Archive of January 29, 2008

Mother sacrifices her life for her son

London, England, Jan 29, 2008 (CNA) - Lorraine Allard was four months pregnant when doctors discovered she had cancerous tumors in her liver. Her physicians recommended that she abort her child to save herself, but she valued her baby’s life more than her own.

According to the Daily Mail, the wife and mother of three was advised by doctors to abort the child so that she could immediately begin chemotherapy treatment. Instead, she courageously insisted on waiting long enough to give life to her unborn son.  She told her husband Martyn, “If I am going to die, my baby is going to live.”

Martyn told the Daily Mail that it is believed the disease spread from bowel cancer that had been growing unnoticed for years.  Because she was pregnant, the doctors said they were unable to do anything. 

"She told them straight away they were not going to get rid of the baby. She'd have lost the will to fight.”

On November 18, she gave birth to 1 lb 11 oz baby Liam.  Though premature, Liam responded well to his care.  However, his mother’s health began to deteriorate just before Christmas and a scan on January 17 revealed the tumors were still growing.

The next day, Lorraine died peacefully.  Her husband described her last moments as he sat next to her holding her hand. 

"We were like that for about half an hour. I could feel against my chest that her heart was slowing down. She just slipped away after that. It was very peaceful.”

"Lorraine was positive all the way through - she had strength for both of us," he said.

"Towards the end we knew things weren't going well, but she was overjoyed that she had given life to Liam."

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Vietnamese Catholics continue vigil despite government ultimatum

Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan 29, 2008 (CNA) - Vietnamese Catholics have continued their prayer vigil in front of the former Vatican embassy in the face of government orders to cease their demonstrations petitioning to have the property returned to the Church, VietCatholic News reports.

Hundreds of Catholics continue to go to the site to pray, chant, and sing, some staying overnight to protect their cross and statues.  A physical altercation between demonstrators and police on Friday has heightened tensions in the dispute.

Ngo Thi Thanh Hang, a deputy chairwoman of the People's Committee in Hanoi, accused Catholics of attacking security personnel, disturbing public order, erecting a cross illegally in the garden of the site, and spreading distortions about the government on the internet.  Charging sit-in demonstrators of occupying state-owned buildings, she threatened extreme action unless they dispersed by 5 pm Sunday. 

She also ordered the Archbishop of Hanoi’s office to remove the cross and all statues of the Virgin Mary from the site, demanding the archbishop “submit a report” to her before 6 pm Sunday.
Ms. Ngo recently accused the archbishop of "using freedom of religion to provoke protests against the government,” damaging relations between Vietnam and the Vatican.

State-controlled media have echoed Ms. Ngo, accusing Hanoi Catholics of attacking security personnel and calling for government action against the demonstrators.

Father Joseph Nguyen, who was at the vigil on Friday, called the accusations “a shameless distortion,” according to VietCatholic News.  He said that during the demonstration a Hmong woman had climbed over a gate to place flowers on a statue of the Virgin Mary inside the building.

Discovered by security personnel, the woman was chased around the garden of the building.  “Disregarding the woman's explanations for her venturing into the building, the guards kicked and slapped her severely. In the witness of more than 2,000 Catholics, a security commander even loudly ordered his subordinates to beat to death the woman,” Father Nguyen said.

Father Nguyen said that lawyer Lê Quoc Quan intervened, telling the security officials that their acts were unlawful and that they should stop beating the woman.  “However, they turned to attack him and dragged him to an office where he was beaten cruelly," the priest said.

"Seeing all this brutality, in order to rescue Mr. Quan and the woman, the protesters had no other choice than breaking through the gate to confront the security officers," Father Nguyen continued.  He said government authorities’ accusation that the Catholics had attacked first was “a blatant lie.”

Father Nguyen was also dismissive of Deputy Chairwoman Ngo’s orders that the archbishop write a report for her.  “It’s completely ridiculous,” said the priest, “Is she a pope on demanding the archbishop to make a report to her?”

The Catholic community, Father Nguyen said, would be united in praying that God may bless, strengthen, and guide them in their “fight for justice” in the face of the government ultimatum.

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New MRSA strain afflicting homosexuals faces political correctness whitewash, group claims

Washington D.C., Jan 29, 2008 (CNA) - Some conservative groups are alleging that news of a microbe resistant to multiple drugs and found disproportionately among homosexual men is being suppressed due to hostile “politically correct” reactions, Cybercast News Service reports.

Researchers recently announced the discovery of a new form of MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, an infection that is 13 to 14 times more prevalent in homosexual men than the general population.

