Chicago, Ill., Sep 11, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Francis George faced the mostly African-American congregation at St. Agatha Church on Sunday and thanked them for their patience during "that terrible tragedy of sexual abuse," reported the Chicago Sun-Times.
It was the first time Cardinal George had addressed parishioners since St. Agatha's former pastor, Daniel McCormack, was sentenced July 2 to five years in prison for molesting boys.
"I'm grateful to you and proud to be your bishop," Cardinal George reportedly said, prompting applause. "I thank you also for your patience as we have tried to figure out where were the betrayals, what went wrong."
The parishioners were delighted to see the Cardinal at their parish and anxious to have a clean start with a new priest.
"We're starting fresh," said Marcy Bledsoe-Hicks. "I want to let bygones be bygones. I don't think this will ever happen again."
Cardinal George has publicly apologized for mishandling aspects of the case and allowing children to be in the presence of McCormack even after the allegations of sexual abuse. But both he and the parishioners appeared ready to move on as the new pastor, Fr. Larry Dowling, was installed, reported the Sun-Times.
Outside the church, representatives of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) urged Cardinal George to refuse the presidency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The presidency of the USCCB is expected to go to the current vice president, Cardinal George, this November.
Denver, Colo., Sep 11, 2007 (CNA) - A former Episcopal priest, who left the Episcopal Church over its ongoing debates on doctrine, is considering becoming a Catholic priest.
Phil Webb told the Denver Post he decided to leave the Episcopal Church about three years ago after 16 years as a clergyman primarily because it was tearing itself apart over changes in doctrine and debates on the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of women and gay bishops.
"I just came to believe that if Christ founded a church, you wouldn't be forced to leave it," he was quoted as saying. "The Catholic Church has a clearer understanding of what it means to be one, holy and apostolic church.”
The 52-year-old husband and father has taken many of the steps required of to pursue ordination in the Catholic Church, including petitioning the Church, obtaining the local bishop’s permission, studying theology for a year and passing written and oral tests. But he has not yet made a final decision.
"I need to be ready spiritually," Webb reportedly said. "The care of souls is an intimidating responsibility."
In the meantime, he is working in the Archdiocese of Denver's Marriage and Family Life Office, where he counsels engaged couples. He said he'd like to keep his current position but recognizes that entering the priesthood could mean a new post.
Webb said there is nothing envious about being a married priest.
"It's a burden to carry around two vocations in life," Webb said. Even as a married Protestant minister, Webb said one is always robbing time from one vocation for the sake of the other.
His wife, Cindy, was raised Catholic and converted to the Episcopal Church for her husband after they married.
Pope John Paul II approved the Pastoral Provision of the Catholic Church in 1980, which permits former male Episcopal priests, even married men with children, to pursue priesthood in the Catholic Church. The pope granted the provision at the request of breakaway Episcopalians troubled by a 1976 decision to ordain women.
In the past 27 years, more than 80 former Episcopal ministers in the United States have been ordained Catholic priests.
, Sep 11, 2007 (CNA) - Thousands of Facebook members have threatened to quit if Facebook refuses to remove a group that denounces Islam.
The group, which claims to be atheistic and has about 750 members, says it has nothing against Muslims who “usually are peaceful and respectful.” However, it asserts: “The Quran contains many lies and threats. Islam is false, no god exists, and someone should say that loud and clear.”
As of the weekend, more than 58,000 Facebook members had joined a group, which said the anti-Islam group was promoting hate speech and that, unless it was removed, they would quit, reported the New York Times.
The organizer of the anti-Islam site told The Times in an e-mail message that his legal name is Variable. He said his account was suspended for some time last week but later reinstated.
He said his site deals with abstract ideas and disagreed that it was promoting hate speech. “The custom of protecting freedom of speech allows people to address belief systems in the harshest of terms,” he wrote. He said his group was peaceful. “Atheism is a belief system that few will die for because there is no reward.”
He noted that many Facebook sites attack him personally, “which qualifies as hate speech,” he said.
