Front Royal, Va., Jan 17, 2008 (CNA) - This January 22, the entire student body of Christendom College, as well as members of the faculty and staff, will join the hundreds of thousands of pro-life Americans at the 35th Annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. Christendom has cancelled classes for the day and the Student Activities Council has charted buses to transport over 400 people from its Front Royal, Virginia campus.
The theme of this year’s March for Life is "Build Unity on the Life Principles throughout America. No Exception! No Compromise!" This theme is charged with the positive fighting spirit that is characteristic of the March.
The March for Life is a peaceful demonstration that memorializes the Supreme Court's infamous abortion decisions in Roe v. Wade. On January 22, 1974, the first March for Life was held with 20,000 pro-life Americans in attendance. The numbers have grown steadily through the years.
Founded 30 years ago, Christendom College has attended the March for Life as a community every year. Its students are active in pro-life work year round, leading prayerful protests at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Washington once a week. For more information visit www.christendom.edu.
Cotaboto City, Philippines, Jan 17, 2008 (CNA) - An Oblate priest was shot to death on Tuesday when he resisted armed men who attempted to kidnap him from his mission in the southern Philippines.
The murder could reflect growing terrorist influence in the country.
UCA News reports that Father Jesus Reynaldo Roda, 53, was praying in the chapel of Notre Dame of Tabawn school when armed men “barged in” and tried to take him away.
Father Ramon Bernabe, who is Fr. Roda’s superior, wrote in a report sent to UCA News that Father Roda “struggled and resisted” the attackers, and “explicitly said that he preferred to be killed right there and then.”
Fr. Roda was beaten and then shot dead. Fr. Bernabe reported the attackers stole some valuables from the office before they fled. A male Muslim teacher at the school was reportedly forced to leave with the gunmen.
Reuters reports that local authorities suspect the militant Muslim group Abu Sayyaf in the attacks.
Senior Superintendent of Police Wyneright Taup told reporters that Father Roda “has been receiving threats from the Abu Sayyaf but he has refused our offers to provide him with police guards.”
Though largely Catholic, the Philippines also has a Muslim minority in the south that has been fighting for self-rule.
An army intelligence officer claimed the attack on the priest, the third missionary killed in the region since 1997, indicated the growing influence of radicals from al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah on Abu Sayyaf, which is now led by a new Libyan-trained leader Yasser Igasan.
The army officer to Reuters that the militant group, which in recent years would only kidnap for ransom, was “going back to the basics,” returning to its early 1990s practice of attacking Catholic churches, priests, nuns, and Protestant missionaries.
“Igasan is trying to consolidate his control over the Abu Sayyaf and is trying to win support from Muslim communities by hitting religious targets, such as priests," the officer said. "He is trying to heighten the religious conflict.”
Sydney, Australia, Jan 17, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal George Pell credited his two-decades-long friendship with Pope Benedict XVI for the success of his efforts to bring World Youth Day to Australia in 2008.
According to The Bulletin magazine, Cardinal Pell said that he admired his “personal friend…very much.” When asked if his friendship with the Pontiff helped him secure Sydney as the location for the youth event, Pell said it was “no disadvantage”. He also added that "it is impossible to know whether the bid would have been successful if it wasn’t for his Vatican connections."
Cardinal Pell also said he hoped World Youth Day would aid the Church in Australia in its efforts to reach the youth.
“I wouldn't be surprised if we don't have a bit of a bounce for a couple of years afterwards in terms of young men coming into the priesthood and young women to devote themselves to the Catholic Church and even the number of young Catholics who want to become Catholic teachers,” the cardinal said.
Though saying he would not call the state of Catholicism in Australia a crisis, Cardinal Pell said the country faced “a serious erosion of practice and to some extent an erosion of faith also.”
"World Youth Day is an attempt to do something about it,” he said.
More than 500,000 people are expected to attend Pope Benedict’s Mass at World Youth Day, including 250,000 people ages 16 to 35.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 17, 2008 (CNA) - A time capsule more than two centuries old has been found at the Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral, the Melbourne Herald Sun reports.
The time capsule, a lead box, was hidden in a hollow stone ball on top of a bell tower to mark the two-hundred-foot tall tower’s completion on May 14, 1791, two hundred eighteen years after construction began.
Inside was a case of wax blessed by the sitting Pope and an engraving of St. Barbara to ward off lightning. A parchment listed the capsule’s contents, including 23 medals, five coins, and five small crosses made of palm fronds that the parchment said were “for protection from the storms.”
A new capsule with contemporary items will be placed in the tower’s hollow stone ball when it is closed.
