Des Moines, Iowa, Dec 3, 2007 (CNA) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will give a speech this week explaining his Mormon faith to voters, after much debate at his campaign headquarters about the wisdom of such a speech.
The decision to discuss his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints comes as the former Massachusetts governor faces the rising challenge of Mike Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist minister and former governor of Arkansas.
Romney’s speech, reportedly titled “Faith in America,” will be delivered Thursday at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, according to the Associated Press. It will outline his religious beliefs and how he thinks they will affect his administration.
"This speech is an opportunity for Governor Romney to share his views on religious liberty, the grand tradition religious tolerance has played in the progress of our nation and how the governor's own faith would inform his presidency if he were elected," said campaign spokesman Kevin Madden. “Governor Romney understands that faith is an important issue to many Americans, and he personally feels this moment is the right moment for him to share his views with the nation.”
Madden explained that the choice of venue does not reflect an endorsement from former president George H.W. Bush.
Some compare the upcoming speech to John F. Kennedy’s Houston address, which explained his faith to skeptical Protestants in the 1960 campaign. Kennedy later became the first Catholic president.
Some Romney aides have discouraged the candidate from talking about the specifics of his faith, fearing it would draw too much attention to his religion.
Polls indicate that a quarter of all Republicans, including 36 percent of white evangelical Protestants, say they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate.
Catholics and Evangelicals do not consider Mormonism Christian because of its disbelief in the divinity of Christ.
Vatican City, Dec 3, 2007 (CNA) - As the prelates from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea and the apostolic prefect of Mongolia completed their visit to Pope Benedict today, they received a message from him about the Church in Asia.
The Pope began his talk with the bishops by telling them that their visit to the See of Peter has strengthened the Church's “unity in diversity” and helped to ensure that “the tradition handed down by the Apostles" is preserved.
He then praised the growth of the Church in Asia: “[t]he Church in your countries has made remarkable progress since the arrival of missionaries in the region over four hundred years ago, and their return to Mongolia just fifteen years ago.”
The Holy Father attributed this growth to the “outstanding witness of the Korean Martyrs and others throughout Asia who remained steadfastly faithful to Christ and his Church.”
In their report to Pope Benedict about the Church in Korea, the bishops told him that they are increasingly confronting a secularist mentality. Benedict XVI told them that they must meet this challenge by remaining in Christ’s love and by being “effective shepherds of hope” to unite their flocks against secularism.
“With their eyes fixed on the Lord, the faithful must echo anew the Martyrs’ cry of faith: ‘we know and believe the love God has for us’ (1 Jn 4:16). Such faith is sustained and nurtured by an ongoing encounter with Jesus Christ who comes to men and women through the Church: ‘the sign and sacrament of communion with God and of unity among all people’”, said the Pope.
Benedict XVI also told the bishops that "programs designed to highlight the importance of Sunday Mass should be infused with a sound and stimulating catechesis on the Eucharist. This will foster a renewed understanding of the authentic dynamism of Christian life among your faithful."
He continued his address to the prelates: "I encourage you to ensure that religious are welcomed and supported in their efforts to contribute to the common task of spreading God's Kingdom." By sharing the "living treasures" of their spirituality with the laity, religious "will help to dispel the notion that communion means mere uniformity."
The Pope additionally considered "the importance of the promotion of marriage and family life” calling it a “vital apostolate” that requires attention as both institutions come under greater pressure.
The final Korean issue that the Holy Father addressed was the delicate situation in North Korea. "I am also aware of the practical gestures of reconciliation undertaken for the wellbeing of those in North Korea. I encourage these initiatives and invoke Almighty God's providential care upon all North Koreans," he said.
"Throughout the ages, Asia has given the Church and the world a host of heroes of the faith. ... May they stand as perennial witnesses to the truth and love which all Christians are called to proclaim."
London, England, Dec 3, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in England and Wales has launched an initiative to bring lapsed Catholics back to church.
The 'Come Home for Christmas" campaign is spearheaded by Deacon Stephen Boulter, a father of three and a former member of the Royal Air Force who currently serves a parish in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire.
