Vatican City, Nov 5, 2007 (CNA) - The President of the Pontifical Council on Inter-religious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, has written a message to Hindus entitled, "Christians and Hindus: Determined to Walk the Path of Dialogue". The message is in regards to the Hindu celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights which falls on November 9th this year.
"Sensitive to your religious feelings and respectful of your ancient religious tradition," the cardinal states, "I sincerely hope that your search for the Divine, symbolized through the celebration of Diwali, will help you to overcome darkness with light, untruth with truth, and evil with goodness."
The cardinal continued, "the world around us is yearning for peace. Religions promise peace because they trace their origin to God who, according to Christian belief, is our peace. Can we, as believers of different religious traditions, not work together to receive God's gift of peace and to spread it around us so that the world becomes for all people a better place to live? Our respective communities must pay urgent attention to the education of believers, who can so easily be misled by deceitful and false propaganda."
"Like all human relationships, those between people of different religions need to be nourished by regular meetings, patient listening, collaborative action, and above all, by an attitude of mutual respect. Accordingly, we must work to build bonds of friendship."
"In situations of misunderstanding, people need to come together and communicate with one another, in order to clarify, in a fraternal and friendly spirit, their respective beliefs, aspirations and convictions. Only through dialogue, avoiding all forms of prejudice and stereo-typed ideas about others and by faithful witness to our religious precepts and teaching, can we truly overcome conflicts. Dialogue between followers of different religions is the necessary path today, indeed it is the only appropriate path for us as believers."
Vatican City, Nov 5, 2007 (CNA) - In keeping with longstanding papal tradition, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass today for the souls of the cardinals and bishops who died this past year. Recalling how their lives were all marked by a deep friendship with Jesus, Benedict said that this friendship, coupled with Jesus’ death and resurrection, makes it so that “not even death can render a believer’s hope worthless”.
The Holy Father began his homily by naming the cardinals who had died in the past twelve months: Salvatore Pappalardo, Frédéric Etsou-Nzabi Bamungwabi, Antonio María Javierre, Angelo Felici, Jean-Marie Lustiger, Edouard Gagnon, Adam Kozlowiecki and Rosalio José Castillo Lara.
The Pope asked the Church to give thanks to God "for the gift he has given the Church through them and for all the good achieved with their help. He also entrusted “the souls of the departed patriarchs, archbishops, and bishops to the Eternal Father, also expressing our recognition of their work in the name of the entire Catholic community."
These men, our brothers, he continued, "were certainly men of distinct character, both for their personal trials as well as for the ministry they exercised. Nevertheless, they all had a great commonality: their friendship with the Lord Jesus."
"During their temporal existence," the Holy Father asserted, "Jesus led them to know the name of God, granting them participation in the love of the Most Holy Trinity, … an experience of divine communion that, by its nature, tends to envelop one's entire existence, transfiguring it and preparing it for the glory of eternal life."
Commenting on the responsorial psalm, "My soul is thirsting for God, for the living God. When will I see the face of God?" the Pope emphasized that "this thirst holds a truth that does not betray, a hope that does not delude. It is a thirst that, even through the darkest night, illuminates that path toward the source of life."
Benedict XVI pointed out that the psalmist expresses his confidence at the heart of the psalm as well as at its end: "Why are you discouraged, my soul, why do you worry me? Trust in God that I may praise him, my salvation and my God." In the light of Christ and his paschal mystery these words reveal a wonderful truth: not even death can render a believer's hope worthless because Christ," he concluded, "has entered the sanctuary of heaven for us and wants to lead us there where he has prepared us a place."
Vatican City, Nov 5, 2007 (CNA) - Today the Pope received members of the New Families Movement, established forty years ago, who were participating in a gathering focused on "A House Built upon Rock: The Lived Gospel, an Answer to the Problems of Today's Family".
While highlighting that the movement forms a network of 800,000 families in 182 nations across five continents, the Holy Father recalled that its pastoral work is an outgrowth of "four pillars: spirituality, education, a social nature, and solidarity".
"Your commitment of silent and profound evangelization gives witness that only familial unity, a gift of the God who is Love, makes the family a true abode for love, a house that welcomes life and a school of Christian values for its children," he said.
The Pope also asked that, owing to their commitment, "pastoral strategies might be found that respond to the growing needs of today's family and the multiple challenges it has to face so that its particular mission in the Church and in society might not be lessened".
