Archive of August 24, 2007

Rimini discussion focuses on peace in Northern Ireland

Rimini, Italy, Aug 24, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin focused on the success of the peace process in Northern Ireland and looked to the future of the Church and its role in peacekeeping in his roundtable discussion yesterday at the 2007 Rimini meeting.

“The Church has this mission, not to create a new politics…but to ensure that in a society, the roots and foundations for truth are there,” Vatican Radio reports.

 He emphasized the importance of this message to maintain peace, but also “to provide the foundations for the truth of a stable future for our young people of Ireland.”

 “The church has to completely renew its structures of mission and evangelization and of catechesis so that we would produce new Christians who are not troubled by the worries of the past, but who are prepared to bring the very special contribution to building up a sustainable future for the country.”

The Rimini meeting is a week-long, annual event organized by the movement, Communion and Liberation.  On average, it attracts nearly 700,000 people of different faiths and cultures who wish to explore and share knowledge.

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Underground bishop, priest arrested by Chinese authorities

Stamford, Conn., Aug 24, 2007 (CNA) - The Chinese Public Security and Religious Bureau arrested Bishop Jia Zhiguo, the underground bishop of the Diocese of Zheng Ding in Hebei Province, again. At press time, the reason for his arrest yesterday and his current whereabouts were not known. 

In the five days before his arrest, there was a marked increase in the number of security police that had Bishop Jia under strict 24-hour surveillance as well as police vehicles parking outside of the bishop's residence, reports the Cardinal Kung Foundation.

Anyone coming to visit the bishop was summarily arrested. A priest and a layperson were arrested and interrogated for eight hours before they were released.

Since the release of the Pope Benedict XIV’s China letter, Bishop Jia was told several times by the religious bureau that he was not allowed to publicly support and promulgate the letter.

A few days ago, the Religious Bureau forcibly put up a sign that read “The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association” on the gate of Bishop Jia’s church.

Bishop Jia is 73 years old and was ordained a bishop in 1980.  He was previously jailed for approximately 20 years and has been under strict surveillance for many years by the Chinese authorities.  According to the Cardinal Kung Foundation, he has been arrested 11 times since January 2004.

In addition, Fr. Wen Daoxiu of Beiwangli Village in Hebei province was also arrested Aug. 15, after celebrating Mass. His whereabouts and the reason of his arrest are also unknown. Father Wen is in very poor health with three partially blocked blood vessels to his heart. He is in his mid-fifties.

"It is apparent that the aforementioned actions by the Chinese government is … contrary to the spirit of the China letter issued by the Pope almost two months ago,” said Joseph Kung, the President of the Cardinal Kung Foundation.

Kung also suggested that, given China’s violation of basic human rights, it should not be allowed to host the 2008 Olympics.

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Malaysian newspaper asked to shut down after publishing controversial picture

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Aug 24, 2007 (CNA) - The Malaysian newspaper Makkal Osai is facing calls to shut down after it published an image of Jesus holding a cigarette and what appears to be a can of beer on its front page.

Malaysia's Muslim-led government closed two publications last year for carrying controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Now some members of Malaysia's minority religions say they want the same treatment over this latest incident, reported the BBC.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi criticized the action as hurtful and an insult to Christians. He called on people not to play with religion, the national news agency Bernama reported.

The paper has issued an apology, explaining that a graphics editor had mistakenly taken the image from the Internet.

Most of Malaysia's religious groups appear to have been appeased, including the Catholics.

Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Murphy Pakiam, who earlier criticized the image as a "desecration," accepted the newspaper's apology. In an e-mail to S.M. Periasamy, the newspaper’s general manager, the archbishop's office said the archbishop now "considers the matter closed."

However, the Malaysian Indian Congress called on the government to close the paper. The congress is an ethnic Tamil political party in the governing coalition with mostly Hindu members. A BBC report notes that Makkal Osai has been very critical of the Malaysian Indian Congress, which owns a rival Tamil-language newspaper.

"It's a very serious issue. For certain things you can apologize, but for this kind of sensitive issue, the editor should be sacked and the paper closed," senior party official T. Mohan told The Associated Press.