London, England, Sep 11, 2007 (CNA) - Almost half of Britain’s mosques are under the control of a hardline Islamic sect, whose next possible leader loathes Western values and calls on Muslims to “shed blood” for Allah, reports The Times of London.
Riyadh ul Haq, who supports armed jihad and preaches contempt for Jews, Christians and Hindus, is in line to become the spiritual leader of the Deobandi sect in Britain.
The ultra-conservative movement, which gave birth to the Taleban in Afghanistan, now runs more than 600 of Britain’s 1,350 mosques, according to a police report seen by The Times.
Ul Haq, 36, was educated and trained at an Islamic seminary in Britain and is part of a new generation of British imams who share a similar radical agenda. He heaps scorn on any Muslims who say they are “proud to be British” and argues that friendship with a Jew or a Christian makes “a mockery of Allah’s religion”.
Seventeen of Britain’s 26 Islamic seminaries are run by Deobandis and they produce 80 percent of home-trained Muslim clerics. Many had their studies funded by local education authority grants. The sect has significant representation on the Muslim Council of Britain. It is strongest in the towns and cities of the Midlands and northern England.
It is not suggested that all British Muslims who worship at Deobandi mosques subscribe to ul Haq’s message, who suggests Muslims should only “shed blood” overseas.
The Times gained access to numerous talks and sermons delivered by ul Haq and other graduates of Britain’s most influential Deobandi seminary near Bury, Greater Manchester.
Intended for a Muslim-only audience, they reveal a deep-rooted hatred of Western society, admiration for the Taleban and a passionate zeal for martyrdom “in the way of Allah”.
The seminary outlaws art, television, music and chess, demands “entire concealment” for women and views football as “a cancer that has infected our youth”.
Ul Haq, who runs an Islamic academy in Leicester and is the former imam at the Birmingham Central Mosque, declined requests by The Times to comment on the content of his sermons.
A commentator on religious radicalism in Pakistan told The Times that “blind ignorance” on the part of the British government has allowed the Deobandis to become the dominant voice of Islam in Britain’s mosques.
“You’ve allowed the takeover of the mosques,” Khaled Ahmed told The Times. “You can’t run multiculturalism like that, because that’s a way of destroying yourself. In Britain, the Deobandi message has become even more extreme than it is in Pakistan. It’s mind-boggling.”
Vatican City, Sep 11, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Pius Ncube, the most outspoken critic of the Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, has resigned as the Archbishop of Bulawayo after being accused of having an affair. The Vatican announced this morning that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the archbishop’s resignation.
The Vatican press office released a letter written by the archbishop in which he wrote that he offered his resignation to Vatican officials in July to prevent the Church’s image from being tarnished. "In order to spare my fellow bishops and the body of the Church any further attacks, I decided this was the best course of action," he wrote.
The Holy Father accepted Ncube’s resignation under Canon 410.2, which allows a bishop to resign if he becomes ill or for some grave reason becomes incapable of continuing his ministry.
Archbishop Ncube came under fire in July when a court case was filed against him alleging that he had been committing adultery over a two year period with one of his parish secretaries, Mrs. Rosemary Sibanda. The court case, filed by the Mr. Onesimus Sibanda the husband of Rosemary is seeking 20 billion Zimbabwean dollars ($160,000) in damages.
The evidence against the archbishop consists of photos and videos which purportedly show the archbishop having sex with Mrs. Sibanda and other women. New Zimbabwe.com reported that the footage was taken by Ernest Tekere, a senior intelligence operative for the Zimbabwean government for 20 years. However, it has not been conclusively proven that the footage was not digitally altered.
The fact that the government was involved in the case lends weight to Archbishop Ncube’s claim the court case is part of a government orchestrated campaign against him. He wrote in his resignation letter that it is “obviously a state-driven, vicious attack not just on myself but by proxy on the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe.”
"(But) I have not been silenced by the crude machinations of a wicked regime. I am committed to promoting the social teachings of the Church," he said.
"I will use my experiences working among the people to lobby for greater humanitarian support, in particular food and medical supplies at this time of extreme national crisis," he added.
"I will continue to speak out on the issues that sadly become more acute by the day."
