Vatican City, Jul 3, 2007 (CNA) - Benedict XVI is due to make an apostolic trip to Austria from September 7 to 9, for the 850th anniversary of the foundation of the Shrine of Mariazell.
The Marian shrine is located in the foothills of the Austrian Alps and is the most popular pilgrimage site in central Europe. The shrine can be reached by foot or by bus. The popularity of the shrine is demonstrated by the fact that there are trails that lead to the shrine from every region of the country, thus making a pilgrimage from any country surrounding Austria possible. Along the pilgrimage routes, various roadside shrines have been established for pilgrims to pray at.
The Pope’s visit will take place on September 8, Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin.
It will be the Holy Father's second apostolic trip outside Italy in 2007, following his journey to Brazil in May when he visited Sao Paulo and Aparecida for the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Philadelphia, Pa., Jul 3, 2007 (CNA) - Seventy-five people, including teachers and students as young as eight years old, picketed the NEA convention in Philadelphia July 1.
Many NEA delegates openly expressed disbelief, skepticism and shock at the revelation that their union was involved in pro-abortion advocacy.
They seemed unaware of NEA's longstanding Family Planning Resolution, which supports "reproductive freedom" and "all methods of family planning", including abortion. They also seemed unaware that NEA is one of Planned Parenthood's primary advocates and had co-sponsored large pro-abortion rallies in Washington in 2004, 1992, and 1989.
Some delegates berated the pro-lifers and accused them of lying. Others thanked the demonstrators for underlining the issue. Others still, said they would raise the issue on the Convention floor and attempt to persuade NEA to abandon its pro-abortion agenda and activism.
"We joined NEA for collective bargaining representation; not to be misrepresented on socio-political or moral issues like abortion, homosexuality, or who to vote for,” said Bob Pawson, national coordinator of PLEAS and an NEA member. He requested that NEA totally disengage from the abortion issue in respect for the diversity of its 3.2 million members.
"Babies are our business,” he continued. “For NEA to condone, much less promote, killing babies in their wombs is not only a moral outrage; it's economic suicide. Abortion costs us our jobs."
The two-hour demonstration closed with prayer shortly after 3 p.m.
Dover, Del., Jul 3, 2007 (CNA) - In an 11th-hour vote, Delaware's General Assembly overwhelmingly defeated Senate Bill 5, which would have authorized the use of human embryos in medical experiments.
The bill was defeated by a vote of 30 to 7. The vote was called at 10:30 p.m. on June 30, in the last hours before Delaware's General Assembly closed for the summer.
More than 50 members of A Rose and a Prayer, an interfaith grassroots group, assembled at Legislative Hall Saturday night to express their support to legislators who voted against the bill.
Ellen Barrosse, a founder of A Rose and a Prayer, said the bill was defeated because state representatives heard from tens of thousands of Delawareans who are against embryo-destructive research.
In an effort to defeat the bill, A Rose and a Prayer organized regular prayer vigils since January, mobilized tens of thousands of Delawareans to call their legislators, and delivered more than 4,000 roses to Legislative Hall, each labeled with the name of a constituent who opposed the bill.
Dr. Mary McCrossan, a physician and member of the group, said science has overtaken what was proposed in the bill.
"The exciting news this month that skin cells have been reprogrammed to their embryonic state, without the need for human cloning or embryo destruction, makes Senate Bill 5 simply unnecessary," McCrossan said in a statement.
Stephen E. Jenkins, Esq., president of A Rose and a Prayer, is hopeful Delawareans will not have to face a similar bill again.
This is the second time A Rose and a Prayer has mobilized to help defeat legislation that would have legalized human embryonic stem cell research in Delaware. The group intends to take its work further. A Rose and a Prayer intends to hire an executive director and other staff this summer, and establish an office in Wilmington.
Vatican City, Jul 3, 2007 (CNA) - Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said this week that at the same time that China “open itself to the free market and to relations with the nations of the world, it should also open itself to freedom and the proclamation of the Gospel.”
Cardinal Bertone made his comments during a Mass celebrated at the Shrine of Our Lady of Montallegro in Rapallo, Italy, to mark the 450th anniversary of the apparitions of Mary there. “In his letter, the Pope is without a doubt reaching out to the great Chinese people, to Catholics who not only have suffered so much” but who have “shown great faithfulness to the Christian faith and to the faith of Peter.”
