Rome, Italy, Jul 27, 2007 (CNA) - According to a report by the Bishops’ Conference of Japan, the number of baptized in 2006 increased considerably in that country, where there are some 452,000 Catholics.
The Fides news agency reported that the number of baptisms in 2006 reached 7,193 of which 1,692 were adults and 3,501 were children, while there were more than 5,400 catechumens.
Fides noted that a census of the country’s parishes reveals that “nearly 60% of Japanese Catholics are women.” The census did not take into account the presence of foreign Catholics in Japan, who number about 565,000.
The report also showed that the Archdiocese of Tokyo has the largest Catholic population, numbering 95,362. Another interesting statistic is that of the number of weddings celebrated during the last year. Some 3,130 marriages were celebrated, of which 1,450 were mixed in which one of the spouses is not Catholic. In many cases, the non-Catholic spouse had already began the process of conversion.
Lorenzago di Cadore, Jul 27, 2007 (CNA) - Yesterday morning, the Pope bid farewell to the civil and military authorities of Lorenzago di Cadore, Italy, where he has been vacationing for the past 18 days. This evening, he is due to travel to his summer residence at Castelgandolfo.
The meeting, which took place in the garden of the chalet where Benedict XVI has been staying, was also attended by mayors from the 22 villages which make up the community of Cadore.
"At the end of these two weeks spent in the beautiful land of the Dolomites (the mountain range), I can only give a heartfelt thank-you to each and every one of you for your service and commitment," said the Holy Father.
He also thanked the forest rangers who provided for his security, telling them, "Your silent, discreet and competent presence, night and day,"… "gave me the opportunity to enjoy an unforgettable period of relaxation, a rest for the body and the soul.
In the Book of Psalms we read: 'Your goodness, Lord, surrounds me like the eternal mountains.' And we are surrounded by this divine goodness, visible in the beauty of the mountains.
However, throughout this period I have been especially surrounded by human goodness, by your goodness which has accompanied me always. "You have been real 'guardian angels' to me," the Pope added, "invisible, silent, but ever present and willing; and your presence over all these days remains in my memory."
Pope Benedict will return this evening to the pontifical residence of Castelgandolfo, just south of Rome. There he will spend the rest of the summer, save for his pilgrimage to the Italian shrine of Loreto on September 1 and 2, and his apostolic trip to Austria from September 7 to 9.
Seattle, Wash., Jul 27, 2007 (CNA) - Pharmacists have sued Washington state over a new regulation that requires them to sell emergency contraception, also known as the "morning-after pill,” because it contains no exception for those who object on the basis of belief or conscience.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday, pharmacists Rhonda Mesler and Margo Thelen, and Stormans Inc., said the rule that took effect Thursday violates their civil rights by forcing them into choosing between "their livelihoods and their deeply held religious and moral beliefs."
"The stakes really couldn't be much higher," plaintiffs' attorney Kristen Waggoner said.
Earlier this year, the state ruled that druggists who believe emergency contraceptives are tantamount to abortion cannot stand in the way of a patient's “right” to the drugs.
State legislators do not seem to notice that the new law ensures the “rights” of those who wish to use the contraceptives but does nothing to support the rights of those who believe it is immoral.
In a statement about the then proposed law, the Catholic Bishops of Washington state said, “The Church opposes the sale of any drug that would induce an abortion, and supports pharmacists, especially those who follow Catholic moral teaching, who uphold their right to act according to the dictates of their conscience when asked to dispense such drugs.”
Plan B is often called “emergency contraception”, but in fact, it can cause an abortion because if it fails to stop ovulation it then acts to prevent any embryos from implanting in the uterus.
Darlene Wilson, a licensed pharmacist is one such person who objects to the law. "For me, that would be killing a human life and I don't want to have any part of that," she said.
Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire, who brokered a compromise on the contraceptive rule and pressured the state Board of Pharmacy to adopt it, stood behind the regulation on Thursday.
"Gov. Gregoire feels the Pharmacy Board went through an extensive public process to come to their decision, and she supports them," spokesman Lars Erickson said.
Under the new state rule, pharmacists with personal objections to a drug can opt out by getting a co-worker to fill an order. But that applies only if the patient is able to get the prescription in the same pharmacy visit.
The federal Food and Drug Administration made the morning-after pill available without prescription to adults last year.
