Archive of February 1, 2008

Full itinerary for Pope's U.S. visit released

Washington D.C., Feb 1, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI’s itinerary for his first papal visit to the United States has been released and includes a wide range of events. The Holy Father will visit with the President, meet with 350 bishops from around the U.S. and address Catholic educators among other commitments.

The Pope will arrive in Washington on Tuesday, April 15.  Upon arrival he will meet with President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, and the next day he will visit the White House.

On April 16, Pope Benedict will also hold a prayer service and meeting with the 350 bishops of the United States at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Thursday morning, the Pope will celebrate Mass at the Nationals Park in Washington, the first non-baseball event in the park.  Later that day, he will visit Catholic University of America to deliver an address both to the heads of more than 200 Catholic colleges and universities and to school superintendents from 195 Catholic dioceses.

After the address to educators, the Pope will meet with Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, and representatives of other religions for a prayer service at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center near Catholic University.

Pope Benedict will leave for New York City on the morning of April 18.  He will address the United Nations at 10:45 a.m. and at 6 p.m. he will hold a prayer service at St. Joseph’s Church in Manhattan.

The next day, the Pope will hold a 9:15 a.m. Mass for priests and deacons at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  He will meet with Catholic youth, including 50 disabled children, at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers.

On the morning of April 20 the Pope will visit ground zero, the site of the destroyed World Trade Center buildings.  Following the Ground Zero stop, he will celebrate a Mass with 60,000 people in Yankee Stadium at 2:30, and will leave New York for Rome at 8 pm.

The Archdiocese of Boston is making available 3,000 tickets for Boston-area Catholics who want to attend the papal Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York on April 20, according to the Boston Globe.

The Boston tickets can be requested online at and are available only to registered parishioners over the age of 14.  If more than 3,000 people request tickets, they will be chosen by lottery.

"Many Catholics have called asking if the archdiocese would have tickets, so we requested a number from the Archdiocese of New York, and we were thrilled that they allocated such a large number for us," said Scot Landry, coordinator of the event. "There's a natural affection for the Holy Father, and this is his first trip to the US, and I think people want to experience it firsthand."

At the New York Mass, the Pope will recognize the bicentennial of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the creation of the dioceses of Boston, New York, Louisville, and Philadelphia.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has set up a website for the papal visit, located at

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India Catholics set world record for 40 hour singing marathon

Mangalore, India, Feb 1, 2008 (CNA) - Catholics in southwestern India have set a new world record by singing non-stop for 40 hours, UCA News reports.

Priests, religious, and laypeople started singing on January 27, managing to eclipse the previous 36-hour record set by a Brazilian Christian group in 2004.

The record-setters sang in the Konkani language, currently spoken by about 5 million people.  The language is largely associated with Catholics on the southwestern coast of India.

Eric Ozario, founder of the Konkani cultural organization Mandd Sobhann, told UCA News that the aim of the project was to instill a sense of unity and solidarity among Kokani-speaking people.  “We are a small community and Westernization is eating away our culture,” he said.  The Konkani community could grow "only when it is united, culturally rooted and proud of its culture."  Ozario said some Konkani-speaking Catholics have turned to an “English culture, forgetting their rich cultural roots.”

"Konkani language and our Catholic faith are linked to each other, and we cannot separate one from the other," Sister Juliet Lobo, a Queen of Apostles nun who helped conduct the performance, told UCA News.

Sister Lobo said about 1,700 singers in 44 groups sang continuously, with less than ten seconds between songs and between singing groups.  While the singers mostly came from Catholic parishes in the Indian states of Goa, Maharashtra, and Kerala, some Konaki-speaking Catholics from Persian Gulf countries were also included.

They sang over 600 Christian hymns or faith-related songs.  No song was repeated and no singer appeared more than once.  The groups providing musical accompaniment changed every four hours.

Keith Pullin, an official from Guinness World Records, monitored the performance.  He told UCA News he was "amazed by the discipline of the groups, their performance and the professionalism" of the event.