Deacon Boulter appealed to those who had not visited church for a long time. He encouraged those feeling guilt not to let their self-doubt prevent them from returning to Christian practice.
""Catholic guilt" is, of course, notorious, but we must ask ourselves where it really comes from. Certainly not from Christ, who was known for his welcome to sinners, and for unforgettable stories like the Prodigal Son returning to a lavish welcome," he said.
"Whatever the reason you stopped practicing your Catholic faith in the past, you can be sure of a warm welcome should you decide to start again. Many people return to the Church after a period of time, as they sense a spiritual emptiness in their lives which only Christ can fill, and they often find that not only have they changed, but the Church has developed also," continued Deacon Boulter.
Bishop of Nottingham Malcom McMahon had these words for lapsed Catholics: "My dear friends, whatever your situation or circumstances; however much time has lapsed since your last visit to a church, there is a place for you. The door is open and you are very welcome. You might have questions to ask which is good. We are happy to try to answer them and listen to your story. The Church will not judge you. Come."
The Come Home for Christmas website can be found at http://www.comehomeforchristmas.co.uk/
Washington D.C., Dec 3, 2007 (CNA) - A survey of Catholics' opinions on condom use has been conducted by a Washington, D.C. advocacy group, the Columbus Dispatch reports. It shows that significant numbers of Catholics dissent from church teaching about condoms.
An organization calling itself Catholics for Choice conducted a poll asking self-described Catholics in the United States, Ireland, Mexico, the Philippines, and Ghana to agree or disagree with the statement "using condoms is pro-life because it can prevent the spread of AIDS."
79 percent of 1,009 United States Catholics surveyed agreed with the statement. The respondents in other countries who agreed with the statement numbered 90 percent in Mexico, 86 percent in Ireland, 77 percent in the Philippines and 59 percent in Ghana.
The nearly 4,500 respondents were also asked whether church teaching on condoms should change. Sixty-three percent of U.S. respondents said yes and 22 percent said no. Majorities agreed in Ireland and Mexico. In Ghana, 63 percent assented to the current teaching, and Filipinos were divided evenly.
In all countries, majorities said they had never heard a Catholic priest or bishop speak against the use of condoms.
"We continue to have our work cut out for us" in educating laity about church teaching, said Deacon Tom Berg Jr., vice chancellor for the Diocese of Columbus.
Mark Fleming, a 46-year-old Ohio Catholic who volunteers at a prison ministry, explained his understanding of Catholic teaching: "I firmly believe God is against birth control," he said. "You put God back into the equation, not condoms."
Vatican City, Dec 3, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict made his prayer intentions for the month of December public this past Saturday, praying especially for those who are affected by AIDS.
Benedict XVI's general prayer intention is: "That human society may be solicitous in the care of all those stricken with AIDS, especially children and women, and that the Church may make them feel the Lord's love."
His mission intention is: "That the incarnation of the Son of God, which the Church celebrates solemnly at Christmas, may help the peoples of the Asiatic Continent to recognize God's Envoy, the only Savior of the world, in Jesus."
Jerusalem, Israel, Dec 3, 2007 (CNA) - A team of archaeologists in Jerusalem claims to have discovered part of a wall described in the book of Nehemiah.
The discovery in Jerusalem's ancient City of David resulted from a rescue to save a tower in danger of collapsing.
The leader of the dig was Eilat Mazar, head of the Institute of Archaeology at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem-based research and educational institute. According to Mazar, artifacts including pottery shards and arrowheads found under the tower suggested the tower and the nearby wall were from the 5th century, B.C., the time of Nehemiah.
Scholars previously dated the wall to the 2nd century B.C.
"We were amazed," Mazar said. "This was a great surprise. It was something we didn't plan."
Some scholars doubt the dating of the find.
Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, called the discovery "an interesting find." However, he said that the artifacts do not confirm the wall's construction in the time of Nehemiah because they were not connected to the structural parts of the wall. This means the wall could have been built later.
"The wall could have been built, theoretically, in the Ottoman period," he said. "It's not later than the pottery - that's all we know," Finkelstein said.
