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Archive of August 22, 2007

'Draw near to God to overcome weakness and find lasting joy and happiness', says Pope Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Aug 22, 2007 (CNA) - By drawing near to God, we are able to overcome our weakness and find lasting joy and happiness, Pope Benedict XVI told the faithful today at his weekly General Audience.

As an example, the Holy Father held up St. Gregory Nazianzus, 4th century Doctor of the Church, in the second of a two-part reflection on the saint’s life. 

“The life and teaching of Saint Gregory are a celebration of the divine love which is revealed in Christ”, the Pope told the pilgrims gathered in the Paul VI auditorium.  “He felt the need to draw near to God to overcome his very real weariness”. 

Benedict XVI recalled that for him, “within the drama of a life weighed down by the realization of weakness and misery, the knowledge and experience of God’s love always predominated.  You have the duty of the soul, St Gregory tells us, the duty to find the true light, to find the true heights of your life.”

St. Gregory led by example, using his talents for the glory of God, the Pope explained, in particular his academic and oratory skills in countering controversies of the day.    He forcefully defended the Church’s faith in one God in three equal and distinct persons, the Pope recalled, and upheld the full humanity of Christ.  “To redeem man in his whole body, soul and spirit, Christ had to assume every part of human nature, otherwise man would not have been saved”, the Pope explained.  “Against the heresy of Apollinare, who believed Jesus Christ had not assumed a rational soul, Gregory confronts the problem with the light of the mystery of the salvation”. 

Quoting the 4th century saint, he said: ‘What was not assumed, was not cured’. If Christ ‘had not been given a rational intellect, how could he have been a man?’”   The Pope added that as human beings, “we, with our with intellect and reason, have a need to relate, to meet God through Christ.  Becoming man, Christ has given us the possibility of becoming like him.  Nazianzus exhorts: “We look to be like Christ, since Christ also became like us.’”

The Pope explained how St. Gregory was a moderate man who always sought to work for peace in the Church which, at the time, was being torn apart by discord and heresies.  “With the force of a daring evangelical,” the Pope said, “he overcame a very real timidity to proclaim the truth of the faith.” 

The Pope also pointed out how St. Gregory defended Mary’s dignity as the Mother of God, her purity and her intercessory power, and how this ancient father of the Church stressed every Christian’s responsibility to “imitate God’s goodness and love through charity and solidarity with others, especially the sick and those in need”.  Give God proof of your gratitude, because you belong to those who are blessed, and not to those who are in need of blessings... Be rich not only in material goods, but also in pity; not only in gold, but also in virtue, even better still in this alone.”

St. Gregory, the Pope added, also spoke eloquently on the importance of prayer.  “He affirmed that it is ‘necessary to remember God more often than the amount we breath’”, the Pope said, “because prayer is the meeting of God’s thirst with our thirst.  God has thirst that we have thirst for Him.  In prayer we must direct our hearts to God, to offer ourselves to him as a gift to be purified and converted.  In prayer we see everything in the light of Christ, are immersed in God’s truth and inflamed by his love.” 

The pope then highlighted how the saint “asks for Christ’s help, to be set straight and put back on the right path again:

‘I have been deluded, oh my Christ, 
by my great presumption:
from on high I have fallen low.
But set me on my feet again, so I may see
I was tricked by myself;
if ever I confide too much in myself, 
then I shall fall again, and the fall will be fatal’.

St. Gregory’s life was a celebration of God’s love, the Pope concluded, and he called on the faithful to similarly open their hearts to this love, “which overcomes our weakness and gives lasting joy and happiness to our lives”.

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Lawyers bill Portland archdiocese $19M

Portland, Ore., Aug 22, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Portland received an $18.8-million bill from its lawyers, who worked on the archdiocese’s bankruptcy filing.

The Associated Press reported that the bill includes $10.8 million in fees and $1 million in expenses charged by four law firms representing the archdiocese, according to court documents filed Friday.

The rest are expenses and fees charged by attorneys and experts working for other parties. In U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the party seeking protection pays legal fees for both sides.