Father Ramesh Naik, a Mumbai parish priest who was the event’s chief patron, said the Konkani culture had played a major role in shaping faith and culture.  “It has to be preserved,” he said to UCA News.

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Boston gym’s ad featuring nuns and a naked man draws fire

Boston, Mass., Feb 1, 2008 (CNA) - A Boston-area fitness club’s advertisement depicting nuns and a naked man has attracted harsh criticism, CBS News reports.

The advertisement for the Equinox fitness clubs, developed by the Fallon Worldwide ad agency, is being displayed in gyms and publications like Boston Magazine.  One ad features attractive young women dressed as nuns in habit who sketch a naked man while staring at his crotch.

C. J. Doyle of the Catholic Action league called the advertisement “unfair and depraved.”

"It's also an example of this perverse obsession that the advertising industry has with exploiting and sexualizing Catholic religious imagery," Doyle said to CBS.

CBS Affiliate WBZ-TV asked a Museum of Fine Arts expert to comment on the advertisement.  Marietta Cambareri said "It's evoking a very particular aspect of art, the study of classical statuary or using the human body as a tool to learn how to draw."

Bill Donahue of the New York-based Catholic league also criticized the advertisement, saying, “this patently stupid ad that Equinox is floating suggests that it must hype its edgy image in order to compete. That’s too bad—apparently their targeted demographic group isn’t lured by the prospect of more barbells and fruit bars. Hence, the need to rip off Catholic imagery in a sophomoric soft-porn ad.”

The Catholic League asked for the ad to be withdrawn, while the Archdiocese of Boston has said it wants an apology from the fitness club.

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U.S. RU-486 provider investigated for contaminated leukemia drugs

Beijing, China, Feb 1, 2008 (CNA) - A state-owned Chinese pharmaceutical company that manufactures the RU-486 abortion pill faces accusations that tainted leukemia drugs produced by the company have paralyzed or otherwise harmed nearly 200 Chinese cancer patients, the New York Times reports.

The Shanghai Hualian factory that produced the drugs has been closed by drug regulators. In December, China’s Food and Drug Administration said that Shanghai police had begun a criminal investigation, detaining two officials including the head of the factory.

The New York Times reports that last week, a window near the gate of the closed plant displayed a sign from the Chinese FDA accusing the factory of “producing substandard medicine that poses major risks of causing serious harm to human health.”

Shanghai Hualian is the United States’ sole provider of the abortion pill mifepristone, known as RU-486.  The mifepristone factory is an hour’s drive away from the plant under investigation.

The United States Food and Drug Administration said the RU-486 plant passed an inspection in May.  The U.S. FDA released a statement saying the agency “is not aware of any evidence to suggest the issue that occurred at the leukemia drug facility is linked in any way with the facility that manufactures the mifepristone.”

The allegedly contaminated batch of the cancer drug methotrexate caused leg pain and sometimes paralysis.  Another cancer drug made in the same factory, cytarabin hydrochloride, also began causing adverse reactions, after which investigators began to suspect contamination. 

Officials closed the factory after finding that both drugs had been contaminated during production with vincristine sulfate, another cancer drug.  The vincristine sulfate had been stored in a refrigerator that also stored materials for use in creating other drugs. 

There have been at least 193 cases of adverse reactions to the company’s cancer drug in all of China.  Apparently about half of those injected with the drug still cannot walk.

Dr. Sidney M. Wolf, a consumer advocate, told the New York Times that American regulators ought to be concerned because of accusations of a corporate cover-up.  “Every one of these plants should be immediately inspected,” he said.

Shanghai Hualian, a division of the very large Shanghai Pharmaceutical Group, has had at least two shipments stopped at the United States border.  One consisted of an unapproved antibiotic, while another was a diuretic that had “false or misleading labeling.”  The major pharmaceutical company Pfizer has declined to buy drug ingredients from the Shanghai Pharmaceutical Group because of concerns about the quality of the group’s production standards.

Chinese officials have stripped Shanghai Hualian of its license to produce anti-tumor drugs, though this action will not affect its RU-486 production.

RU-486 is distributed in the United States by Danco Laboratories. According to the New York Times, the United States FDA has never publicly identified the pill’s manufacturer because of opposition from the pro-life movement.

