Archive of August 31, 2007

Visit of Pope John Paul II to San Antonio, TX to be commemorated

, Aug 31, 2007 (CNA) - Commemorating Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to the Alamo city, an exhibit to mark the 20th anniversary of the event was unveiled in the San Fernando Cathedral Museum on Aug. 23. It consists of a photo retrospective and a collection of artifacts, including rosaries given to the various committee chairpersons by the pontiff, special pins created by the Secret Service for event planners, and memorabilia that was sold to attendees, such as caps and cups. Among the most important items is a chalice that was used to distribute Communion hosts during the papal Mass.

Father Garcia said the visit helped unite the city, as many groups and organizations came together and involved people from all denominations. “It was a world class event,” he stressed.

Msgr. Stuebben explained that most museums consist of displays to see what other people have done, but that the San Fernando exhibit shows what the city did here. “The visit of the people was an occasion for the entire city to work together,” he said. “We never got a single ‘no’ when we asked for something. The city rose up to do something special.”

The monsignor cited some interesting statistics involving the event two decades ago. The papal Mass in Westover Hills attracted 350,000 worshippers, which is still the single largest gathering of people in the state of Texas for one event.

“No matter where you were during those two days, this exhibit is a wonderful occasion to be renewed in mind and heart and this visit marked San Antonio at its finest,” he concluded.

Archbishop Gomez in his remarks quoted Pope John Paul II, who noted, “The church in San Antonio has a very special calling that flows from our history as a ‘crossroads’ and ‘a meeting of cultures, indigenous and immigrant, from every part of the world.’”

The archbishop added, “The pope’s visit also gave San Antonio the opportunity to display the wonderful interfaith spirit that has enriched our community in so many ways.”

The prelate thanked Father Garcia for beginning the official observances of the historic anniversary with the Pope John Paul II display. “The sound of the pope’s voice and the spirit of the seminarians and religious who were here 20 years ago still resonate in this place so rich in faith and history,” he emphasized.

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Zimbabwe's bishops rally behind accused archbishop

Harare, Zimbabwe, Aug 31, 2007 (CNA) - The embattled Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, has received the backing of his fellow Zimbabwean bishops.  The show of support came in the form of a full-page ad in the Herald Newspaper where they called the government’s alleged smear campaign “outrageous and utterly deplorable.”

The nine bishops of Zimbabwe took out a full-page advertisement, in which they said he had "exposed the evils" of the government. His brother bishops even went so far as to say that the attacks on Archbishop Ncube by the government and state media were, "outrageous and utterly deplorable and constitute an assault on the Catholic Church".

The media blitz against the archbishop has involved the distribution of DVDs purporting to show the prelate having sex with several different women. However, it is unclear if the DVDs have been edited to make it appear as though it is the archbishop been shown.

In his most recent appearance, Archbishop Ncube did not deny having had the affair, but was forced to cut his words short by Zimbabwean police who dispersed the meeting.
The husband of the woman alleged to have had an affair with the archbishop, Mr. Onesimus Sibanda, has filed a lawsuit demanding 20bn Zimbabwe dollars (about $160,000 on the black market exchange rate) in damages from the archbishop.

His lawyers called the allegations an orchestrated attempt to discredit him.

Ncube has been the most vocal critic of President Robert Mugabe, whose rule has been marked by allegations of large-scale corruption, cronyism, and an inflation rate of 7,500%.

In other Zimbabwe-related news, South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has again ruled out any attempt to try to change the government in Zimbabwe, saying “[w]e are not going to be involved in any regime change.”

Mbeki has been tasked with trying to mediate Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis.

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President of Creighton reveals why pro-assisted suicide speaker was turned away

Omaha, Neb., Aug 31, 2007 (CNA) - The president of Creighton University said the decision to cancel the speaking engagement of an assisted suicide advocate was not the result of pressure from outside pro-life groups but rather of prayerful reflection on the the speaker’s latest book and on the mission of a Catholic university.

