Archive of February 8, 2008

Large inheritance left for terminally ill discovered after 50 years in Spain

Valencia, Fla., Feb 8, 2008 (CNA) - A fortune left by a Spanish woman for the Archdiocese of Valencia to create a foundation for the terminally ill has been discovered half a century after her death.

According to the online version of Las Provincias, it is not know why the executors of the will of Natalia Mendiola, who died in 1951, did not notify the Archdiocese about the fortune she left for the care of the terminally ill.

However, Church officials said that after they were notified of the facts, a foundation was established to carry out the last wishes of the Spanish woman.

Mendiola left a building and a home in Valencia for the use of the foundation.

The foundation will be directed by Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco and the superior of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, in accord with the express wish of Mendiola.  Seven other people will on the board of trustees.

Officials said the foundation will work directly with institutions that “practice evangelical charity through the care of the infirm.”

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Vatican prepares for interreligious meeting with Muslim leaders

, Feb 8, 2008 (CNA) - The first meetings were held earlier this week at the Vatican to prepare for the visit of representatives of the 138 Muslim scholars who have offered to conduct interreligious dialogue, Italian journalist and church expert Sandro Magister reports.

In October of 2007, 138 Muslim scholars addressed a letter that titled “A Common Word Between Us and You” to Pope Benedict XVI and the heads of other Christian churches in an attempt to spark dialogue with Christians.

In response to the letter, Pope Benedict said that the discussion should focus on human dignity and religious freedom first, since the Muslims’ proposed discussion topics of love of God and neighbor require these rights be respected first.

The first meetings at the Vatican will take place next spring at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and will be presided over by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.  The Muslim representatives will meet with Pope Benedict and other Church officials, holding study sessions at institutes like the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies.

Jordan’s Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, the lead promoter of the scholars’ letter, coordinated the meeting with the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Tarisco Bertone.

The Muslim delegation is composed of several scholars. Foremost among them is Aref Ali Nayed, a member of the Interfaith Program of the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge and a former teacher at the Pontifical Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies in Rome.  Another representative is Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, a prominent Italian Muslim who is the head of the al-Wahid mosque in Milan and vice-president of the Islamic Religious Community of Italy.  Other delegates include Ibrahim Kalin, a professor from Turkey who teaches at Georgetown University, and Sohail Nakhooda, originally from Jordan, who is director of “Islamica Magazine,” which is edited in the United States.

Aref Ali Nayed is one of the leading Muslim experts in Western philosophy and Christian theology, having studied at the Gregorian in Rome as well as universities in the United States and Canada.  One of the major architects of the 138 Muslim scholars’ letter, he has also personally replied to Cardinal Tauran’s message to Muslims addressed during the last Ramadan.

According to Sandro Magister, Yahya Pallavicini is the son of Abd al-Wahid Pallavicini, a European convert to Sufi Islam who participated in the 1986 interreligious prayer meeting in Assisi organized by Pope John Paul II.   Yahya Pallavicini, 43, has been a consultant on Islam for the Italian interior ministry since 2006.  A devout Muslim critic of violent tendencies of Muslim thought and practice, he has said that "acts of violence find no legitimization in the teachings of the prophet Mohammed or of the wise men."  He has also opposed separatist uses of Sharia law and what he called “the culture of hatred” found in many Italian mosques, whose imams he calls “political instigators with nothing authentically Islamic about them."

Pallavicini has also openly opposed a fatwa banning all dialogue with Jews that was issued on the Arabic television station al-Jazeera by the very influential fundamentalist Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

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Reporting error overstates decline in numbers of vowed religious

Vatican City, Feb 8, 2008 (CNA) - An article in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano incorrectly reported a 10 % decline in the numbers of vowed religious.  The correct figures, more than one tenth fewer, were reported on Tuesday, according to L’Osservatore Romano.

The paper initially reported a decline of 94,000 in the number of Catholics in religious orders between 2005 and 2006.  The actual number was 7,230, according to Vatican spokesman Father Ciro Benedettini.

