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Archive of December 12, 2007

Communion is the key to the mystery of the Church, teaches the Holy Father

Vatican City, Dec 12, 2007 (CNA) - As the faithful listened to Pope Benedict’s next installment in his series of teachings on the saints of the early Church today, they heard about St. Paulinus of Nola. This saint, the Pope said, teaches Christians about the Church as “a sacrament of intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human race."

Hailing from Italy, St. Paulinus rose to become the governor of the Campania region in southern Italy at a young age. In that role he stood out for his wisdom and humility, while his contact with "the simple and intense faith" of the people marked the start of his own path to conversion, which was not without difficulties and trials,” the Holy Father related.

"The meeting with Christ was the finishing point of an arduous journey," during which a series of adverse circumstances brought the saint "to a direct experience of the frailty of things," said the Pope.

St. Paulinus' journey to faith also included marriage, but following the death of his newborn child he and his wife Terasia decided to give their possessions to the poor and, living in fraternal chastity, to found a monastic community. His pastoral activity was characterized, the Holy Father went on, "by his particular concern for the poor, and he left behind him the image of a true pastor of charity."

Many of Paulinus’ friends were deeply impacted by his conversion and they criticized "his 'disdain' ... for worldly goods and his abandonment of his literary calling," said Benedict XVI. But Paulinus would respond to them by saying "that giving to the poor did not mean disdain for worldly goods, but rather their employment for the most exalted aim of charity. ... A new aesthetic now governed the saint's sensibility: the beauty of the incarnate God, crucified and risen."

Lessons from St. Paulinus

"St. Paulinus did not write theological treatises, but his odes ... are replete with a living theology," said Pope Benedict, "which is constantly examined as light for life.”

What stands out from his writings “is the idea of the Church as a mystery of unity. He experienced communion above all through the ardent cultivation of spiritual friendship. ... With remarkable warmth the saint of Nola praises friendship as a manifestation of the one body of Christ animated by the Holy Spirit," Benedict XVI related.

The final lesson that can be learned from St. Paulinus is “the concept of communion that theology in our own day has found the key for approaching the mystery of the Church." St. Paulinus’ life helps us to experience “the Church as she is presented to us by Vatican Council II, a sacrament of intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human race," Pope Benedict XVI concluded.

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Canadian bishops call on government to oppose capital punishment internationally

Ottawa, Canada, Dec 12, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked the Prime Minister of Canada to “strenuously” intervene when Canadians face a death sentence in other countries.

Archbishop of Winnipeg V. James Weisgerber on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on behalf of the conference’s Permanent Council, which is composed of twelve cardinals, archbishops and bishops from across Canada, and oversees the policies and plans of the 85 Roman and Eastern Catholic bishops who form the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Weisgerber said the Permanent Council was “most concerned” that the Canadian government was prepared to accept the execution of Canadians in other countries.

Referencing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the archbishop said that civil authorities should limit themselves to non-lethal means to defend against aggressors, since such limits are more in keeping with the common good and more respectful of the dignity of the human person.

“The Permanent Council calls on you and the Government of Canada to reconsider your present stance and to return to the earlier policy of strenuously intervening with other governments when Canadians face a sentence of execution,” Archbishop Weisgerber wrote.

“Capital punishment is a serious undermining of human dignity and of basic respect for human life,” the archbishop concluded.

A Canadian is currently facing the death penalty in the state of Montana.

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Medical researchers argue reducing abortions reduces breast cancer, premature birth

CNA STAFF, Dec 12, 2007 (CNA) - Two letters published this month in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons assert that the best predictor of the rise or fall of premature birth, as well as the incidence of breast cancer, is the abortion rate.

In the first letter Brent Rooney and William Johnston reported that the rates of premature birth, maternal mortality, and infant mortality dramatically declined in Poland within a few years after restrictive abortion laws reduced Poland’s abortion rate by 98 percent between 1989 and 1993. 

They predicted that the United States premature birth rate and breast cancer rate would also decline if a similar decline in the abortion rate were to occur. 

Rooney and Johnston also reported that there are no published animal studies proving the safety of the abortion method called vacuum aspiration (VA).  According to them, this makes abortion on women unethical by medical standards.  "…as of 2007, VA is an unproven experimental procedure," they wrote.