Zimbabwe suffers runaway inflation that the International Monetary Fund expects to hit 100,000 percent by the end of the year; collapsing infrastructure; mass unemployment; and shortages of everything from bread to tractor spare parts. Mugabe, meanwhile, has muzzled the opposition with curbs on speech and gatherings, and has applauded police for beating opposition activists.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 11, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Domingo Castagna of Corrientes, Argentina, said this week that while it’s true that the “administration of human justice should not prioritize mercy, but the law,” it should not exclude mercy from the spirit with which justice is applied.
In a statement entitled, “Justice should not be at the service of vengeance or reprisals,” the archbishop pointed out that before the coming of Jesus Christ, man, “from his distressing pessimism,” saw God the Father as someone who applied justice without mercy and who expressed himself through anger and vengeance and “through the immediate execution of punishment.”
However, he went on, Christ shows us “a Father who is deeply good,” with mercy that is beyond human measure, as “kindness and tenderness overflow from his Being.” “From the beautiful parable of the prodigal son—or of the forgiving Father—to the scenes of the adulterous woman and Mary the sinner, there is a surprising manifestation of the true God. God is love; He is mercy, condescendence and justice. He is closeness and truth…He is Father,” the archbishop said.
In this sense, he explained, “It is true that the administration of human justice should not prioritize mercy, but rather the law. But it should not exclude it from the spirit with which the law is applied. In this way, any outbreak of vengeance in the administration of justice is prevented,” he said.
Archbishop Castagna warned that hatred, impunity, “or the insistence in declaring oneself exempt from all guilt and responsibility” do not bring peace. “Justice is at the service of the truth and the recovery of the social balance that was lost, and not vengeance and reprisals.” The exercising of justice requires “a peaceful heart and a mind capable of examining each cause with impartiality and balance,” as well as “the strength to reject any type of ideological or political pressure.”
Madrid, Spain, Sep 11, 2007 (CNA) - The mother of the first baby in Europe to undergo fetal surgery hopes the successful outcome of her story will lead to fewer abortions and allow other children diagnosed with malformations the chance to live.
Maria Jose (her last name has not been revealed) gave birth a few days ago to her daughter, who underwent surgery in the womb to correct spinal bifida, a deformation that can cause paralysis, neurological damage, mental difficulties and other problems.
The girl is named Maria and was born by caesarean at 33 weeks. On July 31, when she was in her 27th week, she underwent prenatal surgery by Spanish doctors at a hospital in Seville, with guidance from Brazilian and American specialists.
The girl’s mother knows her case is “very important” for families with similar problems and could help other children to have a chance to live. “May parents never chose to abort,” she said, noting that her husband never considered making such a choice.
Doctors say little Maria is in “very good” condition and showing no signs of paralysis.
Her case was the first of its kind in Europe. Guillermo Antinolo, director of the genetics and reproduction unit and head of gynecology and obstetrics, praised the “courage and bravery” of the 36 year-old woman, who with her daughter, “is in great shape.”
Madrid, Spain, Sep 11, 2007 (CNA) - In a recent letter marking the feast of Our Lady of Victory, Patroness of the diocese, Bishop Antonio Dorado Soto of Malaga said today’s society has gone from “a believing culture to a culture of silence with respect to God, from a Christian world to a pagan world with no reference to the Gospel.”
“We have fallen into a culture of ‘religious indifference’ in which many people, although they call themselves Christians, live as if God did not exist, because He has no influence on their personal, family, professional and social lives,” the bishop said. “Popular religiosity, which has its roots in the Gospel, coexists today with the dominant lifestyles, which in many aspects are neo-pagan,” he continued.
In his letter, Bishop Dorado said that God, “man’s creator and friend, is viewed by many as the great enemy of humanity and of progress, or as something meaningless that can or should be disregarded.”
“The greatest need of the Church in our times,” he went on, “is her own evangelization: to strengthen the faith of Christians, reinitiate in the faith those who are non-practicing and propose the faith to non-believers.”
Therefore, “one of her principle tasks consists in proclaiming the Gospel to those who, baptized in their infancy and subjected to the evolution of society and the crisis of personal growth, need to reawaken the faith and apply it to concrete situations in their lives, in order to live the faith like Mary.”
