Rome, Italy, Aug 27, 2007 (CNA) - The plight of the Iraqi Christian community is one that is quite desperate even though it has existed for centuries. In response to the dire situation, Iraqi Christians in Need (ICIN) has been founded to provide money for food, medicine and education.
A recent UN Refugee Agency report states that 44% of the refugees that enter Syria are Christians even though they compromise only 4% of the total population.
The new agency provides funding for food, medicine and education through local churches.
Vatican Radio’s Susie Hodges spoke with ICIN’s Suha Rassam, about the new organization. Rassam said, “Since the very early the beginnings of 2003 in the form of riots, kidnappings, extortions, you may say that they have affected all Iraqi citizens, that is true, but from the beginning it was more common among the Christians. Recently, however, there have been direct threats asking them to convert to Islam or leave their homes.”
Rassam also noted that the situation of Christians in Iraq has largely been ignored by the press. The comment she is often dismissed with is, ‘everyone is suffering in Iraq.’ But she objects that the plight of Christians is much different, because they have no militias to protect them and thus become the constant targets of extortionists.
For more information on ICIN visit their website http://www.icin.org.uk/index.html
ICIN is a registered charity organization in the UK.
Washington D.C., Aug 27, 2007 (CNA) - The coalition of pro-life musicians, Rock for Life, which claims some 700 musicians as members, says that Amnesty International’s new abortion policy risks alienating some of its pro-life celebrity supporters.
Rock for Life has accused Amnesty of “duping” pro-life singers, such as Christina Aguilera and Avril Lavigne, who are among those featured an Amnesty CD to raise awareness and funding for the survivors of Darfur, reports The Sunday Times. The CD was released two months ago and has sold more than 400,000 copies to date.
Rock for Life accuses Amnesty of using the CD to promote abortion, without making its intentions clear to the singers because it didn’t consult its membership before adopting its new pro-abortion stance.
Two weeks ago, Amnesty adopted a worldwide policy to advocate for the right to abortion in the case of rape or when a woman’s health is endangered by her unborn child.
“The manipulation of musicians to fund this hypocrisy is maddening,” said Rock for Life director Erik Whittington. “We are writing to all the artists to ask for their views.”
Aguilera, 26, comes from a Catholic background and has taken part in a television show in which she interviews a teenager who decided to keep her baby rather than have an abortion.
Lavigne, 22, a French-Canadian was also raised in Christian family. Her song Keep Holding On is the backing track to a YouTube video that declares “abortion is murder”.
According to The Sunday Times, an Amnesty spokesperson has defended the CD project, saying it was launched with the sole intention of raising awareness about the situation in Darfur.
Widney Brown, Amnesty’s director of policy, said there was “overwhelming support” for the policy decision on abortion at the group’s international gathering in Mexico City. But the Sunday Times reports that Amnesty is surprised by the wide reaction against its new policy.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is one of the most recent Catholic organizations to voice its protest against Amnesty’s new policy. In an open letter dated Aug. 23, USCCB president Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane said the new policy “undermines Amnesty’s longstanding moral credibility and unnecessarily diverts its mission.”
“In promoting abortion, Amnesty divides its own members (many of whom are Catholics and others who defend the rights of unborn children) and jeopardizes its support by people in many nations, cultures and religions who share a consistent commitment to all human rights,” he wrote.
The bishop suggested that supporters of human rights would seek to work with organizations other than Amnesty, “who do not oppose the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death.”
He concluded his letter by calling on Amnesty to reverse its policy decision.
Denver, Colo., Aug 27, 2007 (CNA) - Members of the break-away Society of St. Pius X complied with directives from the Archdiocese of Denver on Saturday, banning them from praying in two Denver churches.
Since 1999, members of St. Isidore the Farmer Church in Watkins, Colorado have embarked on a 50-mile walking pilgrimage to Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden, Colorado to thank God for the completion of their church.
In the past, the pilgrims stopped along the route to pray and rest in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception or Holy Ghost Church, both in downtown Denver.
However, the last several years, parishioners from the two churches complained that the pilgrims were leaving behind Pius X literature and trying to recruit members, communications director Jeanette DeMelo told Rocky Mountain News.
