San Salvador, El Salvador, Jul 24, 2007 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, criticized President Hugo Chavez this week and said the Venezuelan leader “thinks he is a god and has the right to step on everyone else.” He called on Chavez to be more open to dialogue and honest criticism saying, “We all need fraternal correction.”
In an interview with the newspaper “El Diario de Hoy,” Cardinal Maradiaga said, “The leader of Venezuela thinks he is a god and that he has the right to step on everyone else with an arrogance we have already seen in other dictators in history, even in some who actually decreed the death of God and who, after some 20 years, disappeared from the map and are today remembered as tyrants.”
“If you don’t have a friend who can tell you your faults, then pay an enemy to do so,” the cardinal said. “We all need fraternal correction,” he added.
“In my pastoral work,” he continued, “I have a presbyteral council, but I do not elect those who think like me, because then, what’s the purpose of being surrounded by adulators who tell someone what he wants to hear. I should find people who are different than me in order to find the truth.”
Cardinal Maradiaga warned that Venezuela is going to experience “great suffering, because whenever a totalitarian government is erected, the freedom of the people is what is lost.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 24, 2007 (CNA) - The coordinator of exorcists of the Archdiocese of Mexico City, Father Pedro Mendoza, criticized the skepticism of some priests about the existence of the Devil and said that although there are not many cases of possession, there are many who suffer from demonic attraction, which is the result of man’s estrangement from God.
At the conclusion of the 3rd National Congress of Exorcists, Father Mendoza warned that those who do not believe in the existence of the Devil forget that it is a dogma of the faith, “no matter how much they want to explain (these phenomenon) as psychological or something else.”
Speaking to reporters, Father Mendoza said there are seven exorcists in the archdiocese and that the number is low because of the few cases of possession. But, he warned, there are many cases of individuals who suffer from demonic attraction as a result of estrangement from the faith, “which leads them to be interested in magic, witchcraft, spells, horoscopes and even death, and priests are not helping them because they don’t know how.”
He said the congress was a success as bishops were encouraged to address this issue in seminaries and thus train more priests to be exorcists. One of the speakers at the event was Father Enrique Maldonado of the Archdiocese of Mexico City, who said it was necessary to distinguish between true demonic possession and mental illness. In this sense, he noted that of every 10,000 cases of alleged possession, only one is authentic. Therefore real experts are needed to distinguish between the two.
Father Jesus Yanez, who also addressed the congress, said demonic possession is characterized by four aspects: abhorrence for the sacred, the appearance of paranormal phenomenon, knowledge of things from afar and the ability to speak in languages that are unknown to the person when he or she is in a normal state.
Beijing, China, Jul 24, 2007 (CNA) - The vice-chairman of the Chinese state-approved Catholic Association has said that in light of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent letter to Catholics in China, he would like him to visit and celebrate Mass. For the time being, the Holy Father has chosen not to comment because of the complexity of the issue.
Vice chairman Liu Bainian’s comments came in an interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica about the Pope’s recent letter to the Church in China. He said that he wanted to use the interview as an opportunity to send the Pope his organization’s prayers and an invitation to visit.
"[We want to] Let him know that we pray for him always and may the Lord give us the grace to welcome him here among us."
"I strongly hope to be able to see the pope one day here in Beijing to celebrate Mass for us Chinese," Liu was quoted as saying.
Pope Benedict, who was reached while leaving a meeting with local clergy in Northern Italy replied, "I can't speak at this time… It's a bit complicated," according to ANSA news agency.
The chairman also said that the new letter is a "big positive difference" compared with the Vatican's previous efforts at reconciliation.
"Every opposition to socialism disappeared. We weren't accused of schism. It marked the first time that, according to the pope, Chinese people could feel it was possible to be Catholic and love their own country."
The most contentious issue by far between the Chinese government and the Church is that of appointing bishops. On the one hand, the government sees the papal appointment of bishops as the Church getting involved in the internal affairs of the nation, while Rome sees the issue as an issue of papal authority and the inordinate control of the state.
Liu expressed hope that an agreement could be reached in the near future. "The problem can be resolved. It will be resolved, I hope soon," he was quoted as saying.