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Bishops and European mediators meet to push for release of hostages in Colombia

, Feb 1, 2008 (CNA) - The ambassadors of Spain, France and Switzerland to Colombia met this Wednesday with a group of bishops participating in the Ordinary Assembly of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia in order to study ways of achieving the release of hostages being held by the FARC.

The participants did not disclose the details of the meeting, but the archbishop of Bogota, Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Saenz, praised the willingness of the ambassadors, “who are always willing to collaborate in a special way with everything that would advance a peace agreement, a pacification of the country.”

This was the first meeting between the European delegates and the Church after Colombian President Alvaro Uribe reactivated mediation efforts by Spain, France and Switzerland for a humanitarian agreement on January 19.

Bishop Fabian Marulanda, general secretary of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, said the Church hopes to meet soon with representatives of the FARC in order to set up a meeting between the Marxist group and the government to nail down terms for an agreement.

“We hope to find some points of agreement, first in order to define the place where a meeting will take place, and secondly to define the conditions, if they are going to hand over (the hostages) all at once or in parts, and in exchange for which prisoners,” the bishop said.

The Bishops’ Conference of Colombia has proposed establishing a meeting zone of 150 square kilometers, which President Uribe accepted in December, in order to negotiate the fate of hostages being held by the rebel group.

Up to now, the FARC’s position has been that of freeing 43 hostages for nearly 500 imprisoned terrorists, as well as demanding the demilitarization of 800 square kilometers near Cali, the third largest city in Colombia.

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Vietnamese government agrees to return nunciature “out of respect for the Pope”

Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb 1, 2008 (CNA) - Following years of efforts and prayers, Catholics in Hanoi have agreed to stop protesting as the Vietnamese government says it will return the former nunciature to the Archdiocese of Hanoi.

Just yesterday, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, released a letter that he sent to the Archbishop of Hanoi expressing the Vatican’s support for the Catholics’ efforts. 

Within hours of the publication of the cardinal’s letter, a Church source in Hanoi informed CNA that the Vietnamese government, as an expression of “goodwill and the respect for the Holy Father” is giving the right to use the building back to the Archdiocese.

In addition, having received news of the letter from Cardinal Bertone, local Catholics have agreed not to hold any protests that might provoke violence “out of obedience to the Holy Father”, said a Church source.

The largest protest to date was planned for the upcoming Lunar new year celebration on February 6, but it has been put on hold as the details of the agreement are hammered out.

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After 70 years...Greek-Catholic bishops return to the Vatican

Vatican City, Feb 1, 2008 (CNA) - For the first time in 70 years, the bishops of the Greek-Catholic Church of Ukraine were able to pay a visit to the tomb of St. Peter and to meet with his successor, Pope Benedict XVI.

“You are welcome, dear brothers, in this house in which intense and incessant prayers have always been said for the beloved Greek-Catholic Church of Ukraine," the Pope told the bishops.

The ‘ad limina’ visit comes after years of  limited freedom for the Greek-Catholic Church.

"Now that your Churches have rediscovered their complete freedom", the Pope said, "you are here to represent your communities, reborn and vibrant in the faith, which have never ceased to feel their full communion with Peter's Successor.”

Benedict XVI praised the prelates' "generous efforts and tireless testimony" in their dealings "with your people and the Church", reminding them that in their missionary and pastoral duties "priests are of indispensable assistance". Hence, the Pope invited the bishops to ensure that priests, "in the various initiatives of 'aggiornamento' (a term from Vatican II referring to “updating”), do not follow the novelties of the world but present society with the responses that only Christ can give to the hopes for justice and peace in the human heart".

The Holy Father also called upon the bishops to seek out collaboration with the Latin rite bishops in their country to provide priests with courses of spiritual exercises, formation and theological and pastoral renewal. “It cannot be denied that such collaboration between the two rites would lead to greater harmony of heart among those who serve the one Church,” the Pope said.

