Archive of January 18, 2008

Christians invited to make pilgrimage to birthplace of St. Paul

, Jan 18, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Turkey, Archbishop Luigi Padovese, has invited Christians to make a pilgrimage to Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul, as part of their celebrations for the Pauline year. Pope Benedict XVI will officially inaugurate the year June 21, to celebrate the 2000th anniversary of the birth of the apostle to the Gentiles.

Archbishop Padovese also said that the letters of St. Paul will be published in Turkish for the first time so that Christians in Turkey will gain a better understanding of Jesus’ teachings and mature in their identity as Christians.

The archbishop also explained that as part of the festivities, there will be an ecumenical celebration attended by various leaders of the Orthodox Church on January 25, the feast of the conversion of St. Paul.

On June 21 the opening of the Pauline year will take place at the museum church of St. Paul in Tarsus, with Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian unity in attendance.

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Pope declines invitation to Quebec International Eucharistic Congress

Quebec City, Canada, Jan 18, 2008 (CNA) - Despite the petitions of laymen and Cardinal Marc Ouellet’s request, Pope Benedict XVI will not attend the International Eucharistic Congress held in Quebec City during the city’s 400th anniversary celebrations, the cardinal told a press conference on Thursday.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec, had been lobbying for the papal visit for months.  A group of citizens also petitioned the Pope requesting his attendance.

Instead of personally appearing the Pope will send a representative to the congress, which will be attended by 15,000 delegates and 50 cardinals from 60 countries. The Holy Father plans to play a part in the conference via a television uplink.

The congress will culminate in a giant outdoor Mass on the historic Plains of Abraham.

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Catholic college praised for anti-porn policy

, Jan 18, 2008 (CNA) - Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania is winning praise for putting internet filters on its computer network to block student access to pornography and gambling websites.

The filters on residence hall computers have been in place since August 2006, soon after present college president Jim Towey took office. 

“I think that we are in the minority of Catholic colleges and universities, but I like where we are,” Towey told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I think our Catholic identity and mission compel us to give this witness to our students that this community is not going to be complicit in this spreading of pornography.”

Local media and some students have recently started a controversy about the policy.

However, Joseph Esposito, research director at the Cardinal Newman Society, praised the school and its president.  “Such policies are typical of the best Catholic colleges—and yes, they are a minority,” he said.

“We are thrilled with President Towey’s leadership and urge other Catholic colleges and universities to follow his example,” Esposito said. “Today’s students want colleges that care about them beyond the classroom, and the best Catholic colleges do that by placing a priority on ethical and moral conduct.”

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Sacramento schools’ history textbook advocates Islam, ignores Christianity, Judaism

Sacramento, Calif., Jan 18, 2008 (CNA) - A textbook used in Californian seventh-grade history classes at public schools has been criticized for proselytizing for Islam and bias against Christianity, WorldNetDaily reports.  The textbook is part of a curriculum that teaches students to write Arabic by copying sentences from the Quran.

A student’s parent wrote to WorldNetDaily saying that the textbook “History Alive!  The Medieval World and Beyond,” published by the Teachers’ Curriculum Institute, devotes large portions of seven chapters out of thirty-five total to Islam or Muslim topics.  The religious teachings of Islam are covered in detail, while Christianity and other religions are neglected.  "This book does not really go into Christianity or the teachings of Christ, nor does it address religious doctrine elsewhere to the degree it does Islam," the concerned parent wrote.

The book reportedly references Jews or Judaism four times.  Once it indicates that Jews were tortured by Crusaders to force them to convert to Christianity.  Other references point to Jews being blamed for the plagues and problems of the times.

“It does not talk about the Jews as making a significant impact on the culture at large,” the parent wrote.

The concerned mother, who lives in Sacramento, became worried when her son started describing how the book teaches students to write in Arabic. "I was disturbed probably [because] the greatest portion of this book is about Islam.”

"I am very troubled that in the name of tolerance and educating American children about the Muslim empire in history they get away with giving beginning Islamic teaching which may cause many to perhaps one day become Muslims," she said. "My son tells me that the students will even be using calligraphy to copy parts of the Quran in Arabic as an enrichment activity."

The American Textbook Council (ATC), a national research group founded in 1989 to review history and social studies texts in public schools, reports that the textbook whitewashes the Islamic concept of “jihad”. The textbook defines “jihad” as the human struggle “to overcome difficulties and do things that would be pleasing to God” and “to respond positively to personal difficulties as well as worldly challenges.”