A total of 945,210 people belong to religious orders worldwide.  About 753,000 are women serving as nuns, either as cloistered contemplatives, teachers, health workers, or missionaries.  Male clerics, including 136,000 priests, constitute the remainder, according to L’Osservatore Romano.

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Divorced parents contest life-sustaining feeding tube for brain-damaged adult daughter

Wilmington, Del., Feb 8, 2008 (CNA) - In a case recalling the conflict over Terri Schiavo, two divorced parents in Delaware are fighting over whether to continue life-sustaining nutrition for their brain-damaged adult daughter, the News Journal reports.

Lauren Richardson, 23, has been in a so-called persistent vegetative state since overdosing on heroin in August 2006.  Pregnant at the time, she was kept alive at a hospital with feeding tubes and a breathing machine until she gave birth in February 2007 to a healthy baby girl.

Her parents Randy Richardson and Edith Towers are currently disputing whether her feeding tube should be removed.

Towers, who says her daughter did not wish to live in such a state and wants the feeding tube removed, was awarded guardianship of Lauren in January.

Her father Randy Richardson disagrees, "She's committed no crime and doesn't deserve to have this death imposed on her," he told the News Journal.  He is appealing the ruling awarding guardianship to Towers, his ex-wife.  The appeal will take three months.

Lauren lacked any living will or advance directive recording her wishes in writing.

In court, Towers testified that Lauren in 2005 had reacted badly to reports of Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman whose parents fought her husband in a legal battle to continue nourishing her via a feeding tube.

According to Towers, Lauren said, "Don't ever leave me hooked up to life support. I would not want that. I think it is horrible. I think that I do not ever want to be kept on life support if the doctors say there's no hope."

Towers testified that she then promised her daughter she would not leave her on life support and had Lauren make the same promise about her.  According to the News Journal, an uncle testified that in a separate conversation Lauren told him living on life support would be “gross” and that she would not want to live like that with others caring for her.

Randy Richardson disputed the accounts, saying Lauren was living with him at the time and did not express such a wish.  He also said his former wife never mentioned Lauren’s statements about Schiavo and life support before she filed for guardianship.

Delaware Court of Chancery Master Sam Glasscock III made the initial decision awarding guardianship to Towers on January 24.  While acknowledging both parents’ love for her and fitness for guardianship, he called Towers’ testimony about her wishes “clear and convincing,” saying Richardson’s evidence “does not change this conclusion.”

Glasscock described Lauren’s condition in his decision, as reported in the News Journal:

 "All the medical evidence supplied by the physicians -- by the independent neurologist and by Lauren's own doctors -- is in agreement: Lauren is not in a coma but is in a persistent vegetative state. A large portion of her brain was destroyed by a lack of oxygen following a heroin overdose of August 2006. She is unable to communicate or experience consciousness. Her continued existence is dependent upon tube feeding and hydration. ... No improvement in her condition can be expected."

Randy Richardson disagreed, saying his daughter’s condition had improved.  She no longer needed a ventilator to breathe, and he said he had been told that Lauren can with proper therapy be taught to eat.  Richardson and the Delaware Pro-Life Coalition have released a video of Lauren at a nursing home where she appears to respond and react to family members and a dog.

"We just want to give her a chance," Richardson said, adding he is not talking about extreme measures.  "There is no life support except ... a feeding tube," he said, according to the News Journal. 

Richardson also thought Lauren should be kept alive for the sake of her child, expressing concern that Towers had not allowed Lauren and her child to see each other.

Richardson and Towers are also disputing guardianship of Lauren’s one-year-old daughter.  Their grandchild is presently in the custody of Towers.

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Costa Rica must constantly awaken its Christian roots, Pope tells bishops

Vatican City, Feb 8, 2008 (CNA) - Bishops from Costa Rica visited with the Pope this morning at the Vatican and received a message of encouragement and challenge from Benedict XVI. The Pontiff called on the prelates to “constantly revitalize their ancient and deep Christian roots” and to guard against the risk letting Costa Ricans’ faith become “lethargic and superficial.”

In his first meeting with the Costa Rican bishops, Pope Benedict XVI spoke with them about the way that the South American country is experiencing profound and rapid change. This situation, he said, requires the seeking out of “new ways to announce Christ” and the emphasis of the “missionary character of all pastoral activity."

