cycle of catechesis on the Church Fathers by commenting on a master of catechisis himself - St. Cyril of Jerusalem.

Cyril, the Pope explained, was consecrated a bishop in 348 by Acacius, metropolitan of Caesarea in Palestine and a supporter of Arianism. However, soon afterwards the two men came into contrast, "not only in the doctrinal field, but also in the area of jurisprudence, because Cyril claimed the autonomy of his see from the metropolitan see of Caesarea." He was exiled thee times and only in 378, following the death of the emperor Valens, could Cyril return to his see, "restoring unity and peace among the faithful." Of this saint we have his "Catecheses," 24 catechetical lectures introduced by a prologue.

Cyril was known for his Catechesis, which, the Holy Father said, “prepared the catechumens of the Church of Jerusalem first to receive the sacraments of Christian initiation, and then, after their Baptism, to understand more deeply the Church’s faith as expressed in the sacred mysteries.”

Cyril's Catechesis treated the topics of the sacraments, especially Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. In parallel manner, Cyril developed alongside these catecheses another on the Our Father, “creating a way of initiation into prayer.”

Benedict highlighted the importance of catechesis for initiation into the faith: “The catecheses were an important moment, inserted into the ample context of the lives, and in particular the liturgy, of the Christian community, in whose maternal womb the future faithful were being gestated, accompanied by prayer and the testimony of the brothers.”

The effect of catechesis was both to teach doctrine and instruct in the moral life; the doctrine “descended progressively into their souls, which were solicitous to transform their pagan forms of behavior into the manner of acting proper to the new life in Christ, the gift of Baptism.”

When the catechumens reached Baptism, Cyril instructed them with his Mystagogical Catechesis, “the apex” of his instruction, the Holy Father noted. “Illuminated by the light of a more profound faith, as a result of Baptism, the neophytes were finally ready to understand them better,” he said

Speaking of the death to sin and the rebirth in God which occurs in Baptism, Cyril told his catechumens: “For you...the time to die coincided with the time to be born: one and the same moment has effected both events.”

Benedict noted the ongoing value of this text: “the Catecheses remain a model for instruction today, leading the whole person – body, soul, and spirit – to a living experience of Christ’s gift of salvation.”

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American head of Vatican Communications and long-time “Voice of Vatican Christmas” moves on

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2007 (CNA) - Made public this morning from Rome was the latest move in Pope Benedict XVI’s gradual rearrangement of the Vatican Curia.  Longtime President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop John Patrick Foley has been named to head the worldwide Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. 

As the Grand-Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, the Pennsylvania-born Foley will take over a role held until 1949 by the Pope himself and will be charged with caring for the temporal and spiritual needs of the Order’s members who aim at fostering growth in their own Christian lives, preserving and spreading the faith in Palestine, and defending the rights of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.

Foley had served as the head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications since 1984 and has long been known as the Vatican’s “Voice of Christmas,” due to his English-language narration of the Christmas Eve Mass, which began early in the Pontificate of John Paul II.

Taking over for Archbishop Foley will be Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, a nearly 66 year-old Italian prelate who had served since 1995 as Secretary for the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See.

The mandatory resignation of Foley’s immediate predecessor as pro-grand master, Cardinal Carlo Furno, was belatedly accepted by Pope Benedict as Cardinal Furno approaches 86 years of age.

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European foreign affairs minister says aid to Nicaragua will only come with changing of abortion law

The Hague, The Netherlands, Jun 27, 2007 (CNA) - The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation for the Netherlands, Bert Koenders, has announced that his country and the European Union will allow future economic assistance to Nicaragua on the condition that the country reverses its decision to ban “therapeutic” abortion.

Koenders said he if fighting for the UN and his colleagues in the European Union to “put women's rights higher on the agenda,” and announced he would consider canceling aid to countries in which abortion is still illegal.

"Even if an abortion is medically necessary, it still remains illegal in Nicaragua, which results in the death of women. We should emphasize that this is completely unacceptable,” Koenders told the Dutch Platform of Millennium Goals.

"I do not want to immediately cancel our aid to Nicaragua, but we certainly will weigh the matter."

