Archive of July 20, 2007

Italian missionary priest freed by Abu Sayyaf, Benedict XVI rejoices

Manila, Philippines, Jul 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Italian missionary priest, Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, who was kidnapped this past June 10th was is now a free man. Pope Benedict XVI, who has been following the situation closely and has been praying for his release every day, has said he is filled with joy to hear of Fr. Bossi’s release.

Father Bossi was recovered by police in the southern Filipino town of Karumatan yesterday, after having been held captive for 40 days by followers of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.

Throughout the ordeal, the identity of the organization responsible for his kidnapping was uncertain, with some saying that the Islamic separatist group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was responsible and others claiming that it was Abu Sayyaf. Fr. Bossi put the guesswork to rest, saying, "From the beginning, they told me they were Abu Sayyaf.”

According to Fr. Bossi, the motive behind his kidnapping was purely, “to have some ransom.” Rumors had circulated that money changed hands to secure his release, but the Filipino Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, who was with Bossi at the news conference, said that demands for ransom were ignored. The International Herald Tribune reported that the ransom demanded for his release was $1 million.

Although he lost weight due to the diet of rice and dried fish he subsisted on for over a month, Bossi said he was otherwise unharmed.

If anything good came out of the ordeal, he joked at a press conference, it was that he had to stop smoking. A self-professed chain smoker, Fr. Bossi recounted how one night when he was trying to climb a mountain with his captors, he said to himself, "…if I want to survive, I have to keep my breathing. Better stop smoking - and I stopped smoking."

Reaction to the safe return of Fr. Bossi continues to come in from all corners of the world. The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, conveyed that his being freed, "brings great joy to the entire Church and also for the Holy Father." The Italian and Filipino Bishops Conferences have also responded with joy to the news. 

When Fr. Bossi was asked what he would like to do now that he is free he replied that if his superiors let him, he would go back to Payao, a fishing town in Zamboanga Sibugay where he has been ministering. "I have to go back to Payao," he said. "My heart is still in Payao…. They say that a priest must also be a father and so as the father of my community it is my duty to return to my people, to my children.”


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Cardinal Bertone says prayer for conversion of Jews in Latin Mass could go

, Jul 20, 2007 (CNA) - Italian Jewish leaders expressed relief on Thursday after the Vatican Secretary of State said the prayer for the conversion of Jews could be eliminated from the recently re-introduced Latin Mass.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said the removal of the prayer would "solve all the problems,” reported ANSA.

"The declarations made by Cardinal Bertone clear away the fears that we and others expressed in recent days," Renzo Gattegna, head of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, was quoted as saying.

Gattegna said the cardinal confirmed the Church's readiness to continue dialogue, noting that unless "equal dignity" was implicit, dialogue between Jews and Catholics was impossible.

Jewish organizations expressed deep concern earlier this month when Pope Benedict XVI brought back the Latin Mass, whose use sharply declined after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

They noted that the original Latin Mass contained a prayer referring to "perfidious" Jews and asking God to remove the "veil" from their hearts and to overcome the "blindness" of that people.

Benedict did not bring back this precise prayer but a later version introduced by Pope John XXIII in 1962. In this version the word 'perfidious' was removed but the text was still a prayer for the conversion of Jews and it still contained the words 'veil', 'blindness' and 'darkness'.

However, according to ANSA, Cardinal Bertone said everyone could be told to use the third version, introduced by Paul VI in 1970. It asks for prayers that Jews, as the chosen people, "may arrive at the fullness of redemption".

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House allocates $15M to National Cord Blood Inventory program

Washington D.C., Jul 20, 2007 (CNA) - The National Cord Blood Inventory will receive $11 million more than initially planned thanks to an amendment to the current federal spending bill.

The House accepted the amendment, introduced by U.S. Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Artur Davis (D-AL), on Wednesday.

The amendment to the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill FY08, which was expected to pass the House yesterday, will now allocate $15 million to the National Cord Blood Inventory (NCBI).

This brings the NCBI budget to the level allocated in the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005, which Smith authored. This act created the NCBI and authorized the collection of 150,000 units of cord blood, with a focus on collecting a genetically diverse blood bank that can meet the needs of 90% of all patients.

