Archive of September 24, 2007

Episcopal bishop to become a Roman Catholic

Albuquerque, N.M., Sep 24, 2007 (CNA) - Yet another Episcopal bishop has announced his intention to resign from the Episcopal Church and become a Roman Catholic.

Bishop Jeffrey Steenson of Rio Grande, New Mexico is expected to announce his decision on Monday, reported The Living Church.

“I believe that the Lord now calls me in this direction. It amazes me, after all of these years, what a radical journey of faith this must necessarily be. To some it seems foolish; to others disloyal; to others an abandonment,” said the bishop in a statement prepared for the House of Bishops, which was meeting in New Orleans.

“My conscience is deeply troubled,” he continued, “because I sense that the obligations of my ministry in the Episcopal Church may lead me to a place apart from scripture and tradition. I am concerned that if I do not listen to and act in accordance with conscience now, it will become harder and harder to hear God’s voice.”

He said he would ask for permission to resign as the ordinary of Rio Grande by the end of the year and hoped then to be released from his ordination vows in the Episcopal Church.

The bishop told The Living Church that the meeting of the House of Bishops at Camp Allen in the spring had a major effect on his decision. He described the March meeting as “a profoundly disturbing experience.”

“I was more than a little surprised when such a substantial majority declared the polity of the Episcopal Church to be primarily that of an autonomous and independent local church relating to the wider Anglican Communion by voluntary association,” he reportedly said in his statement. “This is not the Anglicanism in which I was formed, inspired by the Oxford Movement and the Catholic Revival in the Church of England … honestly, I did not recognize the church that this House described on that occasion.”

 Bishop Steenson will be the third bishop of the Episcopal Church to become a Roman Catholic this year. Bishop Dan Herzog of Albany moved shortly after his retirement in January. Bishop Clarence C. Pope, retired Bishop of Fort Worth, returned to Roman Catholicism in August.

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Columnist stirs controversy in Uganda by calling for legalization of abortion

Kampala, Uganda, Sep 24, 2007 (CNA) - A columnist for a Ugandan newspaper has called on the government of the East African country to ignore the Catholic Church’s views and get on with the business of legalizing abortion.

In his weekly column, Roving Eye, published in the Sept. 23 edition of the Kampala-based newspaper The Monitor, Kevin O’Connor attempts to discredit the Church’s teachings on the dignity of life and makes outrageous comments about Church leadership. Interestingly, O’Connor presents the same utilitarian arguments that the US heard as it considered whether or not to legalize abortion.

O’Connor cites statistics from a study conducted by the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute. The study indicates that about 1,200 Ugandan women die yearly as the result of unsafe abortions, either performed by women themselves or by unqualified people for profit. Another 65,000 women who have had abortions suffer complications that require medical care but they do not get treatment in a medical facility.

“Do not expect to get any sensible guidance on these issues from the anti-abortion Catholic Church,” O’Connor writes. “But, then again, the history of the Catholic Church is littered with wrongdoing and misdeeds.”

“And talking of genocide, surely the anti-contraception, anti-condom stance of the Catholic Church, at a time of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and of unwanted children being born into already large families, is itself, akin to genocide,” he reasons.

“I hope the various Popes and cardinals, who have been responsible for this doctrinal nonsense, burn in hell,” he writes.

He concludes lamenting: “From our religious friends, we hear far too much about the rights of the unborn fetus, and not nearly enough about the rights of living Ugandan women.” On Sunday the Vice President of Uganda stated that he is against abortion and homosexuality and that he will oppose any initiative to legalize them in Uganda, reports.

O’Connor’s diatribe comes after the Catholic Bishops of Uganda have spoken out against abortion in a January 2006 statement. The bishops said that, “Abortion, regardless of the reasons leading to it, is always an attack on the weakest and the most defenceless members of our society. We are obliged to put this point strongly before our fellow countrymen: abortion…is always an objective evil. No legislation can change it into something good.”

The Vice President of Uganda, Gilbert Bukenya, has also spoken out against abortion and homosexuality, saying, "The practice might be legal in some western countries, but we cannot adopt it here because our cultural norms are different."

"As a member of Parliament, I will definitely oppose any proposal to adopt such abnormal and immoral practices," he said.