At the same time, however, Liu insisted that religion could never be used to interfere in China's internal affairs.
"Beijing will never accept what the church did in Poland," referring to how Pope John Paul II helped rid the country of communism.
Liu explained that in the past the government saw the Church as meddling in the affairs of the state, but stressed that Chinese Catholics always recognized the sole authority of the pope as far as religion was concerned.
"The Holy See is the only representative of Jesus on earth, and as Catholics we must follow it," he said. "What we must affirm is our political and economic independence; otherwise we remain a colonial church."
Naples, Fla., Jul 24, 2007 (CNA) - As Catholic families continue to move in, the founder and developers of Ave Maria, Florida, struggle to change the popular perception that the new town, built around Ave Maria University, is solely for Roman Catholics or controlled by Domino’s Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan.
Blake Gable, project manager for Barron Collier Cos., which is building the new town in partnership with Monaghan, told The Associated Press that the town is open to everyone.
Monaghan made headlines in 2005, when he told a Catholic group that the town would be governed by Catholic principles. He said stores wouldn't carry contraceptives or pornography, and cable TV would have no adult channels.
Following criticism from the media and civil liberties groups, Monaghan now says the town will grow uninhibited, with the exception of adult novelty stores or topless clubs, reports the AP. Developers say that any denomination can build a house of worship in Ave Maria and it will only be suggested to merchants not to sell contraceptives or porn.
Gable and Monaghan have been at pains to explain that the university and the town are two separate entities.
Ave Maria University will certainly follow strict Catholic guidelines, while the town will be allowed to grow with minimal restrictions, says Monaghan, who has invested more than $200 million in building the country’s first Catholic university in four decades.
The school, which opens next month and hopes to attract 5,500 students, will "encourage students to live a Catholic moral life," said Ave Maria University President Nicholas Healy Jr. The school will not allow binge drinking or recreational sex, he added.
Gable does not think people of other religions denominations would be uncomfortable living in a town called Ave Maria. "Do people who live in San Francisco feel offended? San Antonio?" he said.
Charleston, S.C., Jul 24, 2007 (CNA) - The Diocese of Charleston will have six new priests as of Friday, when Bishop Robert Baker will preside at the ordination Mass at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in Columbia, South Carolina. This is the largest class of ordinands for the diocese since 1956.
The candidates, who include a retired Marine Colonel and two school teachers, are Bryan Babick of Charleston, WV; Michael Cassabon of Simpsonville, SC; Timothy Gahan of Medford, MA; Jeffery Kirby of Columbia, SC; Andrew Trapp of Augusta, GA; and Jeremi Wodecki of Slask, Poland.
“The Church in South Carolina will be greatly blessed by the ordination of these six men,” said Bishop Baker in a statement. The ordination Mass will begin at 6 p.m.
Currently, the diocese has 12 seminarians in various stages of formation.
Ann Arbor, Mich., Jul 24, 2007 (CNA) - A public school district has given written assurance that a third-grade student is permitted to read his Bible in his classroom.
Elementary School District 159, located outside of Chicago, sent the written assurance after receiving a letter from the Thomas More Law Center. School officials had previously denied the third-grade student, Rhajheem Haymon, this right.
The law center, which is a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, wrote the letter on behalf of the Haymon family.
Rhajheem’s father, Leslie Haymon, contacted the law center after being informed that school officials had denied his son the right to read his Bible during “reading time,” a time during the day when students may read a book of their choosing.
The demand letter, written by lawyer Edward L. White III, informed school officials that the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Department of Education have assured that students are free to express their religious views while at school. This freedom includes a student’s choice to read religious materials.
White explained that a public school may not suppress or exclude the speech or expression of individual students for the sole reason that the speech is religious or contains a religious perspective.
Berlin, Germany, Jul 24, 2007 (CNA) - The monks of St. Ottilia, who double as voluntary firemen, recently marked the 100th anniversary of their monastery’s foundation with a mass, celebrated by the abbot, Fr. Jeremias Schröder.
Many professional firemen, with whom the monks have formed bonds of friendship, attended the mass, reported SIR. Two members of the Vatican fire brigade also traveled from Rome for the occasion.
