Detroit, Mich., Feb 6, 2008 (CNA) - The statue of an angel that was stolen from a Catholic cemetery in Detroit, Michigan has been found.
The 350-pound bronze statue was taken from the burial grounds next to Assumption Grotto Catholic Church when thieves cut a hole in the fence surrounding the cemetery to take the statue which was bolted to the ground. Officials estimate that bronze has a street value of $2 per pound.
Phyllis Bausano, the secretary of Assumption Grotto, told the Detroit Free Press that one of the Sisters of the Holy Cross noticed the large statue was missing on Friday, when she went to the grotto to pray.
The statue was recovered on Tuesday morning from an alley behind the church.
Ann Arbor, Mich., Feb 6, 2008 (CNA) - A Maryland Circuit Court judge has ruled in favor of a public school curriculum promoting homosexuality, bisexuality, anal intercourse, and transvestitism to 8th and 10th grade students. The curriculum also teaches how to use condoms during unnatural sex acts and instructs students that homosexuality is innate.
Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, the Family Leader Network and the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, represented by the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center, had asked Judge William J. Rowan, III to overturn a Maryland Board of Education ruling approving the Montgomery County school curriculum. Some said the curriculum was adopted due to pressure from homosexual advocacy groups.
The Thomas More Law Center argued that the curriculum did not teach factually correct material, citing a 2007 case in Maryland’s highest appellate court that decided that the belief in the innateness of homosexuality was not supported by credible evidence.
“Maryland law says that you have to teach something that is factually accurate,” said Brandon Bolling, the Thomas More Law Center attorney who argued the case. “They are not doing that, therefore it is illegal.”
274 Montgomery-area doctors also signed a petition objecting to the curriculum, which promotes the claim that the use of condoms prevents disease in anal intercourse.
Hayley Gorenberg, the deputy legal director of Lambda Legal, which was defending the course, claimed that the educational material comes from the mainstream medical consensus. “It is based on leading, mainstream medical consensus and promotes tolerance and understanding of people of every orientation and gender identity,” he said.
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center predicted what the ruling in favor of the homosexual lobby will result in, saying, “Judge Rowan’s ruling gives a green light to homosexual groups throughout Maryland to pressure school boards to adopt similar policies.”
Thompson will meet with the consortium of pro-family groups next week regarding an appeal.
Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2008 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has announced that it is offering Catholics a variety of resources for Lenten reflection and spiritual growth.
The resource website, located at www.usccb.org/lent , includes several versions of the Stations of the Cross, including an audio version, and a new series of “radio retreats” led by bishops in English and Spanish.
Information on fasting and abstinence, examinations of conscience to help prepare for the Sacrament of Penance, and a section on Holy Week observances are also featured on the website. Site resources are arranged around the four pillars of belief outlined in the “United States Catholic Catechism for Adults”: what we believe, what we celebrate, how we live, and how we pray.
The radio retreats, which focus on the scripture readings for each Sunday in Lent, were produced in association with Franciscan Radio. Retreat host Elia Castillo opens each retreat with a greeting, followed by a singing of the Lord’s Prayer. The bishop leading the retreat will give a homily, which is followed by a meditative song and a question-and-answer segment with the bishop. The program concludes with a summary from the host and a blessing from the bishop.
Bishops conducting the English-language retreats include Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pennsylvania, Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah, Georgia, Bishop Richard J. Garcia of Monterey, California and Bishop John M. D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana. Bishop Daniel Flores, auxiliary bishop of Detroit, will give one retreat in English and one in Spanish.
The Lenten resources website was created by the USCCB Communications Department, while the U.S. Bishops’ Catholic Communications Campaign funded the radio retreats, the Stations of the Cross, the podcast of the readings, and the daily reflections.
Harare, Zimbabwe, Feb 6, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, recently called for prayer and solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe on a pastoral visit to the African country.
