, Jul 12, 2007 (CNA) - This morning, the Vatican announced Pope Benedict XVI’s appointment of Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien as the Archbishop of Baltimore and the acceptance of Cardinal William Keeler’s resignation.
Archbishop O’Brien was previously the head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services which has 1.5 million Catholics, two auxiliary bishops and 300 priests in uniform.
At a press conference in Baltimore this morning, he was asked what he saw as the reason for his selection as the new head of the Archdiocese. He responded, “I’ll give you the Pope’s number (laughter)… They talk about seminary experience? I don’t know.”
Prior to his ordination as bishop, Archbishop O’Brien served as Rector at two seminaries, St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, NY and the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
On a more serious note, Archbishop O’Brien noted that he looks forward to working with the two seminaries in the archdiocese and that he sees Pastor Dabo Vobis, a post-synodal exhortation from the late Pope John Paul II on priests, as his model.
Asked about the benefits of coming to the Archdiocese of Baltimore, O’Brien responded, “The historic nature of the archdiocese is a great benefit.”
The Archbishop sees his greatest challenges in leading his new flock as, “making known the benefits of our Catholic schools, recruiting young men for the priesthood, and serving the poor.”
Archbishop O’Brien succeeds Cardinal William H. Keeler, who has served as Baltimore’s 14th archbishop since 1989. The replacement of Cardinal Keeler is more than likely due to health reasons, since he underwent brain surgery in June for a non-life threatening condition and appeared visibly weakened at today’s press conference.
When questioned about his priestly background, O’Brien said, “I’m the only priest in family… I would say that it [the inspiration to become a priest] was the example of the Catholic community around me.
Archbishop O’Brien was ordained a priest in 1965 by Francis Cardinal Spellman and a bishop by Pope John Paul II in 1996, serving as Archbishop for the Military Services since 1997. During his priesthood, Archbishop O’Brien has served as chaplain at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and in Vietnam.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 12, 2007 (CNA) - In an exclusive interview with the Spanish daily “La Razon,” the superior general of the Lefebvrites, Bishop Bernard Fellay, said Benedict XVI’s Motu Propio allowing universal use of the Missal of 1962 as an extraordinary form of celebrating the Mass “is not a step, it’s a leap” of historic proportions.
The schismatic bishop spoke with journalist Vittorio Messori from the general house of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The movement boasts of 481 priests, 90 lay brothers, 206 nuns, 6 seminaries, 117 monasteries, 82 schools, 6 university institutes, 450 places of worship in 62 countries and at least half a million followers.
According to La Razon, Fellay’s reactions are “more positive than what anyone who knows the complexity of the ongoing case with the Holy See for more than 20 years could have expected: the Mass, not only in Latin, but according to the ancient rite, has always been the rallying cry of the Lefebvrists. But dissidents have always insisted on the fact that the new Eucharistic liturgy is nothing more than the expression of an orientation that is unacceptable in many aspects, adopted after Vatican II by the Catholic Church.
Thus, in certain traditionalist circles, it has often been said that a decree such as the one approved by Pope Ratzinger would not only be insufficient, but would in some way be a distraction and would reinforce the ambiguities.”
Nevertheless, Fellay said, “This is a truly historic day. We desire to express our profound gratitude to Benedict XVI. His document is a gift of Grace. It’s not a step; it’s a leap in the right direction.”
In addition, Fellay said the “normalization” of the Mass, “which does not belong to St. Pius VI but rather has always belonged to the Church,” is “an act of justice, it’s a supernatural extraordinary help in times of grave ecclesial crisis.”
“The reaffirmation by the Holy Father of the continuity of Vatican II and the new Mass with the constant Tradition of the Church moves us to continue the doctrinal discussion. ‘Lex orandi, lex credendi’: as one prays, so one believes. And now it has been recognized that in the eternal Mass, one can ‘adequately’ pray,” Fellay said.
“This document is a fundamental stage in a journey that now could be accelerated,” he noted, saying he hoped as well it would lead to a revisiting of the issue of the excommunications put in place by John Paul II.
According to Messori, the effort to recover the Church’s tradition, “initiated by John Paul II, although constrained to the obligatory excommunication, takes on noble success with Benedict XVI, in the perspective of the old Ratzinger project of a ‘reform of the reform,’ and not only of the ancient liturgy.”
San Diego, Calif., Jul 12, 2007 (CNA) - The day-laborer hiring center of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Fallbrook, California has been the target of a series of demonstrations, organized by the San Diego Minutemen. The demonstration on July 7 was the group’s third demonstration in front of the largely Hispanic church in less than a month.
San Diego Minutemen is an anti-illegal immigration group. Its website claims that a day laborer said almost all of the workers at the church site are illegal. This day laborer contested claims that the parish was taking a cut of the workers’ pay, but said workers had to give the church free labor.
The church pastor, Fr. Edward Kaicher, denied this claim. He said workers have volunteered for the church in the past but are not required to do so. He told the North County Times the church has offered workers breakfast and a place for meeting employers for the last 15 years.