These units will be made available through an open registry that will link public cord blood banks nationwide, thereby simplifying a physician's search for a blood match for stem cells. The act mandates that any units of cord blood collected and deemed unsuitable for transplantation be donated for additional cord blood stem cell research.

About 8,000 patients have received cord blood treatments for more than 70 diseases, including Leukemia, Sickle Cell Anemia and Hurler disease in the last two years. Smith noted that without the amendment, the cord blood program would be under-funded at a critical time in its development.

Unlike embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of the human embryo and has yet to produce any cures or treatments, cord blood and other adult stem cell research have resulted in clinical treatments.

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New British PM Gordon Brown promise to crack-down on "homophobia" related to gay agenda

London, England, Jul 20, 2007 (CNA) - Religious leaders and pro-family advocates in the United Kingdom are concerned that the new prime minister’s promise to advance homosexual rights at home and abroad will jeopardize protections for freedom of speech and religious expression.

Fr. Timothy Finigan told that Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s assurances that he would continue to promote the homosexual political agenda are an indication of how closely the Labour Party is following homosexual efforts to outlaw all opposition, particularly religious opposition in schools. Fr. Finigan is a Catholic theology professor and founder of the Association of Priests for the Gospel of Life.

Brown recently told the homosexual online news center PinkNews that his government would continue to promote the homosexual political agenda and praised the work of the Labour party in this regard to date.

"I think this government has made a huge amount of progress: for example, we've equalized the age of consent, repealed Section 28 [that banned promotion of homosexuality ‘as a pretended family relationship’ in schools], and made it illegal to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation," Brown wrote on PinkNews.

He promised that his government would work to advance human rights worldwide, including the universal decriminalization of homosexuality.

Brown also promised that the newly established Commission for Equality and Human Rights would be employed to change attitudes toward homosexuality and to ensure "anti-discrimination laws are enforced." One of the important areas left, he said, is to "tackle homophobic bullying in schools," the next goal identified by the hugely successful homosexual lobby group Stonewall.

Fr. Finigan told that “homophobic bullying” refers to not allowing schools to promote natural marriage and the family as normative.

All human rights organizations, Fr. Finigan said, now work on the principle that homosexuality is the equivalent of race, with homosexual sex being the "racial" characteristic that defines the homosexual person. To criticize this activity as sinful, therefore, becomes discrimination.

Given this principle, it is likely that the government's new commission will be used to stifle moral opposition to homosexual activity, especially in religious schools, said Fr. Finigan.

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Israeli authorities threaten bookstores with fines over Harry Potter launch

Jerusalem, Israel, Jul 20, 2007 (CNA) - Israeli authorities are urging local bookstores not to participate in the international launch of the final book in the best-selling Harry Potter series because it falls on the Sabbath.

Stores, restaurants and other businesses are required by law to be closed on Saturdays for the Sabbath in Israel.

Trade and Industry Minister Eli Yishai, who heads the Orthodox Shas Party, has threatened to fine bookstores that participate the international launch, reported

"I urge them not to release the book over Shabbat," Yishai was quoted as saying in the daily Yediot Aharonot. "There should be limits to this desire to be like the nations of the world."

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is due to go on sale simultaneously around the world. In Israel, that falls at 2:01 a.m. on Saturday.

Despite the threat of fines, Israeli bookstores are expected to participate in the opening due to their contracts with the book publisher.

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Archbishop Burke speaks to Confraternity; clergy voice their full support

St. Louis, Mo., Jul 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, a national association of 600 priests and deacons has just concluded their 32nd annual convention at which Archbishop Raymond Burke was the keynote speaker.


According to their website, the association of clergy has as its goals, the pursuit of personal holiness, loyalty to the Roman Pontiff, commitment to theological study and strict adherence to the authentic teachings of the Magisterium. They are committed to doing this by providing ongoing intellectual, spiritual and pastoral formation of the local clergy. 


The following resolutions are the outcome of their annual four day conference which ended yesterday.

  1. We express our deep gratitude and respect for church leaders like Archbishop Raymond Burke of Saint Louis who courageously, consistently and faithfully defend Holy Mother Church and all her official teachings and disciplines. We strongly support his stand on denying Holy Communion to any Catholic candidate or politician who openly and notoriously supports abortion and/or euthanasia.