The cardinal traveled with the chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales international affairs department, Bishop Crispian Hollis. He met with bishops, including Archbishop of Harare Robert Ndlovu and others from the Zimbabwean bishops’ conference.
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor visited a township in the south of Harare where poverty and illness, including cholera outbreaks, are endemic. Economic collapse and extreme food shortages have created a desperate situation, with many people gathering near parishes for handouts. The Jesuits recently distributed five tons of corn, but the supply lasted for only three days.
The cardinal visited several projects run by the local Church that were partially funded by Cafod, Caritas Internationalis, and the Pontifical Mission Society, these sites primarily focused on caring for HIV/AIDS victims. Sister Margaret McAllen, director of an HIV/AIDS project in Mashambanzou, told the cardinal that they had cared for over 3,500 families in the community, bringing the most sick into residential care until they recover enough to return to the community.
Sister McAllen said that dealing with death and the dying required spiritual support, telling the cardinal, “We get our spiritual energy from people like you coming here. This is vital to our work. We are all channels of God’s grace and knowing that you are with us is important as it gives us strength in our mission. We need this support.”
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said that he was “profoundly moved… by the suffering and anguish of those living in terrible poverty and living with HIV/AIDS but also by the compassion and strength of those in the Church working with the most vulnerable.”
“It is when caring for the poor, sick and most vulnerable to bring them hope that the Church is at its finest,” he said.
The cardinal said that there was a “crisis of governance” in Zimbabwe, brought on by “a crisis of spiritual and moral leadership and a collapse of civic society.” He said it could take years to restore the country to stability, and that material assistance was essential. However, the Church can offer “our sense of prayer and solidarity through which hope grows.”
Archbishop Ndlovu thanked the cardinal and Bishop Hollis at a crowded public Mass at Harare Cathedral. The cardinal delivered a homily focusing on hope for a better future for the people of Zimbabwe.
Vatican City, Feb 6, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano is reporting that 67 professors from La Sapienza University in Rome who wrote a letter opposing a visit by Pope Benedict XVI based their opposition on a quote taken out of context from Wikipedia.org.
The professors portrayed themselves as defenders “of freedom of research and of knowledge.” “In the name of ‘freedom of research and of knowledge,’ they have taken false information to be true, accepting an assertion without checking whether it is factual,” the Vatican newspaper reported.
In their letter, the 67 professors maintained that “on March 15, 1990, during a speech in the city of Parma when he was still a cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger quoted a statement by Feyerabend (a philosopher of science): ‘During the era of Galileo the Church was more faithful to reason that Galileo himself. The trial of Galileo was reasonable and just. These are words that, as scientists faithful to reason and teachers who devote their lives to the advance and spread of knowledge, offend and humiliate us. In the name of the lay nature of science and culture and out of respect for our forum open to teachers and students of all creeds and ideologies, we urge that this event be canceled.”
L’ Osservatore maintained that if any of the professors had checked the facts before signing the letter, “they would have realized that the author took the quote from a discourse by Ratzinger that is found under the title ‘Papa Benedetto XVI’ at Wikipedia.org, the online encyclopedia that is edited by internet users and that no man of science would use as an exclusive source for his research, unless he checked the veracity of the content.”
“That Wikipedia in all likelihood is the source of the quote is evident by the fact that the letter from the 67 professors makes reference to a speech by Cardinal Ratzinger on March 15, 1990 in Parma. The speech was given, but it took place in Rome, at La Sapienza University on exactly that day,” L’ Osservatore continued. “The surprising thing is that whoever took the quote from Feyerabend could not have read the rest of the entry in Wikipedia, as he would have realized that the meaning of Ratzinger’s statement is exactly the opposite of what the 67 claimed the Pope was saying.”
“Each person is free to judge if this way of using reason is correct or if it is an act of disloyalty. The risk of reason folding to the pressure of interests and to the attractiveness of utility is exactly the risk which the Pope would have warned the staff of La Sapienza about had he been able to speak there,” the Vatican newspaper stated in conclusion.
