Archive of December 4, 2007

Pope Benedict decries “logic of relativism” at international organizations

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) - On Monday morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received members of Catholic-inspired Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), who are gathered to reflect on what they can offer, as a solution to the “many problems and challenges associated with the various activities of the United Nations and other international and regional organizations." In response to this quagmire, the Pope pinpointed the problem of their debates being governed by a relativistic logic.  

The Holy Father began by noting that, despite their different backgrounds, the delegates share "a passion for promoting human dignity. This same passion has constantly inspired the activity of the Holy See in the international community," he said.

In this context, the Pope examined the question of international cooperation between governments, noting "with satisfaction ... achievements such as the universal recognition of the juridical and political primacy of human rights, ... the efforts being made to develop a just global economy and, more recently, the protection of the environment and the promotion of inter- cultural dialogue."

However, the Pope lamented that “international discussions often seem marked by a relativistic logic which would consider as the sole guarantee of peaceful coexistence between peoples a refusal to admit the truth about man and his dignity, to say nothing of the possibility of ethics based on recognition of the natural moral law.”

The effect of this logic is that “a notion of law and politics which ultimately makes consensus between states, ... the only real basis of international norms," becomes the modus operandi of these organizations.

Among "the bitter fruits of this relativistic logic," the Pope mentioned "the attempt to consider as human rights the consequences of certain self-centered lifestyles; a lack of concern for the economic and social needs of the poorer nations; contempt for humanitarian law, and a selective defense of human rights."

The Holy Father expressed the hope that the Church's social doctrine may become "better known and accepted on the international level" and encouraged his listeners "to counter relativism creatively by presenting the great truths about man's innate dignity and the rights which are derived from that dignity." This, he said, "will help to advance specific initiatives marked by a spirit of solidarity and freedom.

"What is needed," Pope Benedict added, "is a spirit of solidarity conducive for promoting as a body those ethical principles which, by their very nature and their role as the basis of social life, remain non-negotiable. A spirit of solidarity imbued with a strong sense of fraternal love leads to a better appreciation of the initiatives of others and a deeper desire to cooperate with them."

"An authentic spirit of freedom, lived in solidarity, will help the initiative of the members of non-governmental organization to create a broad gamut of new approaches and solutions with regard to those temporal affairs which God has left to the free and responsible judgment of every individual. When experienced in solidarity, legitimate pluralism and diversity will lead not to division and competition, but to ever greater effectiveness."

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Comprehensive sex abuse settlement reached in Davenport

Des Moines, Iowa, Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) - The Diocese of Davenport, one of five U.S. dioceses to file for bankruptcy under the weight of sexual abuse cases, reached a $37 million agreement with the victims and their attorneys at 1 a.m. on Thursday, November 29. 

Under the settlement, persons abused, or their relatives can request a letter of apology from the bishop of Davenport, Martin J. Amos.

According to the Associated Press, the negotiation of the agreement took place over four days in Chicago and will address the claims of 156 victims of abuse who have come forward. The pact also makes provision for any additional abuse claims by setting aside a portion of the money.

Reaching the settlement makes the Iowa diocese the last of the five dioceses around the country to complete this necessary component of filing for bankruptcy.

In a statement, Bishop Amos, said that the agreement offers "the best opportunity for healing" for victims of clergy abuse.

He also addressed the victims of abuse saying, “I apologize for the pain caused by the actions of some priests in the past 50 years.  The priests who abused children betrayed the people who trusted them and they betrayed the Church.  This has been a sad and difficult time for all of us as we attempt to offer healing to all victims of abuse.  We are committed to ensuring that the Diocesan safe environment program will prevent this type of abuse from happening again.”

While the deal has yet to be approved by Judge Lee M. Jackwig, Bishop Amos said he hoped that it would allay uncertainty of the church's financial status and allow the diocese to continue its mission.