Tegucigalpa, Jul 27, 2007 (CNA) - The president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, the country’s parliament, business leaders, and human rights activists are defending Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga from the insults by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who called the cardinal a “parrot” and an “imperialist clown.”
Recently the cardinal called on Chavez to be open to dialogue and to remember that “he is not a god with the right to arrogantly trample on everyone else.”
President Zelaya of Honduras told reporters, “As head of State I am going to call President Hugo Chavez on the phone to tell him about Oscar Andres Rodriguez, explain who he is and what he means to our country and our people,” he said.
The Honduran Congress approved a motion calling on Zelaya to use appropriate means to ask Chavez to retract his statements. The president of the Congress, Representative Roberto Micheletti Bain, called the cardinal a “symbol for all Hondurans, and we are not going to allow anyone from the left or the right to attack Cardinal Rodriguez.” “We Hondurans, who believe firmly in God, should take strong positions because our Christian sentiments oblige us to do so,” Bain added.
Representative Juan Orlando Hernandez also criticized the statements of Chavez, calling them “an offense against the entire Catholic people and obviously against a symbolic figure for all Hondurans.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 27, 2007 (CNA) - The Italian journal Civiltá Cattolica, which is published by the Jesuits, has proposed that the Internet be considered “mission territory,” with evangelization efforts aimed at the “second lives” of people in the online world.
Those familiar with the Internet know that the last few years have seen the introduction of new virtual worlds online. Of particular note is the game Second Life, which allows users to assume a persona and engage in everyday activities from shopping to sleeping.
Residents can explore, meet other Residents, socialise, participate in individual and group activities, create and trade property and provide services for one another - all paid for using the world's virtual currency (which costs actual money).
The creators of the Second Life world, Linden Research Inc., say about 7 million users have been registered, but it is unclear how many people regularly participate through their avatars.
In their article on Second Life and the digital world, Civiltá Cattolica assesses the risks and opportunities of the worldwide phenomenon of Second Life and underscores that religious elements should be present there as well.
“Any initiative capable of encouraging these ‘environments’ in a positive way should be considered opportune” for the virtual lives that people create on the Internet. “The digital world is, in its own way, mission territory,” the article states.
Recently, Second Life’s creators took the step of enriching its places of prayer, mosques, churches, cathedrals and convents with avatars keen to meditate and find God.
, Jul 27, 2007 (CNA) - Catholic League president Bill Donohue is railing against the latest episode of the FX drama “Rescue Me,” in which Denis Leary’s character refers to the Pope as the biggest gangster on earth and a former nun has sex in a habit.
In the episode, Denis Leary’s character has an exchange with a new firefighter about the Bible. He says the Bible is to Catholics what “The Godfather” is to the Mafia. He then blasts the Catholic Church for being corrupt and maintains that the 12 years he spent in the Church were like being in prison. The biggest gangster on the face of the planet, he contends, is the Pope.
Later in the episode, another firefighter returns to his apartment, one he shares with his girlfriend, a former nun, to find her having sex — while wearing a habit — with his cousin.
Donahue suggested a way to put the ridiculousness of this characterization in context, “Imagine what would happen if every Catholic priest, nun, brother and lay person in the United States who volunteers his or her time in hospitals, clinics, hospices, after-school programs, camps, soup kitchens, day care centers, mental institutions and the like were to go on strike for one day. Would the Denis Learys of this world still be painting them as corrupt and oppressive, led by the world’s biggest gangster? Or would they suddenly realize the yeoman work these selfless people do every day?” commented Donohue.
“What kind of creative genius at FX is responsible for portraying an ex-nun having sex with her habit on?” Donohue continued. “Do they know of any ex-Muslim women who have sex wearing their hijab? For that matter, do they know of any imams who would make Al Capone look saintly?
“Why is it always us (Catholics)? Don’t these guys believe in diversity?” he said. “Or could it be that they know, deep down in their hearts, that we are the one, true religion? After all, that would account for their dismissive attitude toward all the other competitors.”
Madrid, Spain, Jul 27, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and for Inter-religious Dialogue, Cardinal Paul Poupard, said this week that religions are not “part of the problem” of violence in today’s world but rather are part of “the solution.”
