Archive of January 14, 2008

McCain receives endorsement of pro-life advocate couple

Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2008 (CNA) - Austin and Cathy Ruse, who are known for their pro-life advocacy, announced their support for presidential candidate John McCain today.

In a statement explaining their reasons for backing McCain, Mr. and Mrs. Ruse said:
“Among the chief crises we face as a nation are Islamic terrorism and the tragedy of unlimited abortion imposed by Roe v. Wade.  John McCain’s character, courage, record, and life experience make him the best candidate of either party to meet today’s challenges.” 

The Catholic leaders also cited John McCain’s “true grit”, which they said is “something the nation needs now more than ever”. His grit, according to the statement, is shown by his campaign for president and the way he has lived his life.

Along with their endorsement, the Ruses also announced that they are “proud to join the National Steering Committee of Catholics for McCain”.
Cathy Ruse is the former spokesperson for the U.S. Catholic bishops on human life issues and has also served as the Chief Counsel to the Constitution Subcommittee in the House of Representatives. During her time as chief counsel, she handled civil rights and human rights issues, as well as religious freedom and free speech.
Austin Ruse is also active in pro-life issues and has experience working with the government. He is currently the president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) and has briefed members of the U.S. House and Senate on U.N. matters, as well as briefing White House and National Security Council staff.

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Santorum alleges Sen. McCain unreliable on pro-life issues

Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2008 (CNA) - Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has attacked Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain of Arizona for hindering social conservative issues, arguing that McCain is a poor choice to lead the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Speaking to radio host Mark Levine on Levine’s Thursday night radio show, Senator Santorum cited Senator McCain’s compromises in congressional debates about Supreme Court nominations as evidence the Arizona politician was not a strong pro-life candidate. Santorum, who is now a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said of McCain, “this is not a guy who would give me a lot of confidence that he would appoint the judges who are necessary on the court to overturn Roe v. Wade, who would be strict constructionist judges.”

McCain’s largely pro-life record, Santorum claimed, concealed other problems, such as McCain’s support for embryonic stem cell research and his vote against a Federal Marriage Amendment. 

Further, Santorum alleged that during his tenure in the Senate McCain did not provide the necessary support to discuss and vote on social conservative issues on the Senate floor. 

Santorum disclosed what happened behind the scenes when he held meetings to gather votes for proposed legislation, telling Levine, “That discussion is held in private, where you’re jostling and jockeying to get your legislation into the queue so that you can have your time on the floor to get something done.”

“And I can tell you, when social-conservative issues were ever raised — whether it was marriage or abortion or a whole host of other issues — there were always the moderates who said ‘no, no, no, we can’t: they’re divisive, divisive, divisive.’ And more often than not, John McCain was . . . with them” in preventing votes on such issues.

Campaign finance reform was another area in which Santorum thought McCain was a weak candidate.  Santorum said that the McCain-Feingold campaign reform bill, whose regulations have hindered some pro-life political campaigns, was “an affront to personal freedoms and liberty.”

Santorum called Senator McCain “solid” on the Iraq conflict, but said to Levine that the Arizona senator “was the one who was out there blocking our ability to adequately question… detainees… He did not come down on the side of what I think is appropriate and proper for the kind of war we are fighting today.”

Senator Santorum also attacked McCain’s support for immigration reform, stricter environmental policies, smaller tax cuts, and medical drug re-importation.

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Pope appoints American as new Nuncio for Bangladesh

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2008 (CNA) - Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Monsignor Joseph Martino as new Apostolic Nuncio to Bangladesh, making him an archbishop.

Monsignor Joseph Marino was born in Birmingham, Alabama on January 23, 1953 and was ordained a priest in 1979 for the diocese of Birmingham.

After obtaining a Masters in Cannon Law, he joined the Holy See’s diplomatic service working at the apostolic nunciatures in the Philippines, Uruguay, Nigeria, and at the division for the relations with States at the Vatican’s Secretary of State.