Cleveland, Ohio, Dec 3, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland said Friday that two priests who faced credible accusations of sexual abuse of children were removed from the priesthood by the Vatican, the Associated Press reports.
Gary Berthiaume, who was suspended from active ministry in 2002, and J. Brendan McNulty, who was suspended in 2003, had asked to be removed from the clerical state, the diocese said.
Berthiaume transferred to Cleveland after serving six months in a Michigan jail on a sex abuse charge in the 1970s, said diocesan spokesman Bob Polomsky. More allegations surfaced when he worked in Cleveland.
The allegations against McNulty involved the sexual abuse of boys from a large churchgoing family in the 1970s.
Berthiaume no longer lives in Ohio, while McNulty still lives in the Cleveland area.
"We are deeply sorry of the pain suffered by survivors of abuse due to action of some members of the clergy, as nothing is more important than protecting children," the diocese said in its announcement.
The Diocese of Cleveland, located in the northeast of Ohio, has about 780,000 Catholics.
Kerala, India, Dec 3, 2007 (CNA) - In an eight-paged tabloid-sized newspaper distributed on Sunday, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has asked its members in the southwest state of Kerala to keep away from the state's ruling Communist Party of India.
The newspaper, titled 'Malabar Vision,' was published jointly by the dioceses of Thalassery, Thamarasseri, and Mananthavadi. Copies were distributed after Mass in all the churches of the dioceses.
The warnings were prompted by both the Communist Party's efforts to implement its education policy and a party leader's insult of a bishop.
At a meeting memorializing a legislator the state secretary of the Communist Party of India, Pinaryi Vijayan, referred to the Bishop of Thamarasseri, without naming him, as a "despicable creature."
The state secretary had been provoked by a comment from the bishop critical of Vijayan.
The editorial of the tabloid said, ''The reverberations created by the comment on the political landscape of Kerala are yet to die down. Though the issue was discussed repeatedly in the media, it could not bring out the whole truth.'' The editorial also said the Catholic Church had made a mistake by adopting a soft stance towards the 'atheistic' Communist Party of India.
The three Catholic dioceses that published the newspaper include 1.5 million Catholics. The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is one of many eastern churches in communion with Rome.
Bogotá, Colombia, Dec 3, 2007 (CNA) - The organization Operacion Kolbe in Colombia has reiterated its proposal to secure the release of kidnapped individuals being held by rebel groups in that country, with 120 volunteers offering to take the places of those in captivity.
According to the group’s spokesmen, “We have seen how different proposals for the release of the kidnapped have been made throughout 2007. Unfortunately, all the efforts for a humanitarian accord have been made into political instruments” and have not had “the hoped-for effect which is the unconditional release of the kidnapped.”
“Today they are showing us pictures that supposedly prove they are alive, and although that may be a relief and a hope for some families, we know they are nothing more than proof of a horrendous act of degradation of the human person for political purposes,” the organization said.
“Operacion Kolbe, a relief effort for the kidnapped in Colombia, continues to exist. Our proposal has not changed since it was published by various media outlets both in Colombia and Latin America in September of 2006. Its main objective continues to be freedom. 120 people stand ready for it,” the group said.
More information on Operacion Kolbe can be obtained by emailing: [email protected]
Madrid, Spain, Dec 3, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Jose Manuel Lorca of Teruel and Albarracin called on the faithful this week to recover the true meaning of Christmas in response to the widespread disappearance of Christian symbols and the pretension to turn this date into just another feast.
“Open your eyes and see for yourselves how the Christian signs of Christmas are disappearing from the traditional Christmas cards. They don’t even mention the word Christmas,” the bishop said in his letter.
Bishop Lorca stressed that “there are many seductions to hide the Birth of God” and the disappearance of the signs of Christmas and their replacement by “stranger alternatives, under the pretext of modernity” can easily be seen. “On many balconies people hang the figure of an old man with a white beard and a sword drawn, and you can’t tell if he is coming in or going out,” the bishop said.
