Archive of February 9, 2008

“Scheduling problems” prevent placing of papal visit monument

Valencia, Fla., Feb 9, 2008 (CNA) - Officials in the Spanish city of Valencia said this week that a column which is supposed to be placed at the halfway point on an important city bridge in commemoration of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI has not been done yet because of “scheduling problems.”

According to the newspaper Las Provincias, the monument was originally going to be placed on the bridge last July on the first anniversary of the Pope’s 2006 visit, but it was indefinitely postponed.

The 16-foot column was built by architect Santiago Calatrava and is still being held at a local art studio.  The design for the monument was based on columns from the Roman empire that were used on roads.  A similar column can be found on the via Apia Antica in Rome.

Benedict XVI visited Valencia July 8 and 9, 2006, to attend the World Meeting of Families.  The Monteolivete bridge was the main site for most of the event.

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Greek Orthodox Church elects new head

Athens, Greece, Feb 9, 2008 (CNA) - The Greek Orthodox Church on Thursday elected a new leader to replace the late Archbishop Christodoulos, the Associated Press reports.

After two rounds of voting, senior clergy chose Metropolitan Bishop Ieronymous of Thebes to become the next Metropolitan of Athens.  Within an hour of the vote, Metropolitan Ieronymous, accompanied by other candidates for the office, appeared on the balcony of the archbishop’s office before cheering crowds.

"In whichever position the church appoints us, no matter how high, we must know that our leader is Christ," the Metropolitan Ieronymous said, according to the Associated Press.

The archbishop will be enthroned on February 16.

Unlike his predecessor Archbishop Christodoulous, Bishop Ieronymous enjoys good relations with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul.  Patriarch Bartholomew I sent a letter of congratulations to the clergyman upon his election.

Archbishop Christodoulos and Patriarch Bartholomew both worked to heal the schism between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. 

Giorgos Moustakis, a theology and sociology professor, told the Associated Press that Orthodox efforts to end the schism are "very, very delicate because there is resistance from within (parts of) the church." He said that despite the pressure, he predicted the new archbishop "won't leave the issue to die."

Moustakis also offered an opinion of Metropolitan Ieronymos’ personality. "He doesn't advocate the Middle Ages, but he's also not a rebel," he told the Associated Press. "I consider him an enlightened conservative."

Archbishop Christodoulos was politically vocal, breaking with church tradition in frequently criticizing the Greek government.  He also charged liberals with undermining Greece’s religious identity.  It is unclear how much his successor will address political issues.

About 97 percent of native-born Greeks are Orthodox Christians, and the Greek Orthodox Church is influential among other Orthodox Churches worldwide.

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U.S. bishops shun Notre Dame venue due to V-Monologues

South Bend, Ind., Feb 9, 2008 (CNA) - A theological seminar for Catholic bishops has been relocated from the campus of the University of Notre Dame in response to the school’s planned performance of the play “The Vagina Monologues,” the South Bend Tribune reports.

The seminar, a meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, includes Notre Dame faculty who act as advisors and is co-sponsored by the university’s Institute for Church Life.  Instead of taking place on the Notre Dame campus, it has been moved to a convent of the Sisters of St. Francis in Mishawaka, Indiana.

Seven bishops and archbishops are members of the Committee on Doctrine, while its consultants include Notre Dame theology department chair Dr. John C. Cavadini and the Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George.

"Because of the likelihood of the presentation of the play ‘The Vagina Monologues’ at Notre Dame this year, the bishops made a collective decision to move the seminar off campus," Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend John M. D’Arcy said Thursday in a written statement.

Bishop D’Arcy publicly criticized the school in 2006 for allowing the play, issuing a nine-page critique of the university president’s decision to allow performances.

The Eve Ensler play about women's bodies and sexuality is performed on many college campuses annually with the self-described goal of raising awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence.  Performances are often scheduled for February 14, St. Valentine’s Day.

Notre Dame students performed the play on campus annually from 2002 to 2006, presenting an off-campus version last year.  This year’s on-campus performance, which requires an academic sponsor, is tentatively co-sponsored by the school’s departments of sociology and anthropology.

Notre Dame University President Father John I. Jenkins, CSC, considered banning the play from campus two years ago out of concern it opposed Catholic teachings and undermined the school’s Catholic identity.  After much debate, Father Jenkins permitted the play to be performed in a classroom setting that includes an academic panel discussion.  He also forbade the event from raising money for community groups.

The university’s spokesman Dennis Brown issued a statement responding to the seminar’s change of venue.  It read: 

"We understand that not all are in full agreement about the propriety of allowing performances of this play on a Catholic campus. Because of concerns about the play and its potential performance, we have worked collaboratively with the bishops to move the conference out of respect for everyone involved.”

"Notre Dame and the U.S. bishops have worked together constructively in the past, they are working together on this current meeting, and we are sure that our partnerships will continue in the future."

The performance of the plays on Catholic college campuses has been vigorously protested by the Cardinal Newman Society and Tradition Family Property (TFP) Student Action.

"The play tramples purity, modesty and degrades women. It openly flaunts sins against nature, and thus subverts the order established by God," said TFP Student Action director John Ritchie. "This scandalous play offends every good Catholic and has absolutely no place on Catholic campuses. Students, alumni, and parents should call for the play's immediate cancellation."

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Mugabe opponent begins Zimbabwe presidential campaign

Harare, Zimbabwe, Feb 9, 2008 (CNA) - A former finance minister and senior member of Zimbabwe’s ruling party has emerged as a challenger to President Robert Mugabe’s 28 years of continuous rule, Cybercast News Service reports.

Simba Makoni told a press conference in Harare that he was standing as an independent candidate for president in the March 29 election.  He was expelled from the ruling ZANU-PF party on Wednesday, but is winning support from party members.  Former army commander Solomon Mujuru, the husband of the current vice-president, has announced his support for Makoni’s candidacy.

Makoni could also win over some members of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which has split into factions along ethnic and regional lines.  The MDC has put forward its own presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai.

Makoni appealed to all opponents of Mugabe at his press conference.  "We should be decent enough to come up with a unified position instead of fighting among ourselves," he said. "There will be many of us, a great many of us," he said, according to Cybercast News Service.

Makoni studied chemistry and read his doctorate in Britain, and was removed as finance minister in 2002 for disagreeing with some of Mugabe’s policies.  He remained a member of the party’s decision-making body, the politburo.

ZANU-PF supporters have accused Makoni of promoting a “neo-liberal” economic agenda of Western countries.

A powerful group of so-called “war veterans” opposes Makoni’s candidacy.  They are associated with the struggle for black majority rule, benefiting from the seizure of white-owned farms in 2000.  They are largely staunch Mugabe supporters.

According to Cybercast News Service, on Thursday, the group called Makoni a “traitor,” noting that the ruling party “has a history of dealing harshly” with such people.

Mugabe has presided over severe economic failures.  His land redistribution program resulted in acute food shortages and contributed to an inflation rate that according to the International Monetary Fund averages 150,000 percent.  Hundreds of thousands of economic refugees from Zimbabwe are flooding neighboring South Africa.

Mugabe blames western sanctions for the economic collapse of his country.

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