Vatican City, Jan 28, 2008 (CNA) - Members of the Roman Rota, the second highest Church court, met with Pope Benedict this Friday to inaugurate their 100th year of service. Benedict XVI exhorted them in his address to protect the communion of the Church by applying a uniform standard of justice to the cases they hear.
Pointing to the fact that the court is celebrating its 100th anniversary, the Pontiff asked the jurists to reflect upon "the jurisprudence of the Rota within the context of the administration of justice within the Church".
"Any juridical system must seek to offer solutions", said the Pope. And in seeking such solutions, "apart from prudently assessing each individual case in its own uniqueness, the same general principles and norms of justice must be applied. Only in this way is it possible to create a climate of trust around the tribunal's activities and to avoid the arbitrariness of subjective criteria".
"These considerations may be perfectly applied to ecclesiastical tribunals. ... The need for unity in the essential criteria of justice and the importance of being able to reasonably foresee the significance of judicial decisions, is a particularly important ecclesial good for the interior life the People of God and for their institutional testimony to the world," the Pope continued.
"Sentences must always be founded on shared principles and norms of justice." said the Holy Father adding that such a requirement, "which is common to all legal systems, has particular consequence for the Church" because what is at issue is communion. "This implies the protection of everything that is shared by the Universal Church", and is "especially entrusted to the Supreme Authority and to the bodies that 'ad normam iuris' participate in its sacred power".
Benedict XVI highlighted the Roman Rota's notable achievements in the area of marriage over the last 100 years, indicating how the tribunal is still "called to undertake an arduous task which has great influence on the work of all other tribunals: that of determining the existence or otherwise of the married state, which is intrinsically anthropological, theological and juridical".
"Law cannot be reduced to a mere collection of positive rules which tribunals are called to apply", said the Pope. "The only solid foundation for legal work consists in conceiving of it as a real exercise in 'prudentia iuris', a prudence that is nowise arbitrary or relativist. ... Only in this way do legal maxims acquire their true value and avoid becoming a compilation of abstract and repetitive laws, exposed to the risk of subjective and arbitrary interpretations.”
The Holy Father also stressed an area that is particularly sensitive in the United States, that of annulments. He said that juridical standards must be uniformly applied to annulment cases so that, “concrete reality may be objectively judged in the light of criteria that constantly reaffirm the truth of indissoluble marriage, which is open to all men and women in accordance with the designs of God".
Due to the universal nature of the Church and the diversity of juridical cultures in which she operates, said the Pope, "there is always a risk of the formation of 'sensim sine sensu' (local forms of jurisprudence), ever more distant from the common interpretation of positive laws and even from Church doctrine on matrimony". In this context, the Holy Father expressed the hope that attention be given to "the right ways to ensure that the jurisprudence of the Rota is ever more characterized by its unity, and is effectively accessible to all who work in justice, so as to find uniform application in all the tribunals of the Church".
The contributions of the ecclesiastical Magisterium concerning the juridical aspects of marriage, including talks by the Pontiff to the Rota, "must be considered from this realistic viewpoint", said Benedict XVI "They constitute an immediate guide for the work of all the tribunals of the Church, in as much as they teach with authority what is essential with respect to the married state".
In closing his address to them, the Pope encouraged members of the Roman Rota to use this hundredth anniversary as an occasion to increase their efforts "with an ever deeper ecclesial sense of justice, which is a true service to salvific communion".
West Boylston, Mass., Jan 28, 2008 (CNA) - A Catholic church to be used as a polling site for the Massachusetts presidential primary will not have to cover up or remove its crucifixes or other religious images, countering an earlier decision that could have required such action, the Telegram and Gazette reports.
Our Lady of Good Counsel was chosen as a primary polling site after a municipal building was condemned because of structural problems. “The church provided a safe and reasonable alternative to the voters of West Boylston, and we thank them for stepping up and assisting the town in our hour of need,” town administrator Leon A. Gaumond said, according to the Telegram and Gazette.
