Archive of February 17, 2008

Denver’s Living the Catholic Faith Conference to focus on citizenship

Denver, Colo., Feb 17, 2008 (CNA) - To serve lay Catholics in this election year, the Archdiocese of Denver’s Living the Catholic Faith Conference is set to focus on faithful citizenship.  Its theme, “Decide today whom you will serve” (Jos 24:15) emphasizes the importance of living as a true witness to the Catholic faith.

The conference, to be held March 7 and 8 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver highlights speakers such as Helen Alvaré, Catholic University of America professor; Curtis Martin, founder and president of FOCUS – Fellowship of Catholic University Students; Monsignor Stuart Swetland, director of Homilitcs at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary; and R. James “Jim” Nicholson, former U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Ambassador to the Holy See.

The speakers will offer Catholics practical suggestions on how to strengthen their faith in prayer and in action.

Alvaré told the Denver Catholic Register that she is excited to be returning to Denver.

“The theme of my keynote (Christian Service in a Culture of Domination) will deal with something that I think a lot of people struggle with,” Alvaré said. “And that is the gap between what it is as Christians we hope to see ourselves and what it is we live with. Call it the gap of beauty or the gap of love or virtue. I think that many people who are close with their faith are also aware of it.”

The conference is open to all Catholic adults. A Spanish track will be offered on Saturday.

The Living the Catholic Faith Conference will be in the Korbel Ballroom at the Colorado Convention Center, 1700 14th St., Denver. Cost is $65 for one day, $75 for two. Registrations after Feb. 29 cost an additional $10.

For more information, visit or call 303-715-3260.

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US bishops ask ICE to assist families, communities after immigration raids

Washington D.C., Feb 17, 2008 (CNA) - Two United States Catholic bishops involved in immigration issues have written to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to express their concern about the protocols and the increased law enforcement activity of Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE).

The bishops asked the agency to adopt policies that would assist the families and communities affected by immigration enforcement actions.  They also asked that the agency refrain from conducting enforcement actions at or near churches, hospitals, schools, or charitable organizations.

Bishop of Salt Lake City John Wester, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Bishop Jaime Soto, coadjutor bishop of Sacramento and Chairman of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, wrote the letter requesting policy changes to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and his undersecretary Julie Meyers.

“Although ICE has recently issued guidance regarding worksite enforcement operations, we believe that the guidance falls short of what is necessary," the bishops wrote.

Bishops Wester and Soto urged the release of primary caregivers after immigration enforcement actions and the improvement of family members’ ease in locating detained relatives.   Detained individuals should have better access to legal counsel, and ICE should avoid transferring detainees out of their community.

Community outreach and education programs should be developed to follow enforcement actions, the bishops said, and enforcement should be suspended during natural and man-made disasters.

In an additional statement on February 7, Bishop Wester criticized the recent congressional economic stimulus package that prohibited undocumented immigrants from receiving tax rebates.

“The decision to prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving tax rebates in the stimulus bill highlights the injustice in our immigration system. It proves that these workers pay into the tax system and help support our economy. It also reveals the hypocrisy of our laws. With one hand our government attempts to deport these workers, but with the other it holds tight the taxes they pay into the system. This perpetuates an underclass of workers without full rights,” Bishop Wester said.

“We should not accept the fruits of the labor of these workers at the same time we refuse to provide them the protection of our laws. As a democratic and free nation protective of human rights, we cannot have it both ways. Congress must mend a broken system and show the courage to enact comprehensive immigration reform," he continued.

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Philippines Catholic bishops avoid rallies against government corruption scandal

Manila, Philippines, Feb 17, 2008 (CNA) - Catholic bishops and other Catholic leaders in the Philippines decided not to join a Friday rally protesting the president and alleged high-level corruption in Manila, UCA News reports.

Instead the bishops held a morning “Mass for Truth” at their headquarters, prior to the afternoon rally organized by opposition politicians and leftist groups in the country’s main business district in Metro Manila.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and some cabinet members face harsh criticism after allegations of corruption in a now-canceled program to build a national broadband network.

Rodolfo Lozada, a former government consultant, testified before a Senate committee on February 8.  He claimed a Chinese telecommunications company’s $329 million broadband service contract contained $130 million in kickbacks.  Lozada implicated the former head of the election commission, Benjamin Abalos Sr., and President Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, among others.

The bishops’ “Mass for Truth” was held at the headquarters of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).  The Mass was a response to CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo’s call for “communal action” in the nation’s “search for truth and justice.”

In a February 14 statement about the corruption hearings, the Catholic bishops said, "Let us pray, in particular, that these hearings will be protected and guided by God's Spirit, so that the truth will be ferreted out and our government and people can move on along the road of true progress and peace."

In his homily for the February 15 Mass, Scalabrini Father Edwin Corros said all Filipinos, especially during Lent, needed to pray and to make sacrifices for the truth to emerge.  He urged others to follow the example of Rodolfo Lozada.

Bishop Deogracias Iniquez told UCA News on February 13 that he would not attend the protest rally against the president because it was sponsored by the political opposition. 

Sister Estrella Castalone, executive secretary of the Association of Major Religious Superiors (AMRS), denied reports her organization sponsored the rally.  Sister Castalone, a Salesian nun, said the rally was a “political exercise of the opposition” and that her organization was not partisan.   She said her organization’s involvement in the controversy was not to protest the government but to uphold the truth.

According to UCA News, Sister Castalone said the AMRS became involved with Lozada after his wife wrote to the group and asked for their help, saying she feared for her husband’s safety.  Rodolfo Lozada claimed police kidnapped him on February 5 when he returned from hiding in Hong Kong.