Vatican City, Feb 6, 2008 (CNA) - As the African nation of Chad suffers under the scourge of violence, Pope Benedict XVI has launched a “heartfelt appeal for people to lay down their arms and follow the path of dialogue and reconciliation.”
The Pope issued his call as thousands of civilians have been caught in the middle of fighting between the sitting government and rebels accusing the president of corruption and embezzlement of oil revenue.
"In these days", he said, "I feel particularly close to the dear people of Chad, tormented by painful civil conflicts which have caused numerous victims and the flight of thousands of civilians from the capital. Also to your prayers and to your solidarity I entrust these suffering brothers and sisters, asking they be spared further violence, and that vital humanitarian assistance be guaranteed.”
A rebel attack last weekend on Chad’s capital Ndjamena left the streets strewn with bodies and about 1,000 people injured. It also triggered an exodus of up to 30,000 people from the city, fleeing to neighboring Cameroon and Nigeria, according to the International Red Cross.
France’s defense minister is making an unannounced visit to the country to consider offering military assistance. Meanwhile, rebel forces, which have pulled back from the capital, warned France today against intervening militarily to support President Idriss Deby Itno’s regime.
The Holy Father also addressed a delegation of parliamentarians from Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, at today’s general audience saying: "I offer my prayerful good wishes for their efforts to promote reconciliation, justice and peace in the region.”
Vatican City, Feb 6, 2008 (CNA) - Late this morning, Benedict XVI received Danilo Turk, the president of the Republic of Slovenia in an audience. The two leaders discussed the role of Slovenia in Europe and the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Slovenian government.
According to the Holy See’s Press Office, "The talks provided an opportunity to examine a number of matters concerning the current international scene, in particular the situation in the Balkans, also in the light of the Slovenian presidency of the European Union (January- July 2008).”
Mention was also made of the good relations that exist between Slovenia and the Holy See, as well as the need to ensure the protection of freedoms sought by the Church in Slovenia.
Pope Benedict considers the main challenge facing the Church in Slovenia to be "Western-style secularism”. Speaking to the Bishops of Slovenia earlier this year, he called this type of materialism “different and perhaps more underhand than Marxist secularism". It results in "the unbridled pursuit of material goods, the drop in nativity and the reduction in religious practice with a notable diminution in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life".
Vatican City, Feb 6, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict marked the beginning of the Lenten season today by speaking about Ash Wednesday and calling Catholics “to return to God… to discover authentic freedom and joy.”
“Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of our annual Lenten journey of prayer and penance. In the early Church, Lent was the time when catechumens prepared for Baptism, accompanied by the prayers of the whole Christian community,” Pope Benedict said.
Speaking to the crowds of faithful in the Paul the VI Hall, the Holy Father continued by saying that it is only God alone who can satisfy our deepest longing for Lenten spiritual renewal.
“Today, too, the Lenten season is a privileged moment of conversion and spiritual renewal for the whole Church. The rite of the imposition of ashes is a summons to return to God and, in doing so, to discover authentic freedom and joy. Jesus reminds us that only by “losing” our life will we truly “find” it. Our ultimate fulfillment is found in God alone, who satisfies our deepest longings. By taking up our cross and following the Lord, we experience redemption, inner peace and loving solidarity with our brothers and sisters.”
The Pope returned to the theme of almsgiving during Lent which had been a prevalent part of his Lenten message.
“During Lent, in addition to prayer and fasting, the Church invites us to practice almsgiving as an expression of our desire to imitate Christ’s own self-giving and his generous concern for others. As we set out once again on this journey of spiritual renewal, may Mary, Mother of the Church, guide us to a fruitful celebration of Easter,” he said.
Towards the end of his audience, the Holy Father greeted all the English speaking pilgrims present including participants from the Graduate School of the Bossey Ecumenical Institute based in Switzerland offering them his prayerful encouragement.
The audience concluded with the Pope imparting his apostolic blessing upon the gathered faithful.