The town had initially decided to keep religious symbols out of public view during the election after Ronal C. Madnick, director of the Worcester chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote to Gaumond that a resident had complained about the location of the polling place.
Madnick told the Telegram and Gazette that while inspecting the church he saw a large crucifix in the church’s community room. He believed this might cause some voters to “feel uncomfortable voting in such a location,” suggesting that town officials consider removing or covering up such religious symbols.
On Saturday Gaumond was notified by the secretary of state’s office that there was no requirement banning religious items at voting sites. He said that any resident objecting to voting at the church can arrange alternative voting methods, such as absentee balloting, with the town clerk.
Worcester City Clerk David J. Rushford called “preposterous” any concerns about using religious facilities as voting places. Rushford noted that nine churches and synagogues in Worcester were used as polling places.
Madnick said he was not surprised by the state’s advice, but said the citizen had had a legitimate complaint. The resident “had his voice heard through us,” he said to the Telegram and Gazette.
Vatican City, Jan 28, 2008 (CNA) - A joyful Pope Benedict spoke this morning with academics gathered at the Vatican to study the human person. While applauding their efforts, he also told them that science is not capable of fully understanding the mystery of human beings.
The inter-academic conference entitled "The changeable identity of the individual", is the collaborative effort of the "Academie des Sciences de Paris" and by the Pontifical Academy of Science.
In our time, the Pope told the scholars, "the exact sciences, both natural and human, have made prodigious advances in their understanding of man and his universe". However at the same time "there is a strong temptation to circumscribe human identity and enclose it with the limits of what is known.”
“In order to avoid going down this path,” the Pontiff said, “it is important not to ignore anthropological, philosophical and theological research, which highlight and maintain the mystery of human beings, because no science can say who they are, where they come from and where they go. The knowledge of human beings is then, the most important of all forms of knowledge".
"Human beings always stand beyond what can be scientifically seen or perceived", the Pope affirmed. This failure manifests itself today in “an incapacity to recognize the foundation upon which human dignity rests, from the embryo until natural death," said the Pope.
"Starting from the question of the new being, who is produced by a fusion of cells and who bears a new and specific genetic heritage", the Holy Father told his audience, "you have highlighted certain essential elements in the mystery of man". Man, said the Pope is "characterized by his otherness. He is a being created by God, a being in the image of God, a being who is loved and is made to love. As a human he is never closed within himself. He is always a bearer of otherness and, from his origins, is in interaction with other human beings".
Contrary to the Darwinian concept of man, Pope Benedict said that “man is not the result of mere chance, of converging circumstances, of determinism, of chemical inter-reactions.”
Man is a being who enjoys a freedom which ... transcends his nature and is a sign of the mystery of otherness that dwells within him. ... This freedom, which is characteristic of human beings, means they can guide their lives to a goal" and "highlights how man's existence has a meaning. In the exercise of his authentic freedom, the individual realizes his vocation, he is fulfilled and gives form to his deepest identity".
Closing his talk, the Pope told the academics, "Human beings have the specific ability of discerning what is good". "In our own time, when the progress of the sciences attracts and seduces for the possibilities it offers, it is more necessary than ever to educate the consciences of our contemporaries to ensure that science does not become the criterion of good, that man is still respected as the centre of creation, and that he does not become the object of ideological manipulation, arbitrary decisions, or abuses".
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jan 28, 2008 (CNA) - In Argentina the trial of Cesar Beguiristain has begun, the 20 year-old leader of an Afro-Brazilian, satanic cult accused of carrying out the ritual killing of a 12 year-old street boy.
Last week Beguiristain confessed to killing “Ramoncito,” a street boy who the cult leader said “had agreed to sell his soul to the devil.”
He was captured in the city of Lomas de Zamora near Buenos Aires and had been on the run for over year after fleeing the city of Corrientes where he was accused by a 14 year-old boy of the murder.
