Grenoble, France, Jul 23, 2007 (CNA) - A bus carrying Polish Catholic pilgrims from Our Lady of la Salette shrine in the French Alps, missed a switchback on the mountain road it was taking and plummeted over the edge. The bus crashed into a river bank below and burst into flames, killing 26 people, authorities said.
Out of the 50 pilgrims on the bus, fourteen were seriously injured and twenty six died. The accident occurred on a part of the road that is notorious for killing motorists.
The tragedy brought Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, to Grenoble, France to survey the damage and comfort the injured on Sunday evening. Sarkozy said he was "shattered by the scale of the tragedy" and pledged to follow "very closely" the investigation into the causes of the accident.
According to local residents, the bus missed a 90-degree bend in the road near the village of Vizille as it returned from the shrine of Notre-Dame de la Salette. The bus plowed through a barrier and plunged 65 feet onto the banks of La Romanche River, catching fire on impact, firefighters said.
"When the bus was burning, there were injured people inside," said Philippe Baret, owner of the field where the bus landed. "I saw at least six of them who were stuck inside the bus and burned to death before my very eyes." Mr. Baret was able to help pull other survivors to safety before the bus was consumed in flames.
Those on board the touring bus were between 40-60 years old and had left Poland on July 10 for a two-week visit to famous sanctuaries in France, Spain, and Portugal, including shrines in Lourdes, France, and Fatima, Portugal, according Marcin Szklarski, president of Orlando Travel, the agency that organized the pilgrimage. Among the passengers were three priests, of which only one is known to have survived.
Atlanta, Ga., Jul 23, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has requested that the death sentence for condemned cop killer Troy Anthony Davis be commuted.
The Apostolic Nunciature sent a letter to the governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue, on behalf of Pope Benedict, asking that Davis be granted clemency, reported The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The letter arrived Monday.
"In the name of Pope Benedict XVI, I am respectfully asking you to commute Troy's sentence to life in prison without parole," wrote Msgr. Martin Krebs of the Apostolic Nunciature.
The letter says Davis' pending execution is "disturbing" since many witnesses have come forward to say their testimony implicating him was false.
Davis’ death sentence for the 1989 murder of a Savannah police officer was put on hold this week, 24 hours before it was scheduled.
The Pope’s plea joins those of singer/activist Harry Belafonte, Sr. Helen Prejean of "Dead Man Walking" fame, and Mike Farrell of "MASH."
Lorenzago di Cadore, Jul 23, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict has issued his message to the youth preparing for World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia. In his discussion of the theme for the gathering, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses,” the Holy Father called for a new Pentecost.
As individual registration for WYD 2008 kicked off, Pope Benedict became “pilgrim number one” in the list of those awaiting the event that marks a time of renewal for the youth of the Church.
The strongest parts of the Holy Father’s message told the youth of the need for invoking a new Pentecost on the world and the necessity of being missionaries to their peers.
Ever aware of young people’s growing unease about their future, the injustices they see in the world, and their questions about how to react to violence and egoism which is growing in the world, Benedict told them that the Holy Spirit can answer these doubts and tragedies.
He also exhorted the youth, “Don’t forget the greatness of God’s gift, the fruits of the Holy Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control.” These can heal a wounded world and the world of today’s youth.
The Pope called upon the youth to, “Become the new soul of humanity by being credible witnesses of the Church’s mission to the world.” He noted that, “We can only be Christ’s missionaries if we allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit.”
Showing that he knows the culture’s fear of the faith, Benedict told the youth that, “Today it’s more necessary than ever to present the Gospel and witness to the faith. Some people see giving witness to their faith as being intolerant, but … representing Christ doesn’t mean imposing Christ. In the end, only Christ can fulfill man’s innermost desires.”
The Pope closed his message to the youth by telling them that as Australia is preparing to welcome them, Australia and all of Oceania is also preparing for a New Evangelization. Thus, “as we prepare our pilgrimage to Sydney we must prepare ourselves for a new Pentecost for the Church and humanity, in the Third Millennium.”
Denver, Colo., Jul 23, 2007 (CNA) - The secretary of state's three-person title board on Wednesday crafted language for a constitutional amendment that would ban abortions and define humans as existing from the moment of fertilization.
The amendment would also extend the Colorado Constitution's inalienable rights, equality of justice and due process of law to fertilized eggs.
Kristine Burton, 19, is working with Colorado for Equal Rights to get the measure on the ballot for the coming year. Her group will need more than 76,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot.
Burton was one of the representatives of Colorado for Equal Rights to present arguments before the Legislative Council in favor of the amendment. The intent of this amendment is to protect all human beings, she explained.