Lawyers for victims in the case said they were satisfied with the amount of the settlement. Patrick Noaker said the agreement may offer closure, of sorts, though he cautioned that many larger issues still must be addressed, mainly that the settlement doesn't ensure that future perpetrators won't have access to children. Mr. Noaker did not comment on the diocesan safe environment program mentioned by Bishop Amos.

Pending judicial approval, diocesan officials expect payments to begin by July 2008. To fund the settlement, the diocese is selling its headquarters and has already sold all other property owned by the diocese, including the bishop’s residence and a farm in Davenport. The balance of the money will come from diocesan investments and insurance companies.

Other measures to help sex abuse victims being offered by the diocese are: mental health counseling to any known or future abuse survivors, publication of the names of known abusers, and a personal letter of apology to any victim who wants one from Bishop Amos.

The Davenport diocese serves nearly 105,000 parishioners in 22 counties in southeastern Iowa.

The AP also reports that on Monday, “the Los Angeles Archdiocese wired $500 million to plaintiffs as part of the $660 million it has agreed to settle cases with more than 500 alleged victims of clergy abuse, and a former Catholic priest, Michael Baker, pleaded guilty in Los Angeles to sexually abusing two boys.” Baker was removed from ministry in 2000.

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Holy See represented at climate change conference

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) - The Indonesian island of Bali is playing host to the 13th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change beginning today and continuing until December 14.

A communique made public yesterday afternoon affirms that the Holy See will be present at the Bali meeting with a delegation led by Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, apostolic nuncio to Indonesia. Also included in the delegation are Msgr. Andrew Thanya- anan Vissanu, nunciature counsellor in Jakarta, and three local experts from the Philippines and Indonesia: Fr. Benito B. Tuazon, Fr. Alexius Andang Listya Binawan S.J., and Vera Wenny Setijawati.

"Given that the sessions of the Convention on Climate Change are held once a year in various countries," the statement reads, "the Holy See is usually represented at such meetings with a delegation led by the apostolic nuncio and made up of experts from the area, so as to take advantage of local resources and to achieve a broader and more differentiated vision of the questions being examined."


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New Chinese bishop loyal to Rome appointed by state church

Beijing, China, Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) - The Beijing-recognized Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association plans to appoint a new bishop today as previously reported by CNA. The bishop-elect has publicly declared his loyalty to the Pope.

Reverend Joseph Gan Junqiu will be installed at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in the southern city of Guangzhou, the city formerly known as Canton.

Since 1951, Catholics in China have been split between the state-sponsored Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and an underground church loyal to Rome.  The state-sponsored church often refuses to consult with the Holy See in its appointment of bishops, a cause of friction between the Holy See and Beijing.

Lu Guocun, a vice-chairman of the state church, said he did not know whether the Vatican supported Father Gan’s ordination.
"Our Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association really doesn't concern itself with such things," said Lu.

In Rome, a Vatican official who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue said the 43-year-old Father Gan has the Holy See’s approval because the priest has openly declared his fidelity to Rome.

AsiaNews also reports that Gan has publicly declared his loyalty to the Pope and that his appointment has Vatican approval.

Father Gan is a native of the southern province of Guangdong and studied in Belgium, France, and Hong Kong.

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Boyfriend charged with homicide for secret abortion pill dosings

Madison, Wis., Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) - A Wisconsin man who caused two miscarriages by slipping abortion pills to his girlfriend has been charged with first-degree homicide.

According to the Associated Press, Manishkumar Patel, 34, is charged with first-degree murder of an unborn child and second-degree recklessly endangering safety.  He also faces counts involving food tampering, burglary, illegal prescription possession, and other charges.

The woman suspected he was secretly dosing her with the abortion pill RU-486, and sent a blood sample to a California lab for analysis.  She approached police after receiving a positive result.  Sheriff’s investigators said Patel confessed to putting the drug in the woman’s food without her knowledge.

Concerned Women for America President Wendy Wright called for authorities to investigate how Patel acquired the drug and criminally charge his supplier.