“Our Lady of Victory constitutes a splendid example of faith that is alive and lived out,” the bishop said. For this reason, “we must imitate Mary, the faithful Virgin, the woman who believed,” he said in conclusion.
Rome, Italy, Sep 11, 2007 (CNA) - Father Robert Prevost has been re-elected Prior General of the Augustinians at their General Chapter which is being held in Rome, coinciding with the 750th anniversary of the founding of the order.
In a telegram to the religious order signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the Augustinians to persevere in their fruitful witness to the Gospel in accord with their own charisma. He also exhorted them to renew their devotion to Christ in order to respond to the challenges of today’s world.
Cardinal Frank Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, sent his own message to the Augustinians expressing his hope that the meeting would be a source of encouragement and renewal for the members of the order.
Noting that during their chapter meeting the Augustinians would be discussing such issues as the role of their order in evangelization, revisions to the order’s constitutions, social ministry and formation, Cardinal Rode stressed their importance for consecrated life, which faces new and sometimes dramatic situations in today’s world. He encouraged the order to meet these new challenges in fidelity to “the Augustinian spirit.”
Madrid, Spain, Sep 11, 2007 (CNA) - In response to a statement by the Basque separatist group ETA threatening to continuing “hitting the structures of the Spanish State,” Bishop Juan Maria Uriarte of San Sebastian warned, “ETA’s return to arms must be met with a resounding no.”
The bishop made his comments during Mass on Sunday at the Shrine of Arantzazu. “Alleviating the suffering of so many people from this inhumane confrontation, publicly calling for peace and categorically rejecting ETA’s return to arms are some of the tasks from which we must not shrink. Passivity and silence are not worthy of responsible citizens or believers who are consistent with their faith,” he said. “A people that wants peace,” the bishop continued, “cannot remain passive in their concern.”
The Church has the mission of “untiringly proclaiming to a society tempted to pessimism, that peace and reconciliation are possible,” Bishop Uriarte stressed, and he called on believers to continue demanding “respect for the right to life and the security and dignity of persons.”
He also emphasized that a peace that is not established on the truth and “outside the bounds of ethics” is a “false peace.”
In its statement, ETA assumed responsibility for recent attacks in Belagua, Durango and La Rioja.
Phoenix, Ariz., Sep 11, 2007 (CNA) -
Published with permission from The Catholic Sun
By Robert DeFrancesco
Many local Catholics are finding that the more they reflect upon the life and teachings of the late John Paul II, the more they discover just how much he continues to impact their lives today.
September 14th will mark the 20th anniversary of the Holy Father’s only trip to Phoenix, a time remembered with great excitement by those who took part in the community-wide celebration that encompassed the half-dozen papal events.
Many count that day as one of the most important in Arizona history, one that yielded miraculous results: a period of unity between Church and state, a renewed fire for the faith among practicing and lapsed Catholics alike, and a conversion of those inspired by the Holy Spirit.
While John Paul’s visit was a once-in-a-lifetime event, the spirit of his teachings lives on in the hearts of the local Church, perpetually calling them to grow closer to Christ.
Paul Mulligan, the executive director of the Catholic Tuition Organization of the Diocese of Phoenix, is one example of a local Catholic who was able to closely identify with the pope, especially regarding the importance he placed on life, marriage and family.
Mulligan, a Brophy College Preparatory senior in 1987, was one of the students selected to attend the papal Mass at Arizona State University.
As a 17-year-old student, he remembers how “incredible” it was to be in the presence of the Holy Father. But it wasn’t till later in life that he discovered how much that Mass changed him.
“My life intersected with John Paul II at a critical juncture — I knew that what I was searching for was contained in the Person of Christ, and JPII helped me discover that,” Mulligan said.
“The Jesuits always taught me the importance of being a ‘man for others,’” he added. “John Paul II embodied that, and gave me something in the flesh that I could look at and strive to follow.”
It was at that 1987 Mass that he met his future wife, Michelle, who was selected to represent Xavier College Preparatory. While the two had an immediate attraction, Mulligan spent a period of time discerning the priestly vocation before it became clear to him that his future was in the vocation of marriage.
Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1992, the two were married and later gave birth to their son, John Paul.
“I love the late Holy Father’s teachings on life, marriage and family,” Mulligan said. “They are exciting and challenging and ultimately for the good of humanity and the experience of Christ in the world.”
In 1999, he, his wife and their three children relocated to Maryland so he could earn his master’s degree in theological studies from the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. There he continued his pro-life work before recently returning to Phoenix to head up the Catholic Tuition Organization.
In 2002, the Mulligan family drove up to Canada for World Youth Day, an intensely popular international youth celebration begun by the pope in the mid 1980s.
Mulligan and his wife reflect on that time as “a great reunion with the man who brought us together.” For their three children, they hope to integrate the life and teachings of John Paul II into their lives, just as it had been for them.
For Barbara Hernes, a parishioner at St. Thomas the Apostle, the pope’s 1987 visit was “a very special day.”
She was at St. Mary’s Basilica when Pope John Paul II addressed the 100,000 gathered across the street at the Phoenix Civic Plaza, followed by the dialogue and Native American blessing at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, and finally the papal Mass at Sun Devil Stadium.
“Just his presence made me feel love and appreciation for being a Catholic,” Hernes said.
From that day 20 years ago, she has been encouraged by his examples to help others, to “do the best we can in our family, with others and the young, and promote Mary in high honor in the Church as he did,” she said.
The pope’s 1987 tour of the United States had a deep impact on many thousands of Catholics — even for those who weren’t around during the Phoenix visit.
Katrina Zeno remembers exactly where she was on Sept. 14.
“I was delighting in my firstborn son, who was not quite 3 months old,” said Zeno, coordinator of the John Paul II Resource Center for Theology of the Body and Culture for the Diocese of Phoenix.
“At the time, John Paul II was barely on the radar screen of my life, seeing as I was a newly-minted mom living in Steubenville, Ohio,” she added. “However, my son’s presence changed that.”
Five years later, she and her son traveled to Rome to celebrate his fifth birthday and were able to attend the pope’s private morning Mass with about 50 others. Afterward, the group was ushered into an audience hall to greet the pope.
As their turn to meet Pope John Paul II arrived, the Holy Father handed them a papal rosary, and Zeno’s son handed him a small book, “The Titles of Mary.”
He was visibly delighted, Zeno recalled, and he bent down and embraced her son and kissed him. The pope then placed his hand on Zeno’s forehead and blessed her.
“It was a blessing I will never forget. The Vicar of Christ imparted a portion of his spirit to me. Next to the birth of my son, it was the most beautiful moment of my life,” she said.
“In my spirit, I sensed I received new graces for motherhood. These graces were indeed for motherhood, but not biological motherhood. They were for spiritual motherhood.”
She credits that experience as a turning point in her life and a catalyst for the work she’s been doing for the last 10 years. Zeno is an expert on the pope’s teachings, especially on his writings known as the Theology of the Body, and now leads talks and studies for people of all ages and walks of life.
“God was way ahead of me,” Zeno said. “He was already charting a new course and infusing my being with the grace I would need. He was also introducing me to my spiritual father, Pope John Paul II, who would guide me through the process of discovering the full truth about my feminine identity and giftedness.”
“I truly cannot imagine living at a different time and place in history — living without the presence of John Paul II and his writings,” she said.
“My hope is that we who are the John Paul II Generation will continue to impart a portion of his spirit to all those we meet and to everything that we do so that the world will truly encounter Christ through the body — His Body and ours.”
Ignacio Rodriguez, associate director of the Phoenix Diocese’s Department of Ethnic Ministries, was living in Texas during the pope’s visit, but has been able to identify and respond to the late pontiff in his work for the Church.
“The pope was a great believer in the dignity of each person and that the gifts each culture brings to the Church make it beautiful,” Rodriguez said. “Recognizing and adamantly defending human life in all its stages allows me to carry out that message in my ministry, especially when it comes to our undocumented brothers and sisters.”