Protesters at the rally revived the slogan “Enough, too much, act now,” used in the “People Power” rallies against President Ferdinand Marcos before he was ousted from office in February 1986. 

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Minnesota bishop laments “satanical attitude” behind cemetery vandalism

Winona, Minn., Feb 17, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop of Winona Bernard Harrington lamented in his diocesan newspaper a series of vandalous acts and desecrations and suspects a “satanical attitude” of driving the latest incident in a string of attacks.   He connected the vandalism to a 2002 sacrilegious attack on a church in which consecrated hosts were desecrated.

Writing in The Courier, the newspaper of the Diocese of Winona, Bishop Harrington recounted several attacks on cemeteries in southern Minnesota. 

In the most recent incident at Calvary Cemetery in Rochester, a statue of Christ on the Cross was vandalized.  The perpetrators attempted to chisel off the head and feet of Christ, and one of the statue’s hands is missing after the attack.  The vandals removed the head and both arms from the marble statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, the patroness of the Rochester Franciscan Sisters.

Bishop Harrington said the vandalism seemed more than a mere prank.  “It seems to manifest hostility, perhaps even a satanical attitude, toward our Catholic religion,” he wrote.

The repairs to that part of the cemetery and its statues, which are owned by the sisters, are very costly.  Repairs to the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes will cost between $6,000 and $10,000.  Repairs to the statue of Christ on the Cross, a very old and intricate artwork, are estimated to cost over $100,000.

Since 1996 there have been at least six incidents of damage to statues and desecrated headstones and graves at Catholic cemeteries.

The bishop worried that there was so little reaction to the most recent vandalism at the cemetery.  “I wonder how much sense of loss and true compassion is present in our local Catholic and church communities over such actions,” he wrote.

Bishop Harrington also told of a church desecrated in October 2002.  St. Joseph’s Church in Theilman was broken into and the tabernacle was desecrated.  Intruders threw consecrated hosts across the sanctuary floor.

Desecrated churches must be re-consecrated before any other services can take place.  Bishop Harrington told how the whole parish came out for the ceremony, in a “wonderful demonstration of faith and respect for the Eucharist.”

The bishop said that night had fallen before the Mass had finished. 

“I decided that the desecrated hosts should be reverently placed in the ground in the parish cemetery, just above the church. It was quite a sight to have the parishioners walk up the hill to the cemetery with only the lights from a few cars showing the way. Two of the men dug an appropriate grave on the cemetery ground and the desecrated hosts were reverently placed into the soil. It was truly a burial in sacred ground,” he recounted.

A few days later, Bishop Harrington wrote, young teens confessed to the desecration.  One of the perpetrators came to the church on Sunday to ask forgiveness.  “This too was a most meaningful reconciliation for the Catholic community and the vandal,” the bishop wrote.

The bishop expressed sorrow about the recent vandalism of Cavalry Cemetery.  He also voiced concern about the safety of holy ground.

However, he suggested the incident was an occasion for Catholics to consider how to encourage respect between Catholics, between other Christian communities, and between religions.   “When one religious group or ethnic people are offended, we are all offended,” he said.

Bishop Harrington announced his personal contribution to the Franciscan Sisters to help restore the damaged statues.  He encouraged others to do the same, and to reflect upon the sacredness of their local Catholic cemetery.

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Benedict XVI: We are transfigured in hope

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2008 (CNA) - Speaking to thousands who crowded St. Peters square on a bright Sunday morning, Pope Benedict XVI thanked all those who remained close in spirit during this last week when he and the Roman curia participated in the annual Lenten Spiritual exercises, presided by French Cardinal Albert Vanhoye.
Before praying the Angelus, the Pope offered a brief reflection on the Gospel for the second Sunday of Lent, which invites us to reflect on "the extraordinary event of the Transfiguration," which follows upon last week's Gospel of Jesus' temptation in the desert.

These first two Sundays, the Pope said, are "two pillars" that on which leans the whole edifice of Lent leading up to Easter, and thus of the entire Christian life, which essentially consists in the Easter dynamism from death to life.

"Taken together, both of these episodes anticipate the Pascal mystery: Jesus' battle against temptation is a great prelude to the Passion, while the light of his transfigured body anticipates the glory of the Resurrection. In one part we see Jesus as fully man, even sharing with us the temptation, in the other part we contemplate Jesus as the son of God, the divinization of our humanity," Pope Benedict said.

“The mountain, Tabor, as with Sinai, is the place of the presence of God. It is an elevated place and with respect to daily existence, a place where we breathe the pure air of creation. It is a place of prayer, where we stand in the presence of God, as both Moses and Elijah, that where they match nearness to Jesus transfigured and speak with him of the exodus that awaits him from Jerusalem.”
“To enter into his glory, we must listen to Jesus, follow him to the cross and carry in our hearts, the hope of the Resurrection. We are,” he said, “transfigured in hope."
After the Angelus, the Holy Father mentioned his ongoing concern with the tensions in Lebanon, which has been without a leader for three months. He urged all to continue to pray, and expressed his solidarity in prayer with the bishops of Lebanon, while reiterating the need for dialogue in order to find a solution.
He then greeted all the English-speaking visitors present, especially the group of pilgrims from Saint Ansgar's Cathedral in Copenhagen.

"I pray that your visit to Rome may strengthen your faith and deepen your love for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. In this Sunday's Gospel, we hear how Jesus was transfigured in the presence of his three closest followers, Peter, James and John. They were granted a glimpse of Christ in glory, and they heard the voice of the Father urging them to listen to his beloved Son. As we continue our Lenten journey, we renew our resolve to listen attentively to the Son of God, and we draw comfort and hope from the revelation of his glory. Upon all of you here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God's abundant blessings."

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