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Pope Benedict gives newly ordained bishops key to success for their mission

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2007 (CNA) - On Saturday morning at Pope Benedict’s summer house in Castelgandolfo, he received the bishops who have been ordained over the last year. The pontiff took the newly consecrated bishops through a reflection on how bishops should be men of prayer. In praying, Benedict told the bishops that they should have “the trust of children, the boldness of a friend, and the perseverance of Abraham, who was tireless in his intercession." 

After highlighting how "the chief place in the life of a successor to the Apostles must be reserved for God," the Pope told the bishops to reserve a special mention for priests in their prayers, "that they may persevere in their vocation, faithful to the priestly mission with which they have been entrusted.

"How edifying its," he added, "for each priest to know that his bishop - from whom he received the gift of priesthood or who is in any case his father and friend - remains close to him in prayer and affection, and is always ready to welcome him, listen to him, support and encourage him. Nor," he underlined," in a bishop's prayers, should there ever be lacking a supplication for new vocations. They must be asked insistently of God, that He may call 'whom He will' to the sacred ministry."

"Where men and women are constantly rushing and lose themselves, where people live as if God does not exist," the Pope told the newly-consecrated bishops, "create places and moments for prayer where, in silence, in listening to God through 'lectio divina,' in individual and community prayer, mankind can meet God and enjoy a living experience of Jesus Christ Who reveals the true face of the Father."

The Holy Father also was eager to underscore the necessity of  making the cathedral “an exemplary house of prayer, especially liturgical prayer, where the diocesan community united with their bishop can praise and thank God for His work of salvation, and intercede for all humankind."

"Be men of prayer," Benedict XVI concluded. "In appealing to God for yourselves and for your faithful, have the trust of children, the boldness of a friend, and the perseverance of Abraham, who was tireless in his intercession."

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New Chinese archbishop recognized by the Holy See

Beijing, China, Sep 24, 2007 (CNA) - The Chinese priest, Father Joseph Li Shan was appointed the Archbishop of Beijing on September 21st after receiving approval from the Vatican. 

According to UCA News, this is the first time in over 50 years that the Vatican paper has carried news on the ordination of a new bishop in mainland China.  This draws hope to those in the Vatican that their dealings with China will continue to improve.

Archbishop Ferdando Filoni, the third-highest Vatican official and an expert regarding Vatican-China relations, stated that it “is undoubtedly a positive sign” that Archbishop Li Shan is recognized by the Vatican and the Chinese government.

This comes in the wake of Pope Benedict expressing the Church’s desire for greater unity within the Church in China in his recent “Letter to the Church in China”, saying that he hoped “that in the course of a respectful and open dialogue between the Holy See and the Chinese Bishops on the one hand, and the governmental authorities on the other, the difficulties may be overcome and thus a fruitful understanding may be reached that will prove beneficial to the Catholic community and to social cohesion."

In Beijing, a vibrant congregation celebrated the appointment of their new bishop and his communion with the Vatican. The BBC reports that hundreds gathered in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, the home of the newly-elected bishop. 

The appointment of Bishop Li Shan comes after a September 8th ordination of Father Paul Xiao Zejiang as coadjutor archbishop of Guiyang (Kweyang), which was also approved by the Holy See.

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Mayor tells public hearing to respect Quebec’s Catholic values

Saguenay, Canada, Sep 24, 2007 (CNA) - The Roman Catholic religion has played an important role in Quebec history and its imagery should remain in public institutions, said the mayor of Quebec’s sixth largest city at the reasonable accommodations hearings last week.

According to a report by The Canadian Press, Mayor Jean Tremblay told the hearings commission on Thursday that Catholicism still holds an important place for many. He pointed out that the majority of Quebecers refer to themselves as Catholic.

"The Catholic religion is one of the nicest values we have in Quebec," said Tremblay, who is among a handful of mayors in the province who still open town council meetings with prayer.

"When someone who represents three per cent of the population wants to do something, everyone bends,” he was quoted as saying. “But when the mayor wants to say his prayer, we tell him to respect secular principles."

He also criticized what he characterized as a lack of moral leadership among Quebec politicians.

"Things haven't been going well since we've lost our fundamental values," Tremblay reportedly said. "People aren't as happy."

The hearings will be held throughout Quebec until the end of November. Premier Jean Charest called the hearings last winter after a lengthy and bitter public debate about the integration of immigrants into Canada’s French-speaking province.