"I am certain that, with such an inward attitude, any misunderstandings will be more easily resolved, in the awareness that both rites belong to the one Catholic community and that both have full and equal citizenship in the one Ukrainian people", he added. In this context, the Pope recommended that the Greek-rite prelates "meet regularly, for example one a year, with the Latin bishops".

  The Holy Father then went on to consider the difficulties faced by Ukrainian bishops "as regards the responsible obedience of male and female religious, and their co-operation in the needs of the Church. With the magnanimity of pastors and the patience of fathers, exhort these brothers and sisters tirelessly to defend the 'non-secular' nature of their vocation" and "faithfully to observe their vows ... so they can provide the Church with the particular testimony that is asked of them".

Turning to the topic of ecumensim, the Pope noted that "real and objective obstacles persist. However", he said, "it is important not to lose heart in the face of the difficulties, but to continue along the journey that began with prayer and patient charity".

"Before anything else, what must be promoted is the ecumenism of love" which, "accompanied by coherent actions, creates trust and causes hearts and eyes to open. By its nature, charity promotes and illuminates the dialogue of truth," he said.

Benedict XVI concluded his talk by giving thanks to God "for the rebirth of Your Church after the dramatic period of persecution. On this occasion I feel the need to assure you (bishops) that the Pope carries you all in his heart, he accompanies you affectionately and supports you in your difficult mission".

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International congress commemorates 20th anniversary of “Mulieris Dignitatem”

, Feb 1, 2008 (CNA) - Celebrations for the twentieth anniversary of John Paul II's Apostolic Letter on the dignity and vocation of women, “Mulieris dignitatem”, will be kicked off by an international congress organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The conference will examine the progress made in promoting the dignity and vocation of women the over the last two decades.

The congress, which will be held in Rome on February 7-9, is expected to attract more than 260 people from 49 countries, including delegations from 40 bishops’ conferences, representatives from 28 movements and new communities, 16 Catholic women’s associations, nine female religious institutes and influential women in various fields of culture.
The theme of the congress is: “Woman and man, the ‘humanum’ in its entirety.” Organizers plan to examine such questions as: maternity, paternity and the importance of these two dimensions within family and social life; the balance between family life and work; and the need for a greater presence of women in public life and in the assumption of ecclesial and civil responsibilities.

Conference planners also hope to use the congress to initiate a reflection on the new cultural paradigms and difficulties faced by Catholic women in living according to their identity and in collaborating in fruitful reciprocity with men in building up the Church and society. 

Finally, the conference strives to remind women of the beauty of the vocation to holiness, encouraging them to respond to it with increasing awareness and, as players in the mission of the Church, to place at the service of the apostolate, family, workplace and culture, all the richness of the feminine “genius”.

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Benedict XVI’s prayer intentions for February released

Vatican City, Feb 1, 2008 (CNA) - Today the Press Office of the Holy See released Pope Benedict's prayer intentions for the month of February. 

Pope Benedict's general prayer intention is: "That the mentally handicapped may not be marginalised, but respected and lovingly helped to live in a way worthy of their physical and social condition".

His mission intention is: "That the institutes of consecrated life, which are so flourishing in mission countries, may rediscover the missionary dimension and, faithful to the radical choice of the evangelical counsels, be generous in bearing witness to and announcing Christ to the ends of the earth."

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Communion in hand should be revised, Vatican official says

, Feb 1, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Cult and Discipline of the Sacraments has said that the policy of giving Communion in the hand should be revised.

Receiving Holy Communion in the hand "produces a growing weakening of a devout attitude toward the Most Holy Sacrament," wrote Archbishop Ranjith in the preface of a book from the Auxiliary Bishop of Kazakhstan, Bishop Athanasius Schneider.

The book's title, printed by the Vatican Editing house, is “Dominus Est: Meditations of a Bishop from Central Asia on the Sacred Eucharist."

Archbishop Ranjith says in the preface that the Eucharist should be received "with reverence and an attitude of devout adoration," and claims that the practice of receiving Communion in the hand "was introduced in some places in an abusive and hurried manner."

The Archbishop also highlights that the Second Vatican Council never promoted or legitimated such practice.

