Vatican City, Jul 31, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has called for prayers that the Church “may bear witness to ever greater inner cohesion.”
That the Church in China may bear witness to ever greater inner cohesion and may manifest her effective and visible communion with Peter's Successor,” is the Pope’s prayer intention for August.
Likewise, the Pope’s general intention is: “That all those who are going through moments of inner difficulty and trial may find in Christ the light and support which leads them to discover authentic happiness.”
Vatican City, Jul 31, 2007 (CNA) - Fr. Federico Lombardi, the spokesman for the Vatican, has responded to the Taliban’s demand that the Pope condemn the violence of the coalition forces in Afghanistan by saying that all should work for the cause of peace. However, he noted that the kidnapping of innocent people is particularly worrisome.
The spokesman addressed the Holy Father’s appeal more specifically saying, “It is an appeal to all men and women of conscience who have respect for life, human dignity and the cause for peace.” Fr. Lombardi added, “He [the Holy Father] condemned the taking of hostages as an instrument of war.”
Fr. Federico also noted that, “the Pope’s is worried by the particularly hateful form of violence that is expressed by the taking of innocent hostages and their threatened death.” When this happens, “the horrible and vicious circle of hate and death is further aggravated.”
Afghan president Hamid Karzai has been under pressure to exchange Taliban militants that are in prison for the remaining 22 South Korean Christians who are being held by the Taliban. However, the government while continuing negotiations, is refusing to conduct an exchange. The Taliban killed a second hostage yesterday and has issued a deadline of 7:30 GMT Wednesday before they will kill more hostages.
Gen Tim Grant, who is the outgoing commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan, said that the Taliban cannot be bargained with because “they will resort to anything to advance their agenda.”
Gallup, N.M., Jul 31, 2007 (CNA) - Over a week ago, Bishop Donald Pelotte of the Diocese of Gallup was taken to the hospital after sustaining severe head injuries in a fall. However, when he arrived at the emergency room, the doctor on call noted that his injuries were not consistent with a fall and called the police.
According to Deacon Timoteo Lujan, Pelotte's assistant and the chancellor of the diocese, the severity of Pelotte's injuries caused the emergency room physician to wonder if the 62-year-old bishop had possibly been a victim of a violent assault.
However, according to the Gallup Independent, Bishop Pelotte has insisted that he was not assaulted by anyone and that his injuries are the result of a fall down a staircase at his home. The Bishop remains in the intensive care unit at the John C. Lincoln Hospital in Phoenix.
The Bishop’s accident was discovered by Lujan on Monday afternoon when Pelotte failed to show for a 2 p.m. appointment at work, causing a concerned Lujan to drive to the bishop’s home. Lujan had a key to the house and let himself in. When he entered he discovered blood on the tile floor at the bottom of the carpeted stairway, which leads up to Pelotte's bedroom, and became alarmed.
When Lujan went upstairs and unlocked the bishop's bedroom door, he found him severely injured.
The police report says Lujan found Pelotte "heavily bruised across the face, along the chest area, both arms, the knuckles, the legs, and the feet." Lujan suspected someone may have assaulted the bishop, but a conscious Pelotte told Lujan that was not the case.
The Gallup Police Department reports that currently the incident is not under investigation because of Pelotte's insistence that a fall caused his injuries. However, an investigation could be launched if new information indicated it was warranted.
Although Deacon Lujan admitted he has his own questions about what caused the bishop's injuries, he does know that the house was secure when he entered it. "Nothing is missing," he said. "I can tell you nobody broke in," he added.
And even though the bishop has insisted he was not assaulted, Lujan said a number of people have questioned the bishop's claim. "He looks like he got beat up," Lujan admitted.
The idea that someone might actually want to physically harm Pelotte is based in not-too-distant history. In 2004, the Gallup Diocese was thrust into the headlines when Derek Kolb, a former Catholic seminary student, admitted to the police that he had tried to poison an elderly Catholic sister in order to gain more attention from her caretaker.