“It’s just part of what we are as a church,” he was quoted as saying.
Minutemen founder Jeff Schwilk said his group had received complaints from Fallbrook residents about increased crime and the day-laborer site. He contacted immigration authorities, but they said they would not close the center because it is on church property. So the group has resorted to protesting.
The protests featured a bullhorn, picket signs, and an effigy of a priest in a cassock wearing a devil’s mask with a caption displaying the words, “More ILLEGAL ALIENS = MORE $$$.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0OMst4o6lc&NR=1 (all video provided by Minuteman organization)
According to eyewitnesses, at the first protest on June 16, demonstrators shouted to children entering the church for their First Communion that their parents were illegal and would be deported, reported the California Catholic.
A Minuteman sympathizer yelled at a Hispanic man, who began to argue with protesters: “It’s about the law, understand, comprende? ...If you rob a bank you’re going to jail... if you’re aiding and abetting illegal aliens, you’re breaking the law.”
When tensions increased between churchgoers and protesters, a protester reported, churchgoers began “swearing, flipping us off, threatening us...” Protesters responded by calling churchgoers “vile, disgusting human beings.”
One protester said: “Have some respect for America... You don’t have to hate this country because you’re Catholic.”
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights issued a statement, criticizing the “anti-Catholic bigotry and harassment” displayed at the protests.
“There are legitimate ways to protest. This is not one of them,” the statement reads. “By succumbing to anti-Catholic bigotry and harassment, the San Diego Minutemen have discredited their cause and have no moral grounds upon which to make their appeal.”
The Catholic League urged all Catholics to oppose the group. The Minutemen say they will continue protesting at the church until the day-laborer center shuts down.
Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2007 (CNA) - Homosexual groups have denounced the nomination of Dr. James Holsinger as U.S. Surgeon General because of his leadership in the United Methodist Church, which disapproves of homosexual practice.
Holsinger is expected to testify today before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Senator Ted Kennedy.
Several senators, including fellow United Methodist Hillary Clinton, have already said they will oppose Holsinger.
The United Methodist Church has 7.9 million members in the U.S. and several million more outside the U.S. Members also include President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Holsinger has served on the church's top court since 2000.
Mark Tooley of UMAction said Holsinger’s critics seem to want to establish “a new litmus test for public office -- a test that would exclude any nominee who is an orthodox Christian with traditional beliefs about sexual ethics.”
“This would appear to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the provision in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution stipulating that ‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,’” he noted.
"Dr. Holsinger's nomination should be evaluated based on his qualifications in the fields of medicine and public health,” said Tooley. “Opposition to any nominee based exclusively on his church activities and traditional Christian beliefs sets a dangerous new precedent."
Midland, Texas, Jul 12, 2007 (CNA) - The Chinese government is currently running its largest expulsion campaign of foreign missionaries since 1954, reports an organization that works with the persecuted Church in China.
In a July 10 press release, the China Aid Association stated a central government-directed campaign to expel suspected foreign missionaries has been ongoing since February 2007. The groups says this is the largest expulsion since 1954, when the Chinese Communist government expelled all foreign religious workers after taking power in 1949.
According to reliable China Aid sources and collaborated reports by at least five different mission agencies, over 100 foreigners accused of being involved in illegal religious activities in China have been expelled or forced to leave this year between April and June.
Sources inside the Chinese government informed China Aid that the government launched a massive expulsion campaign of foreign Christians, encoded Typhoon No. 5, in February 2007. This campaign is believed to be part of the “anti-infiltration” efforts to prevent foreign Christians from engaging in mission activities before the Beijing Olympics next year.
Most of those expelled are citizens of the United States, South Korea, Singapore, Canada, Australia, and Israel. They were expelled when they were either working or visiting in Xinjiang, Beijing, Tibet, or Shandong.
China Aid says an American who had been working in Xinjiang for 10 years, and wants to remain anonymous, reported that over 60 foreign religious workers were expelled from Xinjiang alone. Some of the workers had been serving the local people for 15 to 18 years. As well, at least 15 Christian couples from foreign countries were expelled from Beijing in May.
According to China Aid’s interviews with some of the expelled Americans, Chinese authorities confiscated their passports for 2 to 7 days and treated them professionally while they were interrogated. However, they were not allowed to have access to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, a direct violation of U.S.-China consulate protection agreements. Some will not be allowed to return to China for 5 years.
The Chinese government refuses to recognize foreign missionary status in China so many missionaries choose to work in the education or business sectors as ways to stay in China.
“Given the significant contribution to the Chinese people made by those expelled foreigners, this campaign is certainly misguided and counter-productive,” said China Aid president Bob Fu.
China Aid is calling on the Chinese government to correct this course of action and allow these workers back into China.
Fond du Lac, Wis., Jul 12, 2007 (CNA) - A 108-year-old sister is preparing to celebrate her 90th anniversary of religious life this month.
