Archive of February 15, 2008

Australian bishops applaud national apology to Indigenous peoples

Sydney, Australia, Feb 15, 2008 (CNA) - Australia’s Catholic bishops, Catholic agencies, and religious orders are supporting a long-awaited apology to the “Stolen Generations,” the indigenous people removed from their families under past government policies, CathNews reports.


Writing on February 13 on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), conference president Bishop Philip Wilson called the National Apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples an “historic and prophetic moment in the life of the Australian nation.”


Bishop Wilson said, “Australia is a stronger nation today for having had the humility to say we are sorry that past policies were unjust and wrong, even when they were carried out with good intentions according to the prevailing attitudes of the era.”


The bishop recalled the ACBC’s own 1998 statement asking victims’ forgiveness for the Church’s participation in the government policies and promising support for indigenous peoples. 


Referring to the National Statement, the bishop said, “Having arrived at this point of healing, we must not fall into the trap of thinking that reconciliation is complete and our obligations as a nation are fulfilled.”


Bishop Wilson called for an increase in efforts to improve the “practical circumstances of our Indigenous brothers and sisters,” in “full consultation and collaboration with Indigenous communities.”  He pledged the Church’s continued assistance to helping Indigenous peoples so that all Australians can live “in peace and unity, with dignity and mutual respect.”

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Diocese of Fairbanks to file for bankruptcy

Fairbanks, Alaska, Feb 15, 2008 (CNA) - The bishop of Fairbanks announced on Wednesday that the failure of negotiations to settle dozens of sexual abuse claims means the Diocese of Fairbanks will have to file for bankruptcy, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

The negotiations allegedly failed because one of the diocese’s insurance carriers did not “participate meaningfully.”

More than 140 people have filed claims against the diocese alleging sexual misconduct by priests or church volunteers in incidents from the 1950s to the early 1980s.  Though a handful of claims have been settled, most are still pending.

Other claims involving the same priests and volunteers were filed against the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, but were settled in a $50 million settlement reached in November.

The Diocese of Fairbanks intends to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which will open the financial records of the diocese to scrutiny.  Robert Hannon, chancellor and special assistant to Bishop Donald Kettler, said bankruptcy would provide a way for church assets to be distributed fairly among abuse victims.

"We acknowledge that harm was done to people and this is, we think, the most pastoral way to address those hurts," Hannon said, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

According to the Associated Press, Bishop Kettler said in a prepared statement, "I am legally and morally bound to both fulfill our mission and to pursue healing for those injured."

"While filing for reorganization is not my first choice, I believe that at this time this is the best way to bring all parties together and to provide for fair and equitable treatment of all who have been harmed," he continued.

Ken Roosa, an Anchorage lawyer representing victims of clerical sexual abuse, said the bankruptcy filing was the only viable path to settling the lawsuits.  The diocese’s insurance company, he said, refused to pay enough and sometimes refused to pay anything at all.

"The reason they need this process is because their insurance companies are stiffing them," Roosa told the Anchorage Daily News. "I'm only surprised it took so long."

"We applaud the bishop's decision to move forward," he said.

Hannon said that settlement talks in December did not progress because one of the diocese’s insurance carriers, whom he identified as the Illinois-based CNA (not affiliated with Catholic News Agency in any way), failed to “participate meaningfully.”

According to Hannon, legal expenses were also consuming diocesan assets before compensation could be provided to victims.

Another factor was a recent judicial decision against the diocese in claims involving Joseph Lundowski.  Lundowski, a deceased lay missionary, was accused of abusing dozens of boys and young men between 1960 and 1975.

Hannon believed parishes should not be affected by the bankruptcy filing.  "You really can't close or consolidate parishes when you only have one every 200 or 300 miles," he said.

The Diocese of Fairbanks has an annual budget of $6 million.  The nation’s geographically largest diocese, it covers more than 400,000 square miles.  According to the diocese, only 8 of the 46 parishes are able to financially support themselves.

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Healthy environment is an international responsibility, archbishop tells UN

, Feb 15, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations, addressed the General Assembly on Wednesday and called for an international strategy to respond to climate change.