"According to the divine plan," he continued, "the family is a sacred and sanctifying place and the Church, always close to it, sustains it in its mission, above all today because there are many perils that threaten it from within and without. Divine assistance is needed that it not give in to discouragement and so every Christian family should look with confidence to the Holy Family, the original 'domestic Church'."
The Holy Father expressed to the families the certainty that "the humble and holy Family of Nazareth, the icon and model of every human family, will not cease in sustaining you from heaven. It is indispensable, however," he concluded, "that you have constant recourse to prayer, to listen to the Word of God, and to an intense sacramental life together with the effort to always live Christ's commandment of love and forgiveness. Love does not seek its own interest, does not brood over injury, but rejoices with the truth."
San Diego, Calif., Nov 5, 2007 (CNA) - A bankruptcy case filed by the Catholic Diocese of San Diego has been dismissed by a federal judge, the Associated Press reports.
The bankruptcy request was filed in February just hours before the diocese's first sexual abuse was to begin. Bishop Robert Brom said bankruptcy protection was needed to continue the church's work while still trying to compensate abuse victims.
The request to dismiss bankruptcy proceedings was made by the diocese as part of a $198 million settlement reached in September between the diocese and 144 people who say they were sexually abused by priests.
After dismissing the case on Thursday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Louise DeCarl Adler shed tears and scolded the diocese. She criticized the diocese for being "disingenuous" in its presentation asking parishioners to help fund the financial settlement. Judge Adler, herself a parishioner, received one such request and said that it did not accurately represent the diocese’s assets.
Rodrigo Valdivia, a diocesan spokesman, said church officials were disappointed by Adler's comments and called the financial breakdown accurate. Other church officials said the fundraising drive was legitimate because the diocese had insufficient funds to pay the settlement without relying on individual parish assets.
Dublin, Ireland, Nov 5, 2007 (CNA) - A developing zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of alcohol could affect busy priests in Ireland, the Irish Times reports.
Father Brian D'Arcy of Enniskillen said the shortage of priests means that priests have to drink from the chalice at multiple Masses, which could put them over a proposed stricter legal limit for driving. "It could be enough for you to fail a drink driving test, and while I don't like to use the word wine, as it is the precious blood in the Eucharist, it still has all the characteristics of wine when in the blood stream," he said.
"Perhaps a small amount would not show up in blood tests but only medically qualified people can decide that. After doing several Masses I often have to drive off immediately to visit some person who may be very ill in hospital," the priest continued.
The current blood alcohol limit in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is 80mg per 100 liters, or 0.08 percent by American Blood Alcohol Concentration standards. A reduction in that limit is expected within 18 months.
Quebec City, Canada, Nov 5, 2007 (CNA) - A massive Catholic event is scheduled to take place in Quebec City in June 2008. Canada's first Eucharistic Congress since 1910 is expected to draw over 100,000 people and their numbers could include Pope Benedict XVI, reports the CanWest News Service. Local Catholics hopes it will revivify Christian life in the area.
"This will certainly be the culmination of our efforts to re-evangelize Quebec," said Cardinal Marc Oullet, the archbishop of Quebec. "We have been preparing for this for years. There is a need in Quebec to reconnect with our Christian roots and to revive the Catholic identity," he continued.
The International Eucharistic Congress will include 15,000 delegates and 50 cardinals from 60 countries will meet to foster devotion to the Eucharist. Pope Benedict XVI might visit to preside over the congress' outdoor Mass on the historic Plains of Abraham, the site of a 1759 battle that led to the British takeover of French Canada.
The congress also coincides with Quebec City's 400th anniversary.
Quebec was the center of a strong Catholic population until the 1960s, when the so-called Quiet Revolution began a rapid secularization of the region. The fallout from this secularization has caused many people to become hostile to the Catholic Church.
Cardinal Oullet expressed hope that the Eucharistic Congress would dispel some of that animosity. "There is a lot of criticism in the society now against the Catholic Church, and we need to be reminded of those positive values," the cardinal said.
Cardinal Oullet has invited Pope Benedict to the conference, but the Pope has not confirmed his attendance. The cardinal hopes to get a final answer at the end of November when he visits Rome.
Baghdad, Iraq, Nov 5, 2007 (CNA) - Chaldean Catholic Bishop Mer Patros said this week a possible incursion into the northern Iraq by Turkish forces in to order to combat Kurdish militias would affect Iraqi Christians the most.
