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Archive of December 5, 2007

Don’t let Christmas outshine this ‘wonderful’ season

Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec 5, 2007 (CNA) - Sometimes people get so wrapped up in preparation for Christmas each December that they forget about the four weeks of Advent.

Jayne Mondoy, the director of the Diocese of Honolulu’s Office of Religious Education, says that Advent “gives us time to reflect on how we participate in the ‘yes,’ to bring Christ to the world now, today.”

She said that there are three messages of joy to be found in the Advent season. God’s promise of salvation 1) has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s birth; 2) will be fully realized in the second coming of Christ, or parousia; and 3) is now, with God’s ultimate gift of Jesus Christ in our lives.

“So while we celebrate this understanding throughout the year, Advent is a wonderful time to really focus on how we live this Paschal Mystery each moment of our lives,” Mondoy said.

 Putting those theological messages into action during Advent begins with making an extra effort to read the daily Scriptures, say the Advent wreath prayers, and light the Advent candle with family each day.

Mondoy said that when her daughter Catherine was growing up, they would keep the readings on the dining table next to their Advent wreath and say them at each meal. “We could just be having soup and rice or a musubi or something,” she said. “[But] when you begin with prayer, that simple meal becomes a feast.”

 Another suggestion she offers for putting your family in the Advent spirit is to simply talk to your kids when riding in the car about what comes to their minds about the Scriptures and how they can incorporate them into their day.

 “In that way, we teach our kids how to view the world. As parents we point out all kinds of stuff to our kids, stuff that we value,” Mondoy said. “So this is a very natural and loving way to bring the Scripture to life in the domestic church, which is the home. Help shape your child’s worldview through Scripture.”

If you don’t have children, you can still use the daily commute to work as an opportunity to reflect on the readings.

Living the Advent message, Mondoy adds, should also include being thankful for our blessings, and giving extra attention to those who have difficulty meeting their basic needs of food, shelter and clothing.

“Generosity and self-sacrifice during this time is another way to bring Christ to the world and to give thanks to God for what he’s given us,” she said.

Printed with permission from The Hawaii Catholic Herald. 

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Advent—A time to spend with God who knows, loves and will not abandon us, says the Pope

Vatican City, Dec 5, 2007 (CNA) - Continuing his teachings on the fathers of the early Church, Pope Benedict spoke about St. Chromatius today. The Holy Father explained that St. Chromatius should serve as an example to Christians of how to remain rooted in the Word of God and heroic in love for one another.

“St. Chromatius,” said Benedict, "knew how to address his people using a fresh, vivacious and incisive language." As a "good pastor, in troubled times such as his own marked by the barbarian incursions, he stood alongside the faithful to comfort them and open their souls to faith in God, Who never abandons His children."

St. Chromatius was the bishop of Aquileia in northern Italy, "a dynamic center of Christian life located in the 'Decima regione' of the Roman empire," Benedict XVI noted.

"Between the middle of the third century and the early years of the fourth," said the Pope, "the persecutions of Decius, Valerian and Diocletian had produced a large number of martyrs." At the same time, the Church of Aquileia was facing "the threat of the Arian heresy,” which denies the divinity of Christ.

In 381 Chromatius, then a priest and the expert assistant of Bishop Valerian of Aquileia, participated in a synod "to eliminate the last residues of Arianism in the West."

The Holy Father recalled how Chromatius was born in Aquileia in the year 345, "he was ordained a deacon then a priest and finally elected as pastor of that church in 388. Having received episcopal consecration from St. Ambrose, he dedicated himself courageously and energetically to a task of immense proportions because of the vastness of the lands entrusted to his care: the ecclesial jurisdiction of Aquileia stretched to what is currently the territory of Switzerland, Bavaria, Austria and Slovenia, even reaching as far as Hungary." The saintly bishop died an exile in Grado in 407, the same year as St. John Chrysostom.

The Holy Father indicated that of St. Chromatius' works, more than 40 sermons and over 60 commentaries on the Gospel of St. Mark survive. "He was wise master and a zealous pastor," said the Pope. "In his teaching he always began from the Word of God and to that he always returned.”