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Pope to politicians: strive to prevent spread of ideologies that cast a shadow on the truth

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI called on politicians this week to strive to prevent the dissemination of ideologies that cast a shadow on the truth and the good of consciences.  He also asked that they not exclude God from the horizon of man and from history and to ensure that “authentically religious traditions” be allowed “to manifest their own identity publicly, free from any pressure to hide or disguise it.”


The Pope made his comments on September 21 at Castelgandolfo during a meeting with hundreds of members of the Centrist Democrat International (IDC) political party. 


During his remarks, he reflected on the “values and ideals that have been molded and deepened in a decisive way by the Christian tradition in Europe and throughout the world,” such as the “centrality of the human person, a respect for human rights, a commitment to peace and the promotion of justice for all.”


These “fundamental principles,” he continued, “as history has shown, are closely interconnected,” because “when human rights are violated, the dignity of the human person suffers; when justice is compromised, peace itself is jeopardized.”


The Holy Father exhorted politicians to continue “serving the common good” and to work “to prevent the dissemination and entrenchment of ideologies which obscure and confuse consciences by promoting an illusory vision of truth and goodness,” as in the economic sphere, for example, where “there is a tendency to view financial gain as the only good.”


“There are those who maintain that human reason is incapable of grasping the truth, and therefore of pursuing the good that corresponds to personal dignity,” the Pope went on.  “There are some who believe that it is legitimate to destroy human life in its earliest or final stages.”  “Equally troubling is the growing crisis of the family,” which is the fundamental nucleus of society based on the indissoluble bond of marriage between a man and a woman,” he said.


The Pope then spoke about “the defense of religious liberty, which is a fundamental, irrepressible, inalienable and inviolable right,” underscoring that “the exercise of this freedom also includes the right to change religion, which should be guaranteed not only legally, but also in daily practice.”


He said emphasized that “within every human heart there are needs and desires which find their fulfillment in God alone. For this reason, God can never be excluded from the horizon of man and world history!  That is why all authentically religious traditions must be allowed to manifest their own identity publicly, free from any pressure to hide or disguise it.”

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Oklahoma priest may be canonized

Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 24, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City will officially begin next month to gather information toward the cause for canonization of a local priest. If the archdiocese succeeds in its efforts, Fr. Stanley Rother would become the first Oklahoman to be canonized.

Guerrillas fatally shot the 46-year-old priest in July 1981, while he was serving as pastor of the Santiago Atitlan parish in Guatemala.

Bishop Eusebius Beltran said the process for Fr. Rother would formally begin Oct. 5 with the commissioning of a canonization committee, according to the Associated Press. The committee members will interview people who knew the priest and record possible miracles attributed to Fr. Rother’s intercession.

According to the paper for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, the Sooner Catholic, Fr. Rother began serving in Guatemala in 1968. Among his many accomplishments was the translation of the New Testament in the local Tzutuhil language.

Seven months before his death, Fr. Rother was accosted on the street in Guatemala City. He was told he was on the death list and should leave the country immediately. He did leave but returned shortly after because he believed he had to serve his people.

Prior to his assassination, more than 20 of the parishioners of Santiago Atitlan had been abducted and murdered or were missing.

Furthermore, the Guatemalan bishops in a statement had recently denounced “a carefully studied plan to intimidate the Church and silence its prophetic voice.”

The statement was read in 330 Guatemalan parishes. The bishops stated that the government had done nothing to investigate or prosecute the murders of nine priests and hundreds of catechists.

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Pope Benedict—Life is always a choice between God and Satan, between love and selfishness.

Castelgandolfo, Italy, Sep 24, 2007 (CNA) - On Sunday morning, Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit to Velletri, Italy where he presided over Mass and gave a homily on the Gospel of the dishonest steward. The Pope told his listeners that, fundamentally, life is always a choice between good and evil, between God and Satan.

"In truth," he told the several thousand faithful who had gathered to hear him, "life is always a choice: between faithfulness and unfaithfulness, between selfishness and altruism, between good and evil. The end of this particular Gospel passage is incisive and authoritative: no servant can serve two masters," which in the final analysis means "you cannot serve God and wealth."

The Holy Father drew a further conclusion from the Gospel by connecting the use or misuse of material goods to its effects on the environment and our fellow men.

"A fundamental decision is then necessary, the choice between the logic of profit as the ultimate criteria for our actions and the logic of sharing and solidarity. If the logic of profit prevails, the imbalance between poor and rich increases, as does the ruinous exploitation of the planet.” “When, on the other hand, the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails it is possible to alter and redirect our course towards equal development and the common good of everyone. Ultimately it is a decision between selfishness and love, between justice and dishonesty, ... between God and Satan.”