According to prosecutor Gustavo Schmitt, Beguiristain “broke down and confessed to decapitating the boy, but he claimed that it was not his idea and that he was hired to do the killing during a satanic game.”
Schmitt said seven people have been detained in the case, but that authorities are still seeking other individuals “who organized and financed the murder.”
“Ramoncito” disappeared on Friday, October 5, 2006, and his body was found on October 7 in the morning near the bus station where he would often sell stamps and sleep on cardboard boxes.
According to the investigation, the boy was raped, decapitated and dismembered in an Afro-Brazilian ritual.
The witness to the crime said the method of killing caused the boy immense pain and was a source of excitement for his killers. “At that moment everyone was screaming and crying. Afterwards they all joined their hands bloodied by ‘Ramoncito’.” Before the boy died, two of the cult members performed a satanic dance and another member who still remains at large proceeded to decapitate the boy.
“The boy’s head was placed on top of a black host,” the witness said. Authorities say the boy’s description matches those found in a black magic manual obtained from the suspects.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan 28, 2008 (CNA) - Over the weekend, members of the Vietnamese government issued a statement about the recent Catholic protests in the capital city of Hanoi. In a response dated January 28, Archbishop Joseph Ngô of Hanoi disproved every accusation leveled against his flock by the government.
The statement comes after the city's governing body issued an order on January 26 giving the protestors until 5 p.m. Sunday to leave the premises and to remove statues of the Virgin Mary and the cross that they had erected on Friday, but none of the instructions were followed.
Instead, 3,000 Catholics showed up to sing, pray and demand the return of the Church’s property. “We are not afraid of death”, said Huong Nguyen, 34, one among hundreds who stayed all night to protect the statues and cross that Catholics have placed in front of the former Vatican embassy.
State-controlled radio, television and newspapers reported that the archdiocese in no way can challenge the ownership of the building because “on 24 November 1961, Fr. Nguyễn Tùng Cương, the then Financial Administrator and Property Manager of the Archdiocese, donated the property to the government.”
In answer to the claims of the government, the archbishop has responded by saying that Fr. “Canon 1292 specifies that ‘… the competent authority is the diocesan bishop with the consent of the finance council, the college of consultors and those concerned. The diocesan bishop himself also needs their consent to alienate the goods of the diocese.’ Fr Nguyễn Tùng Cương was only a Property Manager, he himself was not the owner of the property and had no authority to make such a decision. We know for sure he never did it. In fact, he simply made a report as required by laws, he did not donate [the property], he did not have authority to do so.”
The archbishop also pointed to the Vietnamese constitution, saying that “the legal property of places of religious belief and of religious organizations is protected by law; any violation of this right is forbidden.”
The statement, signed by Fr. John Lê Trọng Cung, chancellor of the archdiocese, also challenges attacks by the state controlled media. The media claim that Hanoi Catholics have destroyed state-owned properties, occupied state-owned land, gathered and held prayer services illegally in public areas, attacked and insulted officials, disturbed public order, illegally erected a cross in the garden of the former Vatican embassy, and spread distortions about the government on Internet.
Archbishop Joseph Ngô responded to these accusations by insisting that, “The government does not have any evidence that the Church in Vietnam did donate it, nor a decree saying that it was confiscated. Hence, it is still a property of the archdiocese”.
The prelate also argued that worship on the site, which is owned by the Church, is a right “protected by laws”. Therefore, it cannot be interpreted as “gathering and praying illegally in public areas”. Also, “the cross and statues of the Virgin Mary were there originally. The faithful just moved them back to where they were”.
The allegations of distortions being spread about the government on Internet, cannot be pinned on the archbishopric or the Church, but are the responsibility of those who posted them, said Archbishop Ngô. Nevertheless, "most of them are accurate and it is the right of citizens protected by the Constitution” to post their comments, he continued.
In fact, the archbishop said, “It is the radio and the television of Hanoi, the New Hanoi newspaper, and the Capital Security newspaper who intentionally distorted the truths in order to humiliate our clergies and faithful.”
