Archive of January 19, 2008

Fighting hunger: one rice bowl at a time

Baltimore, Md., Jan 19, 2008 (CNA) - Millions of Catholics from more than 14,000 parishes, schools and community groups in the U.S. are ready to launch Operation Rice Bowl (ORB), Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) annual Lenten program, on Ash Wednesday, February 6. In advance of the Lenten season, CRS will send out millions of symbolic rice bowls that are used as the focal point for their prayer, fasting, learning, and giving.
Each Lent, participants in ORB put donations into individual cardboard bowls  or rice bowls  which are collected and donated to projects that alleviate hunger in 40 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and also the United States. By making a small sacrifice and eating less than they normally would each week, people can donate the money they would have spent on food to support CRS’ mission to fight global hunger.

“Helping people in need through fasting and giving is a big component of ORB, but we also urge people to help others through prayer and by learning about the factors that cause hunger and poverty,” says Beth Martin, Director of Operation Rice Bowl for CRS. “Every year, we highlight the lives of people in five countries who have benefited from ORB to demonstrate the impact these contributions can have.”

Operation Rice Bowl also offers meatless meal recipes similar to those prepared in the featured countries. An accompanying calendar and interactive Web site serve as a guide by providing daily activities, prayers, and traditional recipes from Guatemala, Mali, India, Haiti and Cameroon.

Last year, Catholic Relief Services raised $8 million through Operation Rice Bowl. Seventy-five percent of the money is used to fund food security projects overseas in the areas of agriculture, water and sanitation, education, HIV and AIDS, microfinance, and maternal and child health. The remaining 25 percent stay in U.S. dioceses to support local projects like food pantries and hunger centers.

India, for example, Operation Rice Bowl funds support a school in Calcutta that serves hot meals to orphans and poor students. The school is a refuge to many children who once lived on the street, struggling to survive, who can now rely on at least one good meal every day.

Since its beginning in 1975, ORB has raised more than $167 million to fund CRS’ development projects. With participation in almost every diocese in the U.S., many communities and families have adopted ORB as a way to observe Lent.

To find out which local communities and schools are participating in this year’s campaign, please contact Kim Pozniak at [email protected] or 410.951.7281.

Catholic Relief Services is the international humanitarian relief and development agency of the U.S. Catholic community.  The Baltimore-based agency provides assistance to people in more than 100 countries and territories on the basis of need, not race, creed, or nationality.

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Legal action needed against Nicaraguan feminists over abortion performed on 9 year-old

Managua, Nicaragua, Jan 19, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Abelardo Mata of Esteli and president of the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights announced this week that his organization will continue to call for legal action against nine activists from the “Women’s Network Against Violence” over the case of Rosita, a girl raped by her stepfather and used by feminists to advance their agenda of legalizing abortion.

“Legal action is not an act of vengeance, but rather a desire to see justice be done,” Bishop Mata said.

In 2003, the Women’s Network Against Violence orchestrated an abortion for “Rosita,” who became pregnant at the age of 9 after she was raped by her stepfather, Francisco Fletes Sanchez, who accused a neighbor of committing the act.

Based on the testimony of Fletes, the feminist organization launched a campaign that included the publishing of a book and news reports broadcast in 2007 in the US and Latin America by a popular cable network.

Last year Rosita, now 14 year-old, was discovered to be pregnant again, and DNA tests proved the stepfather had raped her again.  The girl’s mother, Maria de los Santos Esquivel, finally confessed that the stepfather was indeed responsible for the girl’s first pregnancy.

Bishop Mata’s call for legal action against the Women’s Network Against Violence is based on the legitimate suspicion that the feminists knew who the real culprit was and hid his identity in order to continue with their campaign to get officials to authorize an abortion.

The executive secretary of the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights, Roberto Petray, filed the lawsuit after Rosita herself admitted to a judge that her stepfather was the one who raped her in Costa Rica in 2003.

Petray said that the stepfather himself consented to an abortion for Rosita and argues that the Women’s Network was aware of this.  The feminist group has responded calling the charges “political terrorism.”

Bishop Mata stressed that the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights “has the duty to raise its voice and expose the problem to the appropriate individuals, in this case the Attorney General, in order for an investigation to take place.”