Quoting Muslim hadiths and the Quran, the text says jihad can become a physical struggle in which Muslims “fight to protect themselves from those who would do them harm or to right a terrible wrong.”  The textbook also interprets the Quran as forbidding forced conversions to Islam.

The New York-based American Textbook Council described “History Alive!” as a book written by "dictation from Islamic sources." Such passages, they said, "should put speculation to rest about what California's seventh-grade students may learn about Islam. At the very least, the passages are incomplete. More precisely, they are dishonest."

“The treatment [of Islam] is lyrical and loaded, echoing the language recommended by Islamist consultants,” the council said.

One of the textbook’s contributors included Ayad Al-Qazzaz, whom the Textbook Council called “a Muslim apologist, a frequent speaker in Northern California school districts promoting Islam and Arab causes."  Al-Qazzaz, the council claims, has written for the Arab World and Islamic Resources, which the council alleges is “an opaque, proselytizing 'non-profit organization' that conducts teacher workshops and sells supplementary materials to schools.”

William J. Bennetta, president of the California-based Textbook League, described in a report the use of the “History Alive!” text in the Scottsdale, Arizona school system.  Students were subjected to “prolonged indoctrination in Islam,” he wrote. "The writers of [the book], by relentlessly presenting Muslim religious tales and religious beliefs as matters of historical fact, have striven hard to induce students to embrace Islam."

The Textbook League’s president also claimed the textbook includes “blatant preaching as well as deceptive claims and extensive fraudulent narratives” about the origins of Islam, the life of Muhammad, and the Quran.

Bennetta echoed the claims that the Teachers’ Curriculum Institute’s book is biased against non-Muslim religions.  "For example, In a passage in chapter 9, the TCI writers convey the lesson that a religious view held by Muslims is important, but views held by Jews and Christians are unworthy of consideration," he wrote.

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Pope: Catholics around the world must help Arab Christians

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2008 (CNA) - This morning at the Vatican, the Pope met with the Catholic bishops from Arab regions of the world and called upon all Catholics to help Arab Christians to remain in their countries.

The prelates who spoke with Benedict XVI are from the Conference of Latin Bishops in the Arab Regions (CELRA), whose president is His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins.

In his talk to them, the Pope recalled how their episcopal conference "comprises many different situations in which the faithful, natives of many different countries, often live in small communities within societies chiefly composed of believers from other religions".

The Holy Father reassured the bishops that he shared "the concerns and hopes" of their people, noting how "the constant cycle of violence, insecurity and hatred makes coexistence very difficult, and can give rise to fears for the survival of your communities".

The situation of violence, insecurity and hatred should be an occasion for the bishops to help strengthen the faith and brotherhood amongst the Christian community, the Pope said.  This experience of unity will give Christians hope that “is founded on the certainty that the Lord never abandons those who turn to Him".

The Holy Father also addressed the tendency for Christians to leave their countries in search of a better life: “it is necessary to give firm encouragement and support to those who decide to remain faithful to their land, in order to ensure it does not become an archaeological site without an ecclesial life," he said.

To prevent the Holy Land and other areas under the scourge of violence from being emptied of Christians, the Pope gave guarantees of his support for the initiatives taken by the bishops "to contribute to creating socio-economic conditions that may help Christians remain in their own countries", and asked that "the entire Church to support such efforts".

"The vocation of Christians in your countries is of particular importance", he observed. "As builders of peace and justice, they represent the living presence of Christ Who came to reconcile the world with the Father and to bring all His lost children together. Hence the need to reaffirm and develop true communion and serene and respectful collaboration between Catholics of different rites. This will constitute an eloquent sign for other Christians and for the rest of society".

For Catholics in those lands, "meeting members of other religions, Jews and Muslims, is a daily occurrence", said the Pope, noting that "the quality of relations between believers is particularly important, being both a testimony to the one God and a contribution to establishing more fraternal relations between individuals and between the various components of your societies". Another vital factor, he stressed, is "broader mutual knowledge so as to favor ever great respect for human dignity and for equality of rights".

In this context, the Pope expressed his "deep desire" that "authentic religious liberty should be in effect everywhere, and that the right of each person to practice his or her religion, or to change it, should not hindered", because such "is the primordial right of every human being".