Palencia, Spain, Jan 17, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Munilla Aguirre of Palencia (Spain) praised the approval by the UN of a non-binding moratorium on the death penalty, but he pointed out that moral consistency would demand a moratorium on abortions also be passed. The bishop said that “just as it is asked that the life a criminal be respected, all the more should the life of an innocent person be respected as well.”
In a letter released this week, the bishop refered to the campaign led by the Italian delegation to the United Nations Forum to secure a moratorium on the death penalty. The campaign was launched by lay and religious associations under the motto, “Nobody Touch Cain,” and was backed by the Holy See.
“The success of the Italian campaign, culminating in the approval of the moratorium by the UN, has motivated the Italian daily Il Foglio to propose another campaign in favor of a second moratorium: abortion. If we think respect for the life of Cain is a moral value, even if he was capable of a crime of blood, how much more should there be respect for the life of Abel, the life of the unborn,” Bishop Munilla said.
He pointed to an article written by the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Elio Sgreccia, who praised the initiative by Il Foglio and said a moratorium on abortion “is not a return to the past, but rather step forward.”
“Just as slavery, discrimination between blacks and whites, or rich and poor, was combated, the right to life in a vertical sense as well should continue to be recognized, those who are unborn and those who are born, the guilty and the innocent,” Archbishop Sgreccia wrote.
Bishop Munilla criticized the promoters of abortion who call the fetus “a lifeless blob of cells that has no identity,” and he said there was much work to be done “to advance the culture of life.” “A fundamental aspect should also be education in responsible sexuality” in order to combat the terrible consequences of the “use and throw away” culture that values “unrestrained and instant gratification.”
, Jan 17, 2008 (CNA) - On Wednesday, the rector of La Sapienza University received a letter from the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, explaining why the Holy Father decided to postpone his trip to the school.
Pope Benedict was scheduled to open the academic year by giving the keynote address at La Sapienza, but according to Cardinal Bertone a “decidedly minority group of professors and students” threatened to protest his visit.
Due to this planned disturbance, the Secretary of State wrote to the rector that “the prerequisites for a dignified and tranquil welcome were not present” and that “it was judged opportune to postpone the scheduled visit in order to remove any pretext for demonstrations which would have been unfortunate for everyone concerned".
Cardinal Bertone also explained why the Pope decided to send his address to the university’s rector. In the letter, the cardinal relates that since the majority of professors and students wished to hear "a culturally meaningful word, whence to draw stimuli for their own journey in search of truth, the Holy Father has instructed that the text he prepared for the occasion be sent to you".
Vatican City, Jan 17, 2008 (CNA) - "Sveva, Filippo Maria, Elena, Tommaso, Luca, Leonardo Pio Giovanni Paolo, Caterina, Marika, Leonardo, Melanie, Sofia, Anita, Sara: they are all newborns but they now have something important to tell. They have received the sacrament of Baptism from the hands of Pope Benedict XVI on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.” With these words the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano began a special report on the baptisms celebrated by the Pontiff in the Sistine Chapel last Sunday.
The report noted that this was the third time that the Pope has celebrated the sacrament of Baptism thus far during his pontificate. “The babies, who were quiet and calm during almost the entire rite, were located with their parents and godparents in two rows in front of the ancient altar of the Sistine where the Pope had celebrated Holy Mass,” the newspaper revealed.
The presence of the children, “accompanied by those closest to them, who were excited by this unique event in the lives of their babies, and the passing of strollers and bottles to keep them calm, all contributed to giving the celebration a family tone, under the austere gaze of the figures of Michelangelo that adorn the Sistine Chapel,” the article continued.
After the introductory rite and the “dialogue with the parents,” the Pope “traced the sign of the cross on the foreheads of each of the babies and invited the parents to do the same. The pouring of water on their heads afterwards was done at a bronze baptismal font, given to John Paul II by the Church in Rome on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination.”
As a memento of the celebration, the Holy Father gave the new members of the Church a picture of the Mary with the Child Jesus. Among those present was the director of the L’Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian, and Alberto Gasbarri, administrative director of Vatican Radio.
Billings, Mont., Jan 17, 2008 (CNA) - Yesterday Bishop Michael Warfel was installed as the new bishop of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings. The former bishop of the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska and told the congregation that he was thrilled to accept the opportunity to shepherd the people of Montana.
The bishop succeeds Bishop Anthony Milone who resigned for health reasons in July 2006.
Bishop Warfel addressed the congregation saying, “I am here with great excitement and joy to serve the people here. It is my desire to do nothing more than serve with the love of God manifested by Christ on the cross.