His latest position was serving as counselor at the apostolic nunciature in Great Britain.

The archbishop-elect also speaks Italian, French and Spanish.

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Catholic peacekeeping conference scheduled for 2008

South Bend, Ind., Jan 14, 2008 (CNA) - An interdisciplinary group of scholars and peacebuilding practitioners from conflict-torn countries around the world will meet in April at the University of Notre Dame for a major international conference on peacemaking.

Attendees will reflect on the theological, ethical, and practical dimensions of the Church’s work in conflict prevention, conflict mediation, and post-conflict reconciliation.

The meeting is sponsored by the Catholic Peacebuilding Network (CPN), which describes itself as “a coalition of peacebuilding academics and practitioners, clergy and laity, which seeks to enhance the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding.”

The CPN event has 17 co-sponsors, including institutes and departments from Boston College, Georgetown University, Catholic University, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of San Diego.  The San’Eggido Community in the United States, Pax Christi International, and the Woodstock Theological Center are among the other sponsors.

Past CPN conferences have taken place over the past three years in the Philippines, Burundi, and Colombia.

"Twenty-five years after the US Catholic bishops issued their seminal pastoral letter on war and peace seems a fitting time to reflect on the future of Catholic peacebuilding," said Gerard F. Powers, CPN co-coordinator and director of policy studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. "This conference will deepen our understanding of the theoretical and practical dimensions of this mostly unheralded work of the Church around the world."

Conference topics will include: peacebuilding as vocation; peacebuilding in official Catholic social teaching; development, human rights, and peace; the Church and peace processes; ethics of political reconciliation; and inter-religious peacebuilding.

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Catholic shelters help migrants into U.S. amid immigration controversy

Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Jan 14, 2008 (CNA) - Many Catholics and Catholic organizations are assisting migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexican border in their search for work, Reuters reports.

A Catholic-run shelter in Nuevo Laredo, just south of the border with Laredo, Texas, hosts dozens of Latin American migrants, providing them meals and rest before they attempt to cross into the United States by swimming the Rio Grande.  At the shelter the migrants, some from as far away as Central America, replace worn-out clothing, heal their injuries, and telephone relatives for cash for their crossing.

Without the shelters, migrants would have to beg for food and would sleep in the streets or in the harsh conditions of the desert.

"I'm extremely grateful for this shelter, but even without it, I would still try to get across," said 19-year-old Guatemalan coffee picker Raul Mintis, who was staying at the Nazareth shelter.

"Migration is a human right and migrants are some of the world's most vulnerable people. It is the church's obligation to help them," said the Rev. Francisco Pellizzari, an Italian-Argentine missionary who runs the Nazareth migrant shelter in Nuevo Laredo.  The shelter itself displays a Vatican certificate announcing that it has been granted a papal blessing.

The Nazareth shelter is just one in a network of similar aid stations along the border.

Many Catholic churches in the United States have seen their congregations double in size after an influx of Hispanic migrants.  The parishes offer soup kitchens and support to families affected by workplace raids and deportations.

As immigration becomes an issue in the U.S. presidential election, political objections are arising from religious conservatives critical of Catholic action.

Some immigration opponents are angry that the Catholic Church helps lawbreakers who are in the country illegally.  Others claim the Church is using immigration to increase its membership and attract those Catholics who have left for evangelicalism or secularism.

"The Roman Catholic Church is aiding and abetting the criminal invasion of America from Mexico," wrote Ralph Ovadal, pastor of the Pilgrims Covenant Church in Wisconsin, in a booklet sold on the church's Web site.

Church leaders say they are doing nothing wrong and are merely alleviating the burdens caused by poor U.S. immigration policy and high-unemployment economic policies of Latin America.

"While the governments of the United States and Latin America fail to provide workable policies, the church will do what it must to help the migrant," said Rafael Romo, archbishop of the border town Tijuana. "We can't let these people be treated like animals."