The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in July 2004. It emerged from bankruptcy in April, after it reached a $52-million settlement with 175 people who claimed that clergy members sexually abused them. Another $20 million was set aside for future claimants.

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The diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend celebrates 150 years

Fort Wayne, Ind., Aug 22, 2007 (CNA) - Several thousand Catholics gathered at the University of Notre Dame on August 18 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. The day long event was well attended by members of the congregation of the Holy Cross as well as by ministers of various denominations. 

The celebration began with an ecumenical prayer service offered for the unity of Christians, followed by numerous events: a variety of workshop presentations, special youth activities, the Sacrament of Reconciliation (available at 45 locations), and the opportunity for participants to renew their baptismal vows.

The Holy Eucharist was concelebrated by Bishop D'Arcy, several other bishops, and numerous priests. The Mass featured some prayers and songs in Spanish as well as prayer petitions in several languages to represent various ethnic groups in the diocese. At the  close of the Mass, Bishop D'Arcy imparted a special apostolic blessing from Pope Benedict XVI, which he gave on the occasion of the diocesan anniversary.

The festivities concluded with a reception held to honor Bishop D'Arcy's recent birthday.

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Planned Parenthood files lawsuit to strike down Missouri abortion law

Jefferson City, Mo., Aug 22, 2007 (CNA) - Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit Monday seeking to strike down a new Missouri law that requires abortion clinics to meet the same state health and safety standards already applied to other types of ambulatory surgical centers.

The federal lawsuit contends that the law, which takes effect Aug. 28, would infringe on abortion rights, and asks a judge for an injunction blocking it.

Among the new requirements noted in the lawsuit: outpatient surgery centers must have halls at least six feet wide and doors at least 44 inches wide; there must be separate male and female changing rooms for personnel; and a recovery room with space for at least four beds with three feet of clearance around each.

Planned Parenthood claims the law could eliminate abortion services in parts of the state by subjecting clinics to stringent state oversight. The required renovations, it claims, are costly and “medically unnecessary.”

In particular, Planned Parenthood fears the law could put two of its abortion centers — one in Columbia and the other in Kansas City — out of business. Planned Parenthood contends that already existing facilities should be exempt from meeting the new physical requirements.

The third abortion clinic that would remain open is in St. Louis.

According to an AP report, Missouri's pro-life majority in the state legislature contends the law is necessary to ensure the health and safety of women seeking abortions.

Republican state Sen. Delbert Scott, a lead sponsor of the legislation, said he believes it is fair to regulate abortions like other procedures.

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Cardinal criticizes media coverage of Italy sex-abuse cases

Rome, Italy, Aug 22, 2007 (CNA) - The Vatican Secretary of State has criticized the Italian media for its coverage of the recent allegations of sexual abuse by Italian priests and suggested there might be a campaign against the Church, reported Reuters.

The cardinal’s comments were made in reference to the media coverage of a probe by Turin prosecutors into a priest who allegedly paid a 24-year-old man to keep quiet about past abuse. A separate investigation involves accusations of abuse by one of Italy's best-known priests, Fr. Pietro Gelmini, 82.

In comments to Vatican radio published on Tuesday, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said he respected the work of the prosecutors but criticized the media for paying so much attention to unproven accusations that he said warped the image of the Roman Catholic Church.

Giving too much attention to such accusations was "a false way to present the Church, as if you presented a dark fragment of the great Sistine Chapel ... which (after restoration) has reacquired Michelangelo's original colors," he said.

"Sometimes it seems like there is a plan (to the coverage)", Bertone said.

The cardinal also criticized the focus on a prestigious Turin school, where one of the accused priests worked and which the cardinal also attended as a boy.

"For a week, in newspapers or on TV news, to always see the outside of this institute is truly shameful and mystifying. It's absolutely something to condemn," he said.

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New poll reveals young Americans find happiness in family and God, not money

Washington D.C., Aug 22, 2007 (CNA) - The current generation of young Americans are conflicted over money, reveals a recent survey of 13- to 24-year-olds. Poll results were reported in an Associated Press article.

The overwhelming majority of the 1,280 young people surveyed did not place money at the top of the list when asked what makes them happiest. Friends and family, followed by God, pets and pastimes, like listening to music, topped that list. Only one percent named money as the thing that gives them the most joy.