"This is even worse than we had imagined. We have warned that if the FDA approved over-the-counter access to the morning-after pill, it would be obtained by men and slipped to women without their knowledge. RU-486 is more dangerous than the morning-after pill. The FDA knows this and required it only be taken in medical clinics by women under 49 days pregnant -- which would require a medical exam to determine. It appears that abortionists are handing out the drug to people other than patients, including men," said Wright.

Concerned Women for America in a 2002 legal challenge presented evidence that the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of RU-486 was illegal and put women at risk.  The organization charged that abortion clinics routinely violate the conditions for administering the drug.

CWA has asked the FDA to rescind its approval of the abortion drug.

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Vatican spokesman denies Benedict XVI criticized UN

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) - The Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, denied media reports that suggested Pope Benedict XVI was criticizing the United Nations during a meeting with representatives of Catholic-inspired NGOs last Saturday.

“It is important to attentively respect both the spirit and the letter of what is said, especially when it’s the Pope, as forced journalistic interpretations with attention-grabbing headlines can cause serious misunderstandings and create unjustified tensions,” Father Lombardi said.

“What the Holy Father actually said was that ‘international discussions are frequently characterized by a relativistic logic,’ but, contrary to what has been reported, he did not attack the UN nor did he say it is ‘dominated’ by moral relativism,” the Vatican spokesman explained, referring to some headlines that read, “The Pope is against the UN because of moral relativism.”
According to Lombardi, “Benedict XVI, just like his predecessors, is perfectly aware of the importance of the United Nations for peace and for the defense of human rights, to the point that he has accepted the invitation to visit the UN in New York next year.”

Asked about the statements by UN spokesman Farhan Haq, who said there is no controversy between the Pope and the world body, Father Lombardi said, “There is no need to see attacks where there are none.  It is an obvious duty of the Church to carry out the most serious actions in defense of human dignity, even at international organizations with the force of her moral authority.”

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Archbishop warns against influence of diabolic practices

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) - Referring to the unsolved murder of a boy by a satanic cult in 2006, Archbishop emeritus Domingo Salvador Castagna of Corrientes reminded city officials this week that it is important that “beyond religious beliefs and ideas” “the truth about what happened and who is responsible” is discovered.

In his most recent radio address, the archbishop said the people of Corrientes are profoundly religious but that if the connection with authentic faith is lost, true religious expression could be “supplanted by esoteric and even diabolic practices.”

Archbishop Castagna said he has reviewed “frightening information about a satanic cult” that operates in the region and is the main suspect in the terrible murder of the little boy known as Ramoncito.  “This mystery must be unveiled through the application of justice,” he said, in order to “bring peace to the hearts of people anguished over this unsolved crime.”  The archbishop encouraged those involved in the investigation and said they should receive the full support of society. 

He also denounced the spread of cultural practices that are anti-Christian, such as devotion to “St. Death,” and he said it is the duty of preachers and catechists to connect “popular faith to his original sources of sustenance.”

The case of Ramoncito refers to the murder of Ramon Ignacio Gonzalez on October 8, 2006.  The twelve year-old boy was raped, tortured and decapitated in the city of Mercedes.

A fourteen year-old girl, who was forced to witness the killing, told investigators that the crime was part of a satanic ritual “in order to obtain purification by offering the young body to their gods.”  Investigators said the cult is also involved in the trafficking of children and drugs.

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Holy See and Albania sign financial agreement

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) - Yesterday, Albania and the Holy See signed an agreement regarding economic and fiscal matters.

The agreement was signed at the Office of the Minister of Finance in the Albanian capital, Tirana, by the Papal Nuncio in the city, Msgr. Giovanni Bulaitis; and the Financial Minister of Albania, Ridvan Bode.

According to a release from the Holy See, the pact “comes in the wake of the accord between the two countries concluded in 2002, and creates a juridical framework for the fiscal treatment of ecclesiastical institutions recognized as non-profit juridical entities.”  Particularly, “it regulates the fiscal status of Catholic Church organizations in Albania, the economic administration of such structures, and the contributory- insurance scheme for the non-Albanian religious and lay personnel who serve in them."