“Among subjects particularly dear to him,” Benedict XVI recounted, “were, primarily the Trinitarian mystery, which he considered in its revelation throughout the history of salvation, the theme of the Holy Spirit, ... and the mystery of Christ. The incarnate Word is true God and true man: He fully assumed the human condition so as to give it His own divinity."

His "insistence on the human nature of Christ led Chromatius to speak of the Virgin Mary," said the Pope, pointing out how the saint described Mary as "the evangelical virgin capable of accepting God," and compared her with the Church, both being "virgins and mothers." The Holy Father then explained that "Chromatius' ecclesiology is developed above all in his commentary on Matthew," where he writes that "the Church is unique, she is born from the blood of Christ."

At the end of his talk, the Pope spontaneously commented that, "St. Chromatius reminds us that Advent is a time of prayer, in which we must enter into contact with God. God knows us, He knows me, He knows each of us. He loves me, He does not abandon me. Thus trustingly, let us proceed into the liturgical time that has just begun."

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Plenary Indulgence granted for 150th anniversary of Lourdes

Vatican City, Dec 5, 2007 (CNA) - This year marks the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France. On the occasion of the celebrations, Pope Benedict XVI has extended the opportunity for the faithful to receive a plenary or full indulgence.

According to a decree made public today and signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, O.F.M. Conv., respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Benedict XVI will grant the faithful Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes.

"The forthcoming 150th anniversary of the day in which Mary Most Holy, revealing herself as the Immaculate Conception to Bernadette Soubirous, wished a shrine to be erected and venerated in the place known as 'Massabielle' in the town of Lourdes," the decree reads, "calls to mind the innumerable series of prodigies through which the supernatural life of souls and the health of bodies has drawn great advantage from the omnipotent goodness of God."

The faithful who venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary in the place 'upon which her feet trod,' draw nourishment from the Holy Sacraments, express the firm intention to lead  future Christian lives of increasing faithfulness" are able to "achieve a vivid perception of the significance of the Church,” the prelates note.

The connection between Mary and the church is also evident in the events of Lourdes. In the year 1854 the Church declared that Mary was conceived without sin, which is known as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Only four years later, when the apparitions of Mary to St. Bernadette took place “Mary Most Holy showed herself to ... Bernadette Soubirous using the words of the dogmatic definition: 'I am the Immaculate Conception,’” the decree explains.

"In order to draw increased fruits of renewed sanctity from this holy anniversary," the decree explaisn, "the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI has decided to concede the gift of Plenary Indulgence" to the faithful under the usual conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Holy Father), in the following ways:

The first way to obtain the indulgence is to visit the following places in Lourdes between December 8, 2007 and December 8, 2008, preferably in the order suggested: (1) the parish baptistery used for the Baptism of Bernadette, (2) the Soubirous family home, known as the 'cachot,' (3) the Grotto of Massabielle, (4) the chapel of the hospice where Bernadette received First Communion, and on each occasion they pause for an appropriate length of time in prayer and with pious meditations, concluding with the recital of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith, ... and the jubilee prayer or other Marian invocation."

If the faithful are not in Lourdes, but wish to receive the plenary indulgence, then during the week of the anniversary of the first apparition, which is the week of  February 2, 2008 through February 11, 2008, and they must visit “in any church, grotto or decorous place, the blessed image of that same Virgin of Lourdes, solemnly exposed for public veneration, and before the image participate in a pious exercise of Marian devotion, or at least pause for an appropriate space of time in prayer and with pious meditations, concluding with the recital of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith, ... and the invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary."

There is also a provision for those who are unable to fulfill the previous two ways of obtaining the indulgence. Those who "through sickness, old age or other legitimate reason are unable to leave their homes, may still obtain the Plenary Indulgence ... if, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of observing, as soon as they can, the usual three conditions, on the days February 2 to 11, 2008, in their hearts they spiritually visit the above-mentioned places and recite those prayers, trustingly offering to God, through Mary, the sickness and discomforts of their lives."

