San Diego, Calif., Aug 7, 2007 (CNA) - SAN DIEGO — Four San Diego firefighters are filing legal claims against the City of San Diego after their superiors forced them to participate in the July 21 San Diego Gay Pride Parade, in full uniform and on their city fire truck.
In the past, firefighters who attended the parade generally did so on a volunteer basis. When the four firefighters protested, their superiors told them they must ride in the parade or face disciplinary action, reported the California Catholic Daily.
A press release from the Thomas More Law Center states that, while on parade, the firefighters were “subjected to vile sexual taunts from homosexuals lining the parade route.”
Some of the comments hurled at the firefighters along the parade route included: you can put out my fire; you’re making me hot; give me mouth-to-mouth. When the firefighters did not respond, some in the crowd turned hostile and started yelling obscenities at them.
Other bystanders directed lewd acts at the firefighters, such as exposing their genitals, grabbing their crotch, and blowing kisses.
“What happened to these dedicated public servants was inexcusable,” said Charles LiMandri of the Thomas More Law Center. The law center is representing the firefighters in their legal claims.
“The City should have known from past experience the kind of offensive activities that go on at this event. This was a clear case of sexual harassment in violation of state and federal law as well as the City’s own code of conduct,” said LiMandri in the press release.
San Diego Fire Chief Tracy Jarman has been quoted as saying that the parade is a “fun event and all employees are encouraged to participate.”
San Diego’s Republican mayor, Jerry Sanders, appointed Jarman fire chief in June 2006. According to 365Gay.com, Jarman is “one of only a handful of openly lesbian fire chiefs in the country.”
Montreal, Canada, Aug 7, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal has urged both sides in the two-month-old strike at Canada's largest Catholic cemetery to come to a speedy resolution.
Cardinal Turcotte told a press conference yesterday that he has asked the independent corporation that runs the Catholic Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery on Montreal’s Mount Royal to end its lockout, and asked the union to suspend its strike. The archbishop of Montreal wants both sides to negotiate a settlement.
About 60 bodies a week have been placed in refrigerated units since the cemetery's 129 unionized employees were locked out May 16. A class-action lawsuit on behalf of the families of 600 unburied dead has been filed, reported The Gazette.
"We can't keep dead people in Frigidaires," the cardinal reportedly said. "It’s a real mix-up.”
The cardinal said he empathized with the families in mourning. “The families who want to see their dead buried are the real victims in all of this,” he was quoted as saying.
"I am asking everyone to go back to work on the short term, and I am counting on a resolution based on the good faith of both sides,” he told a press conference, held at the chancery office yesterday. “Let's settle the immediate problem of burying the dead on the short run, and the labor problems in the long run."
Diocesan officials were critical of the media for failing to report the cardinal's two previous attempts to use his moral authority to resolve the dispute.
"The public seems to have the impression that a bishop can push a button and fix things," the cardinal said. "I have no legal or political authority to intervene," he explained. "I have no right to impose anything on anyone. My profound conviction is that the only way we will be able to resolve this is through negotiation."
The Archdiocese of Montreal does not own the cemetery and does not fall under the direct or legal jurisdiction of the archbishop.
Washington D.C., Aug 7, 2007 (CNA) - The U.S. Catholic bishops recently launched a website designed to promote healthy marriages among couples of all faiths. The site features daily marriage tips, information on conflict resolution, communication, intimacy, parenting, and financial concerns. Visitors also can view stories and advice from married couples.
The website is also useful for engaged couples. It was designed as part of the bishops’ national multi-year National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage, which includes television public service messages. In just one month, the site has received nearly 500,000 hits, with the average visitor viewing 6-12 pages.
To view the site, go to: www.foryourmarriage.org
Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 7, 2007 (CNA) - Church officials in Mexico, thousands of faithful, and the Congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, have strongly condemned the media coverage of the death of American missionary Fr. Richard Junius Sander who was killed on July 29 for denouncing a nearby popular club frequented by young people.