"These multi-drug resistant infections often affect gay men at body sites in which skin-to-skin contact occurs during sexual activities," said Binh Diep, the University of California-San Francisco scientist who led the team that isolated the new strain of MRSA.  Their study was published two weeks ago in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Matt Barber, director of cultural policy for Concerned Women of America (CWA), said after “pretty solid” initial reporting of the outbreak, news coverage began to change when conservative groups like CWA began noting the microbe was spread primarily through male homosexual activity.

"The real story here is the way that the media have whitewashed this outbreak," Barber told Cybercast News Service. "It is amazing to see what they've done with this."

"The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and other organizations began to jump up and down a bit and scream, and The New York Times and other organizations started to backpedal," Barber said.  Rather than reporting the behaviors associated with the outbreak and its danger to others, Barber said, "The story now became about how groups like mine were supposedly misrepresenting the outbreak as some sort of 'new gay plague' or 'the new AIDS' - things we never said."

The homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign accused CWA and others of being “anti-gay bigots” for recommending homosexual men curtail their sexual activities.

"Serious medical issues deserve serious consideration, not wildly off-the-mark press releases from anti-gay groups trying to capture media attention," HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a news release.  Solmonese called the conservative organizations’ responses a kind of “hysteria,” which he thought resembled some reactions to the outbreak of HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s.

The reaction of activist groups prompted an apology from the University of California at San Francisco, distancing itself from mentioning homosexual men.

"We regret that our recent news report (1-14-08) about an important population-based study on MRSA USA300 with public health implications contained some information that could be interpreted as misleading," the university's Web site said, according to Cybercast News Service.

"We deplore negative targeting of specific populations in association with MRSA infections or other public health concerns, and we will be working to ensure that accurate information about the research is disseminated to the health community and the general public," it added.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also emphasized that the new MRSA strain is "not a sexually transmitted disease in the classic sense," saying the bacteria’s spread could be stopped by washing hands and covering open wounds.

An internationally known infectious disease specialist, Dr. John Diggs, told Cybercast News Service that the outbreak was “especially troubling” because the microbe can spread to the wider community. 

Though MRSA has typically been confined to hospitals, he said, "You can take something that was relatively isolated in a small place, and suddenly, when it spreads to the general population, things such as school wrestling matches, or football games or basketball games or other sporting events, can take on a specter - they can become deadly.”

Dr. Diggs said the university study itself said the MRSA infection manifests itself as "an abscess in the buttocks, genitals or perineum," concluding the microbe "probably started out in San Francisco, and has been disseminated by the frequent cross-coastal travel" of homosexual men between San Francisco and Boston.

"Men who practice anal sex, men who have promiscuous sex, men who have multiple partners in short periods of time are much more likely to spread this disease," he said to Cybercast News Service. "It's not because of who they are. It's because of what they do."

"When you face that reality, then you have to start taking a serious look and deciding that the best public health intervention is to discourage behavior that causes the infection to spread," Dr. Diggs said.

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Collection for Catholics in post-Communist countries to take place Ash Wednesday

Washington D.C., Jan 29, 2008 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has announced that the 2008 Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe will take place in most parishes on February 6, Ash Wednesday.

The collection’s theme, “Love is the only light,” is taken from Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical “Deus Caritas Est,” “God is Love,” in which he writes, “Love is the light—and in the end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working.”

The USCCB established the collection shortly after the collapse of Communism to help the Church regain her footing in countries that had driven Catholics underground.  Priests, bishops, and lay leaders were imprisoned.  Churches, schools, and seminaries were left to decay or were converted to other uses.

“As a result of this severe repression, the bishops of the region today face the formidable tasks of restoring church structures and, more importantly, of rebuilding the spiritual centers of their communities. Now more than ever, the ecclesial needs of Catholics in Central and Eastern Europe must be tenderly cared for,” said Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.

Since 1991, the collection has provided more than $100 million to Catholics in post-Communist Russia as well as Central and Eastern Europe.  More than 3,500 projects in more than 25 countries have been supported by the collection.  The projects include a ministry to Magdan, Russia, which once held a Stalinist labor camp and educational endeavors in war-torn Kosovo.

The good that these collections accomplish is heartening. The website for the aid effort relates several stories, one of which comes from the town of Ushachi, Belarus.

Bishop Wladyslaw Blin of Vitebsk consecrated a new Catholic church built with assistance from the American collection.  The old church had been shut down during the Soviet era, and collapsed from disrepair.

One woman wept outside as the concelebrants gathered in front of the church. 

