Vatican City, Aug 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican announced this morning that the Holy Father will send aid to those devastated by the earthquake that occurred on August 15th in the southwestern coastal region of Peru.
The donation is being made through the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. One of the missions entrusted to the Council is to assist the Pope in carrying out special initiatives in the field of humanitarian actions when disasters occur.
The papal aid mission will commence this coming week, when Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone will embark on a long-planned voyage to Peru to deliver a donation of $200,000.
Besides bringing monetary aid, the Vatican’s Secretary of State will also carry the spiritual closeness and prayers of the Holy Father with him, the statement said.
In addition, Pope Benedict XVI expressed the Universal Church’s solidarity with those who have lost their loved ones and those who have lost their property.
He called for “all of the faithful and organizations of aid in the Church to coordinate so that they could engage in every possible action of fraternal charity towards the affected populations, and to do so with respect for the locally defined priorities and in tune with the local Church.”
Melbourne, Australia, Aug 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Australian Catholic priest, Monsignor Geoff Baron, who was caught on video insulting and verbally abusing a group of skateboarders, has resigned from his post as the Dean of Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Parishioners at St Patrick's were informed yesterday of Monsignor Geoff Baron's resignation in the parish newsletter, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Msgr. Baron voluntarily tendered his resignation to the Archbishop of Melbourne, the Most Reverend Denis Hart, on August 15.
"Monsignor Baron freely and spontaneously offered his resignation as Dean of St Patrick's and parish administrator of St John's parish, East Melbourne, and it was accepted by the archbishop," Catholic church spokesman Jim O'Farrell said.
"He will now take a period of rest and refreshment for the remainder of 2007."
Father Gerard Johnson has been appointed the new Dean of St Patrick's, to replace Msgr. Baron as the pastor of Melbourne's largest Catholic church.
The incident that brought about Monsignor Baron’s resignation began when a group of teenagers provoked him by calling him a pedophile.
Baron responded to the skateboarders with a tirade that was peppered with racial insults and sexually explicit verbal abuse.
After the video surfaced on the YouTube website last month, he was ordered to take indefinite leave and left Melbourne to stay with his brother in Sydney.
Last month, in an interview with Southern Cross Broadcasting, he said that the initial insult that the teenagers provoked him with caused him to snap and that he regretted it.
"The shame that I feel and the embarrassment, I can't really describe," he said at the time.
Archbishop Hart said he was "deeply troubled" by the incident and investigated the matter while the Dean was on leave, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.
Mr. O'Farrell said no restrictions have been placed on Monsignor Baron who retains his title and can still say Mass.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Institute for Family Policy said this week that abortion has reached such massive levels in Spain that it has become a true epidemic in the country.
According to the statistics analyzed by the IFP, more than 1.1 million abortions have taken place in Spain since the practice was legalized in 1985.
During the last ten years, abortions have almost doubled with an increase of 90.5 percent, making Spain the European country with the greatest increase in the number of abortions, followed by Belgium and Holland.
IFP president Eduardo Hertfelder said 97,000 abortions took place in 2006. “If this trend continues, in 2010 one out of every five pregnancies (125,000 annually) will end in abortion,” he said.
He noted that abortions in 200 were up six percent from 2005, and that the statistics indicate that at the very least, “266 children are not born each day in Spain because of abortion, resulting in one abortion taking place every 5.4 minutes.”
“The Ministry of Health must drastically re-orient its health and sexuality policies once their ineffectiveness has been made clear in order to stop or lessen this significant increase of abortions, which results in 266 deaths by abortion each day in Spain, making it the leading cause of mortality in Spain,” Hertfelder noted.
He called the government’s policies “obsolete and erroneous” and said it was “unheard-of that in these times the Ministry of Health does not want to make a distinction between abortions carried out for life or health of the mother and those carried out for psychological reasons, when these represent practically all (96.7%) abortions that take place. “To continue hiding the reality or hiding in empty policies is not, therefore, an effective solution,” Hertfelder stated.