Fr. Sander was discovered by police in his room after a fire broke out in his parish. He was found strangled, with his feet and hands tied.
Some Mexican media reports suggested the killing was the result of “sexual misconduct” by the priest, a claim that has been strongly rejected by the faithful and by Father Sander’s congregation.
In a joint letter, the provincial superior of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Fr. Vicente Louwagie, and the Parish Council of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe expressed “their indignation over the morbid and perverse reporting that some journalists have given to the violent death of Reverend Father Ricardo Junius Sander.”
“Daily interaction with him has greater weight than the slanderous commentaries of those who seek to calumniate him and create a distorted image of his person, using pictures that reveal nothing more than a criminal torture before his death,” the letter indicated. “The priest was tortured and killed out of vengeance for having denounced to authorities the abuses of a place of vice and corruption located one block from the church and where alcohol was served to minors.”
“For this reason we reject any assumptions and speculations before the Justice Department comes to a final conclusion about this cowardly crime and those responsible and their accomplices are behind bars, even if they happen to be police officers,” the letter continued.
Father Sander, 76, was a popular priest in Mexico City. During his years as a missionary he founded various parishes in the poorest areas of the city. He was also host of a television show on the network Mariavision entitled, “Principios.”
He would have celebrated fifty years as a priest on September 8 of this year.
Nashville, Tenn., Aug 7, 2007 (CNA) - In his first trip to the United States as the Secretary of State for the Vatican, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone opened the Knight of Columbus 125th annual convention with a solemn Latin Mass. During his homily, Cardinal Bertone announced that he would personally push for the canonization of their founder, Fr. Michael McGivney.
The Mass, which was celebrated in Latin according to the new rite, included over 100 bishops and cardinals. The opening liturgy also included a choir accompanied by an orchestral arrangement.
Speaking about today’s Gospel in which Peter walks on the water to Jesus, Cardinal Bertone compared Father McGivney’s work in America to Peter’s struggle.
“In many respects the storm-tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee seems an apt image for the situation of the local Church at the time of Fr. McGivney, when the plight of Catholics was far from easy. This holy priest, however, like Peter in the Gospel story, found the faith and the courage to walk steadfastly towards Christ, and to inspire others by his leadership.”
Straying from his prepared remarks, Cardinal Bertone said that he would personally advocate for the cause of Fr. McGivney’s canonization. "I hope this recognition (of sanctity) will arrive soon, and I'll personally work on this, so that this day will come soon.”
Fr. McGivney is currently a Servant of God and the Vatican is investigating his life to determine if he can be declared a Blessed, the final step before being declared a saint.
If the founder of the Knights of Columbus is canonized, he will be the first American-born priest to be declared a saint.
The Mass concluded, with Cardinal Bertone imparting the apostolic blessing of Pope Benedict XVI to all those gathered as “an expression of the Divine Mercy.”
Rome, Italy, Aug 7, 2007 (CNA) -
Popular Italian priest Fr. Pierino Gelmini, 82, said this week he forgives the drug addicts who were expelled from his institution and accused him of “sexual abuse” as a way to take revenge and demand money from him.
Fr. Gelmini, founder of the “Incontro” community, which has been a successful drug-rehabilitation center, was recently investigated for sexual abuse after accusations were made against him for the first time in his more than fifty years of priestly service.
He cooperated fully with investigators and revealed that he had been receiving repeated phone calls demanding money “in exchange for having the charges dropped.” Fr. Gelmini demonstrated to officials that the accusations were coming from a group of young people who had been receiving treatment at his community but were expelled for repeatedly stealing.
“When they left,” the priest said, “they told me: ‘We’ll make you pay for this.’ But I have forgiven them because they have suffered much in life.” He said he was saddened that the news of the investigation was made public because, though the reports have been retracted he explained, “I have been executed by the media.”
The “Incontro” community has 287 centers in various countries, and according to Dr. Alessandro Meluzzi, a close friend of Fr. Gelmini, “The young people who live there are the main victims of this scandal, as their rehabilitation has been jeopardized.”