A year later, Kolb made headlines again when the diocese announced Kolb had threaten to kill Pelotte. Although attempted murder charges were initially filed in the first case, Kolb eventually signed a plea agreement to a charge of harassment. The second allegation just fizzled out with a string of probation revocation hearings.
"He was really anxious about Derek Kolb for a long time," said Lujan, adding that Pelotte received an apologetic card from Kolb a couple of months ago.
Melbourne, Australia, Jul 31, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne has given an undisclosed amount of leave to Reverend Monsignor Geoff Baron for swearing, making sexual remarks, and racially offensive comments directed towards teenage skateboarders.
Though the incident occurred nearly a year ago, it has recently attracted attention after a video of the confrontation surfaced on YouTube, a video sharing website.
According to the Archdiocese of Melbourne, skateboarders have previously caused damage to the steps of the Cathedral and have been a cause for concern because they could harm themselves or others.
The confrontation occurred when the skateboarders refused to leave the property of the Cathedral. The teenagers then began to taunt Msgr. Baron and called him a pedophile. Baron proceeded to use highly inappropriate language including telling one Asian looking member to, “Get back to where you came from you fool. You don't belong in Australia".
Dean Baron profoundly apologized to the public, to the Catholic people, and all who witnessed the incident.
When asked by Samantha Dunovon of Australia ABC Local Radio, where the obscene language originated, Dean Baron answered, “From the depths of my heart, I suppose, I mean I'm a human being and as we grow up we learn these things from a very early age and they get tucked away in your life and they're generally under control. But um, sadly enough and to my utter disgrace, when I was pushed to the limit something snapped inside of me and I was out to say as much as possible to hurt and humiliate these, as you call them, thugs.”
“The shame that I feel and the embarrassment, I can’t really describe,” he said. “It was outrageous behaviour, I let myself down terribly badly, that’s quite clear and I’ve also brought scandal and shock to other people.”
Los Angeles, Calif., Jul 31, 2007 (CNA) - A researcher is forecasting that, by 2025, the “market share” of conventional churches will be cut in half. George Barna, founding director of the Barna Group, a Ventura-based firm that researches religious trends, says people are creating a new form of church that favors small-group sharing and leaves large structured churches and their rituals behind.
Barna has written a book, Revolution, about this new form of church, which goes by various names -- house church, living room church, underground church. He says house churches reflect a philosophy that values relationships over doctrine and tradition, reports the California Catholic Daily.
People gather in homes in small groups averaging anywhere from a dozen to twice that number, where they worship, pray, and engage in Bible reading.
A 2006 Barna Group survey estimated that 9 percent of U.S. adults attend house churches weekly, nine times the number that did so in the 1990s. Proponents of the home church say it is the way the early Christians met.
But critics say the phenomenon leads to insular groups that develop club mindsets that are not open to the wider world.
Home churches reflect a Protestant Evangelical mindset in that their ultimate authority is the Bible and they don’t depend on ordained clergy to provide ritual or give them sacraments, according to Penn State University sociology and religious studies Roger Finke.
Several Catholics have also taken to home churches, leaving behind their parishes, reports the California Catholic Daily.
Sydney, Australia, Jul 31, 2007 (CNA) - Catholic Church officials said they will not cooperate with a safe-sex campaign directed at the 500,000 pilgrims expected to attend World Youth Day in Sydney next year, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.
The NSW (New South Wales) Department of Health has run safe-sex campaigns, including information on HIV and sexually transmittable diseases, for the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the Gay Games and the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
But the Church has refused to promote a campaign that contradicts its teachings on sex and contraception. The Church said it encourages young people to have a high level of self-esteem and respect for their bodies, sexuality, relationships, marriage and family life. It also pointed to the "extraordinary low level of indiscretion" at previous World Youth Days.
A spokesman for the Health Minister, Reba Meagher, told The Sydney Morning Herald that a fact sheet was being prepared containing various health messages.
However, her department would say only that it was working closely with the organizers of WYD 2008 regarding the logistics for health care for pilgrims.