Archbishop Migliore said that response to climate change was a shared responsibility of every individual and nation.

The archbishop assured the UN of the Vatican’s commitment to the “Bali Roadmap” objectives set out at the recent Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia. Because of the roadmap, the archbishop said that “we are better equipped to adopt strategies and policies which balance the needs of humanity with the urgency for a more responsible stewardship.”

The numerous public appeals of Pope Benedict XVI, he noted, have also helped renew respect for God’s creation and the duty to safeguard it. 

He said the Holy See has taken measures to offset the carbon emissions of Vatican City by erecting solar panels and sponsoring a reforestation project in Hungary.  The reforestation project, the archbishop said, will restore degraded land and provide environmental benefits and local jobs to Hungary.

Archbishop Migliore praised individuals and communities that have begun to change their lives to benefit the environment.  “While such lifestyle changes at times may seem irrelevant, every small initiative to reduce or offset one’s carbon footprint, be it the avoidance of the unnecessary use of transport or the daily effort to reduce energy consumption, contributes to mitigating environmental decay and concretely shows commitment to environmental care.”

“Clean technologies,” the archbishop said, would help industrializing countries avoid past mistakes.  He urged industrialized countries to share with developing nations the advanced “cleaner” technologies.  Further, he said, financial markets and consumers ought to be encouraged to patronize “green economics” and reject goods and services whose production causes environmental damage.

Responses to climate change, Migliore said, required individual, local, national, and international action and coordination.

The “Bali Roadmap,” the archbishop asserted, “presents a common vision, capable of overcoming self–interest through collective action. It demands a global alliance for the adoption of a coordinated international political strategy towards a healthy environment for all.”

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Venezuelan bishops strongly condemn attacks on Apostolic Nunciature

Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 15, 2008 (CNA) - In a strongly worded statement released on Thursday, the Bishops Conference of Venezuela strongly rejected a new attack against the Apostolic Nunciature.

At 4pm local time, a group of protesters threw explosives at the Nunciature in Caracas and covered the walls in graffiti.  The building suffered minor damage from the explosives.
For almost a year student leader Nixon Moreno has taken refuge in the Nunciature to escape persecution and false accusations by the government of Hugo Chavez.

In its statement, the Bishops’ Conference said, “In keeping with our mission as pastors of the Church, and concerned about the new attack on the offices of the Apostolic Nunciature in Venezuela that took place this morning, and concerned about the outbreak of political violence that is happening in various parts of the country, we feel the duty to reiterate our call to calm, to common sense, to respect for freedom and constitutional rights and to the cultivation of a democratic climate.”

The bishops called on officials to investigate the incident and to “punish those responsible for these acts of violence.  We also request that the government take actions to safeguard the diplomatic see of the Vatican, which for all Venezuelan Catholics is also the home of the Holy Father in Venezuela.”
They also expressed their prayers and support for Archbishop Giacinto Berloco, the Apostolic Nuncio in Venezuela.

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Pope mobilizes Catholics to help Christians in the Holy Land

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2008 (CNA) - The head of the Congregation that oversees the Church in the Holy Land, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, has appealed to the Catholic Church to provide assistance to the Christians there, so that “the future may be welcomed with hope.”

The summons to support Christians in the Holy Land went out in the form of a letter to Catholic bishops all over the world, and to their respective Churches.

Cardinal Sandri’s appeal was made on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, and asked for continued spiritual and material support for the Catholic community in the Holy Land.

"The absence of peace", says the cardinal in the English-language version of the letter, "exacerbates the many long-standing problems as well as the poverty afflicting the region of the Holy Places. That absence also contributes to the creation of new difficulties. Thus, we must recognize that Christians who reside there are a priority for the attention of the entire Catholic Church, together with that of all other Churches and ecclesial communities.”

The cardinal pointed to the annual Good Friday Collection as one specific way for Catholics to help those in the Holy Land and expressed his hope that "every local Church shall participate in the effort to further our commitment to charity.”