The agreement, the press release continues, “will come into effect following the exchange of the instruments of ratification.”

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Court overturns legal challenge to prison ministry

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) - A ruling against a long-standing prison ministry that was in danger of being barred from Iowa prisons was overturned in a federal court on Monday.

A lower court had ordered Prison Fellowship Ministries’ InnerChange Freedom Initiative to repay $1.5 million to the state because of alleged constitutional violations in its prisoner rehabilitation program.  The Federal Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit overturned the lower court’s ruling.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, an inter-faith public interest law firm, represented InnerChange and Prison Fellowship in its appeal.

Becket Fund National Litigation Director Eric Rassbach called the decision "a huge victory for faith-based programs." 

"A $1.5 million judgment against them would have crippled the most successful criminal rehabilitation program in the state. The Eight Circuit decided faith-based organizations can't be blindly excluded just because they are faith-based. States have to consider what the programs are actually doing,” Rassbach said.

Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley expressed gratitude to the court for the decision.  "What was at stake here, at its heart, is public safety. The keys to reducing recidivism and protecting the public from repeat offenses are the very kinds of effective rehabilitation and re-entry services provided by the InnerChange Freedom Initiative," he said.

InnerChange provides all its prisoner rehabilitation services free of charge.  Today’s ruling permits InnerChange to continue its programs using private funds.

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New “Christian” film denigrates Catholicism

, Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) - A Protestant film company is releasing a movie that trivializes the Sacraments, dishonors the Virgin Mary, and depicts Catholic priests and nuns in a belittling fashion, says the Catholic League.

Gener8Xion, the studio that also created the movie One Night with the King, will release the film Noëlle on December 7.  Claiming to be “a parable of forgiveness and grace,” the movie features two laughable priests who are in love with the same woman. 

The film company’s synopsis describes the character Jonathan Keene as “a young Catholic priest seemingly devoid of genuine human emotion” whose job is “to do what he does best: shut down a failing parish.”  The other clerical character is described as “the child-like Fr. Simeon Joyce, a faithful but disillusioned priest who blatantly disregards church regulations, uses church monies to pay an old fisherman’s medical bills and spends most of his time drinking at the local pub.”

“Both priests are portrayed as losers,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

Describing the plot, Donohue said the young priest, Father Joyce, only became a priest because he felt guilty for fathering a child by a woman and pressuring her to have an abortion.  Father Joyce tells Father Keene he wants to marry a woman named Marjorie so he can help raise her child, who was born out of wedlock.  “But Fr. Keene, a first-class klutz, is also in love with the same woman: he is shown bolting in the middle of Midnight Mass to be with her, knocking over a filled chalice and ripping off his vestments,” Donohue said.

Donohue summarized the Catholic League’s objections:  “Throughout the film, confession is trivialized, celibacy is ridiculed, the Virgin Mary is disrespected, nuns are belittled, last rites are mocked, and priestly vocations are caricatured. In short, that which is uniquely Catholic is trashed.”

But he also minimized the importance of Noëlle:  “the plot and the acting are so deliriously absurd that it is impossible for us to get too worked up about this flick.”

Donohue suggested the filmmakers’ interest in dealing with hypocrisy should be directed towards stereotypes of misbehaving Protestant ministers, such as those who preach the so-called “Prosperity Gospel.”

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Venezuelans are democratic and want to live in peace, says archbishop

Caracas, Venezuela, Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) - Commenting on the defeat Sunday of a referendum on constitutional reform, Archbishop Roberto Luckert of Coro and vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela said, “Venezuela proved it is democratic, and once again we showed both nationally and internationally that we want to live in peace and that problems are resolved through voting and not through confrontation and belligerence, as President Hugo Chavez has gotten us accustomed to.”

Speaking on Union Radio, the archbishop said the opposition must now work to get more people out to vote and to make people realize that “the only way we can solve problems is by voting and not by violence.”  He said he did not expect Chavez to stop his attempts to seek more power and that Venezuelans should be continue to be on guard.