Likewise, Bishop Lorca said, “What is most serious is that they are taking away the dimension of family, in order to make it just another ‘holiday.’ Is there any way to fix this? What can you do to unite the family more?” Therefore, he asked parents, “As Christmas draws near, if you have the tradition of decorating your home, at least put up an image of Our Lord.”
“I urge all Christians insistently to recover the true meaning of this liturgical season, first by desiring to receive Jesus and preparing well this Advent; second, by participating in the Sunday Eucharist, confessing their sins in the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance; third, by living these days of Advent with austerity. Parents, take advantage of this time to teach your children and share with the faith with them,” Bishop Lorca.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 3, 2007 (CNA) - The organization “Pro-Vida” has denounced “a growing offensive against human life” in Argentina, with controversial measures aimed at promoting euthanasia, homosexual unions and abortion.
The group questioned measures adopted in various parts of Argentina, including a law in the Rio Negro province allowing euthanasia, a norm in the city of Villa Carlos Paz permitting a kind of “marriage” between same-sex couples, and the legalization of abortion in La Pampa in order to “regulate” the practice.
In a statement, the organization indicated that such measures, “which belong to the culture of death, are immoral and illegal. Immoral, because the State cannot collaborate in the death of any human being, born or unborn, health or sick. In addition, the constitutional mandate of our leaders is not one of demographic control but rather the populating of the national territory.”
The organization noted that “human life is protected by the National Constitution from its beginnings in the maternal womb,” and it pointed out that the local measures are based upon a modification of a norm in the Penal Code, “which from all appearances is unconstitutional, as it is overruled by a superior norm. Such changes to the Penal Code, it said, fall exclusively to the National Assembly.
Pro-Vida said actions by lawmakers show they have taken up the anti-life agenda that seeks to force the countries of the region to “impose a new morality based on contraception, abortion and the promotion of homosexuality and euthanasia. This agenda is fundamental for their interests in assuring the depopulating of countries rich in raw materials and of directing economic surpluses towards external financial services and not towards internal social development.”
Lima, Peru, Dec 3, 2007 (CNA) - The campaign Christmas is Jesus, organized by the Christian Life Movement, began on December 1 with a large public collection to raise funds for more than 100,000 poor children in the region devastated by the August 15 earthquake in Peru.
According to organizers, the campaign “seeks to return the true meaning to this holiday: the celebration of the Birth of the Child Jesus, who became man for our reconciliation,” as well as “to promote a spirit of solidarity and generosity with our brothers and sisters who suffer the most, especially children.”
More than 1,500 volunteers, mostly young people, took to the streets of the Peruvian cities of Lima, Callao, Arequipa, Piura and Chincha, to request donations for the needy.
Christmas is Jesus is one of the “most important campaigns of solidarity of Latin America” and is carried out as well in “Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, Costa Rica and other countries,” organizers said.
More information on the campaign can be found at: www.navidadesjesus.org
Vatican City, Dec 3, 2007 (CNA) - In the Vatican Basilica at 5 p.m. on Saturday, the Pope presided at the celebration of the first Vespers of the first Sunday of Advent.
The Holy Father began his homily by recalling how "Advent is the time of hope par excellence" and how Christians, "as they prepare to celebrate the great feast of the birth of Christ the Savior, revitalize their expectation of His glorious return at the end of time."
"It was to the subject of hope," he said," that I dedicated my second Encyclical, which was published yesterday. And today I am happy to present it ideally to the entire Church on this first Sunday of Advent so that, while preparing for Christmas, the community and the individual faithful may read and meditate upon it, and so rediscover the beauty and profundity of Christian hope."
After underlining how "true and certain hope is founded on faith in God- Love, the merciful Father," Benedict XVI made it clear that Advent is a "favorable time for the rediscovery of hope, a hope that is not vague and illusory but sure and trustworthy because it is 'anchored' in Christ, God-made-man and the rock of our salvation."