Rodriguez was among a handful of local Catholics who traveled to Mexico City in 2002 for the canonization Mass of Juan Diego — the indigenous man to whom Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared some 476 years ago.
“To see the pope as close as I did was awesome. I felt a great sense of connection to him; it was as though he looked at me as he was extending his blessing and saying ‘thank you for being here with me and being part of the universal Church,’” he said.
“I think it was even more impacting for me because I realized that this would be his last trip to Mexico and so I made an extra effort to absorb every moment and take in all I could,” Rodriguez added.
As someone who works to assist and promote the various cultures that make up Phoenix’s Catholics, Rodriguez takes the pope’s apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in America” to heart, and is particularly moved by the pope’s ability to speak several languages — a gift, he said, that “opens one up to be more welcoming and understanding of people who are different than you.”
“[Pope John Paul II] clearly tells us that we are one America and that we should be building bridges of communion, conversion and solidarity, rather than walls which separate us,” Rodriguez said.
The next generation
As a new father and husband, 27-year-old Chris Faddis said he continues to be guided and inspired by the pope’s writings on family and human sexuality — that “it has set the bar for holiness in our marriage, in our dealings with each other, and in the raising of our children.”
Referring to his newborn daughter, the St. Timothy parishioner and former youth minister said, “We have a goal of loving her all the way to heaven and we intend to follow through on that goal. We owe that to JPII. His whole life was dedicated to this mission of the family and inviting us to a higher calling in our lives and families.”
Though he was just 7 at the time of the Phoenix visit, Faddis said it was six years later while watching coverage of the 1993 World Youth Day celebration that he had his first true desire to encounter Pope John Paul II in person.
In 1994, while involved with Life Teen, St. Timothy’s announced it was sponsoring a pilgrimage to Rome the following year.
“I knew right then that I was meant to be on that trip. I was going to meet JPII,” Faddis said. “I, of course, didn’t know how, but God would figure that out.”
In August 1995, the 16-year-old Faddis was on the pilgrimage to Rome and his dream was soon to become a reality, but it almost turned out to be a nightmare for the group of 100 American teenagers.
A bus driver without a sense of urgency got the pilgrims to the Wednesday papal audience late.
“We got there and the place was completely full — I believe it was something like 6,000 people,” he said. “And our group of 100 walked in, and it looked like all the seats were gone.”
An usher greeted the group from Mesa and escorted them forward through the thousands of other pilgrims.
“There at the very front of this huge auditorium was a section reserved just for our group of 100. I sat in the front row. I knew at this point that I was about to be 75 feet from JPII.”
Following the audience, to Faddis’ disbelief, the group of 100 was invited to take photos with the Holy Father. “This was amazing,” he said. “I think all of us were shaking. Some were crying. It was incredible. It seemed that the closer you got to him, the more you felt his spirit, his presence.”
The pope then moved through the crowd, greeting and blessing the Mesa teens. As he neared Faddis, he reached out for him. “He took my hand, I kissed his ring, I hugged him,” he said.
“But what I will never forget was a moment that may not have lasted long in which I looked into his eyes. It was then that I began to understand why his presence was so overwhelming. I saw in his eyes a love that I had never seen before,” Faddis said. “I swear that I saw the weight of God’s love in those eyes.”
It’s moments like this one described by Faddis, that have a profound, lifelong impact — and there are thousands of Catholics throughout the diocese who have similar experiences to share.
Faddis said his peers have been affected much in the same way — either through encounters at a papal visit, an audience at the Vatican or at one of the World Youth Day celebrations — and that the pope’s messages are now being lived out both professionally and personally.
“For all of the great things that we can already see that he did while he was alive, there are many fruits that have yet to be seen,” Faddis said. “I believe that in the next 30 years or so we will be able to feel in profound ways the impact he had on our Church and world. It won’t be just through the young men and women of my generation, but through our children.
“I think this JPII generation, my peers and the other young people of the last 30 years, is a foundation for an even greater work,” he added. “Our children will be the fruit. They will be the priests and religious” of tomorrow.
The original story can be found at: http://www.catholicsun.org/2007/sept6/local/jp2-impact.html