Washington D.C., Jul 19, 2007 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops have agreed to meet with a group of Catholic House Democrats to discuss a “responsible transition” to end the war in Iraq.
The bishops also reiterated their call for members of Congress and the Bush Administration to break the political stalemate in Washington and pursue a bipartisan policy to end the war as soon as possible.
The call was noted in a July 17 letter from Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Florida, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on International Policy. The letter was in response to a June 28 request for a meeting on Iraq from Rep. Tim Ryan (D/Ohio) and 13 other House Democrats.
“Our Conference hopes to work with the Congress and the Administration to forge bipartisan policies on ways to bring about a responsible transition and an end to the war,” Bishop Wenski wrote in his letter.
“Too many Iraqi and American lives have been lost. Too many Iraqi communities have been shattered. Too many civilians have been driven from their homes. The human and financial costs of the war are staggering,” he continued. “Representatives of our Conference welcome the opportunity to meet with you and other policy makers to discuss ways to pursue the goal of a ‘responsible transition’ to bring an end to the war in Iraq.”
The bishop noted that, prior to the war, the U.S. bishops joined with Pope John Paul II in raising grave moral questions about military intervention in Iraq and its unpredictable negative consequences. “Sadly, many of the tragic consequences we and others had feared have come to pass,” he wrote.
He said the goal of the Iraq Study Group for a “responsible transition”, with U.S. troops leaving “sooner rather than later”, is one shared by the U.S. bishops. He added that the U.S. bishops have been calling for a “responsible transition” since January 2006.
The U.S. must also “make provisions for refugees who have fled their native land in search of safety and security for their families,” Bishop Wenski wrote.
Bishop Wenski concluded his letter by pointing the lawmakers to the U.S. bishops’ three most recent public statements on Iraq.
“Our shared moral tradition can guide this effort and inform our dialogue with other leaders as we seek a way to bring about a morally responsible end to the war in Iraq,” he stated.
Vatican City, Jul 19, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican City State has ventured forth into the digital world today by launching a sharply designed Internet portal. The new site (www.vaticanstate.va) comes as a response to the ever increasing number of requests by pilgrims and tourists for information about the world’s smallest city state.
The new website, will run alongside the official Holy See website (www.vatican.va), and has been implemented in five languages (Italian, English, French, Spanish and German) with Portuguese soon to be added.
The offices of the various entities within the 109 acre sovereignty are represented by the categories: State and Government, Services, Other Institutions, Monuments and Shop. A communiqué about the site says that the portal "presents the State's bodies, the key monuments with descriptions and images, and useful time schedules for the public.”
The site also offers a photo tour of the Vatican Gardens, as well as real time access via five webcams to some of the most famous sights: the dome of St. Peter's, St. Peter's Square, a panoramic view of Rome, the tomb of John Paul II and the palace of the Governorate.
The new portal will also soon add some features that stamp collectors and museum buffs will be quite excited about. According to the site designers, "visitors will soon be able to purchase Vatican coins, stamps and other articles available from the Vatican Museum's publications and reproductions sales office."
Madrid, Spain, Jul 19, 2007 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio in Spain, Archbishop Manuel Monteiro, said this week data from international organizations shows that priests are responsible for the smallest percentage of sexual abuse.
In a reference to the accusations of clerical abuse, in both real and fabricated cases, the archbishop said, “Why should the Church pay and other entities not?” He decried that news of clerical abuse appears “every day on the front pages of certain media,” which he called a form of “discrimination” against the Church “with evil intentions.”
“Read the newspapers, and you will find the same cases every day, sometimes a whole page long, and that is where you can see the evil intentions,” he continued, “and that is called discrimination, no matter how sincere they are trying be.”
The Nuncio made his comments in the city of Aranjuez, where he was participating in a conference at the King Juan Carlos University.
Lorenzago di Cadore, Jul 19, 2007 (CNA) - On the first anniversary of his appointment as the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone held a question and answer session with the press in Lorenzago di Cadore, where the Pope is vacationing.
Reflecting on his first year in office, he said that Benedict XVI is, “a volcano of creativity.” The Cardinal also noted that the Holy Father is particularly engaged in the world’s difficulties. “He carries the weight of the world’s problems on his shoulders. He is particularly concerned about the situations in Iraq, Africa, and the conflict between Israel and Palestine.”
Other topics that surfaced in the lengthy Q & A session were: the recent Motu Proprio and the election of a bishop in China.
The election of the new bishop, Joseph Li Shan, 43, who will be the head of the Patriotic Archdiocese of Beijing, was carried out by a group of state-sanctioned nuns, priests, and laity. According to UCA News, no government officials were present at the voting, but prior to the vote they lobbied the diocese’s priests to select Fr. Li Shan as the new bishop.