The Holy Father asked the prelates to give "priority" attention to helping Christian families, who "face numerous challenges such as religious relativism, materialism and a series of threats to social and moral values". He also praised the efforts of Catholic institutions and religious in the fields of education, healthcare and assistance to the needy.

"I wish to restate my solidarity with those people in your regions who suffer so many forms of violence", the Pope concluded. "You may count on the solidarity of the Universal Church.”


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Prayer is the royal door of ecumenism, Pope Benedict tells Finns

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2008 (CNA) - This morning, Benedict XVI received an ecumenical delegation from Finland for the Feast of St. Henry, their country’s patron saint, whose feast day is celebrated tomorrow.  In his talk, the Holy Father stressed the importance of prayer and dialogue for achieving Christian unity.

“Christian unity is a gift from above, stemming from and growing towards loving communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The joint prayer of Lutherans and Catholics from Finland is a humble but faithful sharing in the prayer of Jesus, who promised that every prayer raised to the Father in His name would be heard,” the Pope told the Finns.

He continued, “This indeed, is the royal door of ecumenism: such prayer leads us to look at the Kingdom of God and the unity of the Church in a fresh way; it reinforces our bonds of communion; and it enables us to face courageously the painful memories, social burdens and human weaknesses that are so much a part of our divisions.”

Reminding his audience that today begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with the theme “pray without ceasing”, the Pope said, “We must be grateful for the fruits of the Nordic Lutheran-Catholic theological dialogue in Finland and Sweden concerning central matters of the Christian faith, including the question of justification in the life of the Church.”

The Pope also called to mind how last year marked the 450th anniversary of the death of the theologian Mikael Agricola, who translated the Bible into Finnish. “This occasion emphasized anew the importance of Scripture for the Church, for individual Christians and for the whole of society”, as well as “for our ecumenical journey”.

“Dear friends, it is my fervent hope that your visit to Rome will bring you much joy as you recall the witness of the first Christians, and particularly the martyrdom of Peter and Paul, the founding apostles of the Church of Rome.

"Saint Henrik followed in their footsteps,” the Pontiff continued, “bringing the Gospel message and its saving power to the lives of the Nordic peoples. In the new and challenging circumstances of Europe today, and within your own country, there is much that Lutherans and Catholics can do together in the service of the Gospel and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.”


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March for Life 2008 conference and activities schedule

Washington D.C., Jan 18, 2008 (CNA) - There are several interesting and informative activities taking place before, during and after the annual March for Life in Washington D.C.  This schedule, complied by Life Site News, has information for those looking to attend.

Saturday, January 19

4:00 p.m.   Rock for Life's Training & Activism Weekend 2008 begins.

See for more details.

Sunday, January 20

7:30 a.m. - 9:45 p.m.    Students for Life of America Conference

To be held at the Pryzbyla Center, Catholic University of America. See for more details.

10:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.    Rock for Life Training & Activism Weekend

See for more details.

7 p.m. - 10 p.m.    March for Life Convention Session I*

The Hyatt Regency, D.C.

See for more details.

Monday, January 21

8 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.    Cardinal O'Connor Conference

See for more details. Speakers include Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of Knights of Columbus, Helen Alvare esq., of Catholic University of America, and others. The Conference officially begins on Sunday January 20, with Mass at 7:00 p.m. and a Luau for Life to follow.

9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. Rock for Life Training & Activism Weekend

See for more details.

7 p.m.    Huge National Prayer Vigil for Life at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Begins with Mass attended by thousands of pro-lifers and several hundred clergy and religious.

Following the Mass there will be prayers throughout the night until morning for those able to participate.

10 a.m. - 4 p.m.    March for Life Convention Sessions II + III*

The Hyatt Regency, D.C.  See for more details.

Tuesday, January 22

8:45 a.m. - 11a.m.    Rally for Life and Youth Mass 2008

The Archdiocese of Washington is hosting a Rally for Life and Youth Mass on Tuesday, January 22, 8:45 am -11:30 am at the Verizon Center (former MCI Center), 601 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.

See for more details.

8:45 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.    Rock for Life Training & Activism Weekend

See for more details.

9:00 a.m.    Lutherans for Life

Worship service at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Virginia.
See for more details.