Fr. Gelmini told Vatican Radio that despite the accusations, he continues to hold to his life’s motto: “Believe in man despite everything, even when this means putting up with accusations. God sees everything. Do you know what the most reliable court is? Your conscience. In fact, even if one was exonerated but his conscience was still not clean, what good would it be? If, on the other hand, I am accused but my conscience is clear, they I would be able to bear everything for love of God,” he said.
Fr. Gelmini also revealed that one of his accusers wrote him a letter asking for forgiveness. When the priest refused to give him money, the accuser decided to reinstate the charges. “I went to find him where he works and I told him, ‘I have no reason to give you money because you have spoken the truth.’ He got upset and decided to reinstate the charges. So it is evident that I must accept my cross,” he told Vatican Radio.
He said he was sorry that the judges in the case leaked the accusations to the press, but he said he was overwhelmed by the support he has received from residents at his community and from those who have successfully finished the program.
“I won’t stop because of these accusations,” he stated. “I will follow the example of Padre Pio, who learned to accept these things.”
Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 7, 2007 (CNA) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez continued his attacks on the bishops of the country this week, calling them “frantic defenders of the past, of injustice, immorality, and the powerful,” and claiming they are “shamefully attacking the truth.”
During a television program, Chavez said he believed in Christ and His “social thought,” using Fidel Castro as the embodiment of a leader using Christian principles as the foundation for a Socialist philosophy. “The Church,” he continued, “is something else. The Church became something else especially after the era of the first Christians. One only has to recall that the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church blessed the genocide in Latin America and Africa. That Church cannot be the Church of Christ,” he stated.
The Venezuelan leader went on to denounce the Church for allegedly supporting dictatorships in Argentina, Uruguay and other countries, “with death squads and thousands of disappeared.” He also repeated his claim that the Church in Venezuela supported the coup attempt of 2002, “despite the fact that there has not been a government in the last 100 years as committed to the poor as this one,” he claimed.
Several days ago, Archbishop Baltazar Porras of Merida responded to Chavez’s claims, noting that the president asked the bishops for help in April of 2002. “The only thing we did,” he said, “was respond to a call by the president himself in order to carry out a priestly and humanitarian duty to protect his life and the lives of those who were with him, and now he wants to make it look like the Church was part of the plot against him,” the archbishop said.
He recalled how President Chavez asked the Church for help on that occasion. “At midnight between April 11 and 12, Rodriguez Chacin, then interior minister, told me the president wanted to speak with me. He handed me the phone and the president said, ‘Forgive me for all of the terrible things I have said about you. I am calling to ask if you would be willing to protect my life and the lives of the people with me.’”
During the television program, Chavez said he had been an altar boy and that his grandmother told him “to be careful with priests and not to believe everything they say.” “But I still had respect, veneration for things religious. I have never been into praying, although I make the sign of the cross. I don’t go to confession but I follow Christ,” he said.
Chavez also said he does not believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church, such as that of the resurrection of the dead. Some teachings, he claimed, “are absurd.” “I never believed that heaven was up above the clouds and that hell was below our feet. If that were true, astronauts would have seen it and oil drillers would have found it.”
Havana, Cuba, Aug 7, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Domingo Oropesa of Cienfuegos announced this week the Church in Cuba would increase the number of pastoral visits to prisons.
In an interview with the Efe news agency, Bishop Oropesa, who is from Spain, explained that he hopes the plan will bring more comfort to prisoners and their families. For now the plan will be implemented in Camaguey and later in the entire country.
He said the Diocese of Camaguey is seeking priests to volunteer to become more involved in prison ministry.
Regarding the present-day situation in Cuba, Bishop Oropesa said the Church is not taking “political positions” but rather providing “concrete doctrinal guidance.”
The new bishop of Cienfuegos said his primary interest is that of preaching the Gospel. “The priest focuses on helping people, but if this or that political option is best or worst, it’s not that I want to get involved, I don’t take sides for or against,” he said.