"In this way", he adds, "the Latin community openly supports the Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Franciscans who are Custodians of the Holy Land, and all those belonging to the Eastern Catholic Churches. The desire of the Holy See is that the charitable outreach by all Catholics will not simply be viewed as occasional, but as so continuous and profound that the future may be welcomed with hope,” he said.

Cardinal Sandri also made sure to explain that when the Congregation for Oriental Churches distributes aid, it does so without any “religious, cultural or political distinctions.”

Instead, the aim of the relief is “to equip the younger generations to take their place in society in a manner which renders them competent and able to transmit the worth of their Catholic education and formation.”

Among the concerns of the cardinal is stopping the flow of Christian immigration from the Holy Land. “We must seek to safeguard Christianity’s historic legacy by striving to preserve those ‘living communities’ in which the Mystery of Christ, our Peace, is cherished and celebrated," he explained.

Cardinal Sandri concluded his letter by encouraging his fellow bishops “to authorize once again this 'Collection for the Holy Land' owing to the merit of its objectives and its specific characteristics.”

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Cardinal complains of worldly values in religious life

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2008 (CNA) - A top Vatican cardinal complained on Thursday that members of Catholic religious congregations are perceived as worldlier, less obedient and increasingly reluctant to wear a cassock due to the influence of secular values.

Absorbing the values of western society, many religious are also less and less interested in prayer and community living and more interested in personal freedom, said Cardinal Franc Rodé, Prefect of Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said in a conversation with ANSA.

"A drift towards bourgeois values and moral relativism are the two great dangers that weaken religious life," said Rodé, who heads the Vatican Dicastery which is in charge of monks, nuns and priests not attached to parishes.

The often-cited fall in vocations to the priesthood was actually not the main worry, the Slovenian prelate continued, noting that in 2006 vocations fell only 0.7%.

"The biggest problem today is the climate of secularization present not only in western society but also within the Church itself," he said. Without citing any names or specific episodes, Rodé listed a number of ways in which this change was visible among priests and members of religious communities.

They were: "Freedom without constraints, a weak sense of the family, a worldly spirit, low visibility of religious clothing, a devaluation of prayer, insufficient community life and a weak sense of obedience".

During the almost 27 years of Pontificate of Pope John Paul II, the number of religious has dropped 25%, expanding the gap between men and women religious, with male religious orders being the most affected by the decline.

"Today, many more young people are attracted to contemplative communities because it is a radical life choice." "Far more attractive today is the person who commits to a life of faith 'sine glossa' (without footnotes,) as we used to say in the past," he noted.

According to official statistics from 2006, there are 196,473 members of male religious congregations, out of which 137,058 are priests and 55,030 are religious brothers. Female religious make up a much larger group with 836,091 in their ranks.

"Religious life plays a key role in the Church, especially in the world of education and charity," Cardinal Rodé concluded.

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Liberal Christianity is dying, Orthodox Bishop says

Geneva, Ill., Feb 15, 2008 (CNA) - Russian Orthodox bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, the Moscow Patriarchate’s delegate for international relationships, said on February 15 that liberal Christianity is on its way to extinction.

"Liberal Christianity will not survive long and political correctness within the Christian environment is destined to die," said during a conference addressing the Ecumenical Council of Churches at Geneva, Switzerland.

The Orthodox bishop also criticized the words of the Anglican primate, Rowan Williams, regarding the "inevitability" of introducing the "sharia" (Muslim Law) in England.

"I would like to warn you about the perils of liberal Christianity," a trend, he said, that has sharply divided the Christian community in the last decades.

"Today we can't talk about Christian morality because the standards of 'traditional' and 'liberal' Christians are dramatically different and the abyss between these two branches of Christianity is growing," he added.

"We are hearing from some Christian leaders that marriage between a woman and a man is not the only possible option for the creation of a Christian family, that there can be other type of couples and that the Church should be 'inclusive' by recognizing such lifestyles and grant them a solemn blessing," Hilarion also said.

The Orthodox bishop also said that "we have heard that the human life is a negotiable value, to the point that it can be aborted in the mother's womb." "What has happened with Christianity? In a confused and disoriented world, “Where is the prophetic voice of Christians?" he asked.