The IFP called for preventive measures that focus on recognizing the personal and social value of pregnancy and motherhood, and an increase in public resources for pregnant women, including financial and educational assistance.
Irondale, Ala., Aug 20, 2007 (CNA) - EWTN’s Spanish-language channel is now available in key Mexican cities such as Acapulco, Chihuahua, Cuernavaca, Mexicali, Juarez and many others, thanks to an agreement with Cablemas.
EWTN also announced that its Spanish channel is also now available 24 hours a day in Chicago via Comcast, the leading cable operator in the United States which carries EWTN in more than 120 cities.
Walter Cordova, national marketing manager for EWTN’s Spanish Networks, said, “Our launch in the Hispanic market of Chicago is very important due to the large Hispanic population of over 1.4 million.”
Since the beginning of 2007, up to now, EWTN has launched in 262 cities in the US on cable systems such as Time Warner, Cox, and Comcast, among others.
During the last four years, EWTN’s Spanish channel has been launched in more than 600 cities throughout the United States.
EWTN Global Catholic Network, founded in the United States by Mother Angelica in 1981 is the largest religious media network in the world and is available in more than 142 million television households in 140 countries and territories.
Lima, Peru, Aug 20, 2007 (CNA) - Diverse dioceses of Latin America and Spain have expressed their solidarity and closeness to the Peruvian bishops and have initiated campaigns to help the more than 80,000 persons affected by the devastating August 15 earthquake, which shook the Peruvian coastal region of Ica.
“The suffering of so many families affected by the violent earthquake last Wednesday in Peru has caught us off guard on this 2007 Day of Solidarity. The Church in Chile is preparing her contribution,” said Bishop Cristian Contreras Villarroel, secretary general of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference.
The president of Caritas Argentina and of Caritas Latin America, Bishop Fernando Bargallo, also announced the launching of solidarity campaigns for those affected.
For their part, the Mexican bishops expressed their concern for the Peruvian people and offered prayers for the victims. “We are confident that in this time of need the people of Mexico will express their closeness, appreciation and love for their brothers and sisters in Peru, with the spirit of Christian solidarity that characterizes them, sending help to those affected and praying and supporting those who are helping in the rescue effort,” they said.
Caritas Spain has also expressed its support for Peru by sending $135,000 in assistance and offering its commitment to aid in the recovery.
In a statement the Bishops’ Conference of Peru said this tragedy “should motivate us especially to pray to God for the all of the families that are suffering. “Human and Christian solidarity impels us to draw close to all those affected by this terrible tragedy,” the bishops said. “This is a time of trial, but also of determination, hope, unity and love.
Rome, Italy, Aug 20, 2007 (CNA) - Secretary General of the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe (CCEE), Bishop Aldo Giordano, said this week that, “only those persons who know and live Christianity can contribute to ecumenism” and that "the first big obstacle" to achieving this "is the ignorance of Christianity or the superficiality of Christian life".
Bishop Giordano made his comments while in Romania preparing for the Third European Ecumenical Assembly that will take place September 4-9. Its theme will be, "The light of Christ illuminates all. Hope for renovation of unity in Europe".
"A second step is the idea that we should become more conscious of our church membership, our identity, because people who do not live deeply or do not know the Church deeply or even their own community are hardly capable of contributing to the dialogue with those of other communities," he said.
For Bishop Giordano, Europe currently "has trouble finding ideals, values, but we listen on the other hand, that there is in Europe a new great demand for reason and for which it is very urgent to give testimony there is a light" that "is inserted in the roots of Christianity". It is only in this way that Europe "will be able" to confront the great challenges of the world.
The Secretary General of the CCEE also hopes that "the assembly will truly be a return to the path of re-discovering the light so as to advance towards reconciliation among Christians" and thereby address the "the current and great challenges of today’s world".
Some 2,000 Catholic, Evangelical, and Orthodox Christians are expected to attend the conference.
Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 20, 2007 (CNA) - Amnesty International affirmed its policy decision on Friday to become a pro-abortion organization and focus some of its efforts on creating universal access to abortion under select circumstances. The radical change has caused Bishop Michael Evans of the Diocese of East Anglia, England to withdraw his 31-year membership from the organization.