“What’s wrong?” asked one of the priests.

“I am thinking about my parents,” the woman said through her tears, “and the day I walked by here as a little girl. There was nothing but a pile of ruins. I asked them what it was. They said, ‘a church.’ For years and years, I thought ‘church’ meant a mass of rubble.”

“Now I’ve lived to this day to see this wonderful building and to join in the celebration. It is truly God’s miracle!” she exclaimed through tears of joy.”

The Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe will continue to fund such activities, one official with the campaign said.

“The story of the Church in Central and Eastern Europe is a story of vitality and growth, a story of steadfastness and hope. Where darkness once seemed to reign, the light of love has broken through,” said Father James M. McCann S.J., executive director of the Collection for the Church in Eastern Europe.

More information about the collection and the blessings it has brought can be found at

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Pope offers prayers and praise for Archbishop Christodoulos

Vatican City, Jan 29, 2008 (CNA) - Greece is in mourning today as it laments the loss of the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Christodoulos. Pope Benedict XVI has sent a telegram to expressing his condolences and praising Christodoulos’ work towards Catholic-Orthodox unity.

The passing of the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church was not unexpected since he was engaged in a 7 month battle against cancer. On Sunday, he was moving in and out of consciousness and suffering from liver failure, according to Church officials. Yesterday, at the age of 69, the archbishop passed away.

Upon learning of the death of Archbishop Christodoulos, the Pope sent a telegram to His Eminence Seraphim, metropolitan of Karystia and Skyros.

In his telegram, Pope Benedict gave his assurances of his spiritual closeness to all those mourning the death "of this distinguished pastor of the Church of Greece" and expressed his gratitude for the Orthodox leader’s efforts to achieve unity.

"The fraternal welcome which His Beatitude gave my predecessor Pope John Paul II on the occasion of his visit to Athens in May 2001, and the return visit of Archbishop Christodoulos to Rome in December 2006, opened a new era of cordial co-operation between us, leading to increased contacts and improved friendship in the search for closer communion in the context of the growing unity of Europe,” the Pontiff wrote.

The Holy Father also offered his prayers and those of “Catholics around the world”… “that the Orthodox Church of Greece will be sustained by the grace of God in continuing to build on the pastoral achievements of the late archbishop, and that in commending the noble soul of His Beatitude to our heavenly Father's loving mercy you will be comforted by the Lord's promise to reward His faithful servants".

The Prime Minister of Greece, Kostas Karamanlis, also announced that all of Greece would join in mourning the late archbishop for three days saying: “The archbishop brought the church closer to society, closer to modern problems and to the youth.”

The funeral of Christodoulos will be held this Thursday and be celebrated by the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I.

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Pope’s Lenten Message: Giving alms should be done for the glory of God, not yourself

Vatican City, Jan 29, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict’s Lenten Message for 2008 was presented today in the Holy See Press Office.  The theme for this years’ message, “Christ made Himself poor for you”, reflects on the importance and meaning of almsgiving.

Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council, “Cor Unum”, began by affirming that the Pope’s message presents “reflections on alms and fundraising.” He also noted that, alongside Christmas, “the period leading up to Easter is also traditionally dedicated in many countries to special fundraising campaigns.”

The Holy Father "wishes to highlight, on the basis of the faith, the implications giving has for the spirit of the donor.” Using the words and stories of the Gospel, Benedict XVI “places the gift of the donor in the light of revelation,” Cardinal Cordes said.

“The Pope shows - above all to practicing Christians - the indissoluble bond between piety and caring for the needy.” The Holy Father also “speaks of the intentions of the donor. At a time in which such great honor is paid to benefactors it is certainly appropriate to call attention to the spirit of a benefactor's gesture, which is not to look to the glorification of self but to the glorification of the Father who is in heaven. The love of God is at the root of all good actions accomplished by man.”

Cardinal Cordes also noted how the Holy Father comments on the Biblical episode of the widow who gave everything she had to the Church.  “The value of our gifts is measured not on the basis of the amount stamped on the coins. Before God it is only the hand of the donor that determines the importance of a gift. Its value depends on the ... thoughts and intentions that have caused the person to give.”

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Vietnamese police, newspapers spread propaganda calling archbishop a ‘liar’

Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan 29, 2008 (CNA) - Tensions are rising as Catholics in Hanoi continue their sit-in protests while the city police accuse the clergy of “lying to their flock” and forcing the laity to demonstrate.  In response, Archbishop Joseph Ngô has said, “I’m prepared to go to jail for my flock.” 