The second letter, by Karen Mallec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, discussed the research of Patrick Carroll, which showed that abortion is the "best predictor of breast cancer."  She also referenced Dr. Joel Brind’s 2005 review of ten studies dismissive of the abortion-breast cancer link, in which he concluded the stories were seriously flawed and used to mislead the public. 

"Women are the medical establishment's guinea pigs," Malec said. "We have been fed a pack of lies about the safety of abortion and the use of hormonal contraceptives."

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Death threat promises dismemberment of Indian bishop

Thiruvananthapuram, India, Dec 12, 2007 (CNA) - A bishop in Kerala, who is an outspoken critic of the rule of the local communist party, received a letter threatening that his legs and hands would be chopped off if he continued his vocal opposition.

Bishop Joseph Porunnedom of Mananthavady reportedly first revealed the threat on December 9 saying that he received an unsigned threatening letter but ignored it. "I'm not scared. Threats can't change my stand on the issues," the 51-year-old bishop told UCA News. 

Diocesan spokesman Father Joseph Thomas Therakam said that no complaint had been made to the police.

"It's the first time a bishop is getting threatened in Kerala, a state known for harmony. It's most unfortunate," Father Therakam said. "We are not concerned about the threat," he added, insisting the Church "is not going to dilute its stand against the government's anti-people policies."

The Catholic Church in Kerala has opposed the Marxist-led coalition government mainly because of its education policies.  The policies allegedly help communists take control of Christian institutions.

Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Trichur, who has barred communists from positions in Catholic parishes, warned of these alleged plans.

"After gaining power, they will change their colors by bringing pressures, challenges and misleading propaganda. (They hope) to undermine institutions in the field of education, with a hidden agenda to imposing their atheist philosophy," the archbishop said.

Some communist leaders have begun a smear campaign against bishops and other Church leaders.  One party leader at a public meeting insulted one bishop by calling him a drunkard. 

Charlie Paul, former state president of the Christian Life Community, reacted to the reported death threat: "It shows the attitude of the Marxists. If you do not fall in line with the party, they use threats to silence you. But it will not be successful with the Church."

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Ob/Gyn association pushes “abortion agenda” on pro-life doctors

Washington D.C., Dec 12, 2007 (CNA) - An association of Christian doctors has harshly criticized a national organization of obstetricians for supporting ethical codes that will force pro-life physicians to violate their consciences by referring patients to other doctors for abortions.

Leaders of the Christian Medical Association(CMA), representing 15,000 members, challenged a statement made by an ethics committee of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists(ACOG) that examined physicians’ rights of conscience.

The ACOG Committee of Ethics’ position paper, titled "The Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine," targets pro-life physicians.   It insists that doctors who object to abortion must refer a patient to a physician who will perform abortions.  The statement also says doctors with conscientious objections to providing other procedures and prescriptions should move closer to doctors who do not have such objections.

The Christian Medical Association in protest drafted a letter that was signed by other national organizations. 

CMA CEO Dr. David Stevens declared his opposition to ACOG’s position, calling it “out of touch with conscience-driven physicians” and also out of touch with traditional American respect for rights of conscience and religious freedom.

Dr. Stevens added, "Many physicians had been realizing that because of their aggressive abortion lobbying, ACOG officials do not represent the values of most physicians and mainstream medicine. This statement goes a step beyond not representing our life-affirming values to actually advocating policies to prevent us from exercising those values. ACOG's attitude seems to be, 'If you don't toe the ACOG line on abortion, the 'morning-after pill,' and the application of reproductive technology, then you shouldn't be practicing obstetrics--and if you do, we're going to do everything in our power to force you to accommodate our abortion agenda."

CMA Executive Vice President Gene Rudd, MD, himself an obstetrician and gynecologist, said he has ended his 25-year membership in ACOG over the new policy. 

Explaining his decision, he said, “My conscience can no longer support their lack of conscience. ACOG's strategy seeks to marginalize dissenting opinions. I as an obstetrician have a moral obligation not only to act in my patient's best interest, but also in the best interest of the developing baby, and of society as a whole.”

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Sympathy for the devil: thoughts on ‘The Golden Compass’

Denver, Colo., Dec 12, 2007 (CNA) - When the first Harry Potter movie arrived in theaters several years ago, many Catholic families had divided views about the film.  Some enjoyed it as an innocent and intriguing fantasy.  Others avoided it because of its emphasis on magic.  But the screen adaptation of Philip Pullman’s book, “The Golden Compass,” which opened in Denver on Dec. 7, will likely produce far more agreement.  No matter how one looks at it, “The Golden Compass” is a bad film. There’s just no nicer way to say it.