Sacramento, Calif., Feb 6, 2008 (CNA) - “Pro-life advocates in 59 cities across 31 states are preparing to launch the next wave of a unique nationwide pro-life campaign, 40 Days for Life," said David Bereit, national campaign director for 40 Days for Life. "From February 6 until March 14, people across America will join together for 40 days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion, 40 days of constant, peaceful vigil outside abortion facilities and Planned Parenthood offices and 40 days of intensive pro-life community outreach."
The campaign dates of Feb. 6 through March 16 coincide with the Christian season of Lent. "That's what local groups asked for," said Bereit. "Lent is a season of prayer, fasting, repentance and renewal. It is our prayer that the efforts of the thousands of people who will participate in 40 Days for Life in their hometowns will touch hearts and minds, save lives -- and help mark the beginning of the end of abortion in America."
During the first nationally coordinated 40 Days for Life effort in the fall of 2007, communities from coast to coast took part in the initiative. "The results were staggering," said Bereit. "Over 100,000 people united in prayer and fasting, more than 22,000 people took to the streets to participate in peaceful prayer vigils outside abortion centers, abortion facilities experienced sharp setbacks -- some cutting back hours and others closing for days at a time -- and at least 340 innocent children were spared from death by abortion."
Even Planned Parenthood -- the nation's largest abortion chain -- noted the impact of 40 Days for Life during the first wave of the campaign. The organization circulated numerous "crisis" e-mail alerts to abortion advocates around the country, calling for their financial help to fight back against the pro-life campaign.
Cecile Richards, national president of Planned Parenthood, described 40 Days for Life efforts as "unprecedented assaults," and the CEO of one large Planned Parenthood operation in New York wrote, "Planned Parenthood is under attack and we need your help to fight back! RIGHT NOW, THE LARGEST ANTI-CHOICE PROTEST WE'VE SEEN IN A VERY LONG TIME is taking place. An extremist group and its 40 Days for Life Campaign has launched a relentless attack on Planned Parenthood health centers" [emphasis included in original].
"Following the tremendous impact experienced during the first wave of 40 Days for Life, we can't wait to see what life-saving results will be accomplished from February 6 until March 16," said Bereit.
Christian Newswire also reports that Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, has called upon pro-life activists to make this Lenten season a time of increased pro-life prayer and activism nationwide.
Fr. Pavone and the Priests for Life organization are major supporters of the "40 Days for Life" campaign and will visit cities across the nation where this effort is being carried out. "I look forward to working with activists where 40 Days for Life is being implemented, as well as with other communities where similar efforts are underway."
The list and details of 40 Days for Life locations is posted online and can be found here.
The original story can be found at California Catholic Daily.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 6, 2008 (CNA) - The secretary of Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE), Jose Blanco, said this week the bishops’ voting guide encouraging Catholics not to vote for policies that go against Church teachings will not go unanswered after the general elections to be held on March 9.
“The relations between the Catholic hierarchy and the government will not be the same after March 9,” Blanco said, threatening that the government will “go from words to deeds” and promising that the legislature would take “definitive steps” to eliminate the economic aid the Church receives in Spain.
The leader of the Popular Party in Catalonia, Daniel Sirera, called Blanco’s statements “intolerable blackmail.” “It’s unbelievable that the Church is threatened like this by saying it will not receive aid only because it does not share the opinion of the government,” he said, calling Blanco’s attitude “inappropriate for a democratic regime.”
Sirera slammed the criminalization of “those who do not think like the government,” and he noted that even those “who do not agree with the Church’s statement do not share” the reaction of the PSOE.
Vatican City, Feb 6, 2008 (CNA) - The prefect for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Cardinal Franc Rode, said this week that religious brothers and sisters are called to “bear witness to man’s eternal destiny.”