The Cardinal noted that the Holy See had, “not received any word from the government about the election, or a request for approval.” However, he commented that, “Fr. Li is a good, well-suited candidate for the position” and that “his prominence seems a positive sign.”
Bertone also mentioned the Pope’s concern about the clergy abuse scandal in the US, particularly in light of the recent settlement in Los Angeles. “The phenomenon of pedophile priests is shocking and hits directly at the identity and mission that the Church is called to carry out,” the Secretary of State said. He added that the problem constitutes a small number of clergy within the Church.
Columbus, Ohio, Jul 19, 2007 (CNA) - A new survey conducted by Baraga Interactive has found that a large percentage of U.S. adults favor optional coverage for birth control and support pharmacists in their right to exercise their conscience when asked to fill a prescription or give counseling about drugs.
Sixty-one percent of those polled said they support no health insurance coverage for contraceptives; 65 percent of those polled support a pharmacist's right to decline to fill or counsel for prescription drugs, which may violate their religious, moral and ethical beliefs.
The survey of 1,249 adults confirmed a similar Medscape study in 2005 whereby a slightly higher percentage of US adults — 69 percent — supported a pharmacist’s right of conscience.
Currently, pharmacists of conscience practice with great difficulty in California, Illinois and Washington, which have mandatory “fill or fine” laws.
Conversely, Arkansas, Georgia, South Dakota, Mississippi and other states support a pharmacist's freedom of choice to use their properly formed conscience.
The survey was conducted by Baraga Interactive for PFLI's PharmAid Center. PharmAid Center is a support institute for pharmacists, who are being denied the right to follow their conscience by their employers.
Dublin, Ireland, Jul 19, 2007 (CNA) - Religions celebrations for St. Patrick's Day will come two days early in Ireland next year to avoid a conflict with Holy Week.
St. Patrick's Day is usually celebrated March 17, but Ireland's bishops have shifted the feast day, in honor of the national saint, to Saturday, March 15, reported The Associated Press.
Church authorities reportedly spent weeks debating where to move the feast day because March 17, 2008, falls on the second day of Holy Week next year.
The liturgical norms would require the feast day to be moved to the earliest available date after Easter, which would be April 1. But church officials said the Vatican approved the March 15 date in order to minimize conflict with the scheduled civic events.
While religious celebrations honoring St. Patrick are affected, religious and secular authorities stressed this would not change secular festivities. The St. Patrick's Festival Committee in Dublin confirmed that next year's parade would be March 17 as usual. In addition, Monday, March 17, will remain an official day off of work in Ireland.
This marks the first time the date has been changed since 1940. The next conflict with Holy Week is not expected until 2160.
, Jul 19, 2007 (CNA) - An "underground" bishop in northeastern China issued a two-page pastoral letter July 12, asking his flock to study and act on the letter Pope Benedict XVI recently wrote for Catholics in Mainland China.
According to a report by UCA News, Bishop Joseph Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar said the Pope's lengthy letter, released on June 30, marks a new milestone in the development of the Chinese Church.
The 48-year-old bishop also asked the faithful to pray for the unity of the diocese in the next three months, to adore the Blessed Sacrament and to fast three days a week.
In his pastoral letter, Bishop Wei admits that a challenge is presented by the Holy See's revocation of faculties and pastoral directives previously granted to the underground Church community. Though this development is painful, the bishop says, it puts China's Church back on the right track.
Acknowledging the Pope's call for reconciliation between the "open" and "underground" Church communities, the bishop said he wishes to reconcile with five of his priests who rejected his leadership last September.
UCA News reported that those priests were unhappy that the bishop dialogued with the government and registered worshipping venues. The priests viewed these actions as no different from joining the Catholic Patriotic Association and the "open" Church.
However, Bishop Wei's pastoral letter asserts that registering churches with the local government conforms to what the Pope said: Catholics can dialogue with the authorities on aspects of Church life that fall within the civil sphere.
Bishop Wei told UCA News that some Church premises in his diocese have been registered since the early 1980s, when religious activities revived in the mainland.
His letter insists that these decisions were based on consensus among his priests and in accordance with Catholic doctrine. He asks his laypeople to understand his goodwill and his difficulties, and to trust the decisions made.
He also states in his pastoral letter that “we finally know clearly" that underground Catholics can be in sacramental communion with open Church clergy who are in communion with the Pope. But, he underlines, that in his diocese, some "open" priests are not in communion with him nor with other Holy See-recognized bishops.
He also said he hopes his priests will approach the issue of concelebrating Mass with those clergy with "a positive attitude and the principle of reconciliation."