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Military officer sues over mandatory vaccine with abortion source

Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2008 (CNA) - A Catholic U.S. Coast Guard officer has filed suit to prevent being forced to receive a Hepatitis vaccination derived from the remains of an aborted child, WorldNetDaily reports.

Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Healy, represented by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), filed a complaint last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  The complaint charges the government with using its own arbitrary judgment of what constitutes Catholic theology while permitting religious exemptions to others, effectively discriminating against Healy’s sincerely-held religious beliefs.

Healy had requested a religious exemption from using the Hepatitis A vaccine, which is part of a broad spectrum of vaccine regulations required for active-duty personnel.  The Hepatitis vaccine was made mandatory in May 2006.  The present vaccine is based on lung cells taken from an elective abortion performed at 14 weeks forty years ago, though a vaccine derived from animal sources is awaiting FDA approval.

In his exemption request, Healy cited a 2005 letter from the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, which condemned the use of cell lines from abortions in vaccines.  The letter, titled "Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared From Cells Derived From Aborted Human Fetuses,” supported Catholics’ right to refuse such treatment, but did not require that refusal.  The document was approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

The letter was written in response to an inquiry from a Florida Catholic group concerned that the Church had no official statement opposing the vaccines.  The group believed the absence of any such statement could be used to deny religious exemptions for Catholics with conscientious objections to using such treatments in mandatory vaccines for schoolchildren. 

The Vatican letter condemned “every form of formal co-operation” directly involved in manufacturing the vaccine, and categorized those marketing the vaccine as culpable in “passive material co-operation.”  However, it categorized the vaccine’s use by doctors and children’s parents as "very remote mediate material cooperation," and thus not necessarily blameworthy.

In May, 2007, Lt. Cmdr. Healy’s request for exemption, though citing this document, was overruled by Capt. Brett Pennington, who stated in a letter to Healy Catholic teaching "does not state that these immunizations are against the religious tenets of the Catholic Church."  Capt. Pennington said that refusal to be vaccinated would be a failure to comply with a lawful order, and that Healy would be subject to military legal proceedings for his non-compliance. 

In his letter to Healy Capt. Pennington also referenced an opinion from the National Catholic Bioethics Center that held receiving a vaccine derived from an abortion does not constitute morally problematic cooperation with an abortion.

Healy’s attorney, Matt Bowman of the Alliance Defense Fund, argued that the refusal of a religious exemption amounted to a governmental definition of Roman Catholic theology, in violation of the U.S. Constitution.  Bowman said it was "most troubling that the government would decide some religions get exemptions and others do not based on their own arbitrary judgments."

"Members of the U.S. military should never be forced to make an unconstitutional choice between honoring their country and honoring their faith," Bowman also said.

Debi Vinnedge, head of the Catholic group Children of God for Life, said "We need a stronger statement" if Catholics are to get the exemption.  She noted that in Florida members of the Lutheran Church are more likely to be given exemptions from mandatory vaccinations for their children because their denomination has a stronger statement about the immorality of using vaccines derived from abortions.

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President of Benin meets with the Pope

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the western African country of Benin, Thomas Yayi Boni, met with Pope Benedict on Saturday to express his thanks for the Church’s work in his country and inform him of the struggles Benin is experiencing.

In a 15 minute conversation, the two leaders spoke about the difficult socio-economic situation the country is experiencing, which has been aggravated by floods this past October.

President Boni also thanked the Pope for the chance to meet with the papal aid organization “Cor Unum” and for the contribution of Catholics to “the development of the country, in the fields of education, healthcare and human promotion".

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Vatican Museums “more than just Sistine Chapel” says new director

, Jan 14, 2008 (CNA) - After just one month since becoming director of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci said one of the challenges he has taken up is that of showing that the museums are “much more than the Sistine Chapel.”

