Vatican City, Nov 2, 2007 (CNA) - On the occasion of the Feast of the Faithful Departed or the Feat of All Souls, Pope Benedict XVI will personally devote part of today to praying for his deceased predecessors at the Vatican.
This afternoon the Holy Father will visit the crypt located beneath St. Peter's Basilica, where many of the tombs of the previous popes are located. The tomb of Pope John Paul II, which receives between 7,000 and 20,000 visits a day, is also located in the crypt. While Pope Benedict is paying his respects to his predecessors he will offer prayers for each of their souls.
After time of private prayer, the Supreme Pontiff will return to the Apostolic Palace.
Vatican City, Nov 2, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI received a new tractor on Wednesday, a gift courtesy of the Italian automotive industry giant Fiat.
The tractor, painted white and marked by Pope Benedict's coat-of-arms, is intended to tow the 17-ton mobile platform the Pope uses for his weekly Wednesday Audiences.
"It'll tow and position the enormous, 17-ton mobile platform on which the Pope will hold his weekly Wednesday General Audience in St Peter's Square," said Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, according to Adnkronos news agency. Marchionne was at Vatican City to deliver the tractor, a customized version of the Fiat-owned New Holland brand's T7050 model.
"For us it's a great honor to have had the opportunity to deliver this vehicle to the Holy Father, in a sign of admiration and respect," Mr. Marchionne said.
Louisville, Ky., Nov 2, 2007 (CNA) - The principal of a Catholic High School in Bardstown, Kentucky was cited by Louisville police on Halloween Eve for loitering with the purpose of prostitution, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports.
Police allegedly saw the man dressed as a woman in an alley in a neighborhood known for drug trafficking and prostitution. He was reportedly dressed in a black leather outfit with fishnet stockings and fake breasts.
According to a statement from the Archdiocese of Louisville, Paul Schum, the principal of Bethlehem High School, requested personal leave from the school pending the outcome of the investigation. He denies the allegation.
Mr. Schum, 50, currently teaches chemistry at Bethlehem High School. He previously worked at St. Xavier High School in Louisville for 26 years.
Under Kentucky law, loitering for the purpose of prostitution is a violation for the first offense and a class B misdemeanor for subsequent offenses.
Hollywood, Calif., Nov 2, 2007 (CNA) - After a successful opening weekend, Bella promoters are hoping the film will continue to draw in viewers in subsequent weeks.
Matt Brannon of Metanoia Films told CNA that despite a very limited release of Bella, the film grossed an amazing $1.3 million and finished in the top 20 films of the weekend even though it played on the fewest amount of screens of all its competitors.
Bella was shown on 165 screens. Typically, Hollywood blockbusters are shown on 3,000 screens across the US.
The movie also had the highest per screen average in America on Sunday, suggesting strong word-of-mouth momentum from the previous two days. While most films saw a decline in ticket sales of 30 – 50 % from Saturday to Sunday, Bella held its ground.
Brannon encouraged the public to go to the theatres, “the key to Bella’s long term success is sustaining momentum this week. Another strong box office performance will prove that Bella’s surprising success is not a fluke, and that Americans want to see more inspiring and uplifting movies.”
Bella is a film about a New York City waitress who struggles with an unexpected pregnancy and the friend who helps her through her hardship. The movie won top honors at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival.
Madison, Wis., Nov 2, 2007 (CNA) - Sunday, November 4 is the last day of the 40 Days for Life vigils. Many vigil locations are marking this with a prayer service or thanksgiving dinner. In addition to these closing celebrations, dedicated pro-lifers will be holding a 24-hour vigil, from midnight Saturday until midnight Sunday, at the Planned Parenthood in Beaver Dam and at hundreds of sites nationwide.
“After several late nights, early mornings and countless hours, praying in front of Affiliated Medical Services in Milwaukee, my husband Bob and I have already begun to see the fruits of our labor,” said Peggy Hamill, state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin. “We’ve met so many dedicated individuals for whom this is their first pro-life activity. The fruits of that alone are a huge blessing for the pro-life movement.”
Across the country, and across the United States, God has allowed the 40 Days for Life vigils to change hearts and save souls and babies. The effect on Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Affiliated Medical Services and abortion centers nationwide can be measured in many ways – not the least among them being the effect on the clinic workers.
“The Holy Spirit has been our true coordinator,” remarked Amy Hying, who led the 40 Days for Life vigil in Madison.
Pro-Life Wisconsinite Tim Hewitt, coordinator of the 40 Days for Life vigil in Grand Chute, noted there have been a lot of good people supporting this life-saving effort.
It is not too late to see what 40 Days for Life is all about. For vigil locations, go to the website www.40daysforlifewi.com.
Rome, Italy, Nov 2, 2007 (CNA) - An Italian monk has been exposed for taking bribes in annulment cases in the Italian city of Fermo.