Pope Benedict pointed out how this attitude of serving Christ and our fellow man in our material choices is counter cultural and can call us to be radically sacrificial. "If loving Christ and our fellow man is not considered as a superficial accessory," he added, "but rather as the real and ultimate aim of our entire life, we must know how to take fundamental decisions, to be ready to make radical sacrifices, if necessary even unto martyrdom. Today, as yesterday, the life of Christians calls for the courage to swim against the tide, to love like Jesus Who went so far as to sacrifice Himself upon the cross."

After the Mass, the Pope blessed a bronze column given to him a year ago as a gift by 100 Bavarian cities to mark his apostolic trip to Germany and his 80th birthday. Two columns were made, one is in the Pope's home town of Marktl am Inn, the other has been donated by him to the diocese of Velletri-Segni.

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Pope denounces violence carried out in the name of God

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2007 (CNA) - During a meeting on September 21 meeting with members of Italy’s Centrist Democrat International (IDC) political party at Castelgandolfo, Pope Benedict XVI criticized the violence carried out by terrorist networks which attempt to justify their threats against global security by arguing that society has forgotten God, and he denounced those who “claim to act in God's name and harbor an inexcusable contempt for human life.”

After affirming the right of “authentically religious traditions” “to manifest their own identity publicly,” the Holy Father pointed out that “respect for religion helps to counter the charge that society has forgotten God: an accusation shamelessly exploited by some terrorist networks in an attempt to justify their threats against global security. Terrorism is a serious problem whose perpetrators often claim to act in God's name and harbor an inexcusable contempt for human life.”

He defended the right of society to protect itself from terrorism, but he noted that “this right must be exercised with complete respect for moral and legal norms, including the choice of ends and means. In democratic systems, the use of force in a manner contrary to the principles of a constitutional State can never be justified,” he said.

“In this regard,” the Pope went on, “the social teaching of the Catholic Church offers some points for reflection on how to promote security and justice both at the national and international levels.  This teaching is based on reason, natural law and the Gospel.”

The Church knows that it is not her specific task to see to the political implementation of this teaching: her objective is to help form consciences in political life, to raise awareness of the authentic requirements of justice, and to foster a greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest,” the Pontiff stated.

In conclusion, Benedict XVI pointed out that the Church politicians “to bear witness to that faith today with even greater courage and generosity. The integrity of Christians in political life is indeed more necessary than ever so that the "salt" of apostolic zeal does not lose its "flavor", and so that the "lamp" of Gospel values enlightening the daily work of Christians is not obscured by pragmatism or utilitarianism, suspicion or hate.”

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Spanish archbishop defends importance of Catholic education

Valencia, Fla., Sep 24, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia last week defended the importance of Catholic schools and universities in the formation of men and women who challenge today’s society to remain committed to the promotion and fostering of human dignity.


“One generation cannot set out to relativize values, question human virtues and turn a deaf ear to the demands of love without causing serious social harm, human and moral decadence.  Every school and university is called to go in another direction and to be the clearest expression of the commitment to the human dignity of the students, as an essential service to families and to society,” the archbishop stated in his latest pastoral letter.


Catholic educational centers, he noted, incorporate into their curriculum the fundamental truth that “in God the source of human dignity is found,” which results in a unique way of educating that is “animated by the gospel spirit of freedom and love.”


“Catholic education sees the quality of education as linked to the Christian vision of man and of the world, which it receives from the faith.  It is not reduced to a specific time or to a particular activity: it is present in the entire educational mission of the school or university, in such a way that the student acquires a true synthesis of faith, culture and life,” he said.


Students should look to Christ as their example to follow, the archbishop said, and Christian humanism teaches young people “a concept of life that is open to God, who loves each person and invites him or her to be made more and more into the image of His Son.”


“The fundamental element, the key to all education, is the concept of the person who is being taught and that underlies any educational initiative, both in public schools as well as in any other kind of education,” he explained.

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Pope calls for greater dialogue for Ukrainian bishops

Vatican City, Sep 24, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI addressed the bishops of the Ukrainian Episcopal Conference as they completed their “ad limina” visit and offered a plan for the Latin and Greek bishops to continue to grow in cooperation so they are an example of the unity needed for ecumenical dialogue.