“As a member of the Catholic Church I hope that there will be more order in the country, that the law will have greater meaning, that more respect will be shown to institutions,” he continued.

Bishop Mata said for a nation to exist citizens must respect the law and not allow the Constitution to be trampled upon or ignored.  “We simply want justice to shine in our nation, and for justice to be done in the case of Rosita, who has been the biggest victim.  As a mother her first right was violated, with her child being killed, and all this amidst the silence of people who supposedly defended the right to life of the girl,” the bishop said.

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North American and European bishops offer hope and prayers for just peace in the Holy Land

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2008 (CNA) - Bishops from North America and Europe gathered in the Holy Land this past week to demonstrate their solidarity with the local Church and provide support and encouragement to Israeli and Palestinian leaders in seeking peace. 


The meetings, held from January 11 – 16, were a part of the annual Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church in the Holy Land, begun at the urging of the Holy See in 1998.  Its purpose is to advocate on behalf of the Christian community in the Holy Land, press for a peaceful resolution to violence in the Middle East and to communicate to the conditions of the Church in the region to the wider Catholic Church.


The delegation from the United States, which included Cardinal Francis George, president of the conference, the General Secretary Monsignor David J. Malloy, and Steve Colecchi, the director of the USCCB Office of International Justice and Peace, joined bishops from Europe and Canada to meet with leaders from the local Church.


The USCCB delegation visited a local parish in Ramallah, while other bishops visited parishes in Bethlehem, Rafidia, Jenin and Zababdeh.  They also  met with students and faculty from Bethlehem University


During their meetings with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Israeli Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit in Jerusalem, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salem Fayed in Ramallah, the delegation called for a just peace.


In a statement issued at the conclusion of the meetings, the bishops described signs of hope they had witnessed during their visit.


“At the University, Christians and Muslims study together harmoniously. We were impressed by their commitment to their studies, their energy and enthusiasm, their wish to stay in the land of their birth and their hope for a just peace that will bring them, and all people of the Holy Land, a better future.  We also heard of growing interreligious cooperation for peace among Jews, Christians and Muslims.”


The bishops encouraged “Catholics in our own nations to come on pilgrimage to the Holy Land—visiting both the holy places and the living Catholic communities that witness to Christ in the land of his birth.” The people they met with “yearn for a future of freedom, peace and security—for both Palestinians and Israelis.”  A frequent refrain was a call to respect the basic human rights of all, including security for Israelis and security and freedom for Palestinians.


The bishops also pointed to the existing security wall that continues to divide Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land as a symbol and a reminder of fears that continue to separate these people, who, through lack of human contact, risk deepening divisions.


They concluded, however, that for Israel and Palestine, “It is a time of both opportunity and danger.”    


“Our sincere hope and prayer,” they said, “is that the leaders and peoples of Israel and Palestine, with the full support and encouragement of our own nations and the international community, will find a path to a just peace…God’s grace gives us hope.”


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Opposition to abortion is a non-negotiable requirement of Catholics, says Bishop Aquila

, Jan 19, 2008 (CNA) - In a presentation given at Loyola College in Baltimore, Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, bishop of the Diocese of Fargo, said opposition to intrinsic evils, such as abortion, is non-negotiable for Catholic politicians and all Catholics. 

“Catholics in the political arena must recognize that opposition to intrinsic evils, such as abortion, euthanasia, genocide, embryonic stem cell research and same sex unions, is always required by the faithful Catholic,” the bishop wrote in his presentation entitled “The Sanctity of Human Life from Conception to Natural Death”. “Because these intrinsic evils are direct attacks on human life and marital dignity, they are non-negotiable for every Catholic.”

Bishop Aquila noted that the dignity of the human person must be the first consideration as all human life issues, including those that do not fall under the Catholic Church’s definition of “intrinsically evil,” are discussed. “Catholics must recognize, too, that in the other human life issues – such as immigration, capital punishment, the economy, healthcare and war – the dignity of the human person must first and foremost be taken into consideration.”

“As Catholics we believe in the dignity of human life.  In the book of Genesis we hear how the Creator has created the human being in his image and likeness, male and female, he created them (Genesis 1:26).  God blessed the first couple and gave them a command to be fruitful and multiply.  They are given the power to share in God’s creation through their sexual intimacy.  Life is a gift freely bestowed by the Creator, a good that is to be received.  Of all creatures that God has created, only human beings share in his image and likeness and are given the ability to know, receive and return the love of God.  The dignity of human life is determined by God and thus is always to be protected,” Aquila stated.