During the presentation of the book “Authority in Consecrated Life,” as part of the activities of the World Day for Consecrated Life, the cardinal pointed out that the mission of religious is to bear witness that “we were not created to live only in this brief time of our earthly life, but rather we are called to an eternal destiny in the presence of the Lord.”
Cardinal Rode thanked the Claretian missionaries for all they have done and for what they will do in the future for consecrated life. He also noted that the members of the consecrated life “are called to bear witness to the eternal destiny of man” following “the example of Jesus who lived a life of poverty, chastity and obedience to the Father.”
“This eschatological call of religious is the most important part of their mission,” he stressed, and he added, “I ardently desire that we offer convincing and measurable testimony of this transcendent mission of man.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 6, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, told three thousand young people gathered at the Seminary of Tlalpan that believers will always be misunderstood “because the Gospel is always uncomfortable.”
“Blessed are those persecuted for the sake of justice because theirs is the Kingdom of God; that is, everyone who is a sign of contradiction as Jesus was will feel attacked, disparaged, ignored, because the Gospel is always uncomfortable,” the cardinal told young people gathered for the Day of Youth Believers.
In this sense, Cardinal Rivera explained that all change involves opposition and surrender and that “the proclaiming of the news of Jesus is not supposed to be pleasing” but rather is supposed to transform and change the heart.
In calling on young people to protect the institution of the family, he pointed out young people often join gangs because they are seeking something to satisfy them and that they are unable to find at home. “Young people are not afraid of sacrifice, but they do fear living a life without meaning, that their lives are wasted, that their lives have no purpose,” the cardinal stressed.
Young people are generous, he continued, but they need someone to point them to the ideals and purpose of life, otherwise they will find no meaning to their existence.
The cardinal called on participants to be leaders and to respond with the generosity and sacrifice characteristic of young people.
Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2008 (CNA) - Despite his pro-life stand, Senator John McCain is now the favored candidate of the Republicans for Choice Action Committee following Rudy Giuliani’s exit from the presidential race, Cybercast News Service reports.
The Republicans for Choice group supports Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. They also advocate removing the Human Life Amendment from the Republican Party platform.
"[McCain] is [pro-life], but it's not at the top of his agenda, not like Huckabee or the born-again Romney," said Republicans for Choice founder and Chairwoman Ann E.W. Stone to Cybercast News Service. "He's shown his willingness to reach across the party, and we look forward to those discussions."
Colleen Parro, executive director of the Republican National Coalition for Life, responded to the group’s endorsement.
"My first thought was how embarrassing for the pro-lifers who have signed on for McCain," Parro said, according to Cybercast News Service.
Another group, the Republican Majority for Choice, has not endorsed any Republican presidential candidate.
"We only endorse pro-choice Republicans," Jennifer Stockman, co-chairwoman of the Republican Majority for Choice, told Cybercast News Service. She said that an endorsement from an abortion rights group might not be welcome in a campaign whose candidates are trying to prove their conservatism.
"Our endorsement, quite frankly, wouldn't help anyone in the primary," Stockman said.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the only openly pro-abortion Republican candidate for president. He withdrew his candidacy in January.
A pro-life Democrat group, Democrats for Life of America, is not endorsing any of its party’s presidential candidates. It also did not endorse a candidate in the 2004 election.
"None of the candidates fit our criteria," Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, told Cybercast News Service. "If we were to endorse Obama or Clinton, it would ruin our credibility.
"We are focused on the pro-life Democrats who are running for Congress, the U.S. Senate and in local races across the country."
Denver, Colo., Feb 6, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver is speaking out even more forcefully against House Bill 1080. In a submission to the journal “First Things,” he critiques the legislation for unreasonably assuming that “religious organizations will compromise the public good if they remain true to their religious identity while serving the poor with public funds.”
According to Archbishop Chaput, HB 1080 is being “pushed by the Anti-Defamation League after failing in a similar attempt last year” and “presents itself as an effort to bar discrimination.”