“Keeping in mind always the great spiritual tradition of the peoples of the East, we hope there will also be a greater openness to religious freedom and to the proclamation of the Christian faith,” the cardinal added.
Vatican City, Jul 3, 2007 (CNA) - The director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, said this week Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to Chinese Catholics “is motivated by two great loves: his love for China and his love for the Catholic Church.”
The letter “has a very positive perspective and is full of hope for the growth of a Church that will be fully Chinese and fully Catholic,” Father Lombardi stated, explaining that the Pontiff hopes that the Church in that country will become “vitally and constructively” involved in Chinese life and culture. “The Church wants to and can be truly Chinese,” he said.
Father Lombardi stressed that the letter is “full of affection and gratitude for the faithful witness of so many Chinese Catholics and at the same time it is full of the theology of the Church” and that it is principally a “religious and pastoral tool aimed at the members of the Catholic Church in China, which does not want to get involved in political or diplomatic problems.”
“The Pope is not seeking confrontation with anyone. He is not launching accusations, inside or outside the Church, he always maintains a serene tone full of respect, even when he refers to the limitations of freedom, to unacceptable positions, to internal tensions in the Church.”
“The exhortation to unity, reconciliation, and reciprocal forgiveness is one of the most intense messages sustained throughout the letter,” Father Lombardi added.
He also noted that nature of ecclesial communion and of the role of bishops has led the Pope to address the issue of the naming of bishops and the actions of state agencies that are irreconcilable with a Catholic vision.
“If Chinese officials tend to be worried about external interference in the life of the country, the Church for her part is concerned about undue interference from the State in her internal life,” Father Lombardi said. “Thus the Pope insists on explaining the correct distinction between the political sphere and the religious sphere, between the responsibilities of civil officials and those of the Church, and he firmly declares the willingness of the Church to dialogue in order to overcome misunderstandings and disputed points, as well as in the area of the naming of bishops,” the Vatican spokesman said.
“The Church will be and can be fully Chinese the more she is truly herself. This is the essence of the great, faithful and marvelous message of the Pope,” he said.
Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 3, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro, said the Church in that country is willing to collaborate in finding ways to return the bodies of 18 government officials who were killed on June 18 after spending more than two years held captive by the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC).
“The Church is willing to seek out different alternatives,” the archbishop said, noting that one option would be to establish contact with the FARC in order to facilitate the finding of the bodies, since “without their help it will be very difficult to get the bodies returned.”
Archbishop Castro called for an “international commission, not exactly the one proposed by European countries (Spain, France and Switzerland), but their suggestion should definitely be taken into consideration.”
Spain, France and Switzerland suggested the Colombian government request an international commission be formed in accord with the Geneva Conventions in order to investigate the deaths of the lawmakers. However, President Alvaro Uribe rejected this idea and said it was disrespectful to put “the FARC and the government on the same level.”
Archbishop Castro warned that the country remains mired in “a vicious circle” that is leading nowhere.
New Haven, Conn., Jul 3, 2007 (CNA) - The head of the Knights of Columbus has announced that their upcoming 125th annual convention is garnering more attention as three major Catholic media groups have said they will provide coverage of the event.
The outlets that have committed to cover the event are Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), Salt & Light Television, and Sirius Satellite Radio’s The Catholic Channel.
The most extensive live coverage will be provided by EWTN, which will broadcast uninterrupted coverage throughout the opening day of the convention. The network will also bring in its News Director Raymond Arroyo to anchor the telecast. EWTN will provide translation for its Spanish speaking audience and as usual make its live broadcast available on the internet.
The American television network’s coverage will include the Opening Mass, which will be celebrated by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Supreme Knight’s annual report, and the States Dinner program. EWTN will also include live interviews and pre-recorded segments about the K of C throughout the day.
Salt and Light, a Catholic television network from Canada, plans to broadcast live segments of Tuesday’s activities, including the Mass, the Supreme Knight’s report and
States Dinner program. It will also be present throughout the convention to conduct interviews with delegates and Church leaders for its nightly program ZOOM and its weekly current affairs magazine, FOCUS. Salt & Light will also be preparing a documentary on the Knights of Columbus during the convention.