12 p.m.    March for Life on Capitol Hill

4:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.    Silent No More

Sharing of testimonies on the steps of the Supreme Court.
See for more details.

5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.    International Culture of Life - Champions for Family Award Reception honoring Congressman Todd Tiahrt

Phoenix Park Hotel (above the Dubliner), 520 North Capitol Street, N.W.

Other Special Guests: White House Commissioner Vellie Dietrich-Hall, President’s Council for Asian Americans, His Excellency, Willy Gaa, Embassy of the Philippines, Congressman Trent Franks, Co-Chair Human Rights Caucus, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, Member Foreign Affairs Committee, Mrs. Maureen Flynn, International Prayer & Fasting Coalition, Fr. Frank Pavone, Priests for Life, Al Santoli, Asian American Initiative, Bobby Schindler, Terri Schindler Schaivo Foundation, Mr. Michael Schwartz, Chief-of-Staff for Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D., Dr. Jack Willke, Life Issues Institute, Wendy Wright, Concerned Women for America

5:00 p.m.    Lutherans for Life

Casual dinner and fellowship at Immanuel Lutheran Church.
See for more details.

6:00 p.m.    Rose Dinner

Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, 400 New Jersey Aveue, NW, Washington D.C.

6:00 p.m. Foyer, Social Hour - Pick up Tickets (order forms for tickets available on website at

7:00 p.m. Opening prayer - Dinner Served

* The March for Life convention costs $50 for all three sessions, or $25 for each session.
Students are admitted for free if accompanied by an adult sponsor.


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Galileo’s university considers inviting Pope to give conference

, Jan 18, 2008 (CNA) - The governor of the region of Veneto in northern Italy, Giancarlo Galan, has proposed inviting Pope Benedict XVI to the historic University of Padua, one of the oldest in the world and where Galileo once taught.

“It would be a great tribute as part of the Galilean celebrations that are taking place this year,” Galan said.  The governor’s proposal has received the support of the mayor of Padua, Flavio Zanonato, who said that the final decision should rest with the rector of the university, Professor Vincenzo Milanesi.

Meanwhile Professor Furio Honsell, rector of the University of Udine—also in northern Italy—has announced that in response to requests by students, he will invite Pope Benedict XVI to give a lecture.  “I think it is a positive response by the young people to an unacceptable situation,” Honsell said in reference to the Pope’s cancelled speech at La Sapienza University in Rome.

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Mass recognizing anniversary of Roe vs. Wade to be held in Denver

Denver, Colo., Jan 18, 2008 (CNA) - As the 35th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade approaches, the Archdiocese of Denver announces its annual Respect Life Mass. Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. will celebrate Mass on Saturday, January 19 at 12 pm in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, in Denver.

Archbishop Chaput will also bestow the annual “Pro-Vita” (‘Pro-Life’) awards to three individuals for their dedicated efforts in promoting the dignity of life. This year’s honorees are Monsignor Leo Horrigan, Reverend Brian Morrow and laywoman Maria Kneusel.

Msgr. Horrigan, pastor of Notre Dame Parish, supported the first Respect Life National Card Writing Campaign, which began in the early 1990s in parishes throughout the archdiocese.

Rev. Morrow, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Longmont, has offered extensive support for The Gabriel Project, a local parish-based outreach to pregnant mothers in need. Morrow has also been instrumental in bringing Project Rachel, an outreach ministry to post-abortive men and women, to the northern part of the archdiocese.

Kneusel, a Hispanic outreach coordinator for the Gabriel Project, has ministered to many pregnant women in need. Specifically, she has worked to recruit bilingual volunteers who can address the needs of Spanish-speaking mothers.

In addition, Archbishop Chaput will recognize award recipients of the 2008 Respect Life Essay Contest. Local Catholic school seventh- and eighth-grade students participated in the contest last fall.

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Court rules in favor of conscientious objection involving controversial class

Madrid, Spain, Jan 18, 2008 (CNA) - The Supreme Court of Asturias ruled this week parents have a right to conscientiously object to the controversial school course Education for Citizenship.

In their ruling, the Court rejected a petition by a state attorney and by local Asturian officials who argued that conscientious objection was not a legitimate reason for parents to keep their kids out of the class.

According to a statement by the Spanish Forum on the Family, the ruling confirms the right of parents to object to Education for Citizenship and that such a right is constitutional, despite efforts by the Ministry of Education to prevent parents from exercising it.