In an interview published by L’Osservatore Romano on Sunday, Paolucci said one of his greatest concerns is that most people only visit the Sistine Chapel and ignore other great works of art.  He revealed that the Vatican is seriously considering the possibility of opening a new entrance to facilitate the flow of tourists and museum visitors.

“This is undoubtedly something I should do,” he said, “but it is still premature to say how and where” the new entrance would be built.”

However, he continued, “one of the things I must improve and which personally irritates me,” is the way the public ignores the treasure of the works of art housed at the Vatican Museums.

“What I mean is that to the museum’s public, only Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel exists. I have sadly discovered that most, more than two-thirds of the people that come to the museum, ignore even Rafael,” he noted.

“Do we understand this? Rafael, the greatest artist of the last millennium, to me even greater than Michelangelo, is no longer seen by many people,” Paolucci added.  Thus, he lamented, “Michelangelo has become a fatal attraction that overshadows the rest.”

He admitted that in order to see everything at the Vatican Museums “you would need more than a month, but I would like people to perceive the plurality of this ‘organization of museums’ when they enter.”

“The most fascinating thing about the Vatican Museums is that they are a speculum mundi (a mirror of the world).  No civilization in history has done this, and the Vatican Museums are here to help understand it,” Paolucci said.

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Pro-life group releases DVD showing “horror of abortion” in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Jan 14, 2008 (CNA) - The “Provida” organization in Spain has released a DVD entitled, “Don’t Look the Other Way (No mires para otro lado),” a ten-minute presentation on the horror of abortion in the country.  “Nobody who sees the video,” Provida said, “will remain indifferent to the drama and genocide of abortion.”

The DVD is “appropriate for accompanying and illustrating the debate that is taking place today in Spain.”  According to Justo Aznar, president of Provida Valencia, “The video attempts to unveil the terrible truth that abortion is a violent attack that kills a human being.  We show that this violence is increasing and that each day more abortions are taking place.”

“As happened long ago with the defenders of human rights and especially with the rights of slaves,” Aznar pointed out, “the defenders of life are condemned by politicians and the media.  We have assumed this and it is true.  However, we defend a cause that is just, the most just of all causes: the cause of life.  We want to free those who are mercilessly and senselessly condemned to die.”

According to Aznar, “Some criticize us saying it is not necessary to show the horrible and repugnant reality of abortion, that each person should be free to decide about the issue.  We think that only when the images of the deadly violence that is abortion are shown will we realize what it truly means,” he said.

“In our schools we show young people the harsh images of the Nazi extermination camps, not to manipulate the students’ feelings but because they are such barbaric acts that words and letters by themselves are not enough to denounce them and condemn them.  The holocaust of abortion in this sense is not different from the Nazi holocaust,” Aznar stated.

The DVD can be purchased by writing to [email protected]

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Bishops of Venezuela renew call for reconciliation

Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 14, 2008 (CNA) - At the close of their 89th Ordinary Assembly, the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela issued a statement calling on political and social leaders to enter a new stage of national reconciliation.

“We bishops feel the best service we can offer the country in these times of antagonism between Venezuelans is to keep us united, to be faithful in proclaiming to the country the Gospel of Reconciliation, to establish bridges of understanding and to contribute values and ethical principles for the building of a culture of peace and of solidarity,” the statement indicated.

The bishops said they hope that “a social and political conscience is awakened in young people, animated by authentic desires of freedom, truth, justice and solidarity.”

“We must seek out the common good of the country, promote dialogue and unity.”  “In order to rebuild good relations between sectors and groups that are in conflict with each other, we need to return to a frank, good-natured, trustworthy and prudent [dialogue],” the bishops said.

They also warned, “If we want to achieve a stable and lasting peace, it is essential that we are all willing to listen to each other, to dialogue, to work together for the common good.”

In order to advance along the path of dialogue and reconciliation, they continued, “Insults, discrediting and aggression towards persons and institutions, both civil and ecclesial, must be avoided.”