And yet, the bill does not target discrimination, Chaput writes. Rather, he says that what the bill singles out “is actually the legitimate freedom of religiously affiliated non-profits to hire employees of like faith to carry out their mission. In practice, HB 1080 would strike down the freedom of Catholic Charities to preferentially hire Catholics for its leadership jobs if it takes state funds.”
This hiring preference is essential for maintaining the Catholic identity of Catholic Charities and only involves a small number of the approximately 600 jobs at the organization, he related.
Even if the bill does become law, Chaput told “First Things” that he would not completely close down Catholic Charities. “Catholic Charities can always decline public funds and continue its core mission with private money. In the Archdiocese of Denver, we’re ready to do exactly that.”
Not content to leave the discussion of a bill at a cursory level, Chaput delved into the implications of the thinking behind HB 1080.
“Bills like HB 1080,” the archbishop wrote, “proceed from the assumption that public money, in passing through religious agencies to the poor, somehow miraculously commingles Church and state and violates the Constitution’s establishment clause.”
Archbishop Chaput found this view “peculiar on at least two levels.”
“First, accepting public money to perform a government-desired service does not make a private agency part of the government. Nor does it transform the government into a catechism class. But insofar as any ‘debt’ exists in a government and religious agency relationship, it’s the government that owes the service provider, not the other way around. Obviously if the government wants to carry the social burden it currently asks religious-affiliated groups to carry, that’s the government’s business -- and so are the costs and problems that go along with it,” Chaput stated.
He continued, emphasizing that since “religious groups do help bear the burden, often at a financial loss to themselves, then they can reasonably insist on the right to protect their own mission.”
“The second and more dangerous problem with bills like HB 1080 is that they aggressively advance a secularist interpretation of the ‘separation of Church and state,’” the archbishop explained.
“Whether they do it consciously or not, groups like the Anti-Defamation League seem to argue from the presumption that any public money passing through religious agency hands is somehow rendered ‘baptized’ and therefore unable to serve the common good,” he said.
Chaput wrote that he finds this to be “enormously offensive to religious believers” and also “alien to American history”.
“It's unreasonable -- in fact, it shows a peculiar hostility toward religion -- to claim that religious organizations will compromise the public good if they remain true to their religious identity while serving the poor with public funds. That's just a new form of prejudice using the ‘separation of Church and state’ as an alibi,” Denver’s archbishop insisted.
Archbishop Chaput closed his letter by reflecting on the introduction of similar legislation across the country and the security of the place of Catholicism in the American public square.
“The lesson here for American Catholics is this. For more than 40 years we’ve worked to integrate, accommodate and assimilate to American society in the belief that a truly diverse public square would have room for authentically Catholic life and faith. We need to revisit that assumption. It turns out that nobody gets anything for free. If we want to influence, or even have room to breathe in the American environment of coming generations, we’ll need to work for it and fight for it – always in a spirit of justice and charity; but also vigorously and without apology. Anyone who still has an easy confidence about the Catholic “place” in American life had better wake up,” he wrote.
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 6, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Eduardo Carmona Ortega of Puerto Escondido in southern Mexico has called on his people to make a “pledge of love for Mexico and therefore a pledge for peace, for justice and the law,” in order to “eradicate violence in Oaxaca”.
During a recent press conference, Bishop Carmona referred to the continuous acts of violence in the costal region of Oaxaca and said, “Organized crime has begun to permeate the institutions of the government and the police force.” He said a diminishing of violence is an urgent need for the region. “Violence is a scar, a cancer that we have here on the coast,” he said, “and we must eradicate it, we must work for peace.”
After recalling that in his visits to the different towns he has seen how violence leads to misery, Bishop Carmona stressed that misery “is like a form of veiled violence” that “occurs when the rights of people are not fulfilled or respected.” “We all have the duty to protect the rights of people and to address the most pressing needs of our indigenous and black communities,” he said.
Confrontations in the region of Oaxaca increased when teachers and local officials demanded the resignation of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. Police have responded by trying to suppress protests.