New Haven, Conn., Jun 29, 2007 (CNA) - The Knights of Columbus has announced that the Secretary of State for the Vatican, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, will be attending the Order’s 125th annual convention this August. While this will be the 125th convention for the Knights, it also will contain a number of first-time events. For Cardinal Bertone, it will be the first time as Secretary of State that he will visit the U.S. and for the Knights, it will be the first time since 1982 that they have hosted the secretary of state.
The cardinal will be attending the convention to receive the Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope) award and address the men gathered for the conference.
“We are honored that Cardinal Bertone will be coming to the United States to attend our convention this year,” said Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson. “To have the Vatican Secretary of State in attendance for our 125th annual convention is a great testament to the enduring legacy of our founder, the Servant of God, Father Michael J. McGivney.”
Cardinal Bertone will serve as principal celebrant and homilist for the convention’s opening Mass on Tuesday, Aug. 7, and will bring a special message from Pope Benedict XVI to be read during the opening session of the convention Tuesday afternoon. He will address the cardinals and bishops attending the convention, as well as the Knights of Columbus board of directors on Wednesday evening.
On Tuesday evening the Knights of Columbus will present him with the Order’s Gaudium et Spes award during the annual States Dinner. The award is not given annually with only seven being given out over the last fifteen years. The first recipient was Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta in 1992 and in 2005, Jean Vanier, founder of l’Arche, became the most recent recipient.
“The award is designed to recognize individuals for their exemplary service to the Church and humanity in the spirit of Christ as articulated by the work of the Second Vatican Council.”
Founded in New Haven, Conn. in 1882, the Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest lay Catholic organization, with 1.7 million members in the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, Central America, and Poland.
Phoenix, Ariz., Jun 29, 2007 (CNA) - In a case reminiscent of Terri Schiavo’s, a 36-year-old man who suffered serious brain injuries in a car accident emerged from his comatose state and is rehabilitating despite doctors’ initial prognosis that the injuries could have left him blind or in a permanent vegetative state.
Jesse Ramirez was in the car accident on May 30, and by June 8, his 33-year-old wife, Rebecca, asked doctors to remove his food and water tubes. But Jesse's family took her to court, and a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ordered the tubes reconnected. The judge appointed an independent attorney to mediate between the families and to talk to Jesse's doctors, reported The Arizona Republic.
On Tuesday, the family members reached a settlement on Jesse's care that would transfer the decision-making from Rebecca to a court-appointed guardian, the newspaper said.
Byron Babione, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, a Scottsdale-based right-to-life organization, called the settlement "a good decision for everyone; it lifts the burden off the wife, and it lifts the burden off the family, as well."
Bobby Schindler of the Florida-based Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation also commented on the case, saying medical professionals are too quick to dismiss patients with brain injuries. Schindler is the brother of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman who died in 2005 after her tubes were removed, following a decades-long court battle.
According to The Arizona Republic, Jesse and Rebecca’s vehicle overturned on a street in Chandler and crashed in the yard of a pottery business, throwing them both from the car.
After the accident, Rebecca told police that they had been quarreling over a man's phone number that Jesse had found on her cell phone. In the report, she said Jesse became so angry while driving that he yelled and banged on the windshield of his Toyota SUV. Rebecca told police she wanted to get out of the vehicle but that Jesse would not allow her to. She opened the door, thinking that she would jump from the moving SUV. Then, Jesse lost control of the vehicle, and they crashed.
Denver, Colo., Jun 29, 2007 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops launched a national media campaign to promote healthy marriages and to convey the meaning and value of married life for the Church and society.
The campaign, directed at all couples, not just Catholics, was launched Wednesday in Denver, reported the Rocky Mountain News.
"Marriage is the foundation of the family; the family in turn is the bedrock of society," Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver told about 250 people at the Adams Mark Hotel for a meeting of the Marriage and Family Life Committee. "Both are necessary for the good of society. When either institution weakens, all of us suffer the consequences."