In a letter to colleagues, Fr. John P. Schlegel, SJ, explained that he made the final decision to cancel the talk Aug. 24, after reading Anne Lamott’s most recent publication and discussing the situation with the Jesuit university’s director of the Center for Health Policy and Ethics.

“My reflection on this question started well before the bloggers latched upon the invitation,” Fr. Schlegel wrote.
The university has “a responsibility to foster intellectual engagement with various perspectives and forms of knowledge,” he said. 

“But as a Catholic university, we have the added responsibility of fostering engagement among these perspectives and forms of knowledge with the Catholic intellectual tradition,” he added. “As Pope John Paul II wrote, the Catholic university is ‘a primary and privileged place for a fruitful dialogue between the Gospel and culture.’”

The school’s president defended every faculty member’s right to academic freedom and to “pursue the truth as he or she conceives of it.”

However, he said, Lamott’s speaking engagement is a case that moves the issue from academic freedom to sponsorship.

“In the case of a sponsored lecture, where the speaker is to be compensated and expenses paid, the lecture unavoidably and plainly takes on the imprimatur of the university,” he wrote.

“While I certainly respect [Lamott’s] right to express those views, and admire her frankness in doing so, her views are so clearly in opposition to the sacredness of life from conception to natural death that I could not in good conscience allow the university to place its imprimatur on her lecture,” Fr. Schlegel wrote.

“Her support of assisted suicide is indeed troubling when we have a medical center dedicated to the preservation of life” and a center dedicated to improving palliative care, he said.

Fr. Schlegel concluded by saying he will not impose that all future speakers have to agree with every aspect of Church teaching. Rather, he suggested that they would be  considered on a case-by-case basis within context and according to the goals of the university

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Clock running out on Episcopal Church

Washington D.C., Aug 31, 2007 (CNA) - As of yesterday, the Episcopal Church had only one month left to respond to the requests of the Anglican primates, issued last February, to reverse the denomination's course regarding the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of openly gay bishops.
"With the clock rapidly running out on the Episcopal Church, the pressure is on for the denomination to place the good of the worldwide Anglican Communion above its own interests,” said Ralph Webb of Anglican Action. “Unfortunately, the denomination still gives little hope that it will rise to meet the needs of not only the Communion to which it belongs, but the entire body of Christ.”

Earlier this week, Rev. Tracey Lind, an open and partnered lesbian, was nominated for bishop of Chicago. Webb points out that all five candidates for bishop of Chicago support the Episcopal Church's movement toward same-sex blessings and gay bishops.

Webb notes that Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has said this movement is part of the denomination's mission.

“Yet that goal and many other examples of jettisoning biblical, traditional Anglican faith have led thousands of orthodox Anglicans to leave the Episcopal Church,” says Webb.

This movement puts the Episcopal Church outside of the mainstream and outside the larger body of Christ, says Webb.

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Christ-like bin Laden image stirs debate in Australia

Sydney, Australia, Aug 31, 2007 (CNA) - Australians are in a stir over artwork depicting Osama bin Laden in a Christ-like pose and a statue of the Virgin Mary covered in a burqa. The two pieces were showcased in a prestigious religious art competition.

"Bearded Orientals: Making the Empire Cross" by Priscilla Bracks is a double-vision print that depicts both Jesus and bin Laden.

Luke Sullivan's "The Fourth Secret of Fatima" is a statue of Mary, her head and torso obscured by a blue burqa.

The artworks were among more than 500 entries in the Blake Prize for Religious Art, and have been included in an exhibition at the National Art School in Sydney.

"The choice of such artwork is gratuitously offensive to the religious beliefs of many Australians," Australian Prime Minister John Howard told Thursday's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Opposition Labor leader Kevin Rudd also criticized the artwork. "I accept you know people can have artistic freedom, but I find this painting off, off in the extreme. I understand how people would be offended by it," he said.

Australia is overwhelmingly Christian and the Australian Christian Lobby condemned the print.

"It's really unfortunate people take liberties with the Christian faith they wouldn't take with other religions," Lobby spokeswoman Glynis Quinlan told reporters.