A local source informed CNA that he believes the state-run newspapers are trying to prepare the locals for a crackdown on the Catholic protestors. One such example is the New Hanoi newspaper, which described the protesters as “naive people” who have put completely their trusts in their religious leaders who want to seize the building illegally.

Meanwhile, the Hanoi Police force is also engaging in a propaganda campaign against the Catholics, accusing Hanoi’s clergymen of “lying to their flock” and “forcing them to demonstrate against the government”.

Despite cold rains and biting winds, hundreds of protesters have camped out in the residence garden since last Friday.

Joseph Vu Van Khoat, a demonstrator who has camped out in the residence garden since last Friday, decried the press coverage as “nonsense”. “I don’t care what they say. You go out and ask anyone on the streets. No one believes them. In fact, those who have written such articles know well that we have gathered here voluntarily to pray peacefully for justice. But it’s their job to spell out lies”.

Another Catholic questioned the government’s lack of dialogue with the Archbishop of Hanoi.  “Why do they not dare to publish in their newspapers the Archbishop’s statement?” asked Maria Doan Thi Tuyet. “In there the Archbishop argued point-by-point all charges leveled on us.”

As the Vietnamese Catholics continue to pray and demonstrate, refusing to leave the land that they say was commandeered by the government, officials threatened to take “extreme actions” against them.
Fr. Joseph Nguyen reported on the situation as of 7 pm Tuesday.

“At the moment, in the lawn of the building, hundreds religious and lay people are praying. Large numbers of security police, in uniform and in plain-clothes, are on the site, surrounding the protesters and mingling in their ranks, taking photos and filming with video cameras. I am afraid they may attack us tonight,” he said.

Fr. Nguyen also related that Archbishop Ngô told the demonstrators that, ‘Worshipping is a basic human right protected by laws. I'm prepared to go to jail for my flock should the government jail them.’

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Vatican cardinal sides with Denver archbishop in debate over Catholic Charities

Denver, Colo., Jan 29, 2008 (CNA) - At a press conference today on the Pope’s Lenten Message, Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes offered his support for Archbishop Charles Chaput’s recent stand against a potential Colorado law. The bill would eradicate Catholic Charities’ ability to ensure its employees follow Catholic beliefs when working on state funded projects.

Last week, Chaput objected to a proposed measure before the Colorado legislature which would bar charitable agencies that receive state funding from discrimination on the basis of religion in personnel policies. Chaput argued that such a measure would compromise the Catholic identity of church-run charities, and that he would rather see those charities stop delivering services rather than comply.

“This is not idle talk,” Chaput added. “I am very serious.”

According to the National Catholic Reporter, this morning in Rome, Cardinal Cordes expressed support for Chaput’s position. In response to a reporter’s question, Cordes stated: “This bishop is doing the right thing.”

The president of the papal charity Cor Unum continued, saying, “Theologically, charitable activity and the good deeds of the faithful are always connected to the proclamation of the Word.  Jesus performed his works because he was moved by mercy, but also to proclaim the gospel. Service is always tied to testimony to the Word of God, and no one must break this connection.”

“This points to a great contemporary problem.  Thanks to the generosity of many donors, the charitable agencies of the church are able to do their work. But this carries a risk that the spirit of a Catholic agency can become secularized, doing only what the donor has in view.”

The cardinal also brought Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” to Chaput’s defense. “The pope’s encyclical was not just put together out of thin air. It was a response to a development in society. Catholic agencies have to be very careful not to lose their liberty, taking money from donors who later try to introduce a mentality that does not correspond to ecclesiastical objectives,” Cordes told the National Catholic Reporter.

To put his point into a sound bite, Cordes said, he wants the world to understand “that there’s a difference between Caritas and the Red Cross.”

Back in Denver, Colorado, Christopher Rose, the president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver, published a letter to the editor in the January 30 issue of the Denver Catholic Register backing Chaput’s position.

“Helping the poor and suffering is not just the government’s business,” Rose stated.  “In fact, government is the newcomer to this work.  It’s been the business of religious communities for centuries.”

Hiring religious believers to operate charities with similar religious beliefs, Rose argued, is not discrimination, but rather “the legitimate practice of faith-based agencies seeking to hire people of like faith to ensure that their mission of serving the poor is faithfully undertaken.”

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New Vatican document could spark resurgence of Catholic schools, says American archbishop

San Antonio, Texas, Jan 29, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of San Antonio, said a recent document by the Vatican could spark a resurgence of Catholic schools in the United States.