“We reiterate our conviction that the motto ‘Homeland, Socialism or death’ and other similar ones that are contrary to the value of life contribute nothing to the urgent task of bringing together all Venezuelans.”

“We Venezuelans want to advance along democratic paths and not under systems that restrict fundamental freedoms, rejecting violence, hatred and class warfare,” the bishops stressed.

The statement concluded with an exhortation “to all Catholics and people of good will to pray and work for peace and reconciliation, for solidarity and the conversion of all and to carry out a common plan for the country without excluding anyone.”

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Pro-life march in France scheduled for January 20

Paris, France, Jan 14, 2008 (CNA) - Next Sunday, January 20, the fourth “March for Life,” organized by a coalition of foundations that seek to modify France’s law on abortion, will take place in Paris.

The coalition of associations, called “30 Years is Enough,” organized the first march in 2005, and since then the number of participants has steadily increased each year.

This year delegations from other European countries will participate for the first time, including the “"Movimento per la Vita" of Italy, made up mostly of young people.

Organizers of the march are calling for changes to France’s abortion law, “which has led to more than 200,000 abortions each year.”  The 2007 march brought together some 10,000 people, a significant crowd in a country where until recently the legality of abortion was considered a “closed” issue.

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Canadian Catholic magazine faces legal attack for criticizing homosexuals

Toronto, Canada, Jan 14, 2008 (CNA) - A Catholic magazine in Canada faces severe legal attack and possible censorship after a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleged it made derogatory comments about homosexuals.

In February 2007 Rob Wells, a member of the Pride Center of Edmonton, filed a nine-point complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleging that Catholic Insight had targeted homosexuals as a powerful menace and innately evil, claiming it used inflammatory and derogatory language to create a tone of “extreme hatred and contempt.”

Catholic Insight responded to these charges in its January 2008 issue, saying the complaint consists of “three pages of isolated and fragmentary extracts from articles dating back as far as 1994, without any context.”  Catholic Insight continued, saying, “these isolated quotes are not meaningful without the contexts of the articles themselves from which they were culled; in fact, most of them are even out of context from the sentences from which they were taken.”

“C.I. regards all of these charges as unfounded and made with the intent to harass. It intends to defend itself vigorously should the CHRC proceed. The magazine has continually emphasized that, with the respect to homosexual activity, it follows the guidance of the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has made clear that persons with same-sex attraction must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity and that every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

The magazine also reiterated its support for Catholic teaching that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered, noting its long-time coverage of the political manifestations of the issue.  “From its beginning in 1993, the magazine has traced and exposed homosexual activists for their attacks against Christians defending the traditional order in law and society and their use of derogatory language against all who stand in their way,” the magazine said.

The human rights complaints process in Canada currently funds the legal costs of complainants, but defendants must pay for expenses out of pocket.  Rules of evidence for criminal court proceedings are also not followed in human rights hearings.

Catholic Insight said that the complainant Wells had also sought to shut down other websites, and had targeted Ron Gray, leader of the Christian Heritage Party.  The magazine reported Gray’s claims that in his conversations with the CHRC, an official of the agency had admitted to him that the Human Rights Act is about censorship.

Alan Borovoy, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said he never imagined the human rights commissions would be used to undermine freedom of speech.  He said that acting as censors was “hardly the role we had envisioned for human rights commissions.”

In a Catholic Insight editorial, the magazine said, “Today, Catholic Insight magazine has also become a victim of the new anti-religion. We, too, have been denounced to the Canadian Human Rights Commission in Ottawa for speaking out against the activists who agitated for adding so-called sexual orientation to the Hate Crimes Act in 2003 and the legalization of same-sex "marriage" in 2005. The politically correct activists brook no opposition.”

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Harry Potter, wrong model of a hero, Vatican newspaper says

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2008 (CNA) - J.K. Rowling's successful character Harry Potter is the wrong model of a hero, says the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano in its Monday-Tuesday edition.