Spokesperson for the Blake Prize, Rev. Rod Pattenden, defended he controversial selection for this year's competition, saying the aim of the prize was to encourage discussion about spirituality in society.
"It poses the question of what's the future of religion,” said Sullivan.

The $15,000 Blake Prize was awarded on Wednesday to Shirley Purdie for her "Stations of the Cross".

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Final word is in for World Youth Day papal Mass location

Sydney, Australia, Aug 31, 2007 (CNA) - The head of the provincial government of New South Wales, Premier Morris Iemma, has ruled out moving next year's World Youth Day rally from Randwick Racecourse, despite concerns about the impact on a racing industry already reeling from the equine influenza outbreak, reported The Age.

Racing NSW had called on the government to find an alternative venue for next year’s international youth event.

"What we want to do is to sit down with the AJC (Australian Jockey Club) and negotiate the event," Iemma told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

"That's the most appropriate venue for a whole range of reasons, for crowd control, for ease of transport to accommodate the numbers."

Mr. Iemma said there was no alternative venue available in Sydney and the government would work through a solution that caused minimal disruption to horse trainers and the AJC.

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Pope to visit Naples in October

Vatican City, Aug 31, 2007 (CNA) - In addition to his upcoming visits to Loreto and Austria, Pope Benedict XVI will also visit the city of Naples in southern Italy in October.

The archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, announced the Pope would visit the city on October 21 on the occasion of the “Meeting of Religions.”

The Pope will arrive by helicopter at 9:30am and will be driven to central Naples where he will celebrate a Mass with all of the bishops from the Italian region of Campania.

After praying the Angelus, he will visit the seminary in Naples, where he will have lunch with the leaders of the various religions attending the international meeting.

In the afternoon, the Holy Father will go to the Cathedral of Naples for a private event, which will include a time of prayer in the chapel of St. Januarius, where the relics of the saint are venerated.

The Pope will return to the Vatican by helicopter.

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Spanish class sparks “white power” debate in Colorado high school

Denver, Colo., Aug 31, 2007 (CNA) - Earlier this week, a simple question in a Spanish II class in Broomfield, Colorado triggered a heated discussion regarding immigration issues in the United States and resulted in a student declaring, “white power.”

During the class, the question was presented: why do students have to learn Spanish?  The typical high school classroom argument led to an intense debate on the topic of immigration concerns that resulted in at least one student repeating the phrase, “white power.”

Jeanette DeMelo, the spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Denver commented, "It became a heated discussion and some rhetoric was used that was inappropriate for the classroom.”

In a statement from Holy Family High School, the principal, Sr. Mary Rose Lieb explained that while it was a class of 30 students, fewer than six presented xenophobic opinions.  “The remaining two-thirds were silent or voiced support for immigrants.”

She also addressed earlier media reports, “Contrary to media reports, there were no chants by more than one student.  Two students, who were offended, asked to leave the classroom and were given permission to leave. However, the discussion ended when other students realized how these students were affected and all of the students remained until the end of class.”

“Holy Family High School is dedicated to being a family—through respect and charity for all its members. It’s always had a diverse student body. It values that diversity and strives to be a place of unity and respect for all.  The distortion and inaccurate reporting of this situation is hurtful to a community that should be praised for how well they get along in their diversity.”

The school has also reported that the students involved are remorseful and have been disciplined.  School officials have also discussed the issue with the teacher.

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Cardinal Schönborn: “The Pope’s message to us will be captivating”

, Aug 31, 2007 (CNA) - Commenting on the upcoming visit to Austria by Pope Benedict XVI, the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said he expected to hear strong and forceful statements from the Pontiff about the reality of Europe and Austria’s responsibility in the region.

“What he has to tell us will be captivating.  They won’t be empty words about unimportant matters,” the cardinal told the magazine News.  He said that at Hofburg in Vienna, the Pope would surely remind the country of “its place and responsibility in Europe.”

He noted that as a cardinal, Pope Benedict “was never afraid to be precise and sharp in his diagnosis, in the same way as a doctor.”  The Pope is not “bombastic” in his manner of speaking, he went on, but rather he speaks “with clear precision and with the dedication of a doctor who really wants to help and point out the path to a cure.”