Turkey has amassed troops on its border with Iraq in the region of Kurdistan and has launched sporadic attacks on Kurdish separatists who operate in Turkey but seek refuge among the population of northern Iraq.
Pope Benedict added his voice to those who are concerned about the situation. Following the praying of the Angelus yesterday, the pontiff said, "I would like to encourage every effort to reach a peaceful resolution to the problems that have recently surfaced between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds."
According to Bishop Patros, whose see is in Dohuk, Iraqi Christians, have been reduced in recent years to half of what they once were. These Christians “fear a Turkish attack in Kurdistan more than anyone because they have no where to go after having been exiled once, twice and even three times to escape the violence.”
Of the some 600,000 Christians who are still in Iraq, he said, 250,000 of them live in Kurdistan.
“Christians are the objects of an authentic persecution in Iraq and only here, in Kurdistan, do we find peace thanks to the tolerance of the autonomous Kurdish government,” Bishop Patros stated.
“Because of the American occupation of the country, we are considered accomplices because we are Christians like them; and then there are the Muslim fanatics who want to purify Iraq and the Middle East of Christians,” he explained.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Christians began to suffer personal attacks and attacks on churches. Those with greater financial resources fled to other countries, but the poor moved to the Kurdish mountains.
“These poor people have exhausted all of their possibilities. The only thing they can do is take shelter in a tent,” Bishop Patros said. “There are some who want to exterminate Eastern Christianity, and decent Muslims don’t do anything either to defend us.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Nov 5, 2007 (CNA) - A bill that would have established norms for euthanasia died in the Colombian Senate this week as sponsors of the measure said they lacked the votes to ensure passage.
Speaking to the BBC, Senator Armando Benedetti Villaneda, who sponsored the measure, said changes would be made to the bill and that it would be brought before committee again next year. “Most of my colleagues in the Senate are unruly, outdated and reactionary,” he said in explaining the reasons for withdrawing the measure.
The bill was supported by the Foundation for the Right to Death with Dignity, which promotes euthanasia in Colombia. The organization’s vice president, Juan Mendoza Vega, said there was need for the norms because “there are doctors who for religious reasons do not practice it.”
Denver, Colo., Nov 5, 2007 (CNA) - Students of the Augustine Institute not only gain knowledge of the Catholic faith, but they also learn how to effectively communicate the Gospel message in an increasingly secular society.
In its third year of offering courses, the Augustine Institute continues to develop Catholic leaders by offering Master of Arts degrees on two different tracks: Sacred Scripture and Evangelization and Catechetics.
Professor of Scripture and Provost, Dr. Edward Sri told CNA that the institute was founded to develop leaders and educators for the New Evangelization. “Traditional orthodox theology is absolutely essential, but by itself, it is not enough for people to engage the culture that is increasingly indifferent and hostile to a Catholic way of life.”
“It requires much more than solid, orthodox teaching,” he continued.
The programs at the Augustine Institute are one of a kind. They have a unique, interdisciplinary program with “the best theology, scripture study as well as an understanding of where modern men and women are coming from.” These courses are combined with a class that teaches the skills necessary to communicate the timeless Gospel message.
This emphasis has drawn as many as 30 students each year to study at the Augustine Institute. Each of which are hoping to use their knowledge and formation to help others grow in love for Christ and His Church in the career that God is calling them.
“We are developing future and current leaders in the Catholic Church. We have youth ministers, teachers, volunteers, lay people, and FOCUS Missionaries of all ages learning essential truths of the Church and how to bring our faith to others. No matter what walk of life the students come from, we all have a desire deepen our faith and evangelize our community through effective catechesis,” current student Tom Maschka noted.
Julie Reiff, a current second-year student was one of the many students who was drawn to the school because of the “passionate, dynamic professors.”
“[They] live what they, as Catholics, believe and teach, both in and out of the walls of the classroom. Our professors care not only about our academic formation but also encourage spiritual development and guiding us in the knowledge of our individual roles within the New Evangelization.”
“They open their hearts and homes to the students,” she continued. “Their doors are open not only for academic guidance but also for personal formation. They truly care for the students and are dedicated in their pursuit of training and forming leaders for the New Evangelization.”