However, the lack of money, and the pressures this can cause, was cited as a source of unhappiness. And while a majority is happy with the amount of money they and their families have, money ranks as their fourth-highest source of stress.

In what seems contradictory, 49 percent say they would be happier if they had more money, but the exact same amount say additional money would leave them about as happy as they already are.

Many said they believe money will have a telling impact on their lives down the road. Asked to describe their ideal vision of happiness, 20 percent said that included having no financial worries and a good family.

Those in middle-income households express feeling the most financial pressure, even more so than lower-income people. Young people from the highest-income families seem happier with life overall. Eight in 10 of those earning $75,000 or more annually express happiness with life in general, compared with six in 10 with smaller incomes.

Money worries increase with age in the survey. Males are also likelier than females to say they are stressed about money and that they want to be rich.

Jerald Bachman, a social psychology professor at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, attributes this to the traditional role of men as the breadwinner.

Five percent of whites, 8 percent of blacks and 15 percent of Hispanics put money at the top of their unhappiness list.

Young people from the Northeast seem the most pressured by financial uncertainty. They are likeliest to list it as their chief reason for being unhappy and their main source of stress. The least financially stressed are those from the West and Midwest.

The Associated Press and MTV commissioned the poll. Knowledge Networks Inc. conducted the poll from April 16 to 23. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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I'll baptize my girl a Catholic so she can stay in school—says Sikh father

London, England, Aug 22, 2007 (CNA) - St. Paul’s Roman Catholic school in Wolviston, England is full, but that hasn’t stopped a determined father from trying to keep his daughter there any way he can, including baptizing her a Catholic.

Bal Singh wants his four-year-old daughter, Maya Kaur, to remain at St Paul's where she has attended for the past two years as a pre-schooler.

Nevertheless, admission to St. Paul’s primary school is so sought after that the school has exceeded its enrollment cap for the upcoming academic year. Given the overbooking, Maya has been denied a place for the school year, which starts in September.

Original reports regarding the situation indicate that Mr. Singh said he was willing to change Maya’s religion if it would guarantee her a spot at the school. The school’s admission policy gives priority to applicants who are baptized Catholics and live in the locality or those who have another sibling attending the school.

However, the spokesman for the diocese responded, “it [the diocese] welcomed adults who wanted to become followers of Christ's teachings, but that children were "another matter".  He also said that only parents who are themselves Catholic Christians could make such a commitment for their child.

The Singh’s, who are Sikhs, have failed to successfully appeal for Maya to be admitted to St. Paul’s and now appear to be trying a different approach. Now Mr. Singh says, "We think Sikhism is similar to Roman Catholicism so we put her in that school.” "She's been at that school for two years, she goes to church with them, she says a prayer before she eats her dinner.”

Besides a good education, the Singh’s primary motivation is reportedly to create a smooth transition for their daughter. "It would have been no different for the religion, it is just I'm happy if my child is happy at school, and she likes the way it is run and I am happy with the way she is progressing with her work,” said Mr. Singh.

Catherine Connelly, the head teacher at St Paul's, said the school received 34 applications and normally receives 24. The class size has been expanded to the legal limit of 30.

She also noted that, "[w]e allocated the places according to our published admissions criteria which all parents had access to."

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Spanish bishop calls on families to demand religious instruction for their children

Madrid, Spain, Aug 22, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Sanchez of Sigüenza-Guadalajara announced he will ask families next Sunday to demand religion be taught in the schools their children attend.

In his most recent pastoral letter, Bishop Sanchez said parents have the right to request religious education for their children based on the Spanish constitution and on the accords between Spain and the Holy See.

“To take religion out of schools,” he said, “would give the impression that it is something problematic, that it is not something that should be learned like other subjects, or that it is irrelevant and that it’s not worth giving it the time that is taken away from other subjects.”
 
In a reference to the Education for Citizenship course, Bishop Sanchez also noted that parents “have the right to not have their children bothered or confused in their convictions and in their religious faith by the teaching of other subjects.”