In 2002, Archbishop Charles Chaput put an end to these pilgrims celebrating their Mass at the Cabrini shrine because of the group has split from the Roman Catholic Church. Since then, the pilgrims have celebrated their Mass at the highway turnout below the shrine.
The Vatican has determined that the Society of St. Pius X is schismatic based on its adherence to a 16th-century version of the Latin Mass, its rejection of the Second Vatican Council, and in some cases, their rejection of the authority of the Pope.
Sacramento, Calif., Aug 27, 2007 (CNA) - Sacramento, The movie star turned governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, seems poised to undermine marriage in his influential state.
In legal briefs submitted to the California Supreme Court, which is considering whether to license "same-sex marriages" next year, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown both stated that a future legislature could abolish marriage and yank marriage rights from a married husband and wife.
It was revealed today that Attorney General Jerry Brown [AG Jerry Brown's 8/17 brief] and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger [Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's 8/17 brief] have stated that the terms “marry” and “marriage” have no significance in the state’s constitution and can therefore be changed.
The briefs also reveal that the attorney general and the governor agree that benefits which are currently afforded to husbands and wives could be eliminated by the California Legislature.
Schwarznegger’s August 17 brief states, “…except for the ability to choose and declare one's life partner in a reciprocal commitment of mutual support, any of the statutory rights and obligations that are afforded to married couples in California could be abrogated or eliminated by the Legislature or the electorate for any rational legislative purpose.”
Randy Thomasson of the VoteYesMarriage.com ballot initiative organization points to this as “proof positive that the VoteYesMarriage.com initiative, which will prevent marriage from being abolished and prevent marriage rights from being eliminated, is absolutely needed to protect the sacred institution of marriage from activist judges and liberal politicians."
The ballot initiative promotes the California Marriage Amendment, which will safeguard marriage from the tampering of judges and politicians. Thomasson hopes to have the amendment appear on the 2008 ballot.
Orlando, Fla., Aug 27, 2007 (CNA) - For some five years, since the Boston Globe broke the story of the clergy sex-abuse scandal, there has been no shortage of brutally unfavorable -- and oftentimes patently unfair -- media coverage of the Catholic Church.
Some, of course, feel that the church is getting a rightly deserved comeuppance for its past failures to address effectively child sexual abuse in its midst. But such schadenfreude does very little to recognize the steps that have been taken in the Catholic Church to prevent future occurrences. It also does not help people to recognize that the sexual abuse of teenagers and children is a societywide problem and not just a Catholic Church or priest problem.
While one case of abuse is one too many, and priests are -- and should be -- held to a higher standard, the numbers of predators found in the ranks of Catholic clergy were rather small when compared to the total numbers of priests serving faithfully over the same time period. The numbers were no larger than the percentage of abusers in the general population, and the number of those abused by clergy -- a terrible tragedy in itself -- is only a small subset of the total number of children sexually abused by adults.
Indeed, in 2004, a U.S. Department of Education study estimated that some 290,000 students experienced some form of sexual abuse by public-school employees in just one decade (1991-2000). According to this same study, nearly 10 percent of U.S. public-school students have been targeted with unwanted sexual attention by school employees.
Similarly, the Associated Press recently reported that the three insurance companies that cover the majority of Protestant denominations in the United States receive each year some 260 reports of minors being abused by clergy, staff or other church members. The numbers of sexual-abuse cases among Protestant denominations has been to date largely unknown -- largely due to the lack of hierarchy and reporting structures. Nevertheless, their numbers appear to outpace accusations against Catholic clergy.
Other examples are readily apparent. The point is not to single out any one institution, but rather to acknowledge the societal problem and to call all institutions to act. Attacking one institution or group concomitantly serves to minimize the problem and to undermine needed efforts to help all potential victims of abuse.
Humbled by the failure of some in the church to act earlier and more decisively against predators in its midst, the Church has paid a high price; but the U.S. Catholic Church is also leading the way today in assuring the protection of minors.
Well before the Boston abuse stories broke, many dioceses had implemented fingerprinting and background-check programs for individuals working with vulnerable populations. Today, all church employees and volunteers -- and not just clergy -- who work with minors are fingerprinted and their backgrounds checked. Child-safety programs have been implemented in our schools and youth programs. Since 2003, some 6 million people -- both clergy and lay -- have undergone child-safety training for work in parishes.