Subsequently, Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong issued a cautionary note about the move to register worshipping venues with the government and concelebrating with Patriotic Association clergy that reject the Pope.
“What precedes in the [Pope’s] letter seems rather to discourage them from seeking recognition because, as the letter says: ‘In not a few particular instances, indeed almost always, in the procedure of recognition, the intervention of agencies obliges the people involved to adopt attitudes (accept an independent Church), make gestures (concelebrate with illegitimate bishops) and undertake commitments (join the Patriotic Association) that are contrary to the dictates of their conscience as Catholics,’” the cardinal reportedly said.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 19, 2007 (CNA) - Father Vicente Carcel Orti, an expert in the history of the religious persecution during the Spanish Civil War, said this week the 498 martyrs who will be beatified on October 28 died for their faith. “They were simply killed as a symbolic act, because they represented the Church. Moreover, if any one of them had been involved in politics, the Church would never have proclaimed them martyrs,” he said.
Father Orti, who has written two books on the Spanish Civil War, noted that the martyrs were “men and women who belonged to the lower classes of society, they were as poor as their own assassins. They had nothing to do with the war, they did not take up arms, they didn’t confront anyone nor did they ever shout ‘Long live Franco’.”
Likewise, he explained that “most of the martyrdoms took place before the Spanish Church had spoken out in favor of one side or another. In fact, the first official document of the Spanish bishops which put them on the side of the nationalists dates to June 1, 1937 and by then almost 6,500 priests, religious and laity had been killed.”
Father Orti also pointed out that the persecution “began on April 14, 1931, practically with the Republic, when a growing offensive against the Church began through discrimination and unjust laws that attacked this institution.” This created “a very strong tension against the Church,” which finally broke out with the Franco uprising of July 17, 1936, he said.
Valencia, Fla., Jul 19, 2007 (CNA) - The San Vicente Catholic University of Valencia has created the Benedict XVI University Institute for Human Rights Research, oriented towards promoting “research projects, orientation, as well as degrees and formation courses in the area of the defense of human dignity.”
The inauguration was led by the Dean of the Department of Sociology and Human Sciences, Eduardo Ortiz, during a series of workshops for university professors.
Ortiz said the initiative began in response to “the interest of Pope Benedict XVI in the function of human rights for detecting all attacks” against the dignity of the person. The Institute will be under the guidance of Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia.
He also said the Institute would advise public and private entities at their request, foster the completion of doctoral theses and impart graduate and post-graduate degrees.
The Institute’s objective, he went on, would be “to serve society and the Church based on reflection and dialogue about human rights, thus contributing to the resolution of social conflicts.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 19, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata has formally closed the diocesan inquiry into a possible miracle attributed to the Blessed Maria Ludovica de Angelis that could lead to her canonization.
After invoking the protection of Our Lady of Carmel, Archbishop Aguer sealed the files and sent them to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in Rome to be studied and examined.
In a statement the archdiocese said that the miracle was related to the case of a young child. “This event brings much joy. Not long after her beatification we have another extraordinary act. The strength of Ludovica is important because she is a protector of children,” Archbishop Aguer said.
He explained that the inquiry into the “miraculous cure” was completed thanks to the “testimonies of the child’s family and seven medical reports that prove that the cure cannot be scientifically explained.”
The first miracle attributed to Blessed Maria was that of Antonella Cristelli, a young girl suffering from spinal bifida, which affected her urinary tract, bladder and kidneys and left her unable to move her arms and legs. She was inexplicably cured after praying to Blessed Maria.
John Paul II beatified the Argentinean nun in October of 2004.
Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 19, 2007 (CNA) - Thousands of Colombians took to the streets of Cali to demand the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) release the bodies of the eleven government officials who were killed by the rebel group on June 18. In a symbolic act, a huge candle was lit in the Plaza of San Francisco, where it will remain until the remains are returned.
Family members of the eleven victims kidnapped in April of 2002 were present at the ceremony, including relatives of Sigifredo Lopez, the only survivor among the group of lawmakers, who demanded the FARC allow him and the other hostages being held to go free.
In statements to the press, the spokesman for relatives of the victims renewed calls that FARC unconditionally reveal where the bodies are being kept.
The march took place after a Mass celebrated in the Cathedral by Archbishop Juan Francisco Sarasti of Cali.
Speaking to reporters sympathetic to the FARC, the group’s spokesman Raul Reyes said that they rejected an offer by the Organization of American States to mediate, saying the OAS “lacks authority and trust.”
Sergio Caramagna, a spokesman for the OAS in Colombia, told Radio Caracol the organization does not want to be an obstacle in the resolution of the matter “because this is about a humanitarian issue and not about being in the spotlight.”