Asked about his reaction to being named the new bishop of Cienfuegos on July 9, Bishop Oropesa joked, “No, nobody gave me any advice. The only thing the Nuncio gave me was a scare.”
Rome, Italy, Aug 7, 2007 (CNA) - Arturo Mari, who spent 51 years photographing the diverse episodes of the lives of the popes, has begun sharing his first memories of his long career after his recent retirement.
In an extensive interview, Mari, who is married to an Ecuadorian, has a special affection for Latin America and said his most cherished photo is that of Pope John Paul II hugging an Indian child from Oaxaca, taken during his first visit to Mexico. Alternatively, the one picture he never wanted to release was the picture of the attempt on the Pope’s life on May 13, 1981.
Arturo Mari began taking pictures for the popes when he was 16 years old. His career spanned the pontificates of Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and, until Mari’s recent retirement, Benedict XVI.
Asked about the most intense years of his life, Mari responded unhesitatingly that they were the ones spent working alongside John Paul II.
Mari recalled the beginning of his career, when he accompanied Pius XII to Vatican Radio on the outskirts of the Vatican City State. The short journey was almost an international trip for a Pontiff as discreet as Pius XII.
Mari also attended the opening of Vatican II and the first surprising trips outside the Vatican of now Blessed John XXIII to hospitals, prisons and even to the new Roman airport. But the Italian photographer’s international adventures began with John Paul II.
Mari said there was one thing he has never done: keep a secret picture for himself, especially after the ones he took during the attempt on John Paul’s life in St. Peter’s Square. “I don’t even know how I took them,” he recalled. “The same happened at the Gemelli Hospital, when I had to take a picture of him in bed. He said to me, ‘I’m still alive.’ I just cried and I couldn’t see anything.”
Mari has his favorite pictures. The one he considers the most important was taken during John Paul II’s last Via Crucis, when the elderly Pope asked for a crucifix. He rested his forehead on the cross. “That is the most emblematic photo of his Pontificate,” Mari said.
He has been called as a witness in the beatification process of John Paul II and without entering into details, he said he was a witness to miracles, cures, exorcisms and conversions.
Now 68, Mari said he is looking forward to resting and spending time with his family. “My dream is to see John Paul II beatified. I respect the Church’s timetable, but I am impatient,” he confessed.
Vatican City, Aug 7, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Oscar Romero was quoted telling the reporters of El Salvador, “You can tell the people that if they succeed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully, they will realize they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish."
Romero was killed several days later during the Celebration of the Mass, one day after calling Christian Salvadorans to obey the law of God, even if it’s contradictory to government orders. Today, the Vatican is debating whether or not the archbishop was a martyr for the church, or an assassinated hero for the political left.
Archbishop Romero quickly ascended to the position of not only a religious leader, but a political hero for the peasant farmers of El Salvador at a time when the country was moving toward civil war.
Shortly after being appointed in the late 1970s, one of Romero’s priests and two members of his congregation were murdered for defending the needs of the repressed, impoverished farmers. It was at that point that he began a crusade to end the violence against the poor.
The archbishop’s position was not a popular one. His views on social justice conflicted with those of the Vatican officials who were concerned with liberation theology in South America.
Additionally, Romero’s picture was often printed next to leftist revolutionaries such as Che Guevara. It is the Vatican’s concern that the beatification of the archbishop could stir up unresolved political issues.
This concern was reaffirmed by the Vatican when Pope Benedict XVI told reporters that "Romero as a person merits beatification." However, in the official transcript, officials only kept the pope's general praise of the deceased archbishop as a "great witness to the faith."
The removal of the Pope’s support of the beatification has been noted by Cardinal Tarciscio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
The Associated Press reported that Bertone stated that the pope “wanted to be very respectful" of the saints' congregation, which is still considering the case.”
If it is confirmed that he was a martyr for the Faith, Archbishop Romero could be canonized. In the Catholic Church, martyrs can be canonized without the verification of a posthumous miracle.