  2. We embrace the magisterial teaching of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in its recent document on the unicity and necessity of the Catholic Church, in which the one, true Church of Jesus Christ, fully subsists. When understood in its full context, this doctrine is not a hindrance to ecumenical endeavors nor does it deviate from previous and perennially taught dogmas on the ecclesiological nature of the church.

  3. We thank Pope Benedict XVI for his recent motu proprio 'Summorum Pontificum' and hope it will be fully, freely and universally implemented in every diocese throughout the world. We see the invaluable treasure of preserving the old Latin "Tridentine" Mass, (extraordinary form of the Roman Rite), for the spiritual benefit of all the faithful who request it. We furthermore affirm the necessity of reverently and properly celebrating the vernacular Novus Ordo Mass of Paul VI, (ordinary form of the same Roman Rite). Our prayer is that this will bring back many of the clergy and lay faithful who have gravitated to schismatic groups in reaction to serious abuses committed by some priests who have irreverently celebrated the new Mass in English since the Vatican II.

  4. We urge the bishops of the English speaking nations to quickly endorse a totally accurate translation of the Roman Missal which would be completely faithful to the typical Latin text. As celebrants of the Holy Mass, we see the necessity of and urgency of restoring sacred language and replacing all pedestrian verbiage in Divine worship since the Holy Eucharist is the 'source and summit of Christian life.'

  5. As we prepare for the 40th anniversary of 'Humanae Vitae' next year, we encourage our brother priests and deacons to reacquaint themselves with this prophetic papal encyclical of Paul VI and we commend our American bishops for the recent USCCB document on Natural Family Planning, 'Married Love and the Gift of Life' (November, 2006).

  6. We pledge as faithful sons of the Church our continued prayers and complete obedience to the Vicar of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI, and eagerly await his first pastoral visit to the United States.

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Cardinal Bertone: clergy sexual abuse attacks identity and mission of the Church

Lorenzago di Cadore, Jul 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said this week cases of alleged sexual abuse by members of the clergy are an “attack on the identity and mission” of priests and should not overshadow the work of the vast majority of priests.

In a press conference at Lorenzago di Cadore, near where the Pope is vacationing, Cardinal Bertone responded to questions about the news that the Los Angeles Archdiocese will pay out over $600 million in settlement payments for clerical sex abuse cases.

According to Vatican Radio, Cardinal Bertone underscored “the overwhelming vastness of the problem” and that “the Catholic priests implicated in this crime” are attacking “the great mission of the Church herself.”  “Certainly this is a problem that is painful for everyone. In the Church and outside,” he added.

At the same time, he continued, the Church receives expressions of gratitude from all over the world for the work she does to help humanity.  “We receive thanks from presidents and ministers of Muslim countries as well for the works of the Church in so many sectors,” the cardinal stated, especially in the area of health care, the fight against hunger and education. 

“The vastness of the painful phenomenon in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is overwhelming.  And, although we’re talking about a minority in comparison with the percentage of social workers who commit these crimes, it is an attack on the identity and the mission that we have to develop,” he said.

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Archbishop of Valencia questions “absolutism of State” in Spanish education

Valencia, Fla., Jul 20, 2007 (CNA) - In his weekly letter, Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia said those who support the absolutism of the State in the area of education are violating the country’s constitution and basic human rights.

“In many places in Spain,” the archbishop wrote, “there exists a wave of opinion that seeks to spread radical secularism, with special opposition to the Christian religion” and to push relativism on the country’s educational system, including Catholic schools.

Those who support the radical secular agenda, he stated, are “ignoring the mandates of the Constitution.”  For centuries, the Church “has been the great institution that has fostered education, before the States created schools and promoted universities,” the archbishop emphasized.

The Church’s educational institutions have always reflected “her concern for serving the development of the dignity of the human being, of his personal growth and his desire to know the truth.”

Archbishop Garcia-Gasco reiterated that parents have the right to ensure that their children “receive the religious and moral formation that is in accord with their convictions, within the context of freedom of education.” Such a right, he said, is enshrined in Spain’s Constitution, which “nobody can harm or minimize,” and the government has the duty to “defend it and extend its principles.”

He noted in conclusion that the “Catholic school and university are at the service of education, not because of a privilege or concession of the State, but rather in order to offer this type of Catholic formation to those who freely want to receive it.”  Likewise, he noted, religion classes in public schools “is not a concession of the State, but rather a response to the right of parents to ensure their children receive the formation that is in accord with their own moral and religious convictions.”