After President Chavez acknowledged defeat of the referendum, Archbishop Ovidio Perez Morales, president of the Plenary Council of Venezuela, said he hoped the results would lead to a new era in the country characterized by peace, hope and reconciliation among all Venezuelans.  The archbishop said a “new chapter in the history of the nation” has been opened and that the country “cannot be the same.”

The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, Archbishop Ubaldo Santana, also commented on the vote saying that in the wake of the rejection of constitutional reform, “A new opportunity in Venezuela has been opened to allow all those who make up the different sectors of society to work together and discover paths toward mutual collaboration.”

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Cardinal Rivera praises faithful for not responding to protests with violence

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, praised the faithful this week for not responding with violence to protests against him by sympathizers of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) last November 18.

“I learned of how you were acting and that at no time did you respond to the violence with violence.  This filled me with glory, it filled me with joy.  The Holy Father also rejoiced at this news,” the cardinal said during Sunday Mass, after returning from the Vatican.

“We cannot continue to feed the spiral of intra-familiar violence nor can we support the models of violence that are spread by the media,” the cardinal said.  He also rejected any kind of policy that would increase poverty, “which is the cause and origin of so much violence.”

Cardinal Rivera also conveyed the greetings of Pope Benedict XVI to the Mexican people. “The Pope sends an affectionate greeting to all of Mexico, but especially to this archdiocese because he knows that we are already preparing for the World Meeting of Families in Mexico in January of 2009,” he said.

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Terrorists will answer to God for their crimes, Spanish cardinal says

Valencia, Fla., Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) -  

The archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco, warned this week that terrorists have a “terrible responsibility: they will answer to God for their crimes.”

According to the AVAN news agency, during a Mass of thanksgiving for his recent elevation to the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Garcia-Gasco said, “The threat of terrorism continues to be a danger for life together and for society,” and therefore “we must always condemn, without ambiguities or compromises, the senselessness of their plans of death.”

The cardinal also mentioned other “attacks against peace” such as “the silent deaths provoked by hunger, abortion, experimentation with embryos and euthanasia.”  “Abortion and experimentation with embryos are a direct denial of an attitude of welcoming others, which is indispensable for establishing relationships of lasting peace,” he said.

On the other hand, the cardinal called it a “worrisome symptom” in Spain that Christians often encounter “difficulties in professing publicly and freely their own religious convictions,” and he expressed regret that public officials “sometimes foster not so much a violent persecution but rather a systematic cultural derision of the religious beliefs of Catholics.”

“There cannot be authentic education of the young generations by expelling God from schools and from the world,” because “instead of illuminating a healthy world, a desolate destruction is initiated,” Cardinal Garcia-Gasco said.  “Amidst the difficulties of the present moment, the Lord today invites us to trust and to fidelity.”

The new cardinal exhorted the faithful in his archdiocese to embrace “this new responsibility that should awaken in the hearts of Christians in Valencia the hope of renewing society and the world with the help of God.”

After the Mass, Cardinal Garcia-Gasco encouraged the faithful to “continue helping the Holy Father in everything that he needs and asks for”.

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Catholic Navy chaplain shares story of Iraqi conversion

Baghdad, Iraq, Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) - Recently, CNA had the opportunity to send a writer to the Anbar Province of Iraq to cover the experiences of a Catholic chaplain working in the trenches. What follows is his recounting of the amazing encounter he had with this apostle in the desert.

Father Bautista: Apostle in the Desert
Joe Burns, War Stringer

A few weeks ago, I returned to the U.S. after spending a week with Army troops in Iraq.  More specifically, I spent six and a half days with my son’s outfit, the 63rd Ordnance Company stationed at Al Taqaddum.  Al Taqaddum is a former Iraqi airbase, nicknamed TQ, and lies about 50 miles west of Baghdad in the Anbar Province near Ramadi.  My son Mike and I spent the first three days in Baghdad while I was processed for my press pass and then waited for a helicopter to become available to take us to TQ. 