He pointed out that “good Christian education will also result not only in good Christians but in good citizens. Free citizens, always respectful, but critical, as well, of the powers of this world.”

“Christians do not recognize the lordship of anyone but the Lord Jesus, nor any other law above the Gospel,” he said in conclusion.

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CinemaNet organizes colloquium on Catholic resistance to Nazism

Madrid, Spain, Aug 22, 2007 (CNA) - The organization CinemaNet is organizing a conference with the historian and founder of Europe4Christ, Martin Kugler, about the movie “Sophie Scholl: The Last Days,” which tells the story of a Catholic family’s resistance to Nazism.

The event will be part of the 3rd International Film and Family Show, which will take place August 28 at the FIATC auditorium in Barcelona at 7:00pm.  The event will also include a discussion on the black legend that Pius XII did not do enough to help the Jews, when in reality he was one of their strongest defenders during WWII.

Martin Kugler is a historian from Austria and founder of Europe4Christ, a social and political movement against moral relativism.  He worked as a volunteer in Guatemala and is the author of a thesis on the Catholic Church in Austria under Nazism. 

More information can be found at:  http://www.cinemanet.info

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Thousands in Brazil march for life

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 22, 2007 (CNA) - Some 25,000 people in the Brazilian town Curitiba and 8,000 in the capital Brasilia took to the streets to defend the life of the unborn and to protest against the legalization of abortion in the country.

The massive rally in Curitiba took place at the Marumby Expocenter as part of the campaign “Shout for Life.”  Archbishop Moacyr Jose Vitti of Curitiba presided at Mass with priests involved in the pro-life movement concelebrating.

During the Mass more than 600,000 signatures of people of who have joined the campaign against abortion were presented to the archbishop.  The campaign has been organized by the Society of the Immaculate Conception of Mary Protector of the Unborn and the association Evangelizar e Preciso.

Together both groups have collected 750,000 signatures and when they reach 1 million, Archbishop Vitti and pro-life leaders will present them in Brasilia to Congressman Jorge Tadeu Mudalen, president of the House of Representative’s Commission for Social Security and the Family. 

Several days ago, 8,000 people marched from the Cathedral in Brasilia to the Congressional building in a protest organized by the movement Brazil Without Abortion. Pro-lifers carried banners calling on politicians to support the pro-life cause.

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Pakistani Christians suffer discrimination and religious persecution, says priest

Konigstein, Germany, Aug 22, 2007 (CNA) - Father Emmanuel Asi, secretary of the Biblical Commission of Pakistan, denounced this week that Christians in that country are experiencing “social discrimination, political oppression and religious persecution.”

Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, Father Asi explained that Christians in Pakistan are considered second-class citizens who are denied the most basic of human rights.

Father Asi made his comments as the 60th anniversary of the creation of Pakistan was marked on August 14.  In his opinion, the ideal of the “father of the Pakistani nation,” Ali Jinnah, has faded and the openness to others without discrimination which he championed no longer exists.

He went on to note that aggression against Christians for religious reasons leads to “all kinds of problems one can imagine,” and thus many believers live in fear.

“The Church encourages the faithful to celebrate the national holidays, in order to promote a greater sense of community between the members of different religions in the country,” he stressed. 

Christians make up 1.5% of the 167 million inhabitants of Pakistan.

The Catholic Biblical Commission, which receives assistance from Aid to the Church in Need, has published a ninth edition of the Bible in Urdu, which together with English is the official language of Pakistan.  “Our Catholic faithful nourish a natural and innate love for Sacred Scripture,” Father Asi said.

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Lawyer denounces NGO in Brazil for promoting abortion

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Aug 22, 2007 (CNA) - Fernando Vianna, a lawyer in the Brazilian town of Campinas, denounced the NGO Bem-Estar Familiar (BemFam) this week for “directing women to have abortions” and said the organization has “complete disrespect” for the law.  “In effect they are apologists for something criminal.  There is no right to that,” he said.

In an interview with CNA, Vianna explained that information uncovered about the NGO led him to initiate a “police investigation” into the pro-abortion activities of BemFam, as abortion is a crime under Brazilian law.