The list of faculty members includes: Dr. Edward Sri, the author/co-author of 10 books, including the best-selling The Da Vinci Deception and The New Rosary in Scripture, Professor Sean Innerst, the founding Provost of the Archdiocese of Denver’s St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and Dr. Tim Gray, the co-author of The Great Adventure Bible Timeline program as well as the Executive Director of the largest Catholic Biblical School in the United States. Other professors include Professor Curtis Martin, the Founder and President of FOCUS, the nation’s largest Catholic campus evangelization program, Dr. Joe Burns who has 20 years of leadership experience in the Air Force and in youth/adult catechesis, and Dr. Jonathan Reyes, the Founding President of the Augustine Institute.
Sandra Chamberlin, an alumna of the inaugural class of 2006, noted that not only are the professors academic teachers, but they’re also living examples of how to live an authentically Catholic life.
“The Augustine Institute professors love and live the faith they teach. As Pope Paul VI said, ‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses’. The professors are both witnesses and teachers in the truest senses of the words.”
Maschka agreed, stating, “Though they each have a certain style, all of our professors come together to show the story of our great faith and prepare us for active participation in the New Evangelization.”
The “coming together” of the professors is one of the strengths of the university noted by Sri. Through their friendships, the professors discuss the material they are presenting the classroom. “What we do in the classroom flows from a deep friendship and a common desire to serve in the New Evangelization.”
The impact of the professors hasn’t stopped at graduation. Graduate and current high school youth minister in the Diocese of Kansas City, Kansas, Stacy Cretors says that not only did the professors show her “how to be a better friend, sister, daughter, and hopefully one day a better wife and mother…but they invested themselves in me as a person...and all of them have continued to do so even after graduation.”
The Augustine Institute plans on introducing a summer program beginning in 2008. The program will accommodate teachers and catechists around the US who can’t make it to Denver for courses during the academic year. These courses are planned to be 4-day, intensive courses likely to be at the end of July.
For more information about the Augustine Institute, please visit their website at www.augustineinstitute.org.
Bogotá, Colombia, Nov 5, 2007 (CNA) - Colombian exorcist Father Jaime Velez Correa said this week the country with the most Satanism “is the United States, the second in the world is Italy and the third is Colombia,” where the current “obsession with violence” has led to an increase in Satanic cults and rites.
Father Correa, who has been a priest for 50 years and an exorcist for eleven, said people are separating themselves from God, [and] Christianity, falling into empty creeds and opting for Satanism, which represents the negation of good.
In an interview with Caracol Radio, Father Velez said in Bogota and other cities of Colombia the existence of Satanic cults is known, and he said he receives “two or three cases daily,” including cases of young people who have decided to leave Satanic cults. While all are not cases of possession, he said, many have suffered psychological traumas and clinical pathologies.
After warning that the exorcism procedure is very dangerous, Father Velez said, “I pray to the Lord before entering,” and then you must “directly confront the devil, you enter into conversation with the devil, and you “threaten him in the name of God. In addition, you must pray the creed, some psalms and litanies and read a part of the gospel.”
He said he carries with him in his briefcase “a crucifix, holy water, the Bible and the priestly stole,” adding that in this fight against evil, “God’s workers” obtain important triumphs but the basic task is to remove negative attitudes from the mind and heart.
Father Velez said that after an exorcism, he feels “joy for doing good, and you feel tired.” However, he added that he strives to forget what he has seen and heard, “otherwise I would go crazy.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 5, 2007 (CNA) - The sub-director of the international office of Fundacion Vida, Guillermo de Navascues, denounced the Health Secretary of Mexico City, Manuel Mondragon y Kalb, for falsifying data provided by pro-abortion organizations in order to convince the Legislative Assembly that abortion was necessary to diminish maternal mortality.
“The report by Mexico City Health Secretary, Dr. Manuel Mondragon y Kalb, which was presented to the Legislative Assembly the day before abortion was legalized, was based on false data” from pro-abortion organizations, Navascues said.
On the day of the debate, he continued, Mondragon y Kalb used the false data which suggested that between 1990 and 2005, of the approximately 21,000 maternal deaths, nearly 1,500 “were due to abortion and its complications.”
However, Navascues noted, Mexico City’s Health Department studies show that deaths from abortion are miniscule compared with other causes of death. “It is clear that abortion is not the fifth cause of maternal mortality in Mexico City, as was claimed by the Health Secretary,” he warned.
Mondragon, he stressed, dared to give false information to the Assembly “because he had the clear intention of falsifying reality in order to get abortion legalized.”