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Pro-Life Wisconsin demands retraction of defamatory statements by pro-abortion groups

Brookfield, Wis., Aug 24, 2007 (CNA) - Pro-Life Wisconsin is asking NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin to retract and correct false and defamatory statements published and aired about the organization and its executive director, Peggy Hamill.

The statements expressly name Pro-Life Wisconsin and Peggy Hamill as attendees and celebrants of a July 28 event in Milwaukee organized to commemorate Paul Hill’s 1994 murder of a Florida abortionist, including a reenactment of the day of the murder and a memorial honoring Hill. 

“The statements that I was present or participated in the event as well as their interpretation that I or Pro-Life Wisconsin approve of or condone murder are totally false and defamatory,” said Hamill.

“Pro-Life Wisconsin is a peaceful, prayerful organization that calls on God’s grace to change hearts and minds toward an unconditional love for His most precious pre-born children. We oppose violence against the pre-born, and we oppose violence against those who perform abortions or participate in the abortion industry.”

According to a press release issued by the pro-life group, Hamill and her husband were near the abortion mill earlier in the day, their personal van parked around on a side street, praying the rosary on behalf of the babies, as is their custom every Saturday. They intentionally left the area well in advance, to avoid the re-enactment event, and by the time it was scheduled, 11 a.m., they were miles away.

“Planned Parenthood even went so far as to shoot a video of me praying the rosary well before the reenactment event began and then splice it into their video of the event to make it appear as if I were a participant,” said Hamill. “Such action cannot be passed off as a mistake, but rather a calculated effort to smear my name and that of my organization.

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Cardinal Obando says only greater justice can bring about peace

Managua, Nicaragua, Aug 24, 2007 (CNA) - The Archbishop Emeritus of Managua, Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, said this week peace is something that can only be achieved with a new order “that entails more perfect justice between men,” because peace cannot be built upon the frustration of millions of people who cannot obtain “a standard of living that is compatible with human dignity.”

The cardinal made his comments during a forum commemorating the 20th anniversary of the signing of the peace accords that put an end to Central America’s civil strife during the 1980s.

During his remarks, Cardinal Obando reflected upon the meaning of peace and cited various papal documents, such as the encyclical Summi Pontificatus by Pius XII, whose pontifical motto was “Peace is the Work of Justice.”

In noting that because of sin, peace is difficult to obtain, Cardinal Obando emphasized that “social peace” can only come about from a relationship “based on justice, loyalty and love,” thus constituting “an order which results in authentic peace.”

In the past, the cardinal continued, the political and cultural classes lived in apparent peace because they said, or they tried to convince themselves, that the misery of the masses was a preordained part of a universal and unchangeable order.  Currently, humanity is learning that as long as hunger and misery exist, a radical disorder will persist, which is the fruit of selfishness of individuals and nations, and thus it is impossible to obtain lasting peace,” he warned.

Therefore, he said, “the integral development of persons” should be at the heart of all initiatives.  To deny a society the means of progress “can only lead to insecurity and social unrest, and foster hatred, division and destroy all hope of peace.”

Human rights, the cardinal went on, are not only violated by terrorism, repression or killing, but also by extreme poverty and social injustice.  In this sense, he called for greater solidarity among “the different members of the human family.” Solidarity, he said, is a duty, and where there is solidarity, “there is reconciliation as well.

Cardinal Obando said the accords of 1987 should be seen as “a treasure of enthusiasm” that should lead to the “transformation of the souls of each one of our nations.”

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One in four homes in Spain will be single-parent by 2011

Madrid, Spain, Aug 24, 2007 (CNA) - The Institute for Family Policy in Spain reported this week that currently one in five homes in the country are single-parent homes and that if the trend continues, by 2011, one in four homes will no longer have a solid family structure.

“The tendencies that show the evolution of homes in Spain reveal serious deficiencies in our future, as they are provoking a society that is more and more individualistic, where social fragmentation is isolating the person and makes the social fabric very fragile,” said Mariano Martinez-Aedo, vice president of the IFP.

“This evolution is a result not only of cultural, economic and social changes but also of a profound abandonment in family and social policy, which is not fulfilling its objectives.  A vigorous social and political reaction is necessary that adopts important and lasting measures that truly support Spanish families to fulfill their role,” Martinez-Aedo said.