Sr. Claude Feldner of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes will join 45 other sisters on July 15 as they celebrate their jubilee anniversaries at Holy Family Sacred Heart Church in Fond du Lac.
Sr. Feldner told The Fond du Lac Reporter that she is living this time as one of gratitude and surprise.
"They didn't think I would live this long," she told the newspaper. "I was threatened with tuberculosis as a young woman and was sent to Kansas to heal. At that time, they thought a dryer climate would help a person. It must have worked because here I am at 108 years old ready to enjoy a party."
Sr. Feldner made her first profession in 1917. Over the years, she taught music in grade schools and college. She continues to play the piano almost daily. She served for many years as a formator for the congregation, preparing young women for religious life.
The congregation serves in the fields of education, health care, social work and pastoral ministry in the United States and Latin America.
Quito, Ecuador, Jul 12, 2007 (CNA) - Police officials in Ecuador are investigating the theft of colonial works of art that were stolen from the Church of St. Mark in the historic central district of the capital.
Speaking to reporters, Father Enrique Jimenez said that the works stolen included an oil painting of Our Lady of Carmel and another of Our Lady of Mercy, two statues of angels, a wooden statue of a bull as well as some other pieces.
Several churches in Ecuador have been burglarized in recent months, as the stolen artwork is used to support contraband networks.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 12, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Francisco Gil Hellin of Burgos said this week the group of martyrs of the Spanish Civil War that will soon be beatified “do not belong to any political group” and that viewing their deaths through a political spectrum not only amounts to “profound historical distortion but also serious intellectual error.”
The beatifications of 428 martyrs, which will take place on October 28 in Rome, are not about politics, he said, but rather about “love, forgiveness and full reconciliation. This is their message and this is the great lesson for the Church of today and of all times,” the archbishop said.
He stressed that the new blessed are “an example and motivation for us all…to be faithful at a time in which secularism and materialism have taken center stage in order to make us falter in our following of Jesus Christ.”
The new blessed show that the modern world is not moved solely by the desire for power, money and pleasure, and they confirm that there are “many people who are moved by love and forgiveness.”
Archbishop Gil encouraged priests and religious in the diocese to make the lives of the new blessed known to the faithful and to encourage them to participate more fully in the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 12, 2007 (CNA) - Catholics in Venezuela are rejoicing at the news of the upcoming beatification of Mother Candelaria de San Jose, especially the Carmelite religious communities who run a home founded by the future blessed, which relies on Divine providence for their resources.
The Venezuelan daily “El Universal” reported that Mother Candelaria de San Jose Home in Altagracia de Orituco currently cares for 17 girls between the ages of 5 and 14. The home, which provides assistance for girls who have been abandoned, abused or are homeless, operates today in the same way it did when it was founded in the 1900s by Mother Candelaria: it depends on Divine providence, the article said.
Sister Ana Joaquina Acosta, the director of the home, said it receives around $600 a month from the local government, an amount no where near sufficient to provide food, clothing and education to the girls. Sister Ana said the home’s main benefactors are “volunteers who donate food and other goods to sustain the work.” “Sometimes we don’t have enough money even for medicine for the three of us who work here,” she said.
Sister Ana said many officials have visited the home since the news of the beatification of the foundress but that so far no one has pledged to provide more assistance. She noted that not only monks and priests are called to be witnesses of the faith and to help others, but that “there are even politicians who are in the process of beatification because we are all children of God.”
The home for girls was founded on September 13, 1903 by Mother Candelaria de San Jose. At that time it was called the San Antonio Hospital, and the expenses to run the home were covered by volunteers.
, Jul 12, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Mexico City has rejected criticism that in calling for the country’s laws on religious worship to be changed it is undermining the secular State. Rather, what the Church is seeking is to have laws that reflect “the Constitution which guarantees freedom for all citizens without exception.”
In a statement from the archdiocese, its spokesman noted that Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City recently told the “Reforma” newspaper that the concern the bishops have about the laws on religious practice is that they echo “the Constitution which guarantees freedom for all citizens without exception.”
The statement noted that on various occasions, the cardinal has publicly called for the need to move from freedom of worship to “authentic religious freedom.” True religious freedom does not undermine the secular State or to return to the privileges of the past, but rather allows “the clergy and religious associations to enjoy authentic freedom of participation in a society that is heading towards the strengthening of its democratic life.”
The archdiocese reiterated its support for an initiative by the College of Catholic Lawyers to “correct the legal deficiencies that impede respect for the individual guarantees for clergy members in our country and to prevent the intimidation and silencing of the clergy, as was the case during the recent debate over the legalization of abortion in Mexico City.”
The statement, which was signed by archdiocesan spokesman Father Hugo Valdemar, stressed that the College of Catholic Lawyers is acting autonomously and independently of the Church hierarchy. Nevertheless, he said, the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico and various religious associations have expressed their support of the proposal to reform the country’s laws on religious practice.