Originally from Indiana, Warfel previously served in Alaska, where he was for over 30 years; first as a priest, then as a bishop. During his first homily as Bishop of Great Falls-Billings, he told the story of how he came to be bishop of Juneau, Alaska.
The Billings Gazette reports that while serving as a priest in Anchorage, Warfel received a call at 5:40 one morning. The voice on the line said that the papal nuncio wanted to speak to him.
Warfel groggily replied, “What’s a nuncio?” The congregation laughed. The new bishop explained, “Well, it was early and I’d only been awake a minute.”
The nuncio told him that “the Holy Father appointed you bishop of Juneau and, of course, you accept, don't you?” He accepted and four weeks later, he was the bishop of Juneau.
Eleven years later, he received a similar call inviting him to become bishop of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings.
"Not only did I know what a nuncio was," he said, "but I recognized his voice almost immediately."
"I said without much of a pause, ‘Of course I accept,’” Warfel said, adding that he's learned the importance of accepting a call whenever it comes.
He continued by telling the congregation, “I want to be your shepherd to be with you in times of celebration and in time of hardship, struggle and suffering.”
Bishop Warfel also stated that he will continue to carry out the mission of the Church by encouraging people to grow in faith, to reach out to those who have fallen away, to reach out to those without faith, and to evangelize those with other faiths.
"We must pray for unity and actively make the effort to achieve it," he said.
Manassas, Va., Jan 17, 2008 (CNA) - The Cardinal Newman Society, a national organization that works to strengthen and renew Catholic higher education, is urging American Catholics to pray Sunday in solidarity with Pope Benedict XVI following offensive protests that forced him to postpone an address at Rome’s La Sapienza University.
Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, has urged Catholics to rally in St. Peter’s Square during Sunday’s recitation of the Angelus as a powerful display of support for the Holy Father, whose visit to La Sapienza was postponed because of protests against the Pope and false accusations that the he is not supportive of scientific discovery.
“For American Catholics who cannot be in Rome, we urge special prayers on Sunday to demonstrate both our love for Pope Benedict and our steadfast confidence in the unity of faith and reason,” said CNS president Patrick J. Reilly. “We hope that pastors will join us by including special prayers in Sunday’s petitions and by teaching Catholics the truth about the Church’s centuries-old dedication to science and higher education.”
Noting that Pope Benedict will soon visit the U.S., Reilly said that Catholics should draw upon the La Sapienza incident as “a valuable teaching moment for the Church and the secular world, which would seek truth without recognizing the Father and Creator, the fount of all truth,” said Reilly.
The unity of faith and reason has been a lifetime interest of Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor Pope John Paul II, both of whom had been university scholars with great appreciation for higher education. The noted philosopher Ralph McInerny has said, “It sometimes seems that the only voice insisting on the power of human reason is that of the Holy Father.”
Madrid, Spain, Jan 17, 2008 (CNA) - In his latest pastoral letter, Bishop Jose Manuel Lorca of Teruel and Albarracin, said he still does not understand why Spanish Socialist leaders are upset over the pro-family march held in Madrid on December 30 and that “there was nothing more said there than what the Church has always said and defended in this area.”
Recalling some of the most “marvelous” events of the season of Christmas, Bishop Lorca made particular mention of the pro-family march that brought together more than two million people. “I still don’t understand what people are upset about,” he wrote in reference to the socialist government’s attacks on the Church for her stance. The truth is that “there was nothing more said there than what the Church has always said and defended in this area,” he stressed.
In his letter entitled, “Don’t Shut Off the Christmas Lights,” Bishop Lorca said it was logical that if the institution of the family is under attack, “we need to come to its defense.”
He listed a series of issues affecting the family, including the legalization of same-sex unions, the replacing of the term sex with the word “gender” to define a person, the attack on the rights of parents to educate their children, “imposing the indoctrination of Education for Citizenship,” and the suppression of “all protection of human life in its beginnings, subordinating it to technological and economic interests.”
“This is the true meaning of the Encounter in Madrid, this is what seriously concerns us, both those who were in Madrid as well as the rest of us who were unable to go…. We still value marriage and the family,” the bishop said.
He also praised Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela of Madrid for the success of the march, and he invited the faithful to be on the alert against those who would lead them down “false paths towards perdition.”
, Jan 17, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro, revealed this Wednesday that representatives of the bishops’ conference have made contact with the leaders of the Marxist rebel group FARC in order to negotiate an eventual humanitarian accord.
The archbishop announced that the bishops have asked the FARC to allow a team from the Red Cross to visit the camps where it is holding thousands of people hostage, in order to evaluate their state of health and if necessary provide them adequate medical care. “If the FARC accepts this request, the Church will be willing to accompany this humanitarian mission,” Archbishop Castro said.