For more information on Our Lady of Lourdes click here.

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Lesbian couple demands child support money from sperm donor

London, England, Dec 5, 2007 (CNA) - The Telegraph in London has published the testimony of Andy Bathie, a 37 year-old British firefighter who regrets becoming a sperm donor for a lesbian couple that wanted to have a child.  The two women, who have since separated, are demanding that Bathie pay child support for their two children.

"These women wanted to be parents and take on all the responsibilities that brings. I would never have agreed to this unless they had been living as a committed family. And now I can't afford to have children with my own wife - it's crippling me financially," he said.

Sharon and Terri Arnold, who were united in a homosexual “marriage,” told Bathie he would have no future responsibility for raising the children.  Bathie has seen the children only a few times during his life.

But after the women separated, Bathie was contacted by the Child Support Agency and forced to make regular child support payments.

He is now bringing a legal challenge to remove his responsibilities as a parent to the two children in a case believed to be the first of its kind.

Bathie was approached by the couple five years ago after they had unsuccessfully asked other male friends, but no formal legal arrangement was put in place.

"When they (Terri and Sharon) first approached me I did look into the legal side and understood that as a couple they would be the parents, not me. I was never 'Daddy'," he told the newspaper.

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Cardinal Mahony assaulted in July by scandal-angered man

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 5, 2007 (CNA) - Cardinal Roger Mahony, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, announced to a conference of priests that he had been attacked by a man angry about the sexual abuse scandal, the Los Angeles Daily News reported yesterday.

According to Father Sal Pilato, a high school principal who attended the October conference, the cardinal said that the attack occurred in July near Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral.  He was dropping off letters at a mailbox when a man recognized him, began shouting expletives and knocked the cardinal to the ground. 

"It was shocking because it was an act of violence and it was someone we know and respect,” said Father Pilato.

Cardinal Mahony reportedly was telling the priests they all had a price to pay for the sexual abuses perpetrated by other clergy.  He relayed the story of the assault as an example of the personal toll he's endured, several priests said.

Carolina Guevara, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Archdiocese, did not confirm the report.  "Whatever conversation might have taken place between the priests and their bishop was a private conversation and not meant to be public," she said.

Victims of sexual abuse and their attorneys had accused Cardinal Mahony of moving sexually abusive priests to different parishes and blocking efforts in court to expose them. 

The archdiocese has made two legal settlements with victims, one costing $660 million, and another costing $114 million.  The combined sum is the largest settlement for sexual abuse paid by any archdiocese in the country.

Barbara Blaine, national president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, commented on the report: "If this happened, we feel sorry for Mahony as we do anyone who's been assaulted in any way," she continued.

Cardinal Mahony apparently did not report the assault to police.  Los Angeles Police Department officials said they were
unaware of any such incident.

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Wisconsin bishop alerts priests about "Golden Compass" movie

La Crosse, Wisc., Dec 5, 2007 (CNA) - The bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse has sent a letter to priests cautioning them about the controversial new children’s film “The Golden Compass.”

In the letter Bishop Jerome Listecki explained his duty as bishop was to inform priests and laity about entertainment that is harmful to Christian belief.  He noted the self-proclaimed atheist and anti-Christian aims of Philip Pullman, the author of the trilogy on which the movie is based.

He described how the books were problematic, saying "instead of using fantasy to lead people to truth and to God, this trilogy tries to lead them away from God."

Bishop Listecki said that, despite the movie’s qualities, “it is clear that this movie is the first part of a trilogy that expresses hatred of Christianity and that portrays God, the Church and religion as evil and oppressive and urges children to join fallen angels in a rebellion against God."

He urged his priests to warn the faithful, especially parents, about the series’ attack on the Christian faith and the innocence of children. 

The Diocese of La Cross website has published a question and answer sheet about the movie for parents.  It warns parents about desensitizing children to evil, and suggests telling their children the movie is “definitely poison for the soul.”