Al Taqaddum is covered in dust. In some areas where vehicles had repeatedly driven, the earth was ground down to a fine powder several inches deep (I was tempted to look for Neil Armstrong’s footprints!).  The dust in this part of Iraq is so prevalent that it hangs in the air at all times of the day and night, clinging to clothing, nostrils and eyes. 

On the second day at Al Taqaddum, I was privileged to attend Mass said by Fr. Jose A. Bautista-Rojas, a Navy chaplain who ministers to the Marines and soldiers at TQ and in the Ramadi area.  It was a hot, dry, windy and desolate day.  

In the 30 minutes prior to Mass, Fr. Bautista discussed recent events of the day with the three of us: my son Mike, his commander Captain Tom Heilman, and myself. 

The setting for our conversation was a makeshift wooden chapel, sparsely furnished with the plastic chairs we sat on and a small white table for an altar. Being inside this simple chapel was like finding an oasis in the desert.  What made this oasis most refreshing was the time we spent with Fr. Bautista, a man of irrepressible good humor, joy and generosity.

The events of that morning for Fr. Bautista included a Mass he had just conducted in Ramadi at a Marine detachment.  What made the Mass unique, was that his “congregation” consisted of one lonely Catholic Marine.  When Father Bautista arrived in Ramadi along with his personal bodyguard, a strong young, well-armed Marine, he visited a detachment of eight men, only one of whom was Catholic.  Undeterred, he told the Marine he would be happy to say Mass for him.

The young Marine confided to him, “You know Father, back in the States, I didn’t go to Mass that often, but out here I find myself longing to go to Mass again.  But I’ve been here for seven months and you’re the first Catholic chaplain I’ve seen.”   Fr. Bautista spent some time listening to his story and asking questions about his family.   Then he said Mass for this single Marine, in the presence of countless angels and saints who rejoiced with them.

As Fr. Bautista continued speaking with us, he described the fascinating story of a young Muslim woman who was entering the Church under his guidance through the RCIA process.  Her story was moving.  While working with Americans, this woman, who must remain anonymous, was touched deeply when she realized that the U.S. medical personnel not only treated wounded Americans and Iraqi civilians, but also treated wounded enemy combatants, including one who was known for having killed U.S. Marines.  As she put it, “This cannot happen with us.”  

This dramatic extension of mercy even to enemy soldiers caused her to take the next cautious step.  She asked Father Bautista to “tell me more about Jesus.”  As Father described Jesus and his life in the Gospels, one thing stood out among the rest for the Muslim woman he called “Fatima” (not her real name) and that was how kindly Jesus had related to, as she put it, “the two Mary’s.”  Fatima was moved to see how Jesus deeply loved Mary, his mother, who was sinless, but also how Jesus deeply loved Mary Magdalene, who was “a great sinner.”  As these discussions continued, Fatima reached a point where she said to Father Bautista, “I want to become a Christian.”

Since Father Bautista sees himself as a chaplain for all troops, not just Catholics, he decided to introduce Fatima to other chaplains from Protestant and Orthodox backgrounds.  After some time had passed, Fatima returned to Father Bautista and said, “I want to become a Catholic like you.”  When Father asked her the reason for her decision, she said, “You were the only one who told me about the other Christians, so you left me free to decide for myself.  That’s how I knew this was the right decision.”

As their catechetical lessons developed over time, Fatima’s family discovered her plan and was warned sternly by her father that if she continued on this path, she would be disowned by the entire family and would never have contact with them again.  At this point, Father Bautista became concerned for Fatima’s well-being and cautioned her to look carefully at the consequences of her decision and to think seriously before continuing her path into the Church.

Fatima paused for a moment and then looking intently at Father Bautista asked, “Do you give up so easily on Jesus?”  The question took Father aback for a moment, but then he thought, “This is incredible; this Muslim woman is already bearing witness to me about how important my own faith is!” 