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First deaf-mute priest ordained in Asia

Seoul, South Korea, Jul 20, 2007 (CNA) - On July 6 Cardinal Cheong Jin-Suk of Seoul, South Korea, ordained the first deaf-mute priest in Asia, Father Benedict Park Min-Seo, after 22 years of vocational discernment and study.

Father Park, who was born in 1965, lost his hearing at the age of two after he was prescribed the wrong medicine.  He felt the calling to the priesthood at a very young age but because of his handicap he decided to become a painter.

At the school for the deaf he met Father Michael Cheong-Soon-o, to whom he revealed his desire to become a priest, but because of the lack of courses for the deaf in Korean seminaries he was sent to the United States.

In 1994 he entered the University of Gallaudet to study philosophy and mathematics, and there he met Father Thomas Coughlin, the first deaf priest in the US, who became his spiritual director.  After graduating he studied theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York and then attended the University of St. John, where he received a degree in 2004.  He returned to Seoul where he continued his studies at the seminary and was ordained a deacon in July of 2006.

“First of all I want to thank God for accepting me as a priest,” Father Park said after his first Mass. “As the first Catholic priest with a handicap, I was given a lot of media attention even before my ordination, but I am not a star, I’m an ordinary priest,” he said, asking the faithful to “pray for me to be a humble and honest priest.”

Father Michael Cheong Soon-o said, “The ordination of Father Mark shows God’s love for people who cannot hear or speak.”  “We need to pray for him that he may be light and salt for handicapped persons,” he added.

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Colombian bishops reject calumnies against slain archbishop

Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 20, 2007 (CNA) - The bishops of Colombia, together with other leaders and government officials, have strongly rejected claims that Archbishop Isaias Duarte Cancino of Cali, who was killed in 2002, was a consulter to the rebel group United Self-Defenses of Colombia.

The bishops rejected the accusations of former paramilitary leader Diego Murillo, who attacked the late archbishop during a trial this week in Medellin.

Murillo claimed that Archbishop Duarte was part of the “group of seven,” a committee made up of “influential leaders” that the rebel group consulted with before making “important decisions.”

Msgr. Fabian Marulanda, secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, told Colombian radio, “The name of somebody as respected as Archbishop Isaias Duarte Cancino cannot be tainted.”  He noted that the late archbishop was highly critical of rebel groups and drug traffickers.

Father Jorge Cadavid, who was a close adviser to Archbishop Duarte, said the archbishop did meet with the leader of the United Self-defenses, Carlos Castano, and with then Minister of the Interior, Horacio Serpa, and Sergio Fajardo, the current Mayor of Medellin, but that the meeting could not be construed as a gesture of support by the archbishop.

Archbishop Duarte’s sole purpose in talking with members of the paramilitary was “to try to foster peace through dialogue,” Father Cadavid said.

The current Archbishop of Cali, Juan Francisco Sarasti, said he while he was not in Cali at the time of that meeting, he was confident that Father Cadavid correctly explained its significance.  “I believe he is telling the truth. I know the archbishop very well and I know he was concerned about peace,” he said.

Mayor Fajardo, who was present at the meeting with Archbishop Duarte, said the late archbishop “was always the loudest voice calling for peace.  He wept with pain at the sight of what he had to endure.  He was an extraordinary man who was always committed.”

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Colombian natives restore centuries-old church

Bogotá, Colombia, Jul 20, 2007 (CNA) - Fourteen native Colombians of the Paeces tribe are rebuilding the Church of St. Rose of Lima, built 200 years ago in the town of Tierradentro-Cauca. 

The work of restoration, which is expected to be finished in December, is being done using traditional building materials from the region.

Architect Sofia Velasco, who is coordinating the restoration, said the central walls have yet to be restored and that they would be decorated with artwork inspired in native Colombian styles.  She said workers have completed restoration of the altar and the wall behind it and are now working on the choir.

The Church of St. Rose was built in 1807 with the help of Jesuit priest Father Jose Joaquin Nunez y Tovar.  The Jesuits arrived in Tierradentro in 1613 and built twelve churches, only seven of which are still standing.

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