Washington D.C., Jul 31, 2007 (CNA) - Doctors and patients, who have participated in medical treatments derived from adult stem cells, have expressed support for the Patients First Act of 2007 — new federal legislation that will promote such research, reported Cybercast News Service.
David Prentice, a senior fellow with the Center for Human Life and Bioethics, told a Washington press conference last week about the benefits of adult stem cells.
He noted that over the last few years, scientists have learned that virtually every tissue of the adult body has adult stem cells. They can be gathered from bone marrow, amniotic fluid, the placenta, testicular tissue, cord blood and nasal tissue. Furthermore, they are very flexible when used to treat a number of diseases or injuries, he said.
"After a heart attack, some of the heart tissue is damaged or dead," Prentice stated. "We can now inject these adult-type stem cells into the damaged part of the heart and stimulate repair of that tissue."
That treatment is what saved Doug Rice of Spokane, Wash., who said during the news conference that he suffered from congenital heart failure and diabetes, and had found no suitable match for a transplant.
Amit Patel, a physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, described the treatment as "putting a new engine in an old car, only better. Cells are small bio-reactors. They sense the environment that they're injected into, and they release growth factors and attract other cells and other substances to help the heart work better.”
Patel said 1,800 patients have been treated in trials around the world to date. He said the procedure "minimizes risk and maximizes safety by taking people's own cells and putting them into the heart." He cautioned, however, that adult stem cell treatment is "not a miracle cure" and does involve some risk.
Mr. Rice, who underwent the treatment said, "The sad thing about this is that 750,000 people a year die of heart disease in the United States, and there are procedures out there that can solve the problem." "I see millions of dollars being spent on research that, in my opinion, is a waste of money, on the embryonic stem cells, and it just is very frustrating."
Unlike stem cell research and treatments using adult cells, research using cells obtained from human embryos is controversial because the embryos are destroyed in the process. Proponents say embryonic cells offer greater potential for future cures.
Washington D.C., Jul 31, 2007 (CNA) - The U.S. Catholic bishops are calling on the Bush administration to work more urgently toward the responsible transition to end the war in Iraq and to increase aid for Iraqi refugees.
In a July 26 letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn also noted that the U.S. government has not been processing Iraqi refugees for resettlement in this country at the rate that they pledged.
The prelates voiced their concern following a mission to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria to view the situation of refugees forced to flee their war-torn nation. They traveled with a delegation that included representatives from the International Catholic Migration Commission and Catholic Relief Services.
“It was clear that the countries we visited are in dire need of additional support from the United States and the international community in order to provide safe haven to the almost two million Iraqi refugees in the region,” they said. “Without a heightened commitment from our nation and others, we are fearful that these countries will no longer welcome and protect these refugees, particularly if the security situation in Iraq deteriorates and more Iraqis flee their homes.”
The prelates highlighted “lack of sufficient funding to ensure that the basic needs of refugees and their families are being met.” They noted the “need of medical care, which is not readily available.”
“Children are particularly vulnerable,” they said. “Many of them suffer physical and psychological ailments from the conflict. In addition, access to education for children remains a major problem. The situation of children is made worse because many are compelled to work illegally in order to support their families.”
Many of these refugees have expended their savings and are dependent upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, nongovernmental organizations, or the host government to survive.
“While we were encouraged by the State Department’s initial commitment to process 7,000 Iraqi refugees by the end of 2007, we are disappointed in the low number of arrivals at this point in time,” the bishops wrote.
The bishops also pointed out that the 7,000 refugee resettlement slots to which the U.S. committed is insufficient to meet the need.
“We urge you to do all that you can to ensure that you reach your initial processing goal of 7,000 as soon as possible and to increase significantly the number of arrivals for Fiscal Year 2008, so that these vulnerable persons find protection,” they wrote.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 31, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, Archbishop Ubaldo Santana of Maracaibo, said this week the bishops have already asked for a meeting with President Hugo Chavez but are still awaiting a positive response.