The Pope highlighted the unity of the Catholic Church “in every corner of the earth announces and bears witness to the One Jesus Christ, the Word of salvation for all men and for all of man. It is for this reason that the effectiveness of all our pastoral and apostolic projects depends, above all, on faithfulness to Christ.

Within the One Catholic Church, the Holy Father underlined the crucial need for the Latin and Greek bishops to “intensify cooperation…for the good of the entire Christian people. Thus you have the opportunity to coordinate your pastoral plans and your apostolic activities, always offering testimony of that ecclesial communion which is also an indispensable condition for ecumenical dialogue with our brethren in the Orthodox and other Churches."

In order to make the dialogue more effective, the Pope suggested that the bishops meet at least once a year in order to reach "agreement between yourselves in order to make pastoral activity ever more harmonious and effective. I am convinced that fraternal cooperation between pastors will be an encouragement and a stimulus for all the faithful to grow in unity and apostolic enthusiasm, and that it will also favor fruitful ecumenical dialogue."


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“Don’t allow the dreams God put into your hearts to be stolen,” Argentinean bishop says

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sep 24, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Jorge Eduardo Lozano of Gualeguaychu in Argentina has asked young people that even though there are some “who see you only as part of the crowd” that serves to get them rich, don’t allow “the dreams God has put in your hearts to be stolen.”


In a recent letter to young people, Bishop Lozano said, “The society in which we live is not all lights.  There are shadows of injustice, deception and death,” and he underscored young people’s “great sensitivity” to “the real problems of society” and their “desires to bring about change.”


“I know the fears of young people.  I know their fear of failure, of illness, their fear of death,” their “fear of commitment to love, of superficial and passing relationships.”


After telling them that “intense emotions without love leave a sensation of emptiness,” Bishop Lozano exhorted young people not to allow themselves to be “seduced by the angel of loneliness and desolation,” as the lives of each one of them “has meaning.”


He also noted that young people despise hypocrisy and get easily discouraged when they don’t see results.  “Discouragement slowly but tenaciously strangles the greatest longings of the soul,” he told them.  “Don’t let the dreams God has put in your hearts be stolen.  And never lose hope of achieving a better country.”

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Costa Rican bishops call for responsible and ethical vote on trade agreement

, Sep 24, 2007 (CNA) - In a document released September 20, the bishops of Costa Rica urged citizens to vote ethically and responsibly on the referendum on the Free Trade Agreement on October 7.


The bishops encouraged all Costa Ricans to vote on the referendum and said the Free Trade Agreement must be something that “benefits not just the few, but all citizens.” The proposal should be judged by whether or not it “contributes to the common good of society,’ they said.


“In this concept of development, which is the one the Church has proposed through her social teaching, not only are the principles of efficiency, competitiveness and productivity fundamental, but also, as a priority, are the principles of justice, equality, solidarity, the preferential option for the poor, freedom, autonomy, participation, dialogue and respect for the environment,” the bishops stressed.


They said voters should ask themselves whether or not the proposal would bring together the breach between rich and poor in the country, eliminate the roots of poverty, strengthen the country’s autonomy to decide about its own development, fortify Costa Rican industry, and respect human life as stipulated in Costa Rican law.


The bishops said it was not up to them “to say whether to vote yes or no on the referendum,” but they urged everyone to accept the results no matter how the vote turns out, “in order to avoid anything that might threaten the social peace.”


“We put this referendum that will be held in our beloved Costa Rica for the first time in the hands of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, and under the protection of our Lady of the Angeles, Patroness and Mother of all Costa Ricans,” they said in conclusion.

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German politician proposes seven year-long marriages

Rome, Italy, Sep 24, 2007 (CNA) - A politician who is running to be leader of the Social Christian Union party in Bavaria has proposed that marriages be allowed to expire after seven years.

Gabriele Pauli surprised residents by saying prosing that marriages be allowed to expire after seven years if couples choose not to remain together.

“This way one would only commit to an established period and would have to actively renew the vows in order to continue,” the twice-divorced Pauli said.

The proposal is part of her agenda as a candidate to lead the Social Christian Union party in Bavaria.

The post was made vacant when Edmund Stoiber resigned in the wake of a revolt in the party led by Pauli.  Afterwards, Pauli caused controversy by appearing in a magazine as some strange sort of dominatrix clad in elbow-length leather gloves.

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