“I believe it is time to evaluate and reconsider such a practice, and if necessary, abandon it all together," Ranjith concludes.

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Cardinal Pell slams proposed tax on children

, Feb 1, 2008 (CNA) - Obstetrician and associate professor of medicine Barry NJ Walters of the Australian Medical Association said recently he intends to propose a $5000 "baby levy" for every family having more than two children, followed by an annual carbon tax of up to $800 a child.

According to The Record, the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, criticized the proposal this week and said such an opinion should be “a wake-up call” to everyone and “is an example of the profound aberration of modern society with regards to the place and value of the human person in the world.”

The cardinal added, “I’m not sure how rare it is that an obstetrician expresses an opinion like this or that a specialized, influential magazine makes such an opinion public.”  Such a point of view, he went on, shows “where the neo-pagan and anti-human mentality of a minority wishes to lead us.”

According to the website, in Seoul in mid-January Cardinal Pell said, “The concern for the physical ecology is not always accompanied by an equal concern for the moral ecology of our society.”

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Education for Citizenship seeks to dominate emotions in order to control people, Spanish cardinal warns

Toledo, Spain, Feb 1, 2008 (CNA) - In an interview with Libertad Digital Television, the Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, said the purpose of the controversial Socialist propaganda course “Education for Citizenship,” is to take control of the way an entire generation of students think by controlling their affections.

“To conquer the affections is to dominate the nucleus of the person in order to destroy him,” the cardinal said during a discussion with philosopher Gabriel Albiac.  The interview has become the video with the most views in the category of education on YouTube.

Cardinal Cañizares stressed that some of the ideologies presented in the course, “such as the ideology of gender, tend to destroy the truth about man.”  He said the state is using the course in an attempt to “form the moral consciences of all citizens and impose one way of thinking—its own.”

The cardinal noted that Spain’s constitution recognizes parents’ “right to choose the kind of moral and religious formation they want for their children.  And 80% of Spaniards have requested, at least for primary school, Catholic moral and religious formation.”

“The application of Education for Citizenship is a question of power for the indoctrinating State,” he asserted, because in the control of the affections and moral ideas “lies the power, the control over citizens, the control of the will and of morals.”

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More aid needed for families to combat demographic winter in Spain, group says

Madrid, Spain, Feb 1, 2008 (CNA) -  

The president of the Institute for Family Policy in Spain, Eduardo Hertfelder, asked politicians this week who are running for office to include in their proposals a “universal” aid package for families with children under the age of 18 in order to put the brakes on the demographic winter that is gripping the country.

“The political parties still have not wagered for the family,” Hertfelder said, explaining that “despite the clear relation between the lack of assistance to the family and the decline of the birth rate and the demographic winter, no political party up to now has announced measures that will help overcome the discrimination and injustice that exist in Europe regarding aid per child.  We run the risk that the family will again be greatly ignored in election campaigns,” he stated.

“Although the political parties sometimes mention the importance of the family, and some parties have even announced interesting concrete measures, the great challenges facing the family in Spain have still not been truly confronted,” Hertfelder stressed.

He went on to say that the Institute for Family Policy has called on political parties to include in their campaign proposals economic aid in the amount of “$185 per child per month ($2,224 per year) until the age of 18, for all Spanish families (regardless of income).”

Experts say Spain is the country with least aid for the family and has one of the lowest birth rates of any country in the European Union.  “The less aid there is for the family in a country, the greater the decline in the birth rate,” Hertfelder pointed out.

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Ex-bishop in Paraguay makes presidential bid official

Asunción, Paraguay, Feb 1, 2008 (CNA) - Despite being suspended “A divinis” by the Holy See and his brothers in the episcopate, suspended Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo made his bid for the presidency of Paraguay official on Thursday.

During the general elections on April 20, Lugo’s party, the Patriotic Alliance for Change (PAC), will attempt to unseat the Colorado Party, which has held power for 61 years without interruption.

 The PAC is made up of 11 political parties and left-wing social and trade movements.

Lugo made his bid official the same day as the former commander of the military, General Lino Cesar Oviedo.

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