The unidentified monk, a member of the Missionaries of Faith religious order, allegedly asked for thousands of Euros to speed the progress of annulment applications through his tribunal in the region of Marche, according to ANSA.
He was secretly taped and exposed by a private investigator who posed as a desperate husband trying to obtain an annulment.
"What this official did borders on blasphemy," the former head of the Marche Ecclesiastical Tribunal, Monsignor Vinicio Albanesi, told Il Resto del Carlino. Monsignor Albanesi likened the monk's action to simony, the buying or selling of spiritual things.
Some ecclesiastical sources said the monk's alleged actions would not be viewed as serious enough to warrant further punishment. The monk reportedly had been moved to Fermo after being removed from a similar assignment in Rome.
Annulment cases must prove that a marriage was entered into invalidly. Evidence for annulment requires some defect in one or both parties to a marriage, such as lack of sound mind, a lack of intention to remain faithful to the spouse, or an intention never to have children.
Rome, Italy, Nov 2, 2007 (CNA) - A planned Vatican meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the Dalai Lama would be an "offense" to the Chinese people, a government spokesman said Thursday in Beijing.
The Pope will reportedly meet with the head of Tibetan Buddhism on December 13 according to reports by ANSA, though officials at the Holy See have not yet officially confirmed the meeting.
China hopes that the meeting will not take place because it would be offensive to the Chinese nation, government spokesman Liu Jianchao said.
Beijing sees the Dalai Lama as a "political plotter" who plans to split the country. The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959, when he fled Tibet following a revolt against Chinese rule. Approximately six million Tibetans now live under Chinese authority.
The 71 year-old Dalai Lama has abandoned demands for full Tibetan independence and now seeks a "one country, two systems" formula which would preserve Tibetan culture and spirituality.
A papal meeting with the Buddhist leader would worsen tensions between China and the Holy See. The Catholic community in China, numbering between 12 and 14 million, is split between an underground church and a government-recognized Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics. The Chinese government claims authority to appoint Catholic bishops without the approval of the Vatican.
Before reports of the planned meeting Chinese-Vatican tensions were considered to be improving.
The Dalai Lama already met with Pope Benedict XVI in a low-profile visit to the papal summer residence last year, but the meeting was considered less formal because it did not take place in the Vatican.
Rome, Italy, Nov 2, 2007 (CNA) - Italian journalist and writer Vittorio Messori warned this week a new book by historian Sergio Luzzatto, “ “Padre Pio. Miracoli e politica nell’ Italia del 900” (Padre Pio. Miracles and Politics in the Italy of the 1900s), is in no sense an attack on the memory of the saint but has instead been sensationalized by the media.
Media reports said the new book would call into question the authenticity of Padre Pio’s stigmata and would reveal “hidden episodes” that would supposed cast doubt on his holiness. Some reports even suggested the Italian saint was inappropriately involved with a woman and that it was covered up during the process of beatification and canonization.
In an extensive article published by the Italian daily “Corriere della Sera,” Messori said that each one of the accusations discussed by Luzzatto in his book were thoroughly answered by historians and experts years ago. He called the book “important and serious” and said the media does an injustice by taking excerpts from the 400-page book in an attempt to extrapolate “revelations” and “scandals,” such as the allegation that Padre Pio used chemicals to create the stigmata.
These suspicions, which come especially from the clergy, have been answered not only by the saint’s biographers, but also by the exhaustive investigations by Vatican commissions that carried out the beatification in 1999 and the canonization in 2002, Messori continued.
Therefore, he said, the work “is serious and does not deserve the scandalous headlines; it is a book resulting from years of work and research in different fields.”
Messori noted that Luzzatto’s book fills a void in the information about Padre Pio, who Luzzatto called “the most important Italian of the last century.” He said it strikes a balance between the excessively pious accounts of the saint’s life on the one hand, and the anti-clerical books that one can find in bookstores. Luzzatto distances himself from these books, noting that disproportionate criticism of Padre Pio should be avoided.
He said there would be plenty of time to dispute the book’s documentation, “based on primary sources but with a political slant that is evident from the title, which makes the book of interest to the laity but which is foreign to the saint’s perspective and to the majority of his devotees.”
Messori points out that as a non-Christian, Luzzatto does not have a perspective on the spiritual contradictions proper to the Christian. “In any case, Luzzatto realizes this and writes that ‘Padre Pio is present everywhere,’ since we can no longer overlook the enigmatic presence of a friar who, for half a century, never left a poor convent in the heart of southern Italy.
Lastly, after reflecting on so many surprising and miraculous episodes from the life of the saint, Messori concludes with a question and an answer: “What to do with this kind of a person? Study his history, yes, but with the awareness that there is a meta-history here that, to use the words of the Gospel, ‘is revealed to the humble and simple and hidden from learned of this world’.”