Amidst this constant change, "The people of Costa Rica must constantly revitalize their ancient and deep Christian roots, their vigorous popular religiosity, and the Marian piety they hold so dear, that these things may bring the fruits of a life worthy of the disciples of Jesus," he told the prelates.

The Pope also touched on some strengths of the Costa Rican Church.  He pointed to the numerous priests "who are the bishop's main collaborators in his pastoral ministry," adding that they need "clear guidelines and criteria, constant formation, and support in the exercise of their ministry."

Another area of concern for the Church in South America is the progress being made by different sects and Protestant churches in converting Catholics. If people have a lethargic and superficial faith they risk falling being pulled in by “the multiple promises of easy and immediate well being...or the spread of ideologies which, while claiming to exalt human beings, actually debase them.” In a situation such as this, it becomes ever more important to announce that 'man's great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God - God who has loved us and who continues to love us,'" the Pontiff said.

"Male and female religious, and consecrated persons, have the duty of bearing a particularly active witness to this hope" said the Holy Father. "By their vocation, they are called to be a sign of the 'the mystery of the Kingdom of God already at work in history.'"

The Holy Father indicated that the laity must "also must participate in this mission, following their specific vocation". He also invited the bishops to express their gratitude to the laity "and to give them encouragement and constant attention" because "they are called to carry Christian values into the various areas of society: the world of work, of civil society and of politics."

"You are right to be concerned at the increasing deterioration of the institution of the family, which has such grave repercussions on the fabric of society and on ecclesial life," Pope Benedict told the bishops. Consequently, "it is necessary to promote the good of the family and to defend its rights...showing it your pastoral attention, and directly protecting and helping it in its difficulties."

The Pope concluded by encouraging the prelates not to forget "those groups of couples and families who help one another to achieve their exalted and indispensable vocation," nor to overlook services that help prevent the breakdown of the family.

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Pope speaks with priests from his diocese about Heaven and Hell

Vatican City, Feb 8, 2008 (CNA) - In a meeting held yesterday in the Vatican's Hall of Blessings with priests of the diocese of Rome, the Holy Father participated in a question and answer session on wide range of issues, including the reality of Heaven and Hell.

The exchange between Pope Benedict and the Roman priests involved ten questions covering the youth, evangelization, education and the four last things: death, judgment, Heaven and Hell.

On the topic of the Final Judgment, the Holy Father said that in the Church today there is perhaps too little reference to sin, Paradise and Hell. “Also for this reason", he said, "I chose to mention the Last Judgment in my Encyclical 'Spe Salvi'". Anyone who does not recognize the Final Judgment, he added, does not recognize the possibility of failure and the need for redemption. Anyone who does not labor for heaven does not work for the good of mankind on earth. In this context he noted that Nazism and Communism, which were concerned only with this world, ended up by destroying it.

On the topic of young people, the Holy Father noted the difficulties they encounter while trying to live a Christian life, in the face of the prevailing lifestyles. For this reason, it is important for priests to bear witness to the fact that we really can know God, that we can be His friends and walk with Him.

The Pontiff also highlighted the importance of the presence of God in the field of education and, referring to a letter he had recently written on this subject to the diocese of Rome, he indicated that professional formation must be accompanied by formation of the heart, by the presence of God. He added that one aspect of cultural formation is to know the Gospel.

On the subject of Lent, the Pope indicated that “it should also be a time to abstain from words and images, because we have need of a little silence. We need to create a space free from the constant bombardment of images...a silent space for ourselves, without images, in order to open our hearts to the true image, the true Word.”

In replying to a question posed by an Indian priest, Benedict XVI turned his attention to the theme of evangelization.  Dialogue, he said, means respecting others. Yet, he explained, this dimension of dialogue does not exclude the announcement of the Gospel, which is a gift of Truth that we cannot keep for ourselves but must also offer to others.

Mission is not imposition, rather it means offering the gift of God and allowing His goodness to illuminate us. To do otherwise, said the Pope, would be to neglect a duty. We too would be unfaithful if we did not present our own faith while respecting the freedom of others, he added, highlighting the importance of missionary work. Dialogue and mission do not exclude one another, but need one another.