During a speech on the pontificate of Benedict XVI at the King Juan Carlos University in Spain, Cardinal Poupard explained that the current trend to see religion as the reason for terrorism, lack of security, AIDS in Africa, and the conflict in the Middle East and in Iraq” is the result of a “spiritual climate” that aims to return “to paganism in order to achieve a peaceful and tolerant society.”
The cardinal also warned against the dangers which result when “reason is deprived of any moral and religious reference,” pointing to such examples as the bombing of Hiroshima, the forgotten wars of Africa, the death of the unborn and the manipulation of embryos for research.
The cardinal emphasized that, “inter religious dialogue” is a “vital necessity” for the future of humanity, and that culture plays an important role in providing a way for people to come together and address “the great questions about human existence.”
“Authentic inter-religious dialogue cannot take place if it is not built upon the foundation of culture,” Cardinal Poupard said. “All inter-cultural dialogue is dialogue about the great religious questions,” he added. This is possible, the cardinal stressed, because despite all the differences, mankind is of “the same one, unique essence.” “Human nature enables dialogue between cultures,” he insisted.
Lorenzago di Cadore, Jul 27, 2007 (CNA) - In an interview with the Italian daily Il Giornale, Pope Benedict XVI’s personal secretary, Father Georg Ganswein, revealed interesting details about the Pontiff’s vacation in the northern Italian region of Lorenzago de Cadore.
Father Ganswein called the Pope’s time of rest and prayer, “a bit monastic and Benedictine,” and he said the Pope enjoyed encountering children during his afternoon walks.
Many children the Pope ran into offered him flowers “that they quickly picked from the fields,” while the adults that crossed paths with him were often “timid and didn’t know what to say. They were short on words.”
The Pope’s day usually began with Mass, followed by “thanksgiving, the breviary and meditation.” After breakfast, the Pope spent time “reading and studying” until the early afternoon. Following lunch, he went for walks in the nearby parks. During the evening the Pontiff spent time playing the piano.
Father Ganswein also explained that during his vacation time, the Pope has remained aware of the international situation and has maintained constant contact with the Vatican Secretary of State and with his closest collaborators.
During the interview, Father Ganswein also spoke about certain aspects of the Pope’s personality and behavior. Speaking about the Pope’s “simple and moderate” gestures, he said the Holy Father “does not seek applause” or attention, but rather his desire is “to guide the faithful towards Christ.”
He said the Pope at times is “surprised and even amazed” at the faithful’s expression of affection and sympathy and that Benedict XVI responds to them with “warm expressions that he has now learned.”
Hanover, Pa., Jul 27, 2007 (CNA) - Ninety years after the Marian apparitions in Fatima, Catholics in the United States are gearing up to commemorate the anniversary with 2,000 public square rosary rallies.
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property and its America Needs Fatima campaign are coordinating the event, set for Oct. 13, the day of the Miracle of the Sun.
More than 537 Catholics have already volunteered to hold peaceful rosary rallies in their respective cities, said Robert Ritchie, executive director of America Needs Fatima.
The Catholic group's web site (www.tfp.org) offers material to start a rosary rally, such as posters, banners, rosaries, and a detailed map that indicates rally locations by state. It also lists over 20 universities and colleges where students have started Campus Rosary Crusade chapters to pray the rosary in public locations each month.
"An amazing network is forming to honor the Mother of God and to pray for the conversion of America," said Ritchie. "It's important to remember that Our Lady of Fatima appeared asking mankind to stop offending God in order to avert punishment. She asked for prayer, penance and amendment of life. However, God continues to be offended. Just consider how abortion, pornography, blasphemy and sins against nature are so widespread.
"If anything can reverse the moral crisis in society, it's the power of the Rosary," he said.
London, England, Jul 27, 2007 (CNA) - Anglican Archbishop John Sentamu of York issued a plea for unity among members of the worldwide Anglican Church Communion, stating that conservative Anglicans should not boycott the 2008 Lambeth Conference and that sexuality issues were not a “test of orthodoxy.”
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, the archbishop warned bishops of the conservative Global South that they would be in danger of putting themselves outside the worldwide communion if they carried out their threats to boycott Lambeth next year.
"The thing that unites all Christians is our faith in the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and what makes us Christians is that we participate in the death and resurrection of Christ,” he was quoted as saying.
"The other thing to remember is that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace,” he continued. "As long as someone does not deny the very basic doctrines of the Church - the creation, the death, the resurrection of Christ and human beings being made in the image of God - then the rest really helps but they are not the core message.”