In a column published by the archdiocesan newspaper, the archbishop recalled the long history of Catholic education in San Antonio dating back as far as the 1850s and 1860s, with the arrival of dedicated members of religious orders like the Marianist Brothers and the Ursuline Sisters.

The times have changed. Catholic education is now largely the work of lay people, who share the church’s teaching mission with a relatively small number of consecrated persons.

To address these challenges, the Vatican’s Congregation for Education issued a document last September called “Educating Together in Catholic Schools”, which the archbishop pointed out, addresses a crucial issue: “the need for all who work in Catholic schools to believe in their vocation as true teachers of the faith.”

Catholic teachers, whether lay or religious, follow in the footsteps of Christ…and share also in the mission that Christ gave to his church. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, (Mt 28:19-20)” he added.

“The new Vatican document,” Archbishop Gomez stressed, “talks about the need for ‘formation of the heart’.” What that means is that teachers need to cultivate a deep personal relationship with Christ through prayer, the reading of Scripture and participation in the sacraments.”

“It’s also essential for teachers to constantly be growing in their faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ and his teachings,” he continued. “We can’t teach what we don’t know. So we must know and love Jesus and his church more and more.”

“No matter what subject they teach, teachers can bear witness to Jesus Christ,” the archbishop said.  “They can help open students’ eyes to see Christ in their lives and in their world. They can help them to know Jesus as the Lord of history and the Lord of creation and as the source of all wisdom and happiness.”

“Love for Jesus,” he emphasized, “must always be matched by a deep commitment to being faithful to the truth of his Gospel. Our Lord has asked us to teach all that he commanded — not just a part of it, not just our own interpretations of his teaching. Teachers, then, have a duty both to know all that the church teaches and to transmit it faithfully to their students.”

“Using the words of this new document, let us pray that they become true ‘schools of faith,’ in which hearts are formed for the Gospel, so ‘there will arise a generation of new persons, the molders of a new humanity’,” the archbishop said in conclusion.

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Catholic political leader murdered in Kenyan upheaval

Nairobi, Kenya, Jan 29, 2008 (CNA) - A Catholic opposition politician is one of the latest victims of the Kenyan violence that began after contested elections in December, the Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA) reports.
Melitus Mugabe Were, 40, was sworn in as Member of Parliament only two weeks ago for the Embakasi district, Nairobi’s most populous constituency.  He was shot and killed by unknown attackers outside the gate of his house after just after midnight on Monday.
Were, a former student at Kiserian Seminary in Nairobi, helped found the National Catholic Youth Center in Nairobi in December of 1988.  He studied social communications at the Gregorian in Rome and later worked with disadvantaged youth in a suburb of Nairobi.

A close friend of Were described him to CISA as an intelligent and hardworking activist who defended Catholic teaching.  The friend said that Were had made enemies in the course of his activism, even receiving death threats.

President Mwai Kibaki condemned Were’s killing, ordering police to launch immediate investigations to ensure the perpetrators are caught.

Were’s belonged to the political party called the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). The head of ODM, Raila Odinga, has been the most vocal opponent of President Mwai Kibaki, claiming that the recent voting keeping Kibaki in office was rigged.

Odinga called Melitus Were’s killing “an assassination targeted at reducing the party’s majority in Parliament. We ask our supporters to mourn Were peacefully.

Were’s death also sparked angry protests in Nairobi and other parts of Kenya, leading to more than 22 dead, according to AFP.

Formal talks between the Kenyan government and ODM were scheduled to begin Tuesday afternoon.  Mediated by former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, both sides are required to commit themselves to the arbitration and its outcome.

The former UN chief said he hoped the immediate political issues could be resolved within a month and gave Kenya one year to resolve damage inflicted by a month of chaos in which almost 1,000 people have died.

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Anglican archbishop gives Pope ‘Holy Grail’ beer

Vatican City, Jan 29, 2008 (CNA) - The Anglican Archbishop of York presented a gift of beer to Pope Benedict XVI on his recent trip to the Vatican, the York Press reports.

Archbishop of York John Sentamu, visiting Rome to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, presented the Pope with an illustrated history of York Minster and a cut-glass beer tankard from the Minster. 

He also gave to the Pope two Yorkshire beers, Holy Grail beer and Black Sheep Ale from the Black Sheep Brewery.

Archbishop Sentamu said the gifts were chosen to reflect the Pope’s appreciation for Bavarian beer. The gifts pleased the Pope, who is Bavarian by birth and prefers beer to wine and water, according to The Guardian.

The Archbishop of York is the second-highest-ranking prelate in the Church of England, second only to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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