In his Letter to them, St. Paul reminds the Ephesians "that before embracing faith in Christ they had no hope and were 'without God in the world'," said the Pope. "This expression seems more valid than ever," he added, "because of the paganism of our own day. In particular we may refer it to contemporary nihilism which corrodes hope in man's heart, causing him to think that emptiness reigns within him and around him: emptiness before birth, emptiness after death. The truth is that without God, hope fades."
"What is at stake," he said, "is the relationship between existence in the here and now, and what we call the 'beyond:' this is not a place in which we will 'end up' after death, but rather the reality of God, the fullness of life to which each human being is, so to say, reaching out. To this expectation of mankind God responded in Christ with the gift of hope.
"Man," the Pope added, "is the only creature who is free to say yes or no to eternity, in other words to God. Human beings can extinguish hope in themselves, eliminating God from their lives. ... God knows man's heart. He knows that those who refuse Him have not known His true face, and for this reason He never ceases to knock at our door like a humble pilgrim seeking welcome. This is why the Lord grants new time to humanity: so that everyone may come to know Him! And this too is the significance of a new liturgical year that begins: it is a gift of God Who wishes once more to reveal Himself in the mystery of Christ, through the Word and the Sacraments."
Benedict XVI highlighted how "God loves us and for this reason expects us to return to Him, to open our hearts to His love, to put our hand in His and remember that we are His children. This expectation of God's always precedes our own hope, just as His love always reaches us first."
"All human beings are called to hope, thus responding to God's expectation in them," the Pope concluded. "Hope is indelibly written in man's heart because God our Father is life, and we were made for eternal and blessed life."
CNA STAFF, Dec 3, 2007 (CNA) - The promoters of the controversial movie, The Golden Compass, are making an effort to diminish the boycott being threatened by Catholics and other Christian groups. The advertising agency for the movie has sent an email to the top 50 weekly Catholic newspapers asking that they consider running an ad promoting the movie.
Advertising Media Plus, the agency promoting The Golden Compass, is trying to use a review by Harry Forbes, the director of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference Office for Film & Broadcasting, as leverage against the boycott being called for by Catholics and Evangelicals.
National Account Manager for Advertising Media Plus, Bob Bugle sent an email to the top 50 Catholic newspapers saying that New Line Cinema is interested “in possibly advertising The Golden Compass in the Catholic press.”
His email goes on to mention that the movie has caused some controversy and then attempts to ease any concerns by citing a positive review from Harry Forbes, the Director of the USCCB’s Office of Film and Broadcasting.
In his review, Mr. Forbes writes that the film “taken purely on its own cinematic terms, can be viewed as an exciting adventure story with, at its core, a traditional struggle between good and evil, and a generalized rejection of authoritarianism”. The Golden Compass was given an A II classification-Adults & Adolescents.
Starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, "The Golden Compass" traces a 12-year-old girl named Lyra from Oxford, England to the Arctic and then to the edge of another universe, where she becomes locked in a battle between good and evil. The characters are shadowed by their own "daemons," talking animal companions that take on soul-like qualities.
This past October, the Catholic League launched a boycott of the film, calling it "selling atheism to kids" in stealth fashion. The Catholic League’s boycott, although it objects to some parts of the film, is more focused on the atheistic agenda that author Philip Pullman’s trilogy of books promotes. The Golden Compass comes from Pullman’s first book in his trilogy.
Among the objectionable content mentioned by protestors is the use of the term the “Magisterium”, (the central “Magisterium” is located in Geneva) which attempts to control thought and happily crushes heresy, sometimes murderous intent.
Also of note is the character “Father Gomez,” who is given absolution in advance before being sent out by the Magisterium to kill Dr. Mary Malone, an ex-nun, now physicist, who’s posed to play the part of Lyra’s tempting serpent.
In the books following Pullman’s first work, The Golden Compass, his rhetoric against religion and Christianity increases to the point that English Professor Alan Jacobs of Wheaton College says, “A writer who tells adolescents that good folks are distinguished from evil ones on the single criterion of religious belief is not doing them any favors.”
Interestingly, according to Mr. Forbes, “the religious themes of the later books may be more prominent in the follow-up films which Weitz (the producer of The Golden Compass) has vowed will be less watered down.”