During this same time frame, more than 1.6 million adults working directly with children in the Catholic Church have submitted to background checks. No other institution in American society has the protection of minors as a higher priority.
While some victims may be understandably mistrustful of the Church and its leadership on this issue, undeniable progress has been made by Catholic dioceses throughout the United States. Philip Jenkins, a Penn State professor and expert on the sexual abuse of young people (and a non-Catholic) states: "Since definitely the late '80s and early '90s, most Catholic dioceses really developed very stringent policies and very, very few cases are coming to light from after 1990."
The zero tolerance policy adopted by the bishops in Dallas in 2002 continues in force: Those credibly accused are permanently removed from ministry. No system, however, is perfect, and we will always remain vigilant.
Catholic Church leaders have honored their pledge to protect the young from the sexual abuse rampant in U.S. society. This, of course, is not just the bishops' responsibility; it is the responsibility of each one of us.
Thomas G. Wenski is the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Orlando.
CNA STAFF, Aug 27, 2007 (CNA) - With headlines such as “Did Mother Teresa lose her faith?” or “Mother Teresa of Calcutta did not believe in God,” the media has by and large misinterpreted the letters of Mother Teresa that have been published in a new book, outlining the difficult spiritual struggle she endured for decades.
The Associated Press, Time Magazine and a host of other news organizations, have sensationalized the new book entitled, “Mother Teresa: Come be my Light,” which consists of a collection of letters the nun wrote over the years chronicling her spiritual journey.
Although the media has portrayed the book as “evidence” that Mother Teresa did not really believe in God and even considered herself a hypocrite, her spiritual darkness was no secret to the Church.
Mother Teresa had requested that her letters be burned after her death, but they were conserved by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, who was the postulator for her cause of beatification. Father Kolodiejchuk considers the letters further proof of her sanctity because they allow people to have “a new understanding, a new window into her interior life, which in my view is the most heroic possible.”
Among the passages quoted by the media include paragraphs such as: “I feel that God does not love me, that God is not God, and that He truly does not exist.” In one letter from 1958 she wrote: “My smile is a mask that hides a multitude of sorrows.”
In 2002, when her beatification was announced, Father Kolodiejchuk gave an interview to Zenit in which he spoke of this phase of Mother Teresa’s life. “Before the inspiration for her work, she had already experienced darkness,” he said. “However, it is important to keep in mind that this ‘night’, this interior suffering, is the fruit of her union with Christ, as happened with St. Teresa of Jesus or Paul of the Cross.”
“On the one hand, there is union with Jesus and love unites. In being united to Christ, she understood the suffering of Jesus when he shouted from the Cross: ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Father Kolodiejchuk said. The darkness experienced by Mother Teresa was also the result of the apostolate, he continued, and her love for others. “Loving Christ, she understood as well the suffering of others, their loneliness and also their estrangement from God.”
“The ‘dark night’ of Mother Teresa was due, therefore, to the double dimension of love that religious live out: in the first place, the ‘spousal,’ her love for Christ, which leads them to unite their sufferings to Him; and secondly, ‘redemptive’ love, which leads them to share in redemption, to proclaim to others the love of God so that they can discover salvation through prayer and sacrifice,” Father Kolodiejchuk explained.
“More than a trial of faith,” he continued, “it was a trial of love. More than suffering for the experience of not feeling the love of Jesus, she suffered because of her desire for Jesus, her thirst for Jesus, her thirst for love. The goal of the Congregation is precisely to satiate the thirst of Jesus on the cross through our love of Him and our service to souls.”
“Mother shared not only the physical and material suffering of the poor, she felt the thirst, the abandonment that people experience. In fact, the greatest poverty is to not be loved, to be rejected,” he said.
The ex-director of the Holy See's press office, Joaquin Navarro Valls, also commented on the apparent controversy in an article published in the Italian newspaper "La Repubblica." In his article he points that "those moments of crisis aren't a sign of lack of faith, but they're normal and in her [Mother Theresa's] case, heroic."
Lima, Peru, Aug 27, 2007 (CNA) - On August 30, at noon local time, Peruvians will consecrate their country to the Virgin Mary during the closing of the National Eucharistic Congress presided over by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in front of the Cathedral of Chimbote in northern Peru.