He noted that abortion is legal in Brazil only in two circumstances: when “there is a risk to the woman’s life” or in “cases of rape.”  “In these cases it is permissible to have an abortion,” Vianna explained. “It is not possible to have an abortion when the pregnancy is unwanted,” he added.

He pointed out that those who counsel an abortion or help to carry it out are also responsible before the law and face penalties of up to four years in prison.  Vianna said it was unacceptable that in a democratic state certain persons who were unable to get Congress to change the law on abortion now attempt to achieve the same goal through illegal means.

“What should concern them (BemFam) is the trauma that is commonly suffered by women (who undergo an abortion): post-abortion trauma, a serious psychological trauma that is not taken into account.  There is no [respect for the] right to information.  What they are seeking is to induce, instigate or assist in the practice of an abortion,” Vianna said.  “Independent of the moral and religious questions, in Brazil abortion is a crime and anyone who participates or assists in one must be held legally accountable,” he stressed.

Vianna told CNA that the Brazilian constitution “guarantees the right to life as a sacred right.  This right must be preserved.  It’s not possible for people to go against this right,” he said, adding that “life inside the womb is life that must be preserved.  Institutions have the duty to preserve it.”

BenFam has received $150,000 in aid from the International Planned Parenthood Federation for its abortion activities.

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Archdiocese of San Antonio dedicates new seminary dorm to meet vocational demands

San Antonio, Texas, Aug 22, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of San Antonio has many things to be thankful for, but on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, Archbishop Jose Gomez was able to give it one more reason to express gratitude, a new dormitory for the seminary.

Present for the dedication of the new building were Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, bishops, priests, seminarians, and the laity.

Speaking of how Christians are called to believe in the Gospel, love and live entirely for God, and have missionary hearts as Mary did, Archbishop Gomez dedicated the new Archbishop Flores Residence Hall.

Archbishop Gomez told Archbishop Flores who was present that, “we’re honored today to name this hall for you. It is a tribute to your tireless efforts to spread the gospel of love, to proclaim the great things of God here in San Antonio.”

He continued, “And I can’t help but recall today the words of one of your favorite saints, St. Rafael Guízar Valencia.”

“St. Rafael said: ‘A bishop can do without the miter, the crosier, and even without the cathedral. But he cannot do without the seminary, since the future of his diocese depends on it.’ I believe these words very much. They are an inspiration for my ministry.”

Gomez also recalled how “the atheist government of Mexico persecuted St. Rafael. How they violently forced him to shut down his seminary in Xalpa in 1921” and that it was “through their sacrifices and ministry they helped keep the faith alive in a very dark time.”

Archbishop Gomez said that the Church faces a different type of situation in our country now, which is no less dangerous. “[T]he faith is seriously threatened by our society’s growing indifference to spiritual values. Our culture no longer understands the values of the gospel. And that means it can’t understand the supreme gift of the priesthood. It’s sad to say, but in our culture it simply doesn’t make any sense that a bright and talented man would want to leave behind the promise of career and family to dedicate his life to Jesus Christ.”

In the midst of this culture, “Assumption Seminary is a sign of contradiction”. And a great sign of hope. We have 90 seminarians—33 from San Antonio alone,” said the archbishop. He continued, “[m]y brothers, you are a testimony to the working of the Holy Spirit in America in this new century!”

The archbishop drew inspiration from the late Pope John Paul II who said that “the Church in San Antonio has a very special calling that flows from our history as ‘crossroads’ and ‘a meeting of cultures, indigenous and immigrant’ from every part of the world.”

“I’m proud to say that Assumption Seminary is a pioneer in preparing men to meet that special calling—to proclaim God’s mercy and reconciliation in a society that is both bilingual and multicultural. We are forming strong, prayerful, and virtuous men who have an intimate knowledge and friendship with Jesus Christ.”

As he closed his address, Archbishop Gomez offered a special word of thanks to God noting that August 15 is “very special to me because it is the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I thank God Almighty and Our Lady of Guadalupe for the great privilege and joy of my vocation. And I thank you for sharing with me in this special celebration of the Eucharist.”

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