Koenders says all UN-organizations should equally focus on “women's rights,” mainly legal abortion, since the inequality problems between the sexes are diverse. “Furthermore, UN peace missions should more often focus on sexual violence against women in wartime,” he added.

On October 26, 2006, the national Parliament of Nicaragua unanimously modified its penal code in order to limit abortions, to protect unborn children and their mothers. Since then, Nicaragua’s Parliament has been the subject of increasing pressure from the European Union to reverse the decision.

Following instructions given by Mrs. Ferrero-Waldner, EU Commissioner for foreign affairs, Nicaragua had been strongly pressured by donor countries, UN agencies, as well as by the European Commission Ambassador to Nicaragua, Italian-born Francesca Mosca.

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Victory for Catholic Teacher Told to Pay Dues or Change Religions

Washington D.C., Jun 27, 2007 (CNA) - A U.S. District Court judge struck down an Ohio law that allowed only those public employees who belong to certain religious denominations the right to claim a religious objection to paying union dues.

The legal challenge was mounted by a teacher in southern Ohio, Carol Katter, who said a union official told her to pay dues or change religions.

"It's wonderful, just wonderful," the math and language arts instructor told Cybercast News Service on Friday, after Judge Gregory Frost issued his decision.

Front struck down Ohio Revised Code section 4117.09(C) as a violation of Katter’s First Amendment rights. He also permanently enjoined the State Employment Relations Board from further enforcing that law.

The law in question stated that any public employee, who was a member of a "bona fide religion or religious body which has historically held conscientious objections to joining or financially supporting an employee organization ... shall not be required to join or financially support any employee organization."

Katter, a lifelong Catholic, had always declined membership in the Ohio Education Association, a state chapter of the National Education Association, because of its position in favor of abortion.

But dues became mandatory last year. When she spoke to the union attorney, she was told her she had two choices - pay her dues or "change religions."

She soon learned that members of the Seventh-day Adventist and Mennonite churches received an exemption, due to their denominations' history of objection to union membership. The exemption was not extended to Catholics.

With free legal assistance from the nonprofit National Right to Work Foundation (NRWF), she filed a federal complaint in the U.S. District Court in Columbus last January. Katter also filed a related charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Stefan Gleason, the NRWF's vice president, praised the judge's ruling as "a victory for employee rights and the freedom of conscience."

Gleason noted that Frost's ruling follows another federal court decision last fall, which affirmed that all public-sector employees who have sincere religious objections to union affiliation cannot be forced to associate with and pay dues to a union they find objectionable.

"While the ruling expands the rights available to employees of faith, abuses of forced unionism will inevitably continue until Ohio passes a Right to Work law making union membership and dues payment strictly voluntary," he told Cybercast News.

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UK bishops say hybrid embryos should be treated as human embryos

London, England, Jun 27, 2007 (CNA) - Parliament is expected to debate a draft bill later this year that would allow scientists to create hybrid embryos for research as long as they are destroyed within two weeks.

Ministers say the creation of animal-human embryos - created by injecting animal cells or DNA into human embryos or human cells into animal eggs - will be heavily regulated.

They insist that the Human Tissue and Embryo Bill would make it illegal to implant “chimeras” - named after the mythical creature that was half man and half animal - into a woman’s womb.

The bill would allow the screening of embryos for genetic or chromosomal abnormalities that might lead to serious medical conditions, disabilities, or miscarriage. It would also permit doctors to check whether an embryo could provide a suitable tissue match for a sibling suffering from a life-threatening illness.

The bill would abolish the requirement for fertility clinics to consider the need for a father when deciding on treatment, which means clinics would no longer be able to deny treatment to lesbians and single mothers.

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales said most of the procedures covered by the bill “should not be licensed under any circumstances” because they violate human rights.

But, in a submission to the Parliamentary joint committee scrutinizing the draft legislation, they added that they are anxious to limit the destruction of hybrid embryos — even if it is “interspecies” — once they have been brought into existence.

In their submission, the bishops said “embryos with a preponderance of human genes should be assumed to be embryonic human beings, and should be treated accordingly.”

The bishops argued that the genetic mothers of “chimeras” should be able to carry them to term and raise them as their own children if they wished.

“In particular, it should not be a crime to transfer them, or other human embryos, to the body of the woman providing the ovum, in cases where a human ovum has been used to create them,” the bishops wrote.