The archbishop of Hanoi closed his statement by calling on the New Hanoi and Capital Security newspapers to “investigate thoroughly following legal procedures” attacks on the Church by their reporters and publicly reply to Hanoi Catholics.
Denver, Colo., Jan 28, 2008 (CNA) - In an interview with CNA, Mark Stricherz, the author of the book “Why the Democrats are Blue: How Secular Liberals Hijacked the People’s Party”, explains how the Democratic Party, once supported heavily by Catholics, has become increasingly secularized since the 1960s.
Stricherz explains how the McGovern Comission drove away Catholics and blue collar voters from the National Democratic Party. While the commission aimed to democratize the party’s nomination system, it ended up becoming highly feminist, activist and secular.
The interview can be found here in its entirety.
, Jan 28, 2008 (CNA) - The Salesian Pontifical University has organized a special showing of all the ecumenical translations of the Bible produced up to now, as a contribution to the upcoming Synod of Bishops that will focus on “the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”
The exposition is called, “The Word translated together. The Bible in common Christian initiatives from Vatican II to today,” and is being sponsored by the Salesian University of Rome and the United Bible Society. The event will be kicked off on Tuesday at Salesian university’s Don Bosco Library by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, and will remain on display until April 29.
The expo includes, panels, books and presentations displayed in two rooms: one with books and another with multimedia presentations that correspond to the four world regions of the United Bible Society: Europe and the Middle East, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, and Africa. Since 1968 until now 211 translations have been made jointly between Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant scholars. The expo at the Salesian University will feature 100 translations in diverse languages.
There are 2,426 languages in which at least one book of Bible has been translated. The New Testament has been translated into 1,444 languages, while the complete Bible has been translated into 429 languages.
Toledo, Spain, Jan 28, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, said on Sunday the Catholic Church does not impose its teachings, but neither does she accept the imposition of secularism and laicism.
“When the Catholic Church proclaims God she does not impose, but rather proposes, offers,” the cardinal said. “We ask that laicism not be imposed either,” he added.
During his homily at Sunday Mass in the Cathedral of Toledo, Cardinal Canizares also pointed out, “We need to not keep quiet, to not be so self-conscious, we can’t turn back, we can’t be ashamed of proclaiming Jesus Christ and proclaiming and calling on others to accept God as the center of their lives.”
“This proclamation is not an imposition, so stop the gibberish. When they tells us we trying to impose we say, we’re not imposing anything, we are offering.”
“What is being imposed is laicism, which should not be imposed on anybody, because it brings destruction, rupture, and the breaking of man,” he said.
Vatican City, Jan 28, 2008 (CNA) - On Saturday at the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the Pope presided at the celebration of the second Vespers for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The ceremony focused on this year's theme of praying unceasingly for Christian unity.
In his homily, the Holy Father referred to the conversion of St. Paul, emphasizing that the saint's “knowledge that only divine grace could have achieved such a conversion, never abandoned him.”
“At the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we are more aware than ever of how much the work of recreating unity, which requires all our energy and commitment, is in any case infinitely beyond our capacities. ... It is not in our power to decide when and how this unity will be fully achieved. Only God can do so.”
Benedict XVI recalled the theme of this year's Week of Prayer – “pray without ceasing” - indicates that this “invitation addressed by St. Paul to the Thessalonians retains all its validity. Faced with the weakness and sin that prevent the full communion of Christians” the exhortations of the Apostle “have retained all their pertinence and this is especially true for the command to ‘pray without ceasing’”.
“What would become of the ecumenical movement without individual and joint prayer ‘that they may all be one, as you Father are in me and I am in you?’ Where can we find that ‘extra drive’ of faith, charity and hope of which our search for unity has such need today? Our desire for unity should not be confined to sporadic occasions but should become an integral part of our whole life of prayer. ... There is, then, no form of genuine ecumenism that does not have its roots in prayer.”