The official consecration prayer, which makes specific reference to the devastation that Peru is experiencing from the earthquake that left 500 dead and more than 100,000 homeless, has been disseminated by the Apostolate for the Family Rosary.
“Today, Mary, the eyes of the brothers and sisters of Jesus, who is only Son of the Eternal Father, and of you, ever Virgin, turn to you. In this hour of grace and blessing for Peru, we desire to reaffirm our faith in Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, whose Word we wish to receive in our hearts as you received it, being renewed by the Eucharist.
Today we wish to entrust to you the future that awaits us, and we implore you to accompany us in our commitment,” the prayer begins.
“Holy Mary,” it continues, “we know the road is arduous; this glorious land, the birthplace of saints, is now afflicted by violence and death, by poverty and injustice. Mother of the Church, enlighten the people of Peru along the paths of faith, hope and love! Help us to live the commitment of our consecration for the benefit of the entire Peruvian people, our coast, mountains and rain forest. Comfort the sad and the depressed, those who have no families, or loved ones or friends.”
“In your hands, oh Virgin, we place the hopes and fatigues, joys and sorrows of the families that live in his land that you love so much,” the prayer goes on to say. “We wish to offer to you the entire People of God that journeys in Peru and place ourselves close to your motherly Immaculate Heart, in order that we might be courageous witnesses of the truth, defenders of the dignity of our brothers and sisters, and builders of unity. Pray for us, Holy Mother of God. We want to live for Christ. Amen,” the prayer concludes.
Lima, Peru, Aug 27, 2007 (CNA) - During a Mass attended by thousands of Peruvians affected by the recent earthquake in their country, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, conveyed “the greetings, solidarity and blessing” of Pope Benedict XVI to all Peruvians, especially those affected by the tragedy.
Together with Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima, Bishop Miguel Cabrejos, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Peru, and the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Rino Passigato, Cardinal Bertone presided at a Mass at the Shrine of Luren, which was almost completely destroyed by the August 15 earthquake, with the exception of the famous gigantic crucifix, which survived unscathed.
During the Mass, the cardinal presented Bishop Guido Brena of Ica—the region most affected by the earthquake—with a donation of $1.3 million from the Italian bishops. The current situation in Peru, he said, “teaches us all to have great hope in the Christ of Luren and in his mother the Virgin Mary.”
Cardinal Bertone expressed special greetings and affection to the faithful gathered for the Mass and for “all of the volunteers, authorities, and all those who help them in this difficult time of suffering.” “In this celebration,” he continued, “we especially remember the victims, the wounded and all those who suffer.”
“With particular and fraternal affection I feel very close to each and every one. I wish to greet each and every one, but it is impossible. And to all I wish to extend the cordial greeting, solidarity and blessing of His Holiness Benedict XVI,” the cardinal said.
“In these days of great concern and grief,” he explained, “the Holy Father follows the life of the Church in Peru with great attentiveness, especially the life of the Church in Ica. May the assuredness of his material and spiritual closeness bring consolation to the entire Peruvian nation.”
San Diego, Calif., Aug 27, 2007 (CNA) - The decision of a federal bankruptcy judge to allow jury trials for victims of sexual abuse by San Diego priests has put more pressure on the settlement talks between the Diocese of San Diego and lawyers representing the claimants.
Judge Louise DeCarl Adler ruled on Friday that 42 of the 127 sex-abuse lawsuits filed against the diocese should be released for jury trials, reported the Union-Tribune.
Adler's ruling comes four years after the first lawsuits were filed. They were halted once the diocese sought bankruptcy protection in February.
In a hearing Thursday, the diocese argued that jury trials would be time-consuming and result in fragmented outcomes. Its attorneys asked instead for the federal court to place a dollar value on the claims and allow the victims to reject or accept that offer. Those who reject it could pursue trials in federal court, the lawyers proposed.
But in her 14-page decision, Adler dismissed the diocese's arguments. Victims have a constitutional right to jury trials, she wrote. And, barring a settlement, prompt resolution of the bankruptcy case appears unlikely, she continued.
The judge said the diocese's $95-million settlement offer is well below the state average for abuse claims. Furthermore, she stated, the diocese’s attorneys were looking for courts that would look more favorably on their case.