“The church seeks to do all it can to encourage what goes into a solid marriage: prayer, fidelity, commitment, and the little things that count,” said Archbishop-elect Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chairman of the Marriage and Family Life Committee, in a separate statement.
The campaign includes 30- and 60-second television and radio clips in which married couples on the street spontaneously answer the question, “What have you done for your marriage today?” The clips have been offered as public service announcements to 2,500 broadcast, cable and radio outlets nationwide.
The campaign was organized as part of the U.S. bishops’ national pastoral initiative for marriage. It is coordinated by the U.S. bishops’ committees on communications and on marriage and family life.
"It's not a particularly religiously focused campaign," said Archbishop Chaput. "What we are really trying to do is encourage all people to be reflective about their marriage."
The conclusions from a series of focus groups, held in preparation for the campaign, were the importance of commitment and the need to do something every day to nurture one's marriage.
For more information or for marriage resources, go to: www.foryourmarriage.org
Omaha, Neb., Jun 29, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Omaha has severed ties with Creighton University's Center for Marriage and Family after two university researchers said the Catholic Church should allow engaged couples to live together and have sex before marriage.
The two researchers, Michael Lawler and Gail Risch, made their position known in the June issue of U.S. Catholic magazine.
Lawler is the director of the Creighton Center for Marriage and Family and professor emeritus of Catholic theology at Creighton. Risch is an instructor of ethics.
In the article, Lawler and Risch proposed a “modern-day betrothal” situation which they claim reflects Catholic tradition. They noted that in the 13th and 14th centuries couples were often first betrothed — a mutual consent to spend the rest of their lives together — before they were actually married.
"The first sexual intercourse between the spouses usually followed the betrothal — a fact of the Catholic tradition that has been obscured by the now-taken-for-granted sequence of wedding, marriage, sexual intercourse," Lawler and Risch wrote.
"Such a process would meet the legitimate Catholic and social requirement that the sex act must take place only within a stable relationship," they wrote.
Archbishop Elden F. Curtiss of Omaha responded to the proposal by vehemently opposing it. He denounced the article as contrary to Catholic doctrine and said neither Lawler nor Risch is a reliable theologian.
The archbishop asserted that the establishment of this sort of relationship would not respect marriage or the family. The issue is crystal clear, he said: "Couples who live together without marriage do in fact live in sin objectively."
The new position of the center led the archbishop to sever ties with the institute. "Because the position of the authors is contrary to church teaching about the intrinsic evil of fornication, I have disassociated the Omaha Archdiocese from the Center for Marriage and Family at Creighton University," Archbishop Curtiss wrote.
The separation of the Omaha Archdiocese and the Center for Marriage and Family is a particularly sharp one because the archdiocese is considered a national leader in premarital counseling. FOCCUS, a marriage preparation inventory developed by the archdiocese's Family Life Office, is widely used by Catholics and Protestants.
Warsaw, Poland, Jun 29, 2007 (CNA) - A special Church commission disclosed on Wednesday that about a dozen bishops, who are still living, had ties to Poland’s communist-era secret police.
The commission said that among Poland's 132 bishops, “about a dozen were registered by the security services of communist Poland as ‘secret collaborators’ or ‘operational contacts’ and one was registered as an “agent” of the intelligence service,” reported The Associated Press.
The secret police labeled other bishops as “candidates.” In such cases, security agents gathered material on a person in the hope of recruiting him as an informant.
This news comes at a time when Polish Catholics are still reeling from the shock of discovering that some of its clergy, previously known for their resistance to communism, had ties to the repressive government.
In order to uncover the extent of the connections between the clergy and the security services, the country’s bishops created a commission to investigate. The bishops asked the special commission to review the communist-era files in January, after Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus of Warsaw resigned before his installation over disclosures he had cooperated with the former secret police.
Other prominent clergy have also resigned over similar allegations. This issue is believed to have compromised a minority of clergy, about 10 percent, reported the AP.