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Fra' Andrew Bertie, Grand Master of the Order of Malta, passes away

, Feb 8, 2008 (CNA) - Fra’ Andrew Bertie, the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, a man known for his holiness and the modernizing of the order, passed away on February 7 in Rome at the age of 78.

The Sovereign Order of Malta traces its roots back to 1050, when it was known as the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. The lay religious Order consists of 12,500 people who are either Professed Friars or lay men and women referred to as Knights and Dames. All members devote themselves to the exercise of Christian virtue and charity, spiritual perfection within the Church and to serving the poor and the sick, according to the Order’s website.

Fra’ Bertie brought a wide range of gifts to the Order. His educational background included studies at Ampleforth College, Christ Church Oxford and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. After military service in the Scots Guards, he worked as a financial journalist in the City of London, before taking up the senior post in Modern Languages (French and Spanish) at Worth School, Sussex.

Andrew Bertie began his life in the Order of Malta in 1956 and took his solemn religious vows in 1981. When he was elected Grand Master of the Order in 1988, he became the first Englishman to hold the post in the group’s 900 year history.

Besides being known for his linguistic ability—he spoke five languages fluently—Fra’ Bertie is also acknowledged for his role in modernizing the Order’s humanitarian programs, increasing membership and extending the possibilities of aid to the poor and the needy in far-flung regions.

He is also credited with increasing the number of the Order’s bilateral diplomatic missions from 49 to 100. These missions have the delicate task of offering assistance to afflicted countries in times of natural disasters or armed conflicts.

The official announcement of the religious brother’s death describes him as, “A man of quiet reflection and wide interests, although of a certain British reserve,” who “was much loved by all who worked with him on his many projects.”

“When possible, he spent his holidays at his home in Malta, where he was very involved in organizing and teaching judo courses for children as well as tending his farm, whose four different varieties of oranges were a constant source of pride in good weather and anxiety in bad,” the announcement said.

Fra’ Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie was highly decorated and honored during his life. He received four honorary doctorates, several honorary citizenships and more than 50 decorations from other countries.

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Pope Benedict’s U.S. visit is official, popemobile to be rolled out in D.C.

Vatican City, Feb 8, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican officially confirmed today that Pope Benedict XVI will pay his first visit to the United States April 15-20.

The papal trip will include a visit to Washington D.C., where he will meet with President Bush, and an address at the United Nations headquarters in New York. (For a detailed itinerary click here)

In another development, the Washington Post is reporting that when the Holy Father is in the nation’s capital he will make two trips in his popemobile.

According to the Archdiocese of Washington, the decision will allow people who can't get to the papal Mass at the Washington Nationals ballpark to see him travel the streets in his outfitted vehicle.

The original itinerary did not call for the Pope to make any public appearances other than the Mass, but the archdiocese says the Vatican has changed its mind. The routes for the popemobile trips have not been finalized.

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In one year 66 babies survived abortions in UK … and were left to die

London, England, Feb 8, 2008 (CNA) - A government report in the UK has revealed that babies who survive abortions are refused medical treatment and often left to die.  According to Lifesite News, at least 66 infants survived abortions in one year alone.  Thirty-three of the survivors lived for an hour while one struggled for life for 10 hours.

The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH) report shows that once a child slated for death by abortion is born alive, no medical help is offered.

The CEMACH Perinatal Mortality report, which gathered its data from hospitals in England and Wales during 2005, reveals that 16 babies who survived abortion were born after 22 weeks old. The remaining 50 were under that age. This is the first acknowledgement by the government that the surviving children are left to die, although it is not the first report in the UK.

In 2005, the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology published the findings of Dr. Shantala Vadeyar, a researcher at Manchester's St. Mary's Hospital, who said that children as young as 18 weeks had been known to survive for a time outside the womb after attempted abortions. Vadeyar revealed that in the northwest, between 1996 and 2001, at least 31 children survived attempted abortions.