“Such a woman is the genetic mother, or partial mother, of the embryo; should she … wish to carry her child to term, she should not be prevented from doing so.”

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Australian state passes law that supports stem-cell research

Sydney, Australia, Jun 27, 2007 (CNA) - Despite opposition from the Catholic Church and a prayer campaign by Christian MPs, the NSW Upper House passed a law that lifts the ban on embryonic stem-cell research in the Australian state. The Bill passed by a vote of 28 to 13.

Cardinal George Pell of Sydney had warned Catholic MPs who supported the bill that "their voting has consequences for their place in the life of the Church".

Despite the warning, a number of high-profile Catholic MPs, including Premier Morris Iemma and his deputy, John Watkins, voted in favor of the Bill.

The Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, a Catholic, abstained from the vote. Four cabinet members, Kristina Keneally, Graham West, Kevin Greene and Barbara Perry, voted against the Bill.

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Cardinal Dias calls for prayers in anticipation of release of Pope’s letter to Chinese Catholics

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, has launched a prayer campaign calling on all the feminine cloistered monasteries in Italy to pray that the soon-to-be released letter from Pope Benedict XVI to Catholics in China will be well-received and that they will be able to enjoy religious freedom.

Cardinal Dias said the Pope’s letter is intended to “express his paternal closeness and offer some guidance related to the life of the Church and the work of evangelization” in China.  He noted that Catholics in China are divided between those in the “official” church recognized by Beijing, and those in the underground Church faithful to the Holy Father, which he said is “cause for much suffering and confusion among pastors and the faithful.”

“All Catholics are united in the profession of the one faith and in their unwavering loyalty to the successor of Peter,” the cardinal said. “For this reason, many of them suffer terrible persecutions and have died for the cause of Christ and His Church,” he said in conclusion.

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Archbishop denounced division and tension government has fostered among Venezuelans

Caracas, Venezuela, Jun 27, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Reinaldo del Prette of Valencia said this week President Hugo Chavez’s heavy-handed manner of governing has created division and tension among Venezuelans, even among families.

“I don’t understand how he can impose a system by force without addressing matters with reason and with arguments, thus trying win support from others.  This has created the tension and division which we have seen in the country, even in the heart of families,” the archbishop said during a meeting with students.  He told them that national reconciliation “results from open and sincere dialogue,” “especially with you young people.”

In a democracy, he continued, “one must persuade rather than impose,” because “ideas and the truth are what convince.”  “One must have sufficient humility and sincerity” to recognize when the other person speaks the truth.  He called on President Chavez to “lower the tone of confrontation in order to seek out reconciliation.”

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Appointment of Cardinal Tauran to new post shows Pope’s commitment to inter-religions dialogue

Rome, Italy, Jun 27, 2007 (CNA) - In a report on the recent naming of Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran to head the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Vatican Radio said the decision to appoint the cardinal shows the importance Pope Benedict XVI places on dialogue with other religious, including Islam.

Speaking on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Tauran spoke about the decision to make the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue a dicastery in its own right again.  “I think it shows the great importance the Pope gives to dialogue between religious and, in particular, with Islam.  Therefore he desired that this council recover its autonomy in order to be an effective instrument at the service of dialogue between religions,” he said.

Cardinal Tauran said the Pope’s address at the University of Ratisbona in 2006 had  “decisive influence,” as the reactions to the speech allowed the Pope to clarify his thought.  In his discourses to representatives from Arab countries and from Asia the Pope’s train of thought can be clearly seen, he explained, in that “inter-religious dialogue is a factor for peace,” because religions are at its service.

In the interview, Vatican Radio underscored the vast diplomatic experience of Cardinal Tauran, who acknowledged, “According to what the Holy Father has told me, in fact, my experience with the problem of the Middle East and the knowledge that I have of the Arab world will help me give my two cents for the building up of this dialogue between religions.”

He said he would listen to the advice of his collaborators and he expressed his desire to work together with other Vatican dicasteries, so that all of them “can have a complete vision about the problems of this dialogue.”