“Our American Declaration of Independence acknowledged that truth when it stated: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’  Here we have a clear recognition of the right to life which comes from the Creator.  The dignity of the human person is bestowed by God from the moment of his or her conception, and not by the government, state or another person.  The dignity of the human person is inherent, a part of the nature of every person, from the beginning of his or her life at conception,” Bishop Aquila stressed.

“The dignity of the human person is further expressed in the Ten Commandments, and most especially in the Fifth Commandment, ‘Thou shall not kill.’  Respect for all human beings is enshrined in this commandment.  In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2268: ‘The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful. The murderer and those who cooperate voluntarily in murder commit a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance.’”

The presentation was posted to the Diocese of Fargo Web site together with a message commending young people for their involvement in pro-life efforts. Bishop Aquila will celebrate Mass Jan. 18 in Fargo with 21 young people who will travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the 35th annual March for Life.

In his message, Bishop Aquila applauded the young people participating in the March for Life and those who “stand for life” within their own communities. “It takes great courage and commitment to stand for life in a society that increasingly views children as burdens on parents and communities. That stand for life is even more effective when it is undertaken by young adults, those who have lost countless peers as a result of the legally protected mass murder of unborn children known as ‘abortion’,” the bishop wrote.

This is the 11th year the Diocese of Fargo has coordinated a pilgrimage to the March for Life. The March, to be held Tuesday, January 22, marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which holds that the decision to end the life of (abort) an unborn child is primarily a medical decision, that abortions are permissible for any reason until the unborn child is viable, or able to live outside of the womb, and that, even after viability, abortion must be available to protect a woman’s health.

Bishop Aquila’s presentation can be found at

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Caritas to plans to call nations to responsibility for the poor at World Economic Forum

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2008 (CNA) - The Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, Lesley-Anne Knight, has announced that at the upcoming World Economic Forum, she plans to obtain a renewed commitment from the world’s political and economic leaders to respond to the plight of the poor.

As she attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland this next week, Ms. Knight says that reviving the momentum behind the Millennium Development Goals will be her main objective.
The Millennium Development Goals are a series of anti-poverty targets that UN member states agreed to meet by 2015. Caritas reports the targets will be mostly missed, partly due to broken promises on funding by some of the world’s richest nations.
The annual WEF brings together business leaders, politicians and heads of state, with artists, academics, religious leaders, and other civil society representatives.
Caritas believes that the meeting must go beyond merely talking and leave behind its reputation as a “talk shop”. Among the issues that Ms. Knight plans to raise are: climate change, poverty and development, global governance, migration, inter-faith dialogue and peace-building.
“This is an excellent opportunity to ensure that the world’s poor are not forgotten when business and political leaders plan our futures. The World Economic Forum aims to ‘improve the state of the world’, but the question I shall be asking is: ‘whose world?’ The world of the rich has certainly improved over the 30-plus years that the WEF has been in existence, but that of many of the poorest people has not improved at all,” Ms. Knight said.
She also expressed her hope that “a genuine desire among participants to tackle inequality” is present at the forum.

Even though this year will be the first time that a Caritas Internationalis Secretary General has attended the WEF, Ms. Knight says that she will call on nations of the world to keep their promises. “I will take every opportunity to call on world leaders, in particular those from the richest nations, to honor the commitments they made to achieve the Millennium Development Goals,” she emphasized.  

Caritas member organizations are also taking part in various worldwide events for the World Social Forum, which provides a space for discussion on alternative paths to sustainable development.

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Seminarians who minister to the deaf face possible eviction

San Antonio, Texas, Jan 19, 2008 (CNA) - Next Tuesday, Father Tom Coughlin and a group of seminarians who minister to the deaf will go up against the Castle Hills City Council in hopes to obtain a special permit that would allow them to continue living in their single-family zoned home.

The House of Studies for Deaf Seminarians is comprised of Father Tom Coughlin and seminarians who are either deaf or who minister to the hearing impaired.  They reach out to the deaf community and help train priests from around the world to use sign language.