He noted that contact with the FARC is “being carried out with absolute discretion” and that the bishops are “very grateful for the support that we have received from various quarters in order to move ahead with this proposal.”
“We must always have hope. All of the kidnapped survive on hope. We must be optimistic. If we lose hope we fall into despair and that leads to nowhere,” the archbishop added.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 17, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Venezuelan Plenary Council, Archbishop Ovidio Perez Morales, has renewed calls on President Hugo Chavez to grant amnesty to a group of police officers accused of participating in the massacre of April 11, 2002, in which 19 people died during an opposition protest.
“The Bishops’ position continues to be that of calling for a widening of this measure of grace” to the officers accused of involvement in the tragedy, the archbishop said.
Last December President Hugo Chavez signed a law granting amnesty to those involved in the coup of April 2002 and the oil strike of December 2002-January 2003. However, the decree did not apply to persons accused of “crimes against humanity” and those who did not appear in court for their scheduled hearings.
Officers Forero, Simonovis, Vivas and eight other police officers in Caracas are accused of firing at a group of protestors on April 11, 2002. Hours after the massacre the coup that removed Chavez from power for 48 hours took place.
The Venezuelan bishops called for greater amnesty last week, but President Chavez responded by launching a new wave of insults against the bishops and the Apostolic Nuncio.
Vatican City, Jan 17, 2008 (CNA) - The convocation of Catholic Romans to attend next Sunday's Angelus at St. Peter's square in support of Pope Benedict will be a moment of prayer, not a demonstration, Cardinal Camillo Ruini said on Thursday.
Cardinal Ruini, the Pope's Vicar to the City of Rome, called on all Catholics in
Rome to join Pope Benedict at the Angelus prayers this Sunday to show their support in the wake of his suspended speech at the La Sapienza University, following threats of violent demonstrations.
"Next Sunday's event will be a moment of prayer, any other motivation in the people joining us at St. Peter's Square would be unwelcome and out of place," Cardinal Ruini told the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano.
The Cardinal explained that "because of its prayerful nature, the Angelus cannot be turned into a political demonstration."
"This will be a moment to show affection for the Holy Father and not a demonstration against the lack of receptivity from La Sapienza. It is an event that want to express the feelings of the majority of Romans, as well as the majority of the La Sapienza community," Cardinal Ruini added.
The gathering at St. Peter's square next Sunday, therefore, "must be in tune with the classic tone of the Angelus, which is a moment to listen to God's word and also a moment to listen to the Holy Father, to be with him, to greet him."
"If anyone gives another reading or interpretation of the event, they will be interpreting it in a completely wrong way," the Cardinal warned.
He also announced that a large number of university students, as well as personalities from the academic world have confirmed that they wish to attend the Angelus.
"The prayerful, serene and joyful nature of encounter will serve as a contrast to the boastful, noisy minority that celebrated the cancellation of the Pope's visit," he concluded.
Washington D.C., Jan 17, 2008 (CNA) - The number of abortions committed in the United States in 2005 dropped to 1.2 million, the lowest level since 1976, the Washington Post reports.
The figure comes from a new report by the Allan Guttmacher Institute, a research group associated with Planned Parenthood. The institute surveyed 1,787 abortion providers in 2005, the first such study since 2000.
The total number of surgical abortions among women aged 15-44 declined from 1.3 million in 2000 to 1.2 million in 2005. The eight percent drop continues a downward trend begun in 1990, when abortions peaked at 1.6 million. The previous low for abortion numbers was registered in 1976, when 1.2 million abortions were performed.
The abortion rate in 2005 declined to 19.4 per 1,000 women, falling from 21.3 per 1,000 in 2000. The rate had peaked at 29.3 in 1981.
According to the survey, the abortion rate tends to be higher in the northeastern United States, while lower in the South and the Midwest.
Allan Guttmacher Institute researchers did not identify the reasons for the decline. The institute’s Rachel Jones speculated on the causes of the lower abortion rate, saying, "It could be more women using contraception and not having as many unintended pregnancies. It could be more restrictions on abortions, making it more difficult for women to obtain abortion services. It could be a combination of these and other dynamics."
Susan Poppema, representing Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, speculated that the availability of the “morning-after pill” played a role in the decline of surgical abortions.
Pro-life reaction to the study was guardedly positive.
"It's still a massive number, but it's moving in the right direction," said Randall O'Bannon of the National Right to Life Committee. He added that at least some of the drop could be due to changing attitudes, as reflected in the hit movie “Juno” about a pregnant teenager who rejects having an abortion.
"Even look at Hollywood," said O'Bannon. "More and more people are starting to reconsider their positions."