As he related it, this woman’s question had caused him to give greater thanks for his faith and for the great privilege of sharing Christ with others.  Fatima is currently continuing the RCIA process with great courage and joy. 

In a wonderful irony, the first words she will hear spoken during the Liturgy of the Word in the Rite of Acceptance will be those spoken to her great ancestor, Abraham: “Leave your country (and your kindred and your father’s house), and come into the land I will show you” (Gen 12:1). 

After sharing this moving testimony, Father Bautista excused himself to prepare to celebrate Mass for us.  Moments later, as he led us in the prayers of Mass, I was struck by how blessed I was to be present in this moment, in the ancient dusty land of Abraham, who so willingly offered his only son to God.  Now, together with Abraham and his son, Isaac, with all the angels and saints, with our own brave son and his commander, we returned to this same land and heard these magnificent words:

“Look with favor on these offerings and accept them as you once accepted the gifts of your servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, the bread and wine offered by your servant Melchisedech …”

Here, in the same treeless, windy, dusty desert from which God had called Abraham, Christ had returned.  Now, through the hands of his servant priest, Father Bautista, a perfect offering was made to fulfill the offering attempted by Abraham.  And through this same priest, the Good News that was foretold to Abraham now returned to his homeland to bear witness to a courageous Muslim woman; a woman who was willing to sacrifice everything to know this Jesus who forgives even his enemies and who loves even the sinful Mary.

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New director for Vatican Museums

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) - Today Pope Benedict XVI appointed a new director of the Vatican Museums who is recognized as an expert in the history of art.

Professor Antonio Paolucci, who was the Minister of Cultural Property in the Italian government of Lamberto Dini between 1995 and 1996, is Pope Benedict’s choice to head the prestigious museums.

Prof. Paolucci has an extensive track record in helping preserve the cultural property of Italy. He is well known for his role in restoring the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi after the earthquake that hit in 1997.

He is currently president of the scientific committee for art exhibitions at the "Scuderie del Quirinale" in Rome, vice-president of the Higher Council for Cultural Patrimony and consultant to the mayor for the civic museums of Florence.

Paolucci is taking the place of Francesco Buranelli who was re-assigned today as the director of the Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church and inspector of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology.

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Holy See calls on European security council to safeguard against religious discrimination

, Dec 4, 2007 (CNA) -  

Last week Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States, addressed the 15th Ministerial Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Madrid, Spain.  In his speech he called on the organization to promote human dignity and defend the values of all people. 

“What I would like to stress the most is that, in the opinion of the Holy See, the vocation of the OSCE is to create an area of freedom and the rule of law." “In order to achieve this end,” he continued, “the Organization must ceaselessly promote the dignity of the human person and defend the intrinsic rights and values of all men and women…. I also believe, that it is essential that we continue to oppose human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children," he added.

Religious Intolerance

To support human dignity, the archbishop explained to the foreign ministers, the OSCE “must also effectively combat intolerance and discrimination against Christians, Jews, Muslims and members of other religions.”  He stated that this can only be “effectively be addressed if all religions are equally respected and protected."

Mamberti praised the European Parliament for recently condemning “various episodes which endanger the very existence of Christian and other religious communities.”

“The OSCE,” the archbishop said, “can be rightly proud that it was one of the first organizations to raise the alarm concerning discrimination against Christians, but it must remain alert. Christians continue to suffer from prejudice, stereotypes, discrimination and violence. Disengagement from these problems cannot be an option!”

Consensus Must Equal Action
He continued, "[w]e must not hide behind the principle of 'consensus' in order to avoid effective action and neither should we be satisfied with blanket condemnations. Rather this consensus should be a catalyst for action to protect fundamental freedoms, and, above all, the religious freedom of every believer and of each religious community."

The archbishop also noted the importance of protecting resources in "the fight against terrorism.”  “It is imperative to protect critical energy infrastructure from attack. It will also be important, on the issue of environmental protection, for the organization to support the various initiatives concerning water management, thus contributing to cooperation, stability and the equitable and sustainable development of each country."


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