When the 2005 report was published, Dr. Trevor Stammers, a senior lecturer at St. George's University Hospital in London, described the effect that a baby born alive has on an abortionist, saying, "Despite all attempts at emotional neutrality, the heart does not work that way when you get a baby in front of you that colleagues on another floor of the same building would be trying to keep alive."

The issue of babies surviving abortion in countries where the practice is legal has been addressed in the United States. In 2005, President Bush signed into law the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act which ensures that any infant fully born, who shows signs of life, is considered a human person entitled to the full protection of the law.

The bill was passed in Congress after legislators heard testimony of children being left to die in abortion facilities.

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Feminists involved in abortion for young girl demand investigations cease

Managua, Nicaragua, Feb 8, 2008 (CNA) - The nine feminists accused of covering up the rape of a young Nicaraguan girl who has become the symbol of the pro-abortion movement in the country have requested that attorney general Julio Centeno Gomez reject the lawsuit that has been filed against them, saying they are victims of political persecution.

In 2003, the Women’s Network Against Violence orchestrated an abortion for “Rosita,” a nine year-old girl who became pregnant through rape, with the support of her stepfather, Francisco Fletes Sanchez, who accused a neighbor of raping the girl.

Based on the testimony of Fletes, the feminist organization launched a campaign that included a book and a television report broadcast in the US and Latin America.

Last year the girl, now 14, was discovered to be pregnant again, and tests revealed she had again been raped by her stepfather.  The girl’s mother, Maria de los Santos Esquivel, finally confessed that the stepfather was responsible for the first rape.  Feminists turned him into a hero.

Members of the feminist organization were accused of being involved in the case last October by Roberto Petray of the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights.

Petray noted that the stepfather authorized an abortion to be performed on Rosita and that it was his opinion that the Women’s Network knew about it.  He has called for the organization to be investigated for covering up the rape.

Martha Munguia, one of the women accused of the cover-up, called Petray an “instrument of political persecution,” and together with other members of the organization, alleged that Petray is attempting to prevent them from carrying out their role as leaders in the “defense of the human rights of women and children.”

Carlos Polo, director of the Latin American Office of the Population Research Institute, said the feminists “want to make us believe that an average citizen is politically persecuting well-financed feminist organizations whose representatives don’t appear to be suffering economically.”  “As if that wasn’t enough, they enjoy the support of many government representatives from developed countries and from the European Community that have made approval of abortion a condition of their financial assistance, which they have ultimately decided to suspend.  So, who is persecuting who?  Political persecution has been a popular tactic for those who know they have done wrong and are trying to keep their crimes from being punished.  In my opinion, this attitude is one more clue in addition to those already uncovered by Mr. Petray,” he said.

For his part, Carlos Sanchez Guillen, advisor of the Pro-Life Movement in Nicaragua, told CNA that the Attorney General has the obligation to investigate all cases that come to his office, and “it is unusual that people appeal to him in order to avoid a court case.”
“I can’t say there has been a political persecution. What there has been is an accusation that a particular citizen has committed a crime,” Guillen said.  “What exits now is a process of investigation, no one has been found guilty up to this point.  In my opinion this is a normal procedure that the law establishes and that does not amount to political persecution,” he added.

Guillen pointed out that those under investigation by the Attorney General “have the responsibility to collaborate, and even more so if an accusation exits against a citizen and this citizen knows he is innocent.”

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Benedict XVI sends donation to victims of natural disasters in Bolivia

Vatican City, Feb 8, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has sent a donation of $50,000 through the Pontifical Council Cor Unum to help the victims of natural disasters in Bolivia, according to Bishop Jesus Juarez, general secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia.

Bishop Juarez noted that in his message for Lent, the Pope has invited the entire Church “to reflect on the value and practice of almsgiving.”  The Pontiff, he said, explained that “evangelical almsgiving is not merely philanthropy; rather, it is a concrete expression of charity, the theological virtue that demands interior conversion to love of God and of neighbor.”

“Thus, the donation by the Holy Father is an eloquent sign of his concern and closeness to the Bolivian people,” Bishop Juarez stated.  “This aid will be distributed during the coming days through the bishops of the dioceses that have been most affected,” he said.

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