The 19 members of the voluntary fire-brigade unit of the monastic community of St. Ottilia (Benedictine missionaries) live according to the Benedictine Rule of prayer and work.
In addition to the monastery and their tasks as voluntary firefighters in the surrounding area, they operate a 750-student high school, a retreat house that accommodates 120 people, a farm, various craft workshops, and a publishing house. They are also responsible for a stretch of the neighboring Autobahn (the A 96).
In the early years after their foundation, the monastery provided emergency service wearing their monastic habit, but now they wear a uniform that complies with existing health and safety rules.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 24, 2007 (CNA) - The director of Fundacion Vida in Spain, Manuel Cruz, criticized the members of the Socialist Youth of Spain for promoting the legalization of euthanasia, saying the move is a sign of “the level of corruption in this political organization and a terrible symptom of the state of society, especially if this proposal is accepted without any kind of debate or discussion or alternatives.”
Cruz’s comments came in the wake of the Socialist Youth’s annual gathering. “The most troubling fact is that the legalization of euthanasia, which is an act that always kills a person with or without his consent, is included in their project,” he said.
Cruz noted that euthanasia goes against the first and fundamental right which is the right to life and that to present euthanasia as a “sign of solidarity” is a deception. “It’s something criminal that, if done at the request of the victim, is a ‘homicide-suicide’. In any case, it constitutes grave harm for all of society”
“What do these young people think they will do with their parents and grandparents in a few years?” Cruz asked, noting that at the same time that they are proposing getting rid of the sick and the elderly, advances in palliative care have been made to make the process of dying as dignified as possible. In supporting euthanasia, “the Socialist Youth are ‘not in the game’ in the area of healthcare,” he said.
At their congress, the Socialist Youth also proposed lowering the voting age to 16, legalizing prostitution and modifying the accords with the Holy See among other proposals.
Rome, Italy, Jul 24, 2007 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Italy, Bishop Giuseppe Betori, said Father Giancarlo Bossi, who was kidnapped last June 10 by Muslims in the Philippines and freed on July 20, will attend a meeting that Pope Benedict XVI will have with young people in Loreto in September in order to share his testimony.
“It was the desire of the organizing committee to invite Father Bossi to Loreto, and the door was left open for him to share his testimony to Pope Benedict XVI and the young people in attendance,” he said.
“The availability expressed now by Father Bossi, just a few hours after his liberation, is welcomed by all with great joy, since his courageous experience as a missionary could inspire the hearts of so many young people who are searching to find someone who, like Father Bossi, makes the Gospel the reason for their existence and the source of their hope in the midst of everyone else,” Bishop Bettori said.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 24, 2007 (CNA) - A lawmaker in the Argentinean congress has proposed renaming the country’s Route 22 in honor of Cerefino Namuncura, a native Argentinean who will soon be beatified.
Representative Claudio Lueiro proposed renaming the highway which passes through Namuncura’s home town of Chimpay. He said many people travel the highway to visit the places associated with her life and that therefore the route has become “a true road of faith and a way of the Cross.”
A similar proposal was made in 1998 by the pastor of the Shrine of St. Cajetan in San Carlos de Bariloche, Father Ricardo Noceti, together with local lawmakers, who said the proposal represented “the most esteemed sentiments of the men and women of my province” and that “many faithful travel this route as a true via crucis” out of devotion to “Cerefino.”
Route 22 runs from Buenos Aires through the cities of Pampa and Rio Negro to Neuquen.
Vatican City, Jul 24, 2007 (CNA) - On August 1st thousands of Catholic scouts and guides from all over Europe will mark the 100th anniversary of the opening of the first scout camp by meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.
The first scout camp was created by Lord Baden-Powell (1857-1941), founder of the World Scout Movement, on Brownsea Island, United Kingdom.
In a Letter to mark the centenary of the Scout Movement, addressed to Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, archbishop of Bordeaux and president of the Conference of Bishops of France, the Holy Father recalled the founder of Catholic Scouts, Fr. Jacques Sevin S.J. and gave thanks to God "for all the fruits which, over this century, the Scout Movement has brought."
The Pope also encouraged Catholic scouts and guides to continue their journey, offering "young people today an education that forms strong personalities, rooted in Christ and desirous of living exalted ideals of faith and human solidarity."