During questioning the Legislative Council asked why the term “fertilization” was used rather than “conception.” The group explained that fertilization is a well-defined term used to refer to the moment the sperm and egg unite and mark the beginning of life, whereas conception is a term used to indicate when implantation takes place.
The Legislative Council also asked what effect the amendment would have on the “undue burden” test as established in Roe v. Wade. The pro-life group explained that, in cases subsequent to Roe, the Court created the “undue burden” test because they could not find that “person” was defined for state or national Constitutional purposes. However, since the new amendment defines life as beginning at fertilization, it makes the “undue burden” test a moot issue.
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains said it would work to block the amendment, reported The Associated Press. Arguments by reproduction rights attorney Kara Veitch that the measure's language be rejected were dismissed.
Rome, Italy, Jul 23, 2007 (CNA) - In an interview with the Italian daily “ “Il Messaggero”, the director of the German language programming for Vatican Radio, Jesuit Father Eberhard von Gemminger, said he hopes future popes will be elected by a College of Cardinals in which “at least half” of the members are women.
“Why not dream that sixty illustrious women could elect the Pope? I would be happy to see sixty male and sixty female cardinals in the Sistine Chapel,” the German Jesuit said in reference to the total number of permitted cardinal-electors.
Father Von Gemminger said he thought it was “improbable that the Vatican would immediately open” the doors to women cardinals, but he added, “perhaps it will happen in ten years, since the change in mentality will come, even if slowly.”
The German Jesuit argued that throughout history it has not been necessary to be a priest in order to be named a cardinal. Therefore, “Why not think that in the future there will be women cardinals?” he asked.
In the past centuries, members of the laity were eligible to become cardinals but current Church law stipulates that cardinals must be priests or bishops.
Pope John Paul II named several priests to the College of Cardinals, including Dominican theologian Father Ives Congar, Jesuits Father Henri de Lubac and Father Avery Dulles, and Father Hans Urs Von Baltazar, all of whom were above the age of 80 and thus ineligible to vote.
The College of Cardinals is currently made up of 183 members, of which 105 are cardinal-electors.
, Jul 23, 2007 (CNA) - Hundreds of Christian filmmakers will gather in San Antonio for the Third Annual Christian Filmmakers Academy this fall to discuss a replacement industry for Hollywood.
The academy, a project of Vision Forum Ministries, is designed to give Christian filmmakers the nuts-and-bolts skills to succeed in creating films for the glory of God.
"The Christian Filmmakers Academy exists to help these aspiring culture changers find success outside of Hollywood as part of a rising replacement industry built on biblical presuppositions of aesthetics, morality and cultural influence,” said Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum Ministries and founder of the Christian Filmmakers Academy.
"Our goal is to help students recover the lost traditions that will equip them to make films that advance rather than undermine the Christian worldview ethic -- films with cultural, moral, and artistic integrity," he continued.
During the three-day conference, Oct. 22-24, the academy will offer more than 16 hours of formal classroom instruction from seasoned industry professionals, personal discussion and interaction with school faculty and guest lecturers, and the opportunity to network and build professional personal relations with like-minded individuals interested in independent Christian filmmaking.
Classroom topics will include: an introduction to Christian philosophy of independent film, lighting techniques, camera-work, editing basics, animation, production logistics, choosing projects, making public affairs documentaries, producing a human interest short, how to direct a television multi-camera studio project, a live critique/analysis of students' work, ideas and projects.
"In the past, Christian filmmakers who have grown up with Hollywood have been prone to create culturally poisonous and financially wasteful films," noted Phillips. "While desiring to be different from Hollywood, they've tended to unwittingly default to the destructive Tinseltown trends in structuring their projects."
"We are here to light a candle -- to create an alternative industry that gives hope through films that champion the standards found in the Word of God," he said.
Geoff Botkin, a seasoned filmmaker and faculty member of the 2007 Christian Filmmakers Academy, remarked that today’s filmmakers need historical perspective.
"In the late 1920s, the Hays Code committed Hollywood filmmakers to the responsibility of producing films that would be 'directly responsible for spiritual or moral progress, for higher types of social life, and for much correct moral thinking,'” he said. "In departing from this responsibility, the modern cinema industry has departed from both culturally uplifting and intellectually stimulating content," Botkin explained.
Following the Third Annual Christian Filmmakers Academy, Vision Forum Ministries will host the Fourth Annual San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival on October 25-27, which features a $10,000 Jubilee Award for the top film submission.
For more information, visit www.independentchristianfilms.com.