The decision marks a significant shift for the 46-year-old organization that was founded by a Catholic layman, Peter Benenson, and has been neutral on the issue of abortion.
The policy was affirmed at Amnesty’s international council meeting in Mexico City, from Aug. 11 to 17. There were 400 delegates from 75 countries in attendance.
Amnesty’s executive committee took the initial policy decision in April to abortion in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s health is jeopardized, but did not make a public announcement about it. It was not until this past week’s meeting in Mexico City that Amnesty delegates gave it overwhelming support.
A press release, issued by Amnesty on Friday, states: “Amnesty International committed itself to strengthening the organization’s work on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and other factors contributing to women's recourse to abortion, and affirmed the organization’s policy on selected aspects of abortion (to support the decriminalization of abortion, to ensure women have access to health care when complications arise from abortion, and to defend women's access to abortion, within reasonable gestational limits, when their health or human rights are in danger), emphasizing that women and men must exercise their sexual and reproductive rights free from coercion, discrimination and violence.”
As a result, Catholic Church leaders are calling on Catholics to withdraw their support for Amnesty International.
In an Aug. 18 statement, Bishop Michael Evans of East Anglia said he is withdrawing his 31-year-membership and support for the organization.
“In time, Amnesty may seek to develop this policy further, but even this current limited decision makes it very difficult for Catholics to remain members of Amnesty or to give it any financial support,” the bishop stated.
The bishop recognized the “enormously important role” Amnesty has played in the world since its foundation.
“This regretable decision will almost certainly divide Amnesty’s membership and thereby undermine its vital work,” he added. “Among all human rights, the right to life is fundamental. Commitment to work to ‘Protect the Human’ can only be deeply compromised by any support for access to abortion. “
While the Catholic Church shares Amnesty’s strong commitment to oppose violence against women, he continued, it cannot support the violence done by abortion to “the most vulnerable and defenceless form of human life in a woman’s womb.”
Bishop Evans noted that the preamble to the 1989 International Convention on the Rights of the Child states that “the child ... needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”
“This must surely be part of the body of international human rights law to which Amnesty International is committed,” the bishop stated.
“There is no human right to access to abortion, and Amnesty should not involve itself even in such extreme cases,” the bishop warned. He said the organization’s support for abortion compromises its mandate to ‘protect the human’.
Bishop Evans emphasized that while he can no longer be a member of Amnesty International, he remains deeply committed to its original mandate of working for freedom for prisoners of conscience, an end to torture and the death penalty, and fair trials for all.
The English bishop is not the only prelate to speak against Amnesty’s new policy. In early-June, Cardinal Renato Martino told Reuters that Amnesty would face ‘inevitable consequences’ for its decision.
"No more Catholic financing of Amnesty International after the organization’s pro-abortion about-face," he was quoted as saying.
Even support for selective abortion defines “the innocent child within the womb as an enemy, a 'thing' that must be destroyed," Cardinal Martino reportedly said.
The American Catholic press later reported Cardinal Martino saying the Amnesty’s new stance on abortion disqualifies it as a defender of human rights
Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 20, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Ubaldo Santana of Maracaibo and president of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela said this week that the Church wishes to learn more details about President Chavez’s proposed constitutional changes.
“We want to know more about the proposal made by the President, to study it and participate in some kind of discussions, always with the idea of assessing what the common good is and how citizens can live together, so that we can have a constitution that has the greatest possible consensus,” the archbishop said.
He emphasized the importance of public opinion regarding the proposals, “Because it is fundamental that all Venezuelans feel they are represented, taken into consideration and are co-participants in the building of their country. There are institutional mechanisms for the people to express their opinions,” Archbishop Santana said.
Rome, Italy, Aug 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican on Friday denied BBC reports that it tampered with the Wikipedia online encyclopedia entry for Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office, said such an initiative on the part of the Vatican would be “absurd,” reported ANSA.