The Forum also reported that more than 500 requests for conscientious objection have been filed in Asturias, with more than 21,000 requests filed throughout the country.

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Prayers for Jews might be removed from 1962 Missal

, Jan 18, 2008 (CNA) - According to Andrea Tornielli, the Vatican expert of the Italian daily "Il Giornale", Pope Benedict could soon approve a change in the Good Friday liturgy of the 1962 Missal to eliminate any possible offense to the Jewish people.

The change only affects the Missal of 1962, which was used prior to the liturgical reform and liberalized by Pope Benedict in his Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum”.

Tornielli writes that "the publication of the new text, completely reformulated, should be published in a few days," so that it can be used in the liturgy of this year's Holy Week. The change will eliminate the prayer in Latin that asks God to "liberate that (the Jewish) People from their darkness," as well as a reference to their "blindness."

Tornielli says that the change to be introduced by Pope Benedict is in line with the tendency "started already by Pope Pius XII, who made the then Congregation of Ritual clarify that the Latin formula  ‘pro perfidis judaei’ meant ‘for the Jews who don't have the faith’," instead of "the perfidious Jews."

Later, Pope John XXIII in 1959, eliminated the term “perfidis” altogether.

According to Tornielli, several bishops involved in dialogues with the Jews requested a modification of the text –which only exists in the "old" Missal— and that the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, expressed the Vatican's openness to the possibility last July.

"Benedict XVI has prepared a draft for the new prayer which should be published in the coming days by the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments," Tornielli writes.

Nevertheless, he says that "even if the paragraphs regarded offensive by the Hebrews have been removed, the bottom line of the prayer would still remain, which is conversion."

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Vatican museum tickets will be for sale online

Vatican City, Jan 18, 2008 (CNA) - The governor of the Vatican City State, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, has announced that starting June 1, tickets for the Vatican museums will be available for purchase online at

Cardinal Lajolo explained that as of January 1 of this year, the museum’s doors are now open an extra two hours per day, and that officials are studying the possibility of opening a new entrance to the museum to improve the flow of visitors.
Officials are also considering the construction of a new wing, probably underground, which will be dedicated to contemporary art.  “This would be an ambitious and difficult project due to the small amount of space available,” the cardinal said, adding that the Vatican City government is seeking sponsors for the project in North America.”

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Cuba would not have political prisoners if there were a minimum of justice, says dissident

Madrid, Spain, Jan 18, 2008 (CNA) - The more than 200 political prisoners being held in Cuba received the support this week of the Spanish association Cuba in Transition which, together with Reporters Without Borders, analyzed the state of human rights on the island at a recent conference.

During the event, Hector Palacios, one of the main dissident leaders released in 2006 after three years in prison, said the situation facing political prisoners and prisoners of conscience remains “dramatic.”  He warned that 34 of the 234 political prisoners will die in prison if they are not released.

“If there were a minimum of justice, there would be no political prisoners in Cuba and most of the others would be freed,” Palacios said, stressing that political prisoners in Cuba or anywhere else “should be granted freedom.” He called on Spain to collaborate because “to speak about Cuba and Spain is to speak about distinct lands that share the same blood.”

Regarding the changes that need to happen in Cuba, Palacios said they are essential and that “the policy that has been imposed at gunpoint upon such a kind and hardworking nation should be radically changed.”

Rafael Rubio, president of the Spanish association Cuba in Transition, said the transitional government of Raul Castro “has done nothing to change the situation.”  He added that Communist authorities use detentions in order to intimidate others who wish to protest or express an opinion different than that of the regime.

Imprisoned journalists
The secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, Rafael Jimenez Claudin, said 24 journalists are currently imprisoned and that the organization would not recognize any transition as long as “the freedom of information is not guaranteed so that Cubans can truly know what the world today is like.”

He also pointed out that RWB has had to battle the “radical left in Spain” in order to get recognition of the reality that there are political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Cuba.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an entity not recognized by the Cuban government, said in a report recently that there are currently 234 political prisoners in Cuba. The report revealed that while 12 prisoners have completed their sentences and been released during the last six months, during that same time, nine other Cubans have been imprisoned for reasons of conscience.

Oswaldo Paya, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, said in a recently recorded message that while he would “like to be able to say that human rights have improved in Cuba, [but] we can’t confuse that desire with the truth.”

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