Cardinal Schönborn pointed out that the Holy Father has the “uncommon gift of being able to speak with both the emotions and with reason,” expressing the “rational together with the existential dimension of life enlightened by the faith.”  “This has always been the fascination of Pope Ratzinger, who captivated hundreds of students who attended his classes at Tübingen and Ratisbona.”

The young Joseph Ratzinger, he continued, was considered one of the bright young lights of Vatican II.  He always defended the ecumenical nature of the council, but even by 1964, before it was concluded, he was warning about the dangers of misinterpreting the council.

Thus, he explained, in the post-conciliar controversy, Ratzinger always recalled that the Council was not meant to be a break with the past but rather a “renewal in continuity.”  Cardinal Schönborn said the Pope’s reputation as “an inquisitor” was due to his 24 years as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith, during which he was responsible for rejecting any deviation from the Church teaching.

The cardinal said the Pope’s discourse in Ratisbona, the recent CDF document on the Church and salvation, and the permission to celebrate the Mass according to the 1962 missal, show that the Holy Father is unafraid.  “He says things as he sees them and he wants to inspire reflection,” the cardinal said, adding that the Pope has been the one responsible for generating a new discussion about the liturgy.

Cardinal Schönborn also said he hoped the Pope’s visit would encourage people to express their faith in public, as there is a tendency to treat religion as a private affair in Austria. He also warned that those who are expecting the visit to lead to changes in the fundamental structure of the Church are misguided.  “The fundamental structure of the Church, which Christ himself established, was clearly fixed and determined from the end of the first century and has remained thus throughout the centuries, and it is non-negotiable.”

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Church in Mexico presents Declaration of Human Rights of the Unborn

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 31, 2007 (CNA) - The Church in Mexico, together with various lawmakers, politicians, civil organizations and parents, has signed the Declaration of Human Rights of the Unborn, the result of the work of more than 100 specialists in law, bioethics, medicine and education, who gathered in June to focus on the right to life of the unborn from the moment of conception.

The declaration, which contains ten principles that state that the unborn have the right to be recognized as individuals of the human race, will be delivered to the Mexican Congress in support of an amendment to the constitution.

Congresswoman Beatriz Garcia Reyes, who was present at the signing, said the initiative could bear “much fruit,” and she rejected the idea that such proposals to defend life should only occur when politically expedient.  The unborn and their rights should always be defended, she added.  She also called for legislative reform in order to define the unborn as an individual and a person under the law.

Guillermo Bustamante Manila, president of the National Union of Parents, said that although his organization has not spoken with President Felipe Calderon, the First Lady, Margarita Zavala, has expressed her support of the right to life.

In addition, a proposal was made to celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 also as the World Day of the Unborn, in order to promote a culture that respects human life from conception to natural death.

The declaration will also be sent to other branches of the Mexican government as well as to the UN and to UNESCO.

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Politicians say Masons behind investigation of the Church in Italy

Rome, Italy, Aug 31, 2007 (CNA) -  Italian officials and politicians have accused “radical and Masonic” groups of being behind the threats by the European Commission to investigate supposed “fiscal advantages” of the Catholic Church in Italy.

The Minister of Infrastructure, Antonio Di Pietro, said people were playing politics in order to keep others from doing good and that the European Union should occupy itself with more important matters.

The accusations are the result of recent investigations launched by the EU into whether or not the tax-exempt status of the Church’s hospitals, schools, and other social service organizations should be withdrawn.

Clemente Mastella, Minister of Justice, said the suspicions of the European Commission were only a “pretext.”  The Union of Christian Democrats and the Center said “radical and Masonic” groups were behind the actions in Brussels.  The political party Forza Italia implicitly accused former government official Romano Prodi of the Radical Party, which is heavily Masonic, of being involved as well. 
Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, responded that the Church has helped many people in the past and he warned against falling into “ideological prejudices.”

The Church in Italy has long been exempt from certain taxes and receives tax breaks for its work in health care and education.

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