A film reviewer working for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently praised the “Golden Compass” movie, and his comments were used in movie promotional materials. The advertisers for “The Golden Compass” took two separate quotes from the USCCB reviewer and created one sentence that appeared to endorse the movie as “an exciting adventure, entirely in harmony with Catholic teaching.” The ad agency has reportedly said that the text of the ads will be changed.

 

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Former Italian prime minister's head replaces Pope’s in photo goof

, Dec 5, 2007 (CNA) - The pastor of a parish in Padua, Italy is running a Christmas campaign on the importance of forgiving people. Unfortunately, he mistakenly used a doctored photograph of John Paul II in which the late pontiff’s head had been replaced by that of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The priest decided that for his weekly bulletin the famous image of Pope John Paul II forgiving his attempted assassin Ali Agca would be the ''most eloquent illustration of our theme'', according to ANSA news.

He discovered the modified photo in an internet search and put it into the bulletin thinking it was the original image.  He did not notice that the Pope’s face had been replaced by the smiling head of Berlusconi.

In the altered photograph, Ali Agca was also wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “Kill the Enthusiasm.”

''It was an unforgivable error,'' the apologetic priest told parishioners.

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Pope Benedict to visit Catholic University on D.C. trip, website launched

Washington D.C., Dec 5, 2007 (CNA) - The Catholic University of America has announced that Pope Benedict XVI will visit the campus during his April trip to Washington, D.C. and has dedicated a website to the visit.

University President Monsignor David M. O’Connor, C.M., confirmed the announcement in a letter.  “We look forward to Pope Benedict XVI’s April visit to The Catholic University of America with tremendous anticipation and enthusiasm,” he said.  He described the visit as “an honor beyond measure.”

Catholic University is the only papally chartered university in the United States.

University officials expressed hope that current students, faculty, and staff could see the Holy Father as he arrives on and departs from campus.  However, due to security concerns the university will be closed on the day of the visit, April 17.

Pope John Paul II visited Catholic University in 1979, where he delivered an address on Catholic higher education.

Pope Benedict previously visited the university before he was elected to the papacy

During his visit to the Catholic University campus, Pope Benedict will address an invitation-only audience on themes in Catholic education.  The audience will include the presidents of Catholic colleges and universities and Catholic school superintendents representing each U.S. diocese.

For more information on his visit please visit http://papalvisit.cua.edu/

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Brazilian president convenes and sponsors country’s first homosexual summit

, Dec 5, 2007 (CNA) - President Luiz Inazio Lula da Silva of Brazil has announced the country’s first National Conference of Homosexuals, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals, a controversial event that will be held in May 2008 with the explicit endorsement of the government’s Special Secretariat for Human Rights.

According to officials, the event will seek to develop directives that allow public policies and a national plan that promotes the rights of homosexuals to be implemented. The conference will also work on strengthening the “Brazil Without Homophobia” program.

This program, implemented by the Lula administration, promotes homosexuality as an orientation that is irreversible.

Homosexual activists consider the conference convened by Lula to be a triumph.  Julian Rodriguez, a spokesman for homosexual groups, has promised to make the event an occasion for pushing the homosexual agenda throughout Brazil.

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Spanish bishops reject discrimination in schools over use of Islamic veil

Madrid, Spain, Dec 5, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Spanish Bishops’ Committee on Migration, Bishop Jose Sanchez, spoke out against discrimination in schools against students who wear the Islamic veil, and he called for respect and friendship in schools to be fostered.

Speaking to reporters in Burgos, Bishop Sanchez of Siguenza-Guadalajara said, “What is normal on the street should be normal in schools,” and he said the use of the veil for cultural reasons should be differentiated from its use for ideological reasons or to impose a religion.

The bishop made his comments during speech on immigration in Spain at the School of Theology in Burgos, during which he pointed out that this global phenomenon is widespread and diverse and is due to necessity.

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Archbishop prays to St. Francis Xavier for conversion of terrorists

Madrid, Spain, Dec 5, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Francisco Perez of Pamplona has condemned the recent terrorist attacks in Spain and prayed for the intercession of St. Francis Xavier, patron of the Spanish region of Navarre, to “touch the hearts” of terrorists for their conversion “to love and to peace.”