I saw it at an 8:30 evening showing on Dec. 8.  The theater was largely deserted.  That may be a trend.  While “The Golden Compass,” released by New Line Cinema, ranked No. 1 in box office revenues on its opening weekend, it took in only a modest $26.1 million.  The three “Ring Trilogy” movies grossed between $47 and $72 million on their respective opening weekends, and “The Chronicles of Narnia” had opening revenues of more than $65 million.  In fact, secular critics have been less than kind to the movie, and for good reason.  It’s long, complicated, and despite a very gifted supporting cast and wonderful special effects, the story is finally lifeless.  Much of the movie takes place in the polar north, and the iciness of the setting is a perfect metaphor for the chilly, sterile spirit at the heart of the story.  Anyone expecting a playful children’s fantasy would do well to look elsewhere.  There is nothing remotely “playful” about this movie.

As many readers will already know, Philip Pullman is an atheist, and “The Golden Compass” — the first book in his trilogy “His Dark Materials” — is a calculated counter-story to Christian-based fantasies like “The Lord of the Rings” and “Narnia.”  “The Golden Compass” takes place in a parallel world similar to earth, but dominated by a sinister quasi-religious authority known as the Magisterium.  This powerful elite seeks to “protect” people — for their own good — by shielding them from scientific knowledge, represented by the movie’s mysterious cosmic dust and a truth-telling piece of technology called an “alethiometer” (or golden compass).  More specifically, the Magisterium abducts young children and literally kills their souls, thereby extinguishing the spirit of free thought and inquiry.

The aggressively anti-religious, anti-Christian undercurrent in “The Golden Compass” is unmistakable and at times undisguised.  The wicked Mrs. Coulter alludes approvingly to a fictional version of the doctrine of Original Sin. When a warrior Ice Bear — one of the heroes of the story — breaks into the local Magisterium headquarters to take back the armor stolen from him, the exterior walls of the evil building are covered with Eastern Christian icons.  And for Catholics in our own world, of course, “Magisterium” refers to the teaching authority of the Church — hardly a literary coincidence.  The idea that any Christian film critics could overlook or downplay these negative elements, as some have seemed to do, is simply baffling.

Strangest of all — and in striking contrast to the Harry Potter and Narnia stories — is the absence of joy or any real laughter in the movie.  The talented child actress who plays the film’s leading role is hobbled by a character that is uniformly unpleasant, rebellious, belligerent and humorless; the kind of young person described by one of my parent friends as needing a “long time-out.”

Obviously, parents are the primary teachers of their children.  They need to use their own best judgment about whether a film is suitable for their families.  But I’ll certainly be encouraging my own friends to put their Christmas cash to better use.  In fact, maybe the most cynical and insulting thing about “The Golden Compass” is that its makers would offer this cold, angry, anti-religious fable as “holiday fare” in the midst of a season built around the birth of Jesus Christ.  That’s certainly worth a letter to the people at New Line Cinema. With two more books in the Pullman trilogy as possible sequels, it might be helpful if they heard from all of us.

New Line Cinema:

E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: 310-854-5811
Address: 116 N. Robertson Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Fax: 310-854-1824

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Christians continuing exodus from Holy Land

Konigstein, Germany, Dec 12, 2007 (CNA) - Leaders from the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on Tuesday reported on their recent visit to the area, issuing a “cry for help” for Christians in the Holy Land.

Following the request of Pope Benedict XVI that ACN deepen its solidarity especially with the Christians of the Holy Land, ACN’s president, Hans Peter Röthlin, and ACN’s spiritual assistant Father Joaquin Alliende traveled in the Holy Land between November 30 and December 8.  They visited a number of Catholic parishes in Palestine, Jerusalem, and Israel, they spoke with bishops from both the Latin patriarchate and the Melkite Catholic Church, and visited the Cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem where they prayed for peace.

The Melkite Catholic Archbishop Elias Chacour of Galilee told the ACN visitors of Christian natives’ deep connection to the life of Christ.  "In the Christians of the Holy Land the direct tradition of the person and the message of Jesus lives on tangibly to this day", said Archbishop Chacour. "One of my ancestors might well have personally heard the Sermon on the Mount spoken by Jesus."