In an article signed by Edoardo Rialti, L'Osservatore says that many have tried to establish a parallel between Rowling's main character and "the great fantasy masterpieces of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and Clive Staples Lewis, the Christian authors of the most beloved fables of the 20th Century."

Rialti says that despite the "superficially apparent common points" between Harry Potter and the heroes in Tolkien's and Lewis' stories, Rowling "transmits a vision of the world and the human being full of deep mistakes and dangerous suggestions, even more seductive since it is mixed with half-truths and compelling story-telling."

The author recalls Tolkien's essays about fables, in which he says that "fables can depart from the physical world and the universe created, but not from the moral order: we can imagine a universe illuminated by a green sun, but we cannot bulk to the temptation of presenting as positive a reality in which the moral and spiritual structure are inverted or confused, a world in which evil is good."

"And this is exactly what happens in Harry Potter," L'Osservatore says. "Despite several positive values that can be found in the story, at the foundations of this tale is the proposal that of witchcraft as positive, the violent manipulation of things and people thanks to the knowledge of the occult, an advantage of a select few: the ends justify the means because the knowledgeable, the chosen ones, the intellectuals know how to control the dark powers and turn them into good."

"This” –the article continues- “is a grave and deep lie, because it is the old Gnostic temptation of confusing salvation and truth with a secret knowledge."

L'Osservatore admits that Harry Potter is "rich in Christian values," for example, "he is an industrious and scientific magician."

"But the main characters of the great fables never become magicians, and the seductive power of magic has always had grave and destructive consequences: the stories of Tolkien and Lewis describe the rejection of magic and power, not of a certain magic and a certain power, but of power and magic as such."

Therefore, the author of the article argues, "There is nothing more antithetical to Harry Potter than Tolkien's young Frodo or Lewis' Pevensie siblings."

Tolkien and Lewis portray "the extraordinary discovery of true Christianity, for which the main character of history is not an exceptional human being, like in the ancient paganism or in today's ideologies, but a person who says yes to the initiatives of God's mysteries."

Instead, L'Osservatore says, "Harry Potter shows a pale disregard for the 'muggles', the common human beings who do not have magic."

In Rowling's stories "we are told that, at the end, some things are not bad in themselves, if used for a good purpose: violence becomes good, if in the right hands and [used by] the right people, and maybe in the right dose."

Thus, "Harry Potter proposes a wrong and malicious image of the hero, an unreligious one, which is even worst that an explicitly anti-religious proposition.” In the Bible, the Devil “never says 'there is no God', but presents instead the seductive proposition: 'you will be like God'".

The article concludes by saying that "More relevant than ever is the judgment expressed by the then Cardinal Ratzinger to the series of critical articles written by the German journalist Gabriele Kuby about Harry Potter: 'It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly'".

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Church should become “biblical community,” says bishop appointed to Bible synod

, Jan 14, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Wilhelm Emil Egger of Bolzano-Bressanone (Italy), recently named by Pope Benedict XVI as the Special Secretary for the next Synod on the Bible, said during an interview last week that the Church “should become a biblical community.”

Bishop Egger will have an important role in the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of the Bishops, which will have as its theme “The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church,” and will be held October 5-26, 2008.

In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, Bishop Egger said he hoped the Synod “would help the Church to more and more become a great biblical community, composed of men and women who, under the guidance of the Magisterium, participate in prayerful reading (of Scripture) in order to be evangelized and to be evangelizers.”

Bishop Egger was born in Innsbruck (Austria) in 1940 and entered the Capuchin Franciscans in 1956.  A priest since 1965, he has been bishop of Bolzano-Bressanone in northern Italy since 1986.

In the interview he praised “the growing number of people in Church who are linked to the Word of God: catechists, religion teachers, readers in the liturgy, bible study leaders.  This is a sign of hope for the future.”

The Synod on the Word of God will be the 22nd assembly in 41 years and the 12th ordinary general assembly.  Some 3,972 synod fathers have attended the 21 synods held to date.

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