But Archbishop Slawoj Leszek Glodz warned at a press conference that the documents do not provide an accurate picture of the extent of cooperation between the bishops and the secret police.
Reading from a statement, he told reporters the documents in the secret police archives “are incomplete and chaotic” and “do not allow to reliably determine the scope, intensity or harm” of any cooperation by the bishops with the security services, reported the AP.
He said there was no evidence that the 12 bishops had signed agreements to collaborate with the secret police. He said, unlike other informants, clergy were not required to provide such signatures. Historians, however, discovered such documents signed by Wielgus.
The archbishop said the report would be forwarded to the Vatican for evaluation.
Vatican City, Jun 29, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican has announced that Benedict XVI’s long awaited letter to Catholics in China will be released on Saturday at noon. The letter is part of the Holy Father’s plan to address the situation of Catholics who have been divided by the government’s attempts to control the Church there.
The current situation of division began in 1951 when the officially atheist Communist Party took power and forced Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican. Presently, worship is allowed only in the government-controlled churches which are not allowed to acknowledge the leadership of the Pope. Millions of Chinese, however, belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome.
Benedict has been reaching out to Beijing in an effort to restore diplomatic ties and unite China's estimated 12 million faithful. The Chinese government and the Vatican have remained divided over the government’s refusal to allow the Pope to appoint bishops and to exercise his papal authority.
Benedict's decision to address Chinese Catholics in a letter came out of high-level talks on China at the Vatican in January.
The Vatican statement on the letter, issued yesterday, provided a general indication of the letter’s contents by speaking of the interest in pursuing "respectful and constructive dialogue" with the government while paying tribute to those Catholics who have suffered for their loyalty to the pope.
Vatican watchers have said they expect the pope will stress the unity of the Catholic Church in the document, which Italian news reports said would be about 28 pages long and read like a mini-encyclical.
The reaction of the Beijing government and the underground faithful will be vitally important. Some underground priests have already expressed resentment about the pope's outreach to the government and the official church, according to the “official” bishop of Shanghai, Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian.
According to the International Herald Tribune’s source, Agostino Giovagnoli, a commentator on Vatican-China relations, "There will be two different reactions." The underground bishops may resent the pope's recognition of the fact that many "official" bishops who were consecrated without Rome's consent have since reconciled with the Holy See, he said.
"Maybe the reaction of the official bishops will be better," he said.
Benedict made clear from the outset of his papacy two years ago that improving relations with China was a key priority.
He has sent envoys to Beijing to sound out the government on the possibility of restoring ties, and he invited four Chinese bishops — from the official and underground churches — to a meeting of the world's bishops in 2005. Beijing did not let any of the four attend.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 29, 2007 (CNA) - The European Union and the United Nations have kept up pressure on Nicaragua to reverse the law passed last October 26 outlawing therapeutic abortion in the country, saying economic aid could be lost if the law is not changed.
In the parliamentarian debates prior to the outlawing of abortion, Nicaragua was under pressure from the UN and from donating countries not to prohibit the practice.
As part of the pressure, the president of the National Parliament received a letter in which he was asked to stop debate on the measure to reform the country’s Penal Code.
Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Germany’s Minister of Cooperation and Development, said, “The international community of donating countries has clearly expressed to President Ortega that there would be immediate consequences in terms of cooperation for development if this national legislation (that penalizes therapeutic abortion) is not rejected.”
Marc Litvine, who represents the EU Foreign Relations Directory in Nicaragua, said in February of this year that the EU sees the issue of the legality of abortion “linked with aid for poverty and women’s rights” and he said his institution is “concerned” about the criminalization of abortion. He said he expected the law to be reversed.
Karl Buck, another EU official, relayed “the enormous indignation” of the EU in a fax sent to the Nicaraguan ambassador in which he threatened to marginalize the country from the international community and ostracize it until it reverses the law.