Madrid, Spain, Nov 5, 2007 (CNA) - The controversial Historic Memory Law which was approved by the Spanish Congress this week will require all monuments, names and public places established after the country’s Civil War to be removed, with the exception of artistic and religious symbols of the Church.
The original law, which did not get enough votes to pass, would have punished private institutions, including the Church, that did not remove symbols considered to be “pro-Franco”—a reference to the Spanish dictator who assumed power following the Civil War, including crosses and memorials erected in honor of the martyrs after the conclusion of the conflict.
Nevertheless, thanks to a last-minute change in order to get more yes votes, in its final form the law will allow the Church to invoke “artistic-religious” reasons for not removing commemorative symbols of the Civil War from its buildings.
The law explicitly points out that the law does not apply to memorials that are strictly private or when there are artistic, architectural or artistic-religious reasons protected by law.
Manila, Philippines, Nov 5, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams arrived in the Philippines Thursday and assured the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines that he would do "anything for the good of the country," GMANews.tv reports.
The new papal nuncio was greeted by a delegation at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Holding a closed-door meeting at the airport's presidential lounge after the welcoming ceremonies, he met with Cardinal Gaudenciao Rosales, Archbishop of Manila, and seven other prelates.
Describing the new nuncio's remarks, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez related that "He said he is ready for the challenges that his new assignment would entail." Iñiguez added that Adams is "so excited to be in the Philippines."
Archbishop Adams, who studied for the diplomatic service at the Vatican in 1976, was until recently the Holy See's ambassador to Zimbabwe for five years. He has also served in Denmark, the Czech Republic, Kenya, Rwanda, Honduras, Ireland, and several other countries.
He replaces Italian Archbishop Fernando Filoni, who was appointed as the Substitute for the General Affairs of the Secretariat State.
CNA STAFF, Nov 5, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute reports more statistical distortions in activist literature favoring the legalization of abortion.
Various international organizations have claimed that over half a million women die from pregnancy complications each year. Organizations like the World Health Organization, the UN Children's Fund(UNICEF) and the UN Population Fund have used the figure as a justification for legalizing abortion. However, with the figure's accuracy found to be doubtful, that real motivation for the push to legalize abortion worldwide has come under criticism.
The former head of the UN statistics office, Dr. Joseph Chamie, said the numbers and causes of global maternal deaths cannot be confirmed. Most countries around the world do not report deaths at all, many do not report the sex of the deceased, and few report the cause of death.
The World Health Organization has admitted in a recent communiqué that close to two-thirds of deaths go unreported in the national statistics of most developing countries. Only 31 of the 193 states have reliable cause-of-death statistics. The UN Population Division's report "The World's Women 2005: Progress in Statistics" itself said "more than a third of the 204 countries or areas examined did not report deaths by cause, sex and age even once." It continued: “even where the deaths are derived from a civil registration with complete coverage, maternal deaths may be missed or not correctly identified, thus compromising the reliability of such statistics.”
The Women Deliver conference in London recently used the maternal deaths figure of 500,000 in its call for universal abortion on demand. One conference delegate critical of its actions said other changes were necessary:
“With all this evidence that the number of maternal deaths and deaths from abortion is impossible to know, it is egregious that WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF and others build policy prescriptions - especially the highly controversial promotion of abortion rights - on virtually no data. Instead, “attention should be placed upon building good health care systems that not only provide decent care but provide registries of births and deaths so that sound policy to address maternal mortality can be made," the delegate said.
Rimini, Italy, Nov 5, 2007 (CNA) - Don Oreste Benzi, the president and founder of the Community of Pope John XXIII, died of a heart attack last night at his home in Rimini, Italy. Father Benzi was known for his work in helping people overcome the chains of prostitution and drug addiction.
Upon learning of his passing, the Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, sent a telegram in the Pope's name to the bishop of Rimini.
In the telegram sent to the Bishop Francesco Lambiasi, Benedict XVI expressed his sorrow for the death of this "humble poor" 82- year-old priest.
The Pope recalled "his intense pastoral life as first a parish priest and then as an untiring apostle of charity in defense of the most vulnerable among us, immersing himself in the serious social problems that afflict today's world".
The Holy Father assured those mourning his death of his prayers for the eternal rest of "this priest who was faithful to his vocation and an ever-obedient servant of the Church," finishing with an invocation to divine mercy for "the consolation of Christian hope for his entire spiritual family and for the Diocese of Rimini," to which he belonged.