Finally in a veiled criticism to the Anglican primate, Hilarion said that "it is not our duty to defend sharia, promote alternative lifestyles or secularized values. Our mission is to announce what Christ himself announced".

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Human trafficking is modern slavery, says Vatican official

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2008 (CNA) - On 13 February, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, participated in a "Forum to Fight Human Trafficking. In his English language talk, Archbishop Marchetto spoke of how human trafficking is the slavery of modern times.

Archbishop Marchetto defined human trafficking as "one of the most shameful phenomena of our era. ... It is well known", he went on, "that poverty, as well as the lack of opportunities and of social cohesion, push people to look for a better future despite the related risks, making them extremely vulnerable to trafficking.

"Moreover", he added, "it should be emphasized that, nowadays, several factors contribute to the spread of this crime, namely, the absence of specific rules in some countries, the victims' ignorance of their own rights, the socio-cultural structure and armed conflicts.

"The Holy See encourages all kinds of just initiatives aimed at eradicating this immoral and criminal phenomenon and at promoting the welfare of the victims. The Palermo Protocol and the successive regional conventions have introduced an exhaustive international legislation against trafficking in human beings. Moreover, the Holy See notes with satisfaction the coming into force, at the beginning of this month, of the Council of Europe's Convention against trafficking in human beings," said the prelate.

In this context, the archbishop recalled that the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples also monitors "the issue of the victims of human trafficking, considered to be the slaves of modern times".

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Pro-lifers warn of political manipulation of “International Women’s Day” in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Feb 15, 2008 (CNA) - The Life Foundation in Spain has warned that the “International Women’s Day,” which is planned to take place during the legally required suspension of campaigning before the general elections in March, could be manipulated in favor of the political and social left.

“The most radical political and social left in Spain will not respect the cooling off period if protests in different cities in support of abortion on March 8 are authorized, with the excuse of “International Working Women’s Day,” warned the director of the Life Foundation, Manuel Cruz.

Cruz pointed out that if the Central Electoral Committee allows these acts, “it must be asked for whom do they work, are they doing it for the common good or for a specific sector of society,” because “it is undeniable that abortion has sparked a political debate in which the different political parties offer different options.”

“If radical feminists support specific proposals,” he stated, “the logical thing would be for them to do so during the electoral campaign, or before, if they are not asking for a vote.  But society will be grateful for that rest from campaigning.”

Cruz noted that in past there have been violations of the required cooling off period that may have influenced the outcome, “and it would not be good for society that a similar situation is repeated and the elections law is not followed.”

“The radical feminist groups have close ties with the United Left and their proposals have received the express support of important members of the Socialist government and the PSOE [the Socialist party in Spain].  Thus, the protests that are being promoted would be an extension of the electoral campaign only for the benefit of a few concrete political parties,” Cruz continued.

“For four years the Socialist government has promoted an anti-feminine feminism that repudiates the natural idea of woman and is now an ideology close to the government in Spain, with totalitarian aspirations, whose fruit is an imposed sexual policy in which abortion is a key piece,” Cruz warned.

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Church in Portugal expresses joy over beatification process for Sister Lucia

Coimbra, Portugal, Feb 15, 2008 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Portugal expressed satisfaction and gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for waving the five-year waiting period in order to begin the process of beatification of Sister Lucia, one of the three visionaries of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima.

In a statement, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Portugal, Bishop Jose Ortiga, expressed “our great joy at the wonderful decision by the Holy Father,” which is a call to all Christians to seek holiness.  Bishop Antonio Marto of Leiria-Fatima, where the famous shrine to Our Lady of Fatima is located, said he received the news with “enormous satisfaction.”

Bishop Luciano Guerra, the current rector of the Shrine of Fatima, said the faithful and the priests at the basilica “have welcomed the news with great joy, because it is another sign of the importance of Sister Lucia for the Church and for the world.”

Benedict XVI waived the waiting period for the opening of the beatification process, which Canon Law establishes as five years after the death of the candidate.  Sister Lucia died three years ago in Coimbra, Portugal, where she lived most of her life.  The announcement was made Wednesday by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, in a ceremony at the Cathedral of Coimbra.

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