Susan Boswell, the diocese's lead bankruptcy attorney, denied yesterday that the diocese was forum shopping or trying to avoid jury trials.
“We believed when we filed (for bankruptcy) and still believe that this process affords the best way for all of the victims to receive compensation in a more expeditious way,” she told the Union-Tribune.
Adler must still formally lift the stays placed on the 42 cases. She is expected to decide whether to do this on Sept. 6. She is also is expected to decide whether to dismiss the bankruptcy case altogether.
Should Judge Adler lift the stays Sept. 6, a hearing will follow before Superior Court Judge John Einhorn to determine the status of four cases that had been set to begin trial shortly after the bankruptcy petition was filed.
According to the Union-Tribune, both sides have said significant progress has been made in settlement talks in the past two weeks.
Madrid, Spain, Aug 27, 2007 (CNA) - In response to the refusal by gynecologists of the public health care system of Andalusia to perform abortions, a considerable number of women are being sent to private clinics that have agreed to collaborate with the Council for Health Care.
The newspaper “Sur,” citing sources from the Council,” said that in the province of Malaga alone there are two private clinics that are performing abortions.
The same sources said that the “family doctor of the patient who has chosen to abort” is “sending her to one of these private clinics to undergo a medical and psychological study to determine whether the abortion would be allowed for under Spanish law.”
According to the paper, “more than 4,500 women obtain a legal abortion each year in Malaga.” Sources told Sur that gynecologists of the public health care system refuse to perform abortions because “this practice is related to the most unpleasant part of their field of work.”
Nairobi, Kenya, Aug 27, 2007 (CNA) - A Kenyan official has concluded that a U.S. priest, who died seven years ago, was murdered.
Senior Principal Magistrate Maureen Odero’s conclusion challenges the FBI’s finding that the priest’s death was a suicide. The FBI investigated Fr. John Kaiser’s death in 2000 and concluded that he shot himself. However, Odero presided over a new inquiry into the 67-year-old priest’s death this month. She described the FBI's investigation as "seriously flawed, superficial and lopsided."
The Kenyan government had ordered the new inquiry in April 2003, after steady pressure from the country's Catholic bishops.
A lawyer representing Catholic officials in Kenya also claims the FBI withheld crucial evidence regarding Fr. Kaiser’s death.
According to the Associated Press, Mbuthi Githinji said on Friday that the FBI withheld crucial evidence to the investigation, namely a shotgun that belonged to Fr. Kaiser and the original ballistics report. Githinji spoke during a forum commemorating the seventh anniversary of Fr. Kaiser's death.
However, the FBI stands behind its conclusions, FBI spokesman Stephen Kodak told the AP. Kodak was unable to comment on whether the FBI still had Fr. Kaiser's shotgun, which was found by his side, or documents relating to the case.
Githinji also accuses the FBI of not cooperating during the public inquiry at the magistrate's court. He said three FBI detectives involved in the investigation did not appear to testify even though the court rescheduled the date for them three times.
Kodak told the AP the three detectives were ready to testify but were never called.
Rome, Italy, Aug 27, 2007 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney said recently, “Information from Denver suggests that five to ten years after the WYD that took place in that city, the event continued to influence those who participated. We hope for this type of long-term evangelization.”
Bishop Fisher, who is General Coordinator for WYD Sydney 2008, said he hoped the Holy Spirit would give young people “direction, meaning, and hope for the future.” “There is great hope in this World Youth Day. We hope it offers young people the chance to encounter Christ, to experience the power of God in their lives,” he added.
Bishop Fisher also mentioned that registration for the event has been “notable.” “We have received many more than what we expected at this point,” he said, and therefore “we are very happy and sure that many people from all over the world will participate.”
He noted as well that the pilgrimage of the WYD Cross “is having a great impact in Australia.” “Right now it is in the northern part of the country, in the tropical area of Brisbane. In Toowoomba, for example, where there are three million young people, the bishop has told me that when the Cross arrived, the largest ecclesial gathering in the history of that rural diocese took place,” he said.
“There is also a certain impact on people who are estranged from the Church or are indecisive and who come to see what’s going on and end up staying at the event,” the bishop added.