Sirius Satellite Radio’s The Catholic Channel (channel 159) will broadcast its Busted Halo Show, hosted by Paulist Father Dave Dwyer, from the convention Wednesday, Aug. 8 from 7-9 p.m. (EDT). The Catholic Channel will provide periodic updates and interviews throughout the convention and Cardinal Edward Egan, Archbishop of New York, will record his weekly program, A Conversation with the Cardinal, from the event in Nashville.
Rome, Italy, Jul 3, 2007 (CNA) - The Superior General of the Pontifical Missionary Institute, Father Gian Battista Zanchi, has warned against politicizing the kidnapping of Father Giancarlo Bossi, which occurred on June 10 on the Philippine island of Mindanao.
In a press release, Father Zanchi thanked all those “who are praying and working for the release of Father Bossi,” and he noted that the PMI “does not want to become involved in political controversies and laments that he is being used as an instrument.”
Father Zanchi stressed that the controversy in Italy surrounding the case “could end being counterproductive, making the release of our brother more difficult.” He said a delegation would soon be arriving in Mindanao to work for the priest’s liberation.
He noted that up to now the PMI has not received any confirmation about the identity of the kidnappers, and that therefore to see the occurrence as “a conflict between Christians and Muslims is unjustified.”
“In order to avoid any confusion,” he added, “the PMI will make known its position through official statements.”
La Paz, Bolivia, Jul 3, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia, Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, has sent ten proposals to the Constitutional Assembly in which the Church in that country calls for the new constitution to respect the fundamental values of life, family, marriage, and well as the right to religious freedom.
“Those who will make the laws of the country are in complete freedom to do so, but they should not forget that these must include the right to faith and to life, as our nation is majority Catholic,” he said during a press conference.
“The State has the duty to protect marriage as the union between a man and a woman, to defend the family and right to life of all human beings,” the cardinal continued. He also asked that the State recognized the Church “as a collective person that works in service to the community.”
Archbishop Tito Solari, who was also at the press conference, stressed that parents have the right to choose the education they want for their children and that the existence of private schools must be guaranteed. He also said religious instruction should be a fundamental part of comprehensive education.
Cardinal Terrazas has called for a day of payer on July 27, asking “all believers in Christ to turn to the power of prayer to God that his peace would create an atmosphere of reconciliation in the country.”
Washington D.C., Jul 3, 2007 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops decried the failure of comprehensive immigration reform legislation to move forward in the U.S. Senate.
“As a nation, we cannot continue to employ an immigration system that leads to the exploitation of millions of our fellow human beings,” said Bishop Gerald Barnes in a June 29 statement. Bishop Barnes is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration.
“We cannot accept the toil of a large underclass which does not have full rights in our society. This strikes at the very character of our nation and lessens us as a people,” he continued.
The bishop lauded those senators who worked for comprehensive reform legislation and urged all Congress members to return to this issue as soon as possible.
“The status quo is morally unacceptable and should not be allowed to stand,” Bishop Barnes said. “The U.S. bishops shall continue to point out the moral deficiencies in the immigration system and work toward justice until it is achieved.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 3, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has approved plans to examine the interior of an ancient stone coffin, which Vatican archeologists positively identified as that of St. Paul less than two years ago, reported Kath.net.
The coffin is beneath the main altar of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. The position of the stone coffin has not been altered since the year 390 A.D.
Archeologists are expected to remove a plug, with which the coffin had been sealed in antiquity, and use an endoscopic probe to gather images of the contents.
The researchers are unsure about what they will find in the tomb since documentary evidence indicates that St. Paul's remains were removed from the original burial site in A.D. 258 to another part of Rome. They were then moved back to the site of the basilica when it was built over the original church in the late fourth century.
The tomb was discovered during excavations in 2002 and 2003, which were launched after thousands of pilgrims visiting the basilica during the Jubilee Year of 2000 asked about the location of the apostle's tomb, reported WorldNetDaily.com.
The sarcophagus was found during the second excavation under the basilica's main altar, behind a 4th-century marble plaque that bears the inscription, "Apostle Paul, martyr."
The tomb measures about eight feet long, four feet wide and three feet high. Since the discovery, archaeologists have cleared away centuries of debris and plaster that surrounded the tomb. A thick glass panel was put into the floor so visitors can look down to the tomb.
Archeologists tried to X-ray the sarcophagus when it was first found but the stone was too thick.
The decision to further explore the contents of the tomb was made with the upcoming Year of St. Paul in mind.