Beijing, China, Nov 2, 2007 (CNA) - Organizers of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing have published a list of “prohibited objects” in the Olympic village where athletes will stay. To the surprise of many, Bibles are among the objects that will not be allowed.
According to the Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport, organizers have cited “security reasons” and have prohibited athletes from bearing any kind of religious symbol at Olympic facilities.
Other objects on the list include video cameras and cups.
The Spanish daily La Razon said the rule was one of a number of “signs of censure and intolerance” towards religious objects, particularly those used by Christians in China. Currently in China five bishops and fifteen priests are in prison for opposing the official Church.
Sacramento, Calif., Nov 2, 2007 (CNA) - A Bay Area Middle School has canceled a scheduled cross-dressing or “gender-switch” day after parents complained, according to an Oct. 30 Pacific Justice Institute news release. The Sacramento-based institute is a legal organization that defends parental rights, religious freedom, and other civil liberties.
Adams Middle School in Brentwood encouraged students to cross-dress – boys wearing girls clothing, girls wearing boys’ clothing – on the last day of “Spirit Week,” Friday, Nov. 2. Parents were given little notice of the event, said the Pacific Justice Institute, and only found out about it after flyers were posted at the school.
A parent of a seventh-grader met with the principal, Adam Clark, to voice her concerns about the event, and was told that it would go ahead as planned. Clark told the parent she could keep her son home if he did not want to be part of the event. The parent contacted Pacific Justice Institute, which told her she needed to enlist other parents to contact the school with their concerns. The Institute itself prepared to intervene, if necessary.
On Oct. 30, the school removed the flyers advertising the event and confirmed it had been canceled. Instead, the school encourages students to wear school colors. Clark told Institute attorney Matthew McReynolds, “We want to encourage our students to be free thinkers, [but] we felt that the overall message wasn’t coming across clear to some members of the community.”
Encouraging student cross-dressing to invite “free thinking” is not unique to Adams Middle School. A 2002 article by the Culture and Family Institute of Concerned Women for America reported how the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) encourages cross-dressing through a curriculum developed for Kindergarten through third grade.
The curriculum guide, produced by the Lesbian and Gay Parents Association and the Buena Vista Lesbian and Gay Parents group in San Francisco, Preventing Prejudice: Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Lesson Plan Guide for Elementary Schools, features a book, Jesse’s Dream Skirt, by Bruce Mark, about a boy who enjoys wearing his mother’s dresses and wants a skirt for himself. The lesson plan accompanying the book says the book’s key message is “respect means keeping our minds open. Having open minds means giving people freedom to be who they want to be.”
The GLSEN web site still offers the plan as a resource. According to the Network, “Preventing Prejudice is an instructional tool for educators at the K-5 level. It consists of sixteen field-tested lesson plans developed by elementary school teachers, including such topics as: What is a Boy/Girl?; What Makes a Family?; Freedom to Marry; and Coming Out.”
The Brentwood School District’s web site offers an “East Contra Costa Quick Resource Guide,” which lists under “Gay and Lesbian,” the Gay and Lesbian National Hotline, the Empowerment Program (which helps women in “disadvantaged positions”), and Rainbow Community Center of Contra Costa County. The center, according to its web site, “envisions a society that embraces acceptance, safety and equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.”
The original story can be found at California Catholic Daily.
Madrid, Spain, Nov 2, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Tarazona and Bishop Josep Angel Saiz Meneses of Terrassa told the Spanish daily La Razon some of the reasons behind the explosive growth in the number of young aspirants to the priesthood who have entered their respective seminaries.
Both seminaries are merely two years old and yet the number of aspirants to the priesthood “grows quicker that in other dioceses with greater populations. Terrassa has 28 seminarians and Tarazona has 15.
“A diocese without a seminary is a dead diocese”
Bishop Fernandez came to the Diocese of Tarazona three years ago. His priority was to reopen the local seminary. “Up to that time aspirants to the priesthood in the diocese studied in Zaragoza, while a building with a capacity for 300 students had been abandoned for decades,” he told La Razon.
Asked if “there could be a diocese without a seminary,” Bishop Fernandez said, “A diocese without a seminary is a dead diocese or in danger of extension,” and he compared the situation to that of “a mother who no longer has any children: she continues to be a mother, but she needs to be accompanied to a good death.” He said he was joyful to be able to give the universal Church “many and holy priests.”
Bishop Fernandez defended the importance of minor seminaries, saying it is important that young people begin their priestly formation at an early age. “I am convinced that the important ideals of a person are forged around the age of 15. Their ideals are full of dreams and imagination, which afterwards will have to mature, but these ideals are an amazing driving force for all of life.”