“The Pope continues to reiterate, as he did in Cologne, that dialogue with Muslims for example is not something passing, but rather it belongs to the action of the Church,” Cardinal Tauran said.  “Because the Church is the essence of God in sense the Christ is the Word of God.  Therefore the Church is Word, she is essentially the conversation and dialogue of God,” he stated.

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Don’t expect radical changes in Roman Curia, says Vatican analyst

Rome, Italy, Jun 27, 2007 (CNA) - In an article to be published Thursday by “L’Espresso,” Vatican watcher Sandro Magister explains why, despite the predictions of many analysts, big changes in the Roman Curia are not a priority for Benedict XVI.


In an article entitled, “The Reform that Doesn’t Exist,” Magister points out that the “few appointments made in the curia by Pope Joseph Ratzinger, interpreted by almost everyone as the prelude to a general revolution, have remained what they are: few and isolated.”


According to Magister, Pope Benedict XVI has chosen a non-conflictive and patient path for bring about change in the Curia.  He points to five examples, such as the naming of the current Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and the President of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, Archbishop Attilio Nicora.


Magister says the Pontiff has charged both with carrying out a slow, gradual reform of the Curia.  “In the third year of his reign, it is evident that the reform of the curia is not a priority in the agenda of Benedict XVI,” he notes, adding that the Pontiff’s priorities range from “the field of liturgy to the field of ethics.” 


Magister also speculates about the delays behind some long-awaited documents, such as the letter to Catholics in China, promised by Easter but still unreleased, and the Motu Propio granting the universal right to celebrate the Mass of St. Pius V.


The full article can be read at

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Education for Citizenship promotes “secular view of life” which excludes God, says Spanish cardinal

Madrid, Spain, Jun 27, 2007 (CNA) - The archbishop of Toledo and vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, said this week the class Education for Citizenship is a “clear government project” in line with “a secular view of the life in which religious are relegated exclusively to the private sphere.”


The cardinal made his comments during a seminar on the controversial class organized by the University of St. Paul and the Garcia Morente Foundation.


Education for Citizenship, which Spain’s new education law mandates be taught in all schools, “is more than a class,” the cardinal said.  It is completely at odds with “the rights parents have to determine what kind of moral and religious formation they want for their children.”  Education for Citizenship, he said, is a “clear government project” in line with “a secular view of the life in which religious are relegated exclusively to the private sphere,” when in reality, “religious instruction should be fundamental in personal formation.”


“The teaching of religion is not a privilege that the State grants, but rather [the State] fulfills its duty” by facilitating its availability.  He said the government course should be adapted to “the religions convictions of parents” who, in his opinion “are not being given consideration.”


Cardinal Canizares said the course “denies the existence of universal principles” and teaches that what is important is “what I decide, and what I make up.”  Therefore it is in essence founded upon a nihilist view of the world, with no regard for universal moral principles.  It portrays those who believe in such principles as naïve, he added.  “Pluralism for all is accepted except for those who believe they know the truth,” the cardinal stated.  He warned that the course represents the imposition on society of “insidious anti-clericalism, a cultural project that seeks a change of mentality.”


In conclusion he warned that to teach the course in its current form is to “collaborate with evil.”

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Expected Motu Proprio to be published July 7, German newspaper announces

Vatican City, Jun 27, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI intends to publish his Motu Proprio liberating the Mass of St. Pius V on July 7, 2007 announced today the Vatican correspondent for the German newspaper Die Welt, Paul Badde.

Badde reported today that Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, presented a copy of the Motu Proprio universally liberating the Tridentine Mass to some 30 bishops from different countries at the Sala Bologna of the Apostolic Palace.

Die Welt’s correspondent only mentions that Cardinal Karl Lehmann from Germany was one of the bishops attending the meeting, which ended with a one-by-one greeting to the Holy Father.

The three-page long document, signed by Pope Benedict XVI,  comes with a letter of explanation about four pages long.  The publication of both documents will take place on July 7th.

According to Badde, the letter emphasizes the unity of the Roman Rite, which from now on will have two forms, an “ordinary” and an “extraordinary,” supposed to inspire each other.

The ordinary form will continue to be the Post-Vatican rite; while the extraordinary will be the Missal used until 1962 and written according to the norms established by Pope St. Pius V and confirmed by the Council of Trent –thus the name “Tridentine.”

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