Archbishop Sentamu said he did not find that the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church in Canada had any doubts in their understanding of God.
"What they have quarreled about is the nature of sexual ethics," he said.
Archbishop Sentamu urged the bishops of North America and the Global South to attend the conference.
"You are members of one body and therefore you should listen to one another and find a way out. I want to say to both sides, you would do well to come to the Lambeth Conference for us to hammer out our differences,” he was quoted as saying.
However, he added, that Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, expects those who attend Lambeth to abide by the decision-making processes of the Anglican Communion.
"The Archbishop of Canterbury is very clear that he still reserves the right to withdraw the invitations and that those who are invited are accepting the Windsor process and accepting the process about the covenant,” he was quoted as saying.
However, he continued, “Church regulations and Church legislation should not stand in the way of the gospel of love your neighbor.”
Quezon City, Philippines, Jul 27, 2007 (CNA) - In her state of the nation address, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo committed to fighting poverty and hunger and to generating foreign investments — a plan that pleases some of the country’s Catholic bishops.
"It is my wish that the Philippines be among the ranks of developed nations in 20 years," Arroyo said in her July 23 address. "By then, poverty shall have been marginalized and the (former) marginalized raised to a robust middle class." Her term ends in 2010.
Just hours before Arroyo’s speech, Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel told UCA News that the government must urgently address the problem of hunger in the country.
Bishop Gutierrez, chairman of the bishops' social justice and peace commission, said Arroyo's administration "has done something" to address poverty, such as government-funded stores in communities that sell basic goods and rice to people without profit. However, government programs must aspire to develop more permanent food security, the bishop insisted.
In 2000, the National Statistics Office estimated that 40 percent of the country's 76 million people were poor. In June, a survey estimated that 2.6 million Philippine households were experiencing hunger.
Bishop Gutierrez said Congress also must prevent the entry of foreign mining corporations, create laws to stop extrajudicial killings and reform the electoral process.
The bishops have been calling for the repeal of the 1995 Mining Act. Furthermore, the human rights group Karapatan says 885 people have been killed and 183 abducted since Arroyo became president in 2001.
Many alleged victims belonged to leftist groups that accuse the state of resorting to killings and abductions to silence critics and suspected sympathizers of the Communist Party. About 5,000 members of leftist groups rallied with human rights advocates, including priests and other religious, outside the House of Representatives as Arroyo was delivering her address.
Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon echoed the Church's concern about the killings and poverty in a July 24 statement, issued by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.
Bishop Bastes, who led the mining investigation commission on the 2006 Lafayette Mine spill in his diocese, said he is glad Arroyo "did not mention mining activities, which is a very destructive way of earning money."
Las Cruces, N.M., Jul 27, 2007 (CNA) - Roman Catholic Bishop Donald Pelotte of Gallup, New Mexico has been hospitalized in Phoenix after a serious fall in his home.
"We're still not sure what has happened," said the Rev. James P. Hoy, finance director for the Diocese of Gallup. "He fell at home and has some head injuries."
Pelotte, 62, was taken to a Gallup hospital after the fall Sunday, then was flown to the John C. Lincoln Hospital in Phoenix.
In accordance with canon law, Fr. James Walker, the vicar general of the diocese, will temporarily assume leadership of the diocese until Bishop Pelotte recovers.
Father Walker issued the following statement yesterday: "I know that many are concerned about the bishop’s condition. Bishop is making progress. Every day he seems to be improving -- even over this short time span. Surgery was postponed until next week; a good sign.
"Bishop readily recognizes his visitors and is very aware of his surroundings. Severe injuries to his face are causing the bishop difficulty with speech; a symptom that should subside as he continues to progress.
"The bishop's brother, Father Dana Pelotte, and other family members, are with the bishop. The religious sisters in the diocese were asked to offer prayers and to fast today for the bishop. He's got a lot of people supporting him in prayer."
Bishop Pelotte made church history when Pope John Paul II appointed him in 1990 as the first American Indian bishop. Pelotte's father was a member of the Abenaki tribe.
Pelotte was ordained a priest in 1972, in Portland, Maine, and arrived in Gallup in 1986 as coadjutor bishop. The Diocese of Gallup encompasses all of San Juan and McKinley counties in New Mexico and most of northeastern Arizona.