The IFP noted this tendency is also the result of an increase in the number of childless couples and single-parent families.  “A decisive commitment to the family is also necessary in the realms of culture and education,” the organization said.  It proposed several steps for reversing this trend and adequately supporting families in Spain, such as the implementation of authentic pro-family policies and increased funds for family assistance.

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Italians choose to spend vacations in monasteries and convents far from noise and routine of daily life

Rome, Italy, Aug 24, 2007 (CNA) - More and more Italians, tired from the routine and noise of the city, are opting to spend their vacations in monasteries and convents that offer them a time of reflection and contact with nature.

Many religious communities—even cloistered convents--have opened their doors to young people and families to join in their daily life of prayer and activities, as well as to listen to their concerns and provide them spiritual guidance.

“In these times in which prayer and reflection go unnoticed,” the Augustinian Sisters of the Monastery of Lecceto, near Siena, offer such an opportunity, said Mother Sofia.  Guests can participate in community prayers and even help out with the monastery’s artisan work.

The Benedictine monks, who are instructed in their rule of life to receive visitors, are taking guests in at their monastery in Subiaco, allowing them to participate in the daily prayers of the community.

The Franciscans at the Sacro Convent of Assisi offer guests the chance to visit the places where St. Francis lived, such as the Church of San Damiano, the Portiuncula chapel, and his tomb at the Basilica of Assisi. 

Reservations at the more than three thousand Italian abbeys, monasteries, and convents can be made at

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Christian Life Movement to double aid to earthquake victims in Peru

Lima, Peru, Aug 24, 2007 (CNA) - The Christian Life Movement, an international Catholic association of the faithful that belongs to the Sodalite Family, will finish delivering 600 tons of aid this weekend to those affected by the August 15 earthquake in southern Peru, with the support of 500 new volunteers who will distribute the goods and offer spiritual support to those in need.

The CLM has launched a solidarity campaign which has already distributed 300 tons of donations—an amount that will be duplicated in the coming days—and has sent over 1500 volunteers to the affected region.

According to organizers of the campaign, “In response to so much suffering and pain caused by the earthquake that affected mainly the province of Ica in the south, the CLM immediately went on alert.”

The 7.9 magnitude quake left more than 500 dead, 1000 injured and 100,000 homeless.  Hours after the tragedy, the CLM sent doctors, nurses and health specialists to the region.  The movement also organized fundraising drives and volunteers to help out in the relief effort.  The CLM campaign has thus far helped more than 13,000 families.

The movements has posted video reports on YouTube in order to encourage people to help out in the relief effort:

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Pope expresses closeness to Gitano peoples after death of four children

Vatican City, Aug 24, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI expressed his condolences this week to the Orthodox Church of Romania and to the Gypsy community of Romania for the deaths of four Gypsy children who died in a fire that broke out under a bridge in Livorno, Italy.

Msgr. Paolo Razzauti, diocesan administrator of Livorno, said Thursday the Holy Father called to convey his "closeness to the city of Livorno," and to express his hopes that the community "will react to the tragedy with a culture of acceptance and solidarity."

City officials are investigating the cause of the fire, in which four Gypsy children between the ages of 4 and 11 were killed.  It appeared the fire may have been intentionally set as the region has seen an increase in animosity towards Gypsies.

The parents of the children -- two couples -- have been arrested on charges of neglect and abandonment.

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Texas reaches 400 executions

Huntsville, Texas, Aug 24, 2007 (CNA) - Yesterday, Texas executed its 400th person since the Supreme Court lifted the ban of the death penalty in 1982.  However, according to Mario Marazziti, the spokesman for the Sant’Egidio Movement, the tide seems to be turning.

Marazziti told Vatican Radio that “many states are discussing bills about the moratorium.”  This is due to the fact that the public has recognized alternatives for punishments in the United States and believe that removing the death penalty will eliminate possible mistakes or errors in sentencing.

In a previous statement on capital punishment, the Catholic Bishops of Texas urged the state to find alternative punishments for criminals.

“While human logic alone seems to support the abolition of the death penalty, as moral leaders we call for alternatives because of its moral incongruity in today's world. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "If ... non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.”

“In our modern society, we have means of keeping an offender from harming others. Although in previous times people of faith have employed capital punishment, today we have the ability to realize better the principles of mercy, forgiveness, and unconditional love for all people”.

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