Washington D.C., Jul 23, 2007 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops have asked to meet with Republican members of the House of Representatives to discuss a responsible transition to end the war in Iraq.
The letter followed a similar one in response to Rep. Tim Ryan (D—Ohio) and 13 other House Democrats who had sent a letter June 28 asking to meet to discuss the war in Iraq.
The bishops’ request was outlined in a letter from Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on International Policy, to Rep. John A. Boehner (R—Ohio), House minority leader.
“The Catholic Bishops of the United States are concerned for the dangerous and deteriorating situation in Iraq,” wrote Bishop Wenski in his letter to Boehner. “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.”
The letter reiterated the bishops’ call for members of Congress and the Administration to break the political stalemate in Washington and to pursue a bipartisan policy to end the war as soon as possible.
“The current situation in Iraq is unacceptable and unsustainable, as is the policy and political stalemate among decision makers in Washington. 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,” he stated.
The bishops pointed out that the U.S. decision to pursue military action in Iraq has brought with it “new moral responsibilities toward the Iraqi people.”
The bishops said the U.S. must make provisions for Iraq refugees who fled their native land in search of safety and security for their families.
“In our most recent public statement this year, our Conference reminded policy makers that each course of action in Iraq ought to be evaluated in light of its moral and human consequences and the traditional principle of ‘probability of success,’” Bishop Wenski wrote. “The moral measure of “probability of success” weighs more heavily with each passing month.”
Front Royal, Va., Jul 23, 2007 (CNA) - Fr. Tom Euteneuer, the President of Human Life International, will be celebrating all of the televised Masses for EWTN this week, that is, from Sunday the 22nd of July through Saturday the 28th inclusive.
The reason Fr. Euteneuer is celebrating these particular Masses is that Wednesday, July 25th will be the 39th anniversary of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae. Fr. Tom’s preaching will be on that famous, but often misunderstood encyclical issued by Pope Paul VI, which reaffirmed the Church’s constant teaching on the immorality of contraception.
The day before that, Tuesday, July 24th, will also be a special occasion for Fr. Euteneuer, since he will be celebrating his 19th anniversary of being a priest. His homily on that day will focus on the Holy Priesthood.
Fr. Tom extends his cordial invitation to, “you and all your pro-life and Catholic friends to join me for Masses so that we may be spiritually united in a most special way this week.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 23, 2007 (CNA) - Part of a famous hiking path known as the “Great Crossing of the Alps” in the Italian province of Biella-Piedemonte, has been dedicated to Pope John Paul II.
The hiking path is formed by a series of trails that cross through the mountains of the region. John Paul II walked the route when he visited the Marian Shrine of Oropa in 1989.
In August, another trail in the province of Introd-Valle de Acosta will also be dedicated to the late pontiff.
The ceremony in Biella-Piedemonte was attended by Bishop Gabriele Mana of Biella, Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz of Nova Petra and dean of the Roman Rota, as well as government officials.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 23, 2007 (CNA) - The undersecretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, Father Aldo Fonti, said this week the statements by President Hugo Chavez against the bishops are more of an offense to the people than anything else and that “the healthiest thing” for Chavez to do would be to engage the bishops in dialogue instead of cheap shots.
Chavez continued with his attacks on the clergy last week, accusing some priests of being “hypocritical Pharisees” and claiming that some bishops take sides with “tyrants who exploit the people, who betray the thought and the works of Jesus and stab Christ in the back.”
Father Fonti said such attacks were of inappropriate and “offend not so much the bishops but that people of the Church, the Catholic people.” He also called on Chavez to get beyond the media sound bites and to sit down with the bishops and dialogue. “There should be mutual respect and trust knowing that we all are seeking the best for our country and that there are no other intentions other than for the good of the country.”
Father Fonti also stressed that the Catholic Church does not have alliances with any political or economical groups, but rather her commitment is to the gospel and the Venezuelan people. “The Church’s contribution is towards a country in peace, where we all have a place and where there is mutual respect. The Church works for this,” he said.
Rome, Italy, Jul 23, 2007 (CNA) - “Ministry in the care for the elderly” will be the theme of the 22nd International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, which will be held in Rome November 15-17.
The president of the dicastery, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, will open the event with a conference entitled, “The pastoral care of the elderly infirm in light of the Word of God.” Afterwards, there will be a historical analysis of the care of the elderly and of the main illnesses that affect them.
Other themes to be discussed include the advances in health care for the elderly, economic and legislative issues related to the elderly, the influence of climate change and pollution on the health of the elderly, and the care of the infirm in the history of the Church, in Scripture and in the fathers of the Church.