The ministry, which began in New York, struggled to find a reasonably-priced home in California before settling in San Antonio.  Within the city, the priest and seminarians found a supportive archdiocese and also an affordable place to live. 

Their new home hasn’t offered the solace they desired.  The San Antonio Express reports that after purchasing a 9-bedroom, 9-bathroom, two-story home, Father Coughlin learned that the property was actually located in Castle Hills, a suburb of San Antonio. 

In order for the seminarians to use the home as a religious community, they would need to obtain a special permit due to the zoning regulation that no more than five unrelated people can live together in the single-family dwelling.

The community states that their residence will house no more than ten seminarians.

"When I came to San Antonio, I was filled with hopes that we will be able to settle and thrive well in the city and that we will be able to move forward to assist deaf seminarians," Fr. Coughlin told the San Antonio Express. “Little did I realize that I would be faced with insurmountable challenges.”

On January 3, Father Coughlin went up against the Castle Hills Zoning Commission which struck down his request for the seminarians to live in the single-family neighborhood.  He is planning on taking the issue to Castle Hills City Council who will have the final say next Tuesday. 

According to Trinity University urban studies Professor Char Miller, City officials have said they want to focus only on the application of city ordinances, but the case could prompt a larger discussion on social policy.

"This is really about neighborhood dynamics," he said.

Miller told the San Antonio Express that cities often use zoning regulations to control demographics and maintain defined characteristics for their neighborhoods.  Castle Hills is trying to maintain a very specific image of single-family living despite a zoning code that allows religious institutions to exist in single-family zoning districts.

Coughlin says it would be a real shame if he and the seminarians were forced to leave. He hopes the House of Studies for Deaf Seminarians can remain in Castle Hills indefinitely, serving the hearing-impaired population from Austin to Corpus Christi, Texas.

"I hope that we could develop a strong home base here in San Antonio and serve the neighbor cities with deaf ministry, God willing," he said. "We are very reluctant to move out to another city as we believe that San Antonio is where we should be, no matter how short the welcome mat is."

Prof. Miller says zoning ordinances that maintain neighborhoods "as uniform and homogeneous," could be inappropriate.

"What's the moral good here? Is it simply sticking to a zoning obligation? Or are we talking about broader social good that these gentlemen happen to be embarked upon. ... I would hope that Castle Hills sees this not as a fly-by-night kind of thing. This isn't a quickie-motel kind of issue. This is actually people who want to do good for the community and just happen to want to live in a neighborhood."

Mayor Marcy Harper, who says the city should enforce its ordinance that prohibits more than five unrelated people living together in a single-family home, says differently.

"It has nothing to do with religion," she said. "It has nothing to do with anything except our ordinances that are in place and the ordinances that we have upheld throughout the years."

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Spaniard Adolfo Nicolás elected new Superior General of the Jesuits

, Jan 19, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI gave his consent on Saturday to the election of the Spanish Jesuit Adolfo Nicolás as the new Superior General of the Society of Jesus.

The 217 delegates gathered since January 7 for the 35th General Congregation, chose Fr. Nicolás in the second round of voting. Nicolás hails from Palencia (Spain) and was born on April 29, 1936.

The New Superior General of the Jesuits has lived for the past 43 years in Asia, especially in Japan, where he studied and worked as professor of Theology at Tokyo’s “Sophia University”, founded by the Jesuits in 1913.

Nicolás was present at the General Congregation as the delegate for Eastern Asia and Oceania.

The successor of Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach joined the Jesuits at Aranjuez (Spain) in 1953, received his degree in philosophy in Madrid and was then moved to Tokyo. Upon his arrival in Tokyo, he completed his study of theology and was then ordained priest on March 17, 1967.

Between 1968 and 1971 he studied Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and from 1978 to 1984 became Director of the Pastoral Institute of Manila (Philippines).

The new Superior General was also Rector of the Novitiate in Tokyo (1991-1993,) Provincial of the Jesuits in Japan (1993-1999) and from 2004 to 2007 served as moderator of the Jesuit Conference for Eastern Asia and Oceania.

Fr. Adolfo Nicolás S.J. becomes the 29th successor of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the leader of the Society of Jesus, which, according to their latest figures has 19,126 members.

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