The BBC reported on Wednesday that the Wikipedia Scanner, which reveals the identity of organizations that edit the online encyclopedia, recorded that Vatican computers were used to change a Web page about Adams.
The edit removed links to newspaper stories, which alleged that Adams' fingerprints and handprints were found on a car used in a double murder in 1971.
Fr. Lombardi said there are many computers at the Vatican and it is possible that an individual may have accessed Wikipedia from a Vatican computer. But the idea that the edit was an initiative of the Holy See is “without any logic,” he said.
The priest dismissed the report as typical of the types of stories that emerge during slow news periods. He also criticized the BBC’s lack of journalistic practice.
"All it would have taken to see that the Holy See had nothing to do with the change of the item was a routine journalistic verification," he was quoted as saying.
The BBC report said the Wikipedia Scanner also suggested that CIA computers were used to edit entries on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former CIA director Porter Goss and television celebrity Oprah Winfrey.
London, England, Aug 20, 2007 (CNA) - A documentary, broadcast on British television ITV on Sunday, seeks to portray Jesus as Muslims view him. The one-hour program, called The Muslim Jesus, explains how Muslims consider Jesus to be a prophet rather than the Son of God.
The program uses the Koran as its main source, as well as interviews with scholars and historians. According a report by The Guardian, director/producer Irshad Ashraf said representatives from mainstream Anglican and Catholic organizations were invited to participate in the film, but none were available.
Ashraf says the film is an attempt to educate about the spiritual side of Islam. "Jesus is loved and respected by Muslims and he's one of the most important prophets in our religion," he was quoted as saying.
The program was commissioned and narrated by Lord Melvyn Bragg, who describes the documentary as thoughtful and well researched. He hopes the program will help Muslims feel included in British television, reported The Guardian.
According to the Koran, Christ’s crucifixion never happened but was merely a divine illusion. Instead of dying on the cross, Jesus was rescued by angels and raised to heaven.
Patrick Sookhdeo, an Anglican canon and spokesman for the Barnabas Fund, which works with persecuted Christians, accused broadcasters of double standards.
"How would the Muslim community respond if ITV made a program challenging Muhammad as the last prophet?" Sookhdeo was quoted as saying. Sookhdeo also took exception to the Koran's denial of Jesus' divinity and the provocative claim that "[o]n the last day the Koran says Jesus will destroy all the crosses. How can we praise that?" Sookhdeo converted to Christianity from Islam in 1969.
Xuanhua, China, Aug 20, 2007 (CNA) - The Feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15, served as an occasion to remind Catholics in northern China of Pope Benedict’s call for unity among all Chinese Catholics.
In the Diocese of Xuanhua, Hebei province, about 1,000 parishioners attended the solemn 5 a.m. feast-day Mass at Xiheying Church, reported UCA News.
During his homily, Fr. Xia Shaowu highlighted Pope Benedict XVI's emphasis on one Church in his June 30 papal letter.
"No matter which way we have taken before, we should now return to the side of our Blessed Mother on this feast day," the priest reportedly said.
In a separate Mass that day, some Catholic university students presented the papal letter as an offertory gift. They later dedicated the letter and their acceptance of it to the Blessed Mother.
The young people were taking part in a weeklong formation program, during which they shared their understanding of the papal letter and of unity in the Chinese Church. They also discussed their role as Catholic youth and how they could live out their faith more concretely.
Chen Chen, one of the students, told UCA News she would now strive harder to live Christian virtues and would "bravely admit her Catholic identity in her workplace."
To help Catholics further understand the papal message, Fr. Xia said that his parish has published 1,000 copies of the letter for free distribution and holds daily discussions on it.
The latest issue of his diocese's monthly magazine, Faith Life, published a special issue for the feast day that dedicated the Church in China to the Blessed Mother in the spirit of the Pope's letter.
Fr. Xia said the Pope’s letter has prompted some conservative "underground" Catholics, who had refused to enter any “open” church previously, to come to his parish and to be in communion with other parishioners. This is also happening in other areas of the diocese as well, the priest reported.