“We confront vocational problems without hang-ups”
La Razon also interviewed the new bishop of Terrassa, where “there wasn’t even a physical place” for a seminary. Bishop Saiz Meneses, the first bishop of this new diocese, earmarked a donation for building a seminary that has now been open for over a year. The 13 candidates of the seminary had been studying at the seminary in Barcelona.
Asked about the increase in seminarians for his diocese, Bishop Meneses explained that the key is humility and trust in God, and therefore he asked for prayers for vocations and exhorted the infirm “to offer their sufferings for this intention.”
“At the same time, he revealed, we strive to pose the issue of vocations in a direct way and without hang ups. Just to name two specific aspects, I think it is very important that we truly believe that God continues calling young people to the priesthood, and it is also essential that we make the joy of a life committed to the Lord though this walk transparent.”
Bishop Meneses also defended the importance of minor seminaries. “God calls who he wishes and when he wishes. Sometimes people question whether a 12 year-old child or an 18 year-old young person can see his vocation clearly. There are children who from a young age say they want to be a doctor or teacher and end up becoming one,” he said. “Others decide what they want to be when they are older but later they take a different path. The same thing happens with religious vocations. Some of the children who show signs of a vocation end up in the priesthood, others don’t. We need to accompany them in the process of personal maturation and help them to discern the will of God.”
Asked whether it is more difficult today to listen to the call to the priesthood, Bishop Meneses said, “In a society increasingly more secularized and consumerist, it’s not only difficult to listen to the call to the priesthood, it is also difficult to live the Christian faith consistently. God “undoubtedly calls many to the path of the priesthood.” What is needed is “silence, prayer [and] reflection to listen to his call,” the bishop said.
Santiago, Chile, Nov 2, 2007 (CNA) - The president and general secretary of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference came to the defense of the “legitimate right” of pharmacists to exercise conscientious objection and not sell the so-called “morning after pill,” this week.
In dialogue with the press, conference president, Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua, referred to the sanctions against pharmacies that refuse to sell the drug. “I believe the legitimate right to conscientious objection exists and you cannot be intolerant towards a conscience that does not want to contribute to the promotion of a pill that could be abortive when scientific doubt regarding the issue still exists,” the bishop said.
Likewise he reiterated that reasonable scientific doubts exist about Levonorgestrel, the main ingredient in the morning after pill.
“In one of two hypotheses that exist today regarding the abortifacient nature of the pill, it is not therapeutic, it simply impedes gestation of a new life, and if gestation has already occurred, it destroys it. Nobody can oblige [me] by law to act against my conscience,” Bishop Goic said.
Conference secretary general, Bishop Cristian Contreras, said, “The issue is much wider than the sanctions against pharmacies. We have been specific about the issue innumerable times: the issue is life, how we address the issue of life. We see that when there are doubts about the existence of a human being we must always choose the safer option.”
“I think it is providential what Pope Benedict XVI said about the freedom of conscience that people must have when we are dealing precisely with a drug that can have an abortifacient effect,” he added.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Nov 2, 2007 (CNA) - A renowned analyst in Brazil anticipates that the country’s government will not stop its campaign to legalize abortion, despite recent polls that show a majority of Brazilians oppose the practice.
Carlos Alberto Di Franco, an expert in ethics, communication and media strategy, pointed to the results of a recent poll by the Datafolha firm, which indicated only three percent of Brazilians consider abortion to be a “morally acceptable” act, and eighty-seven percent totally reject it.
“The results of the poll are a bucket of cold water for the pro-abortion strategy of Health Minister Temporao and confirm a tendency manifested in previous polls. The campaigns of the government do not correspond to the real Brazil,” Di Franco said.
However, he said the “legalization of abortion, regardless of the euphemisms used by some and the ambiguity of the president, is a priority of the government of Lula. Public opinion is aghast at the articulated campaign that they seek to impose, against the express will of society and in the name of ‘democracy,’ the elimination of the first fundamental human right: the right to life.”
“The legalization of abortion is the first link in an immense chain of the culture of death,” he said, noting that after abortion is imposed the next step will be euthanasia. “Brazilians are against abortion. This is not an opinion, it is a fact measured by an opinion poll,” DiFranco continued. “Therefore the government should move forward with caution. The legalization of abortion would be, right now, a completely anti-democratic action. Moreover, there is the question of principles. Democracy is the system that most genuinely respects the dignity of the human person,” he said.
“Therefore, despite the force of the emotional marketing that is behind the pro-abortion campaigns, the anti-democratic venom that is at the bottom of the abortion slogans is worrisome. It is incomprehensible how we will obtain a more just and dignified society for human beings through the death of others. There is an indissoluble bond between the practice of abortion, the massacre of Carandiru and other attacks on life: the human being is considered a disposable object,” DiFranco explained.
DiFranco noted that violence toward children and young people, the climate of insecurity blowing through the large urban centers are “a logical consequence of the culture of death.”