“We want peace, we want love, and I pray to St. Francis Xavier to touch the hearts of those whose only motto is violence that they may be converted to love and to peace,” the archbishop said during a special Mass, recalling that the saint was “a man passionate for the good” and lived a life “of constant service.”

In the presence of local officials, Archbishop Francisco Perez condemned “the latest terrorist acts which bring man down, scorn the plan of God and corrupt all morals.”

During the Mass, he also prayed for missionary vocations that authentic marriage between a man and a woman be strengthened.

St. Francis Xavier was not troubled “amidst so many difficulties and persecutions and he was sure that the message of evangelization he carried was not an ideology but rather the proclamation of a life of salvation,” the archbishop said.

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Argentinean bishop leads march against abortion in La Pampa province

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 5, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Rinaldo Fidel Bredice of Santa Rosa (Argentina) led a huge pro-life march towards the headquarters of the provincial government of La Pampa in opposition to a law that would allow abortions. He demanded that Governor Carlos Verna veto the measure that was passed last Thursday.

Emphasizing that the marchers are not just negative, the bishop told AICA news agency that, “We are not against abortion, we are for life. We are for the positive benefit of subsidizing single mothers or facilitating adoption procedures, and not for the easy way out of killing a creature of God in his mother’s womb.”
 
He also stressed that the new law does not represent the will of the people and is “only the first step in the logic of the culture of death. Afterwards comes euthanasia, as in the neighboring province of Rio Negro, and later on the killing of the ugly.”

“All human beings have the right to life.  Authorities should above all strive to defend it since it is the first of all human rights.  Abortion is a crime of humanity against the innocent,” Bishop Bredice said.

Abortion norm is unconstitutional

Senator Liliana Alegre de Alonso of the province of La Pampa and president of the Worldwide Action of Parliamentarians and Governors for Life and the Family, declared her “utter repudiation” of the law as “manifestly unconstitutional and in violation of the international agreements signed by our country.”

The senator argued that “beginning with the 1994 reform of the International Treaties subscribed to by Argentina,” such as the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the American Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Children, “guarantee life from conception” and “have constitutional hierarchy.”

In ratifying the Declaration of the Rights of Children, Alegre explained, Argentina declared that “a child is understood to be any human being from the moment of conception through the age of 18.”

She noted that the new law does not protect institutions that for ethical reasons refuse to perform abortions and have policies that defend the unborn.

Senator Alegre said she was hopeful the governor of La Pampa would veto the law and that human rights groups would challenge its constitutionality.

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Designer for Olympic Games to work on WYD sets

Sydney, Australia, Dec 5, 2007 (CNA) - World Youth Day 2008 organizers have announced their selection of a prestigious set designer to create the Stations of the Cross for the international youth event.

Michael Scott-Mitchell, who designed the cauldron and ceremonial stage for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, will create 14 separate sets depicting each station of the cross. 

“With a potential global audience of millions of viewers and the opportunity to design the set for one of the world’s most renowned scenes, I am looking forward to rising to what may be my greatest design challenge yet,” said Scott-Mitchell.

During the 2002 Toronto World Youth Day, the Stations of the Cross attracted over one billion international viewers.

In addition to his work at major athletic events, Scott-Mitchell has designed sets for plays and musicals.  He also refurbished Sydney's Rockpool restaurant in his position as Founding Director and Partner with D4DESIGN.

World Youth Day Liturgy Director Father Peter Williams said he has complete confidence in Scott-Mitchell to deliver a memorable spectacle to commemorate the Passion and Death of Christ.

“Michael’s extensive experience designing productions of various scales and subject matters gives him the necessary vision and skills to successfully bring the Stations of the Cross production to the world’s stage,” said Father Williams.
 
More than 500,000 people are expected at World Youth Day 2008, which takes place July 15-20.  The event will mark the first visit of Pope Benedict to Australia.

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