Benedict XVI also spoke of the religious and monastic communities which have “invited and assisted their members ‘to pray continually’ for the unity of Christians.” He mentioned Sr. Maria Gabriella dell'Unita as one of the outstanding figures who prayed for this goal during the last century.
“Ecumenism has great need, today as yesterday, of the great ‘invisible monastery’... of that immense community of Christians of all traditions who, without noise or fuss, pray and offer their lives that unity may be achieved.”
Pope reminded those in attendance that the year dedicated to St. Paul will be inaugurated in the basilica, on June 28. “May his tireless fervor to build the Body of Christ in unity help us to pray ceaselessly for the full unity of all Christians.”
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jan 28, 2008 (CNA) - During the presentation of the Brazilian bishops’ upcoming Lenten campaign “Fraternidad y Defensa de la Vida (Brotherhood and the Defense of Life),” Cardinal Eusebio Oscar Scheid of Rio de Janeiro called on Catholics to only vote for those who are committed to defending the right to life. He also illustrated the need to protect life by sharing an unknown story about his niece.
“The promoters of death should never be in government,” Cardinal Scheid said. “We don’t need people who are going to legalize abortion in Brazil.” “Politics must defend life and never attack it, much less harm it with laws that go against nature itself,” he added.
Cardinal Scheid recalled the case of pro-abortion Congresswoman Jandira Feghali who ran for the Senate during the previous elections and lost despite having 28 point advantage in the polls. “You remember the case of the famous congresswoman who last time lost despite a 28 point lead in the polls, because as a doctor, she simply wanted to kill children,” he said.
“Normally,” he went on, “life is born as the fruit of love. But it can result from a misfortune, through accident, through abuse, by an evil act, an act of brutality, or through aggression…but even so, that life is unique and precious and cannot be destroyed.”
Cardinal Scheid then shared the story of the ten-year old daughter of his niece, who is also his goddaughter, named Aline. “After she was born, Aline was abandoned on the street in Rio Grande do Sul. Saved by a young couple, she was adopted by my niece.”
“I don’t know the story of the mother of my beloved Aline. We can’t judge her for this grave decision of leaving her child on the side of the road, but certainly this was a woman who was alone.”
“Therefore,” he added, “it’s not enough to just defend the life of children. When we defend life, especially that of the unborn, we must also make practical decisions to help pregnant women who do not know what to do to help their child.”
Cardinal Scheid concluded by pointing out that in calling on people to vote against abortion, “I am aware of the weight of my voice as pastor. But I am speaking in the name of a majority of mothers, father and leaders of the country,” he said.
Nairobi, Kenya, Jan 28, 2008 (CNA) - Following the brutal killing of a Catholic priest on Saturday, the Diocese of Nakuru began an operation on Monday evening to evacuate Catholic personnel trapped by continuing ethnic violence, the Catholic Information Service for Africa reports.
Priests and church workers from 10 parishes in the Kalenjin heartland in central western Kenya were evacuated. This comes after members of the Kikuyu and Kisii communities have been targeted for violence after December’s contested elections triggered attacks that have killed 800 people nationwide.
On Saturday Father Michael Kamau Ithondeka was killed by armed youth at a roadblock near Nakuru. He was beaten to death with crude weapons. AFP reports that 64 people have been killed in Nakuru since the fighting started.
A Catholic priest told CISA that suspected Kalenjin fighters, armed with bows, arrows, spears, machetes, and gasoline on Sunday attacked the town of Burnt Forest, intending to kill people displaced by the violence. Security personnel repelled the attackers, but the priest feared they were planning another raid on the town.
In Gigil town, two people were killed, houses were burned, and businesses were closed down. About 800 people had taken refuge in a Catholic parish compound.
Father Fred Ogambi in Kisumu (about 85 miles west of Nakuru) told CISA that youths had chased away teachers and students from schools to keep them closed. The schools were scheduled to open on Monday.