However, the ACN delegation found the Holy Land presence of Christians “greatly endangered.”  “There is much suffering involved, including widespread discrimination, dismal prospects for the future and rampant emigration,” the ACN statement said.  Christians now make up 30 percent of all emigrants, even though they only represent 2 percent of the population.

ACN said that education, accommodation, and opportunities for employment would be crucial for Christians if they were to stay in the Holy Land.  He also said it was vital to the survival of Christianity that there be parish communities characterized by a strong sense of hope.

ACN president Hans Peter Röthlin said at the conclusion of his visit, "We must all respond and act. Our charity will do everything in its power, in prayer and in deeds, in order that the Christians in the Holy Land can be certain that the Universal Church will not abandon them in their trials and responsibilities."

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Gift vouchers available to help young people attend WYD

Sydney, Australia, Dec 12, 2007 (CNA) - World Youth Day organizers are giving parents, grandparents, teachers and friends the chance to give young people a life changing gift for Christmas, a voucher to attend World Youth Day being held July 15-20 2008 in Sydney.

The voucher could cover a portion or the entire pilgrim registration fee.  According to the WYD08 website, “The top tier registration for an Australian pilgrim costs $395 for the entire week and includes accommodation, free public transport, all meals, a pilgrim backpack chockful of items, priority access to events and emergency cover.”

This gift will give the young person an opportunity to gather with thousands of other youth from around the world to see Pope Benedict XVI.  WYD 2008 will be the first visit of the Holy Father to Australia.

Organizers are expecting 300,000 people to attend the WYD events with 125,000 arriving from abroad.

The Gift Vouchers are available on the WYD08 website.

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Hindu extremists level Catholic parish to the ground

New Dehli, India, Dec 12, 2007 (CNA) - The news agency Fides is reporting that 150 Hindu extremists have leveled the Church of Divine Mercy to the ground before its construction could be finished.
 
On December 5 at about 7am a gang of about 150 extremists forced the workers to leave the premises and then began to destroy the building and the machinery for construction.

Eyewitnesses told Fides that the mob shouted anti-Christian slogans and said they would "not tolerate Christian proselytizing”. When they had finished their destruction they warned the builders that if work started again, there would be another attack.

The Catholic community has responded with shock and sadness to the unprovoked attack. The assault was not carried out because the church lacked the necessary permits. The complex was to include rooms for pastoral and charitable activities.

The Catholics of the Delhi community are also baffled as to why they were attacked because Catholics are held in high esteem there and Hindu extremism in the region is minimal. “This was certainly an isolated incident- local Church sources told Fides- but nevertheless it was totally unmotivated and a cause for concern”. The source continued, saying, “We hope the police will identify the culprits and bring them to justice. The Catholic Church in India respect[s] the law and extremists must not be allowed to violate constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms”.

A recent report presented to Indian authorities found no less than 464 cases of violence against Christians or Christian property have been reported in the past 20 months. This is due to growing religious extremism mainly in the states of Bihar, Karnataka and Gujarat. Violence near the capital is not found to be a problem in the report.

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Cuban officials apologize for disruption at Catholic parish

Miami, Fla., Dec 12, 2007 (CNA) - The Nuevo Herald reported this week that Cuban officials have apologized to the Archdiocese of Santiago for the violent incident that took place on the grounds of the Church of St. Therese of Jesus, where some 200 police officers and government officials assaulted a group of dissidents.

The pastor of the church, Father Jose Conrado Rodriguez, said he was surprised by the apology and the respectful attitude of officials, and he expressed his hope that the gesture would have the public repercussions that the problem merits.

“This has been a very serious problem that has not yet been completely resolved, because the State Security has continued monitoring the parish and watching the activities of parishioners,” Father Conrado said.

“We are not going to remain silent, because denouncing is the only form we have to stop the excesses against a people that are sick to the bones with fear,” he added.

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Telefonica offering free long distance calls to missionaries

Madrid, Spain, Dec 12, 2007 (CNA) - Spain’s telephone company Telefonica is offering free long distance calls as a Christmas gift to customers so they can call family members who are working overseas as missionaries or humanitarian workers.

Telefonica has offered the service for twelve consecutive years and is intended to give immediate family members—parents, spouses, siblings and children—the chance to call their missionary relatives free of charge for twelve minutes.

Customers who would like to call family members simply need to provide the name of the person they wish to call, the name of the association to which he or she belongs and the country and city where they are located. 

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