The organization EUROFAM is encouraging people to write letters of protest to German chancellor and current EU President, Angela Merkel. More information can be found at http://www.eu2007.de/en/contact/index.html
Havana, Cuba, Jun 29, 2007 (CNA) - On October 28 Pope Benedict XVI will raise 498 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War to the altars—perhaps the largest number of martyrs beatified in one ceremony in the history of the Church. Among the five that are not of Spanish origin will be Brother Jose Lopez Piteira, an Augustinian deacon born in Cuba.
Brother Jose will be come Cuba’s first blessed. He was born in Arroy Blanco, Cuba, on February 2, 1912 to Spanish immigrants. According to the family records, his family returned to Spain when Jose was four or five years old.
They settled in Partorvia in northwestern Spain. As a young man Jose entered the Augustinian order and began studies for the priesthood. He made his solemn profession in 1934 and was ordained deacon on September 8, 1935, the feast of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba.
One of his biographers, Father Gonzalez Velasco, wrote: “It should be noted that the young Jose Lopez Piteira always felt proud that he was born in Cuba and was a Cuban citizen.
The magazine Palabra Cubana related the story of his martyrdom: “While studying at the Monastery of El Escorial, he was detained on August 6, 1936 with his Augustinian community at that monastery and imprisoned in Madrid. When he was told he could appeal to his Cuban citizenship to gain freedom, he answered: “All of you who have been my teachers and superiors are here. What I am going to do in the city? I prefer to have the same fate as everyone else, whatever God wishes that might be.”
“On November 30, 1936, Brother Jose Lopez Piteira was martyred in Paracuellos de Jarama together with 50 other Augustinian religious. At the time of his martyrdom he was 23,” the magazine reported.
Lusaka, Zambia, Jun 29, 2007 (CNA) - First Lady Laura Bush promoted the role of faith-based organizations in combating disease in Africa as she launched an anti-malaria campaign in Zambia on Thursday.
"Religious institutions bring a personal healing touch to the fight against AIDS," Mrs. Bush said, adding that Zambian health caregivers "know very well the healing power of faith."
According to the Associated Press, the First Lady spoke at an event at a community center on the eastern outskirts of Zambia's capital, where she took part in a round-table discussion with local Zambian women and girls who are providing care to family and friends infected with HIV.
Mrs. Bush, along with her daughter, Jenna, arrived in Zambia late Wednesday from Mozambique, where she announced a new $507 million aid package. She will travel Friday to Mali, the last stop in a four-nation tour of African countries that have benefited from U.S. AIDS funding.
The first lady is using her trip to support the role of faith-based organizations in foreign aid efforts. She planned to visit two such efforts in Zambia, where the vast majority of people are churchgoing Christians.
Mark Dybul, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator who accompanied Mrs. Bush on her trip, said 40-50 percent of health care in Africa was provided by faith-based organizations.
Canisius Banda, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said Zambia placed "great importance to the role of faith-based organizations in ... the fight against HIV and AIDS."
But he said such groups were not always supportive of certain aspects of the U.S.-backed prevention message that focuses on abstinence and faithfulness, along with condom use.
"They are weak on condom usage. They seem to have difficulty with that part of the message," he said. "They are very strong on abstinence as well as being faithful."
Critics say the U.S. AIDS relief program shifts emphasis from condoms toward abstinence and fidelity, especially among the young. U.S. officials say they recognize condoms are a key to fighting AIDS, but argue prevention is more effective when targeted at an appropriate audience.
In Zambia, Mrs. Bush told reporters abstinence "is a very important component of the program."
"There are several ways in which we can reach young people," she said. "One of the effective ways is abstinence ... it brings back dignity and self-responsibility to young people."
Faith-based aid groups like World Vision and Catholic Relief Services are partnering with local Zambian groups to distribute 500,000 insecticide-treated bed nets throughout Zambia in a $2.5 million anti-malaria partnership. Half of the money is coming from a coalition of American corporations.