In recent days there has been calm in Eldoret, where some of the worst violence was committed in the immediate aftermath of the contested election. However, about 13,000 people are camped at the Eldoret fairgrounds, and likely will not leave soon for fear of being attacked. Nixon Oira of the Eldoret Catholic Justice and Peace Commission said that dismal conditions in the camp have driven some women to prostitution.
Asunción, Paraguay, Jan 28, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano of Alto Parana has strongly criticized suspended Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo for his decision to be a candidate in the upcoming elections and said it was “dagger thrust into the Church.”
In an interview with the Paraguayan daily ABC Color, Bishop Livieres said, “It is something bad for Catholic doctrine and for canon law for a bishop to abandon his ministry in order to devote himself to other matters, even though they may be as noble as politics.”
“To the bishops,” he continued, “it is sad that the means we use to improve the world, which are the preaching of the word of God and the sacraments, are insufficient in the eyes of a bishop for helping society and that he has to choose earthly means. It’s like underestimating the supernatural means that the Church has used for 2000 years,” he said.
Bishop Livieres noted that “priests and bishops are prohibited from entering politics” and that while in the past priests and religious, and even the Pope, held political power, “the Church went through a process of distancing herself from political activity and returning to her origins.”
He said that the problem of political involvement by the clergy in Latin America stems from “liberation theology. For 45 years that theology has held great influence and there are priests involved in politics, such Ernesto Cardenal in Nicaragua, who was a government minister, and who Pope John Paul II warned to abandon politics when he visited Nicaragua.”
“Lugo is surely the first bishop to abandon the priestly ministry in order to devote himself to politics. This is a very negative precedent. The Holy See suspended him a divinis,” the bishop said.
“Imagine if St. Paul or any of the apostles would have devoted themselves to politics instead of their priestly ministry. The Church would not exist.”
By devoting himself to politics, “it is as if Lugo were saying, ‘I have been wasting my time as a bishop. I am going to devote myself to something better.’ That is the impression one gets,” Bishop Livieres said.
“I know him personally and I appreciate him,” he went on. “I think he is a good person but that he is wrong. I really believe he can correct his attitude and return to the bosom of the Church. All of the bishops pray for this intention.”
He said Lugo’s decision was a “dagger thrust into the body of the Church. He will continue to hurt us as long as he is in this condition and is not a bishop. On the other hand, if Lugo returns to the priestly ministry, it will be a great joy for all,” Bishop Livieres said. “We will continue to repeat this before the elections and after the elections, whether or not he is elected president,” he stated.
Grand Rapids, Mich., Jan 28, 2008 (CNA) - Organizers with the Cardinal Newman Liberal Arts Project believe they have found a good location for a new Catholic college in the town of Otsego, Michigan, the Grand Rapids Press reports.
According to the Cardinal Newman Liberal Arts Project website, the organization is “a lay initiative seeking to establish a baccalaureate curriculum” as envisioned in the work of John Henry Cardinal Newman’s “The Idea of a University” and Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Fides et Ratio.” It hopes to name the proposed school Newman College.
Project leader Ronald Muller says the St. Margaret Catholic Church building and campus, which will be left vacant after the parish moves to a new location, will be ideal for a liberal arts school.
“The site would just really lend itself to a liberal arts college," Muller told the Grand Rapids Press.
The 60-year-old church building, which seats 300, could be used for dramatic performances, musical events, and lectures. The adjacent rectory could be used for classrooms and the extra land on the property could one day accommodate a dormitory.
"Both we and the parish would like very much to see the building used or have a new life [as] a college," Muller said to the Grand Rapids Press. "A church building like that isn't something you can easily renovate and use for a business or another purpose."
The church was originally listed at $750,000, but has not sold for two years. St. Margaret’s pastor Fr. Don Klingler was optimistic about a possible agreement.
"If this goes through, I think most people will see it as a win-win situation for the town, for the college, for St. Margaret's, for the diocese," Father Klingler said to the Grand Rapids Press.
The purchase of the St. Margaret campus will require the blessing of James Murray, Bishop of Kalamazoo. City zoning will also need to be altered to accommodate the college project.