Archbishop Santana stated that the bishops are convinced that there is an “urgent need for dialogue,” not only between the Church and the State, but also between different sectors of Venezuelan society.
Speaking with reporters, the archbishop said, “When we ask to be heard and to discuss ways of finding paths of understanding and reconciliation, we want to do so not only to be heard, but also in order to create a culture of dialogue in our Venezuelan society, in order to at least intensify it because I think this attitude of sitting down with one another is very much engrained in Venezuelans.”
Archbishop Santana said the main stumbling block in Church-State relations is that some segments of the government misunderstand the role of the bishops and they do not realize that the pastors “speak in the name of 90% of Catholics.”
The bishops, he continued, “are the legitimate pastors of the Catholic Church and within Catholic doctrine we know that there can be no Church without the faithful and there can be no Church without the bishops.”
In this sense, he said, “the bishops practice politics with a capital P, the kind that takes everyone into account and seeks the good of all.” “Politics is one of the elements of society, it is not the decisive element nor is it the monopolizer of the other dimensions of social life,” he continued, adding that, “When we speak of politics we always distinguish between politics as the art of the common good, and politics as the strategy for gaining power and control of a determined sector of society. These are two very different things,” the archbishop said.
Archbishop Santana also commented on the insults that President Hugo Chavez leveled against Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. According to the archbishop, Chavez spoke out of ignorance of the work of Cardinal Maradiaga, who is the current head of Caritas International, a Catholic ministry of outreach to the poor and needy of the world.
San Salvador, El Salvador, Jul 31, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador has denounced the stealing of religious artwork from several churches in the country, calling it a “sad disgrace, first of all because it is a sacrilege, and second because of the historical and artistic worth that these works have as a national patrimony and because of the material value they have.”
In a press conference after Mass on Sunday, the archbishop commented on the stealing of four works of art in different churches in the country during the last month. The last one, stolen on July 11, was an image of Our Lady of Mercy which was kept at the historic church of the same name and which was values at more than $60,000.
Archbishop Lacalle demanded police be more alert for these kinds of thefts and he called for “greater control over this network of thieves of sacred objects that has operated for more than fifty years.”
He said El Salvador has lost “very many pieces of great value,” especially in the town of Panchimalco, in the southeastern suburbs of San Salvador and in the central region of La Libertad.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 31, 2007 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela said this week he was surprised at the thousands of young people who have taken to the streets “to proclaim Jesus Christ as the Savior of mankind and of young people” in the Mission Youth event in Madrid.
Speaking on the COPE radio network, the cardinal said young people have given “testimony to it publicly, in a personal and communal way, with their words.” He explained that Mission Youth, which was launched in 2005, was intended to be a apostolic, spiritual and pastoral venture which was more explicitly defined over time to bring Christ to the young people of Madrid. “The main objective,” he pointed out, “was the missionary proclamation to young people in the circles in which they move.” Mission Youth has reached every place where young people interact, even on the weekends, he added.
Cardinal Rouco announced that members of Mission Youth will have an audience with the Pope on August 9 at Castelgandolfo, “coincidentally on the feast of St. Teresa Benedicta de la Cruz, one of the most brilliant young people of the 20th century.” “We want to tell the Holy Father about the Mission and ask for his encouragement to continue it,” the cardinal said.
The next target of Mission Youth will be young married couples. “The young families of Madrid evangelize the young families of Madrid” will be the theme for the next stage, encouraging young couples to be “witnesses of the faith to their children, evangelizing their own homes,” he said.
San Salvador, El Salvador, Jul 31, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador said this week people are “bored stiff” with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s insults against the Church and that they should not be given “much importance.”
Asked about Chavez’s comments that Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga was a “parrot” and an “imperialist clown,” Archbishop Saenz said Chavez was engaged in a “circus” and that although little importance should be given to his comments, it was significant that “a head of State insults a cardinal.”
“In any case, this has become so frequent that now it is boring,” he said.