Archive of February 22, 2008

Schools and lay institutions request relics of local martyr

Valencia, Fla., Feb 22, 2008 (CNA) - The AVAN news agency reported this week that several parishes, lay institutions and schools in Valencia, Spain have asked the archdiocese for relics of Blessed Pablo Melendez (1876-1936), a local journalist who died for the faith during the religious persecution of 1936 in Spain.

Pablo Melendez was born in Valencia in 1876, the son of a police officer.  He was orphaned at the age of 14 and helped his mother raise his six brothers and sisters.  He was a brilliant student, a dedicated catechist and profoundly devoted to Eucharistic adoration.
He eventually became director of the archdiocesan Catholic newspaper for six years, held various posts in city government and was an advisor to several archbishops. 

On September 25, 1936 he was detained and taken to a prison in Valencia, where he was held until December 24, when he was killed alongside his son Alberto.  He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2001, together with 233 other Spanish martyrs and his relics are venerated in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Cathedral of Milan and in other churches in the Italian regions of Piedmont and Tuscany.

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Celebration of St. Joseph moved by Vatican for 2008

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2008 (CNA) - The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has transferred the celebration of the Solemnity of St. Joseph to March 15, since the traditional date of observance—March 19—coincides with Wednesday of Holy Week.

The universal norms of the Liturgical year and Calendar stipulate that the celebrations of Holy Week, including Wednesday, have priority over any other celebration, feast day or solemnity.  If the feast of St. Joseph had not been moved this year, it would have been completely omitted, as the week after is the Octave of Easter, which also trumps any other feast day or solemnity.

For this same reason, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, which is normally observed on March 25, has been moved to March 31, the first Monday after the Easter Octave.

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Vatican conference to examine ethics of end-of-life care

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2008 (CNA) - A press conference at the Vatican on Thursday presented the details of an upcoming meeting that will discuss the care of the incurably sick and the dying.

The international congress, named “Close by the Incurably Sick and the Dying:  Scientific and Ethical Aspects,” is sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Life.   It is scheduled to take place next week from February 25-26.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, summarized the goal of the congress as an attempt to focus on the moment “in which human fragility is felt most deeply, a moment often intensified by solitude and suffering.”  This moment, he said, is very important in the Christian vision because “the physical body crumbles and the subject’s history comes to an end but they draw near the entrance to full life, eternal life.”

The bishop said the congress would examine the ethics of various medical therapies in response to “various doubts and continuing debate” about medical assistance.   “The main focus will be on treatments that respond to precise ethical questions,” he said.

Monsignor Maurizio Calipari, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and a bioethics professor at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family, explained that new medical techniques ensure greater life possibilities and better health for many people.  However, they can sometimes bring “a greater affront than personal suffering to the patient without there being, or even contrary to there being, a real perspective of benefit.”

Monsignor Calipari said the congress would consider the ethical and technical criteria for prolonging life.  He proposed that the ethical standards of ordinary versus extraordinary treatment (a traditional category), and proportionate versus disproportionate treatment (a newer category), could be supplemented with a new ethical standard that joins the two.

Zbigniew Zylicz, a medical director at an English hospice, addressed the press conference on the topics of palliative care, hospices, and household assistance.  "Death", he said, "should be seen as a part of life, a normal event. The death of a loved one can even be an important moment of personal growth.”

He said hospice workers struggled with many ethical dilemmas, including questions of artificial nutrition and hydration, symptom control that can result in a patient’s early death, terminal sedation, and even increasing societal demand for euthanasia.

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Italian judge convicted for shunning courtrooms with crosses

L'Aquila, Italy, Feb 22, 2008 (CNA) - An Italian judge campaigning about crosses being placed in public buildings has been convicted for the third time for refusing to enter courtrooms unless their crucifixes were removed, ANSA reports.

A court in the central Italian city of L’Aquila gave Judge Luigi Tosti, 59, a suspended one-year jail term and banned him from holding public office for a year.

Judge Tosti is currently serving the second of two similar bans for refusing to perform his judicial duties in another town. 

On Thursday, Judge Tosti refused to take part in court proceedings until the cross in the courtroom was taken down and “the secular nature of the assembly restored.”

According to ANSA, his lawyer filed an appeal claiming that “that one-meter by half-meter object, in itself, invalidates the hearing.”

“That doesn't mean offending Christians. But removing the crucifix means removing a privilege so that places of law can become truly secular and neutral,” the lawyer said.

In February 2006 the Supreme Court of Magistrates, the Italian judiciary’s governing body, removed Judge Tosti from his post and cut off his pay because of his “unjustifiable behavior.”

Crucifixes are not mandatory but are customary in Italy’s public buildings.  Though Catholicism is not Italy’s state religion, local bodies decide whether crosses should be placed in the courthouse and other public buildings, such as schools.

In April 2004, Judge Tosti proposed to place symbols of his Jewish faith, such as a menorah, in his Camerino court.  He changed his mind after the Union of Italian Muslims demonstrated their support for the initiative.

The judge has argued that since the Italian constitution gives equal status to all religions, judges and lawyers can refuse to perform their duties under the symbol of the cross.

The Constitutional Court in December 2004 ruled that crosses could stay in courts and classrooms. 

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Massachusetts abortionist surrenders medical license after negligent death claim

Hyannis, Mass., Feb 22, 2008 (CNA) - A Massachusetts abortionist has relinquished his medical license five months after a 22-year-old woman died while he was performing an abortion on her child.

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine had already suspended the doctor’s medical license, declaring him a “risk to public safety.”

Dr. Rapin Osathanondh faces accusations that his negligence caused the death of Laura Hope Smith in September 2007.  On September 13, 2007 Smith was placed under full anesthesia while only the doctor and a non-medical receptionist were present at the Women’s Health Center in Hyannis.  When Smith suddenly stopped breathing, the receptionist dialed 911.  However, she gave little information to the dispatcher.

Smith died the next day. 

Laura’s mother Eileen Smith met with Dr. Osathanondh ten days after her death.  Eileen Smith was shown records that led her to believe the doctor’s negligence was responsible for the death.  She worked with the pro-life group Operation Rescue to press authorities to investigate Laura’s death.

On February 18 the Boston Medical Examiner’s office declared Laura’s cause of death to be “cardiac pulmonary arrest during anesthesia during a voluntary termination of pregnancy.”

On Wednesday, Dr. Osathanondh permanently surrendered his medical license, saying he will not practice medicine again anywhere.  His clinic is no longer accepting patients but instead refers them to other facilities.

After learning of the surrender of Dr. Osathanondh’s medical license, Eileen Smith told Operation Rescue, "I feel like this was a group effort and you were part of it!"

Operation Rescue spokesperson Cheryl Sullenger responded to the news, saying, "While nothing can bring back Laura and her baby, we take great comfort in knowing that Osathanondh will never again hurt another woman or kill another innocent child." 

"We commend Eileen Smith on her tireless dedication to seeking justice for Laura, in spite of the personal grief and huge obstacles that she had to overcome,” Sullenger said.

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Bishops of India plan defense against anti-Christian extremists

Jamshedpur, India, Feb 22, 2008 (CNA) - At a recent plenary meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), bishops held two unscheduled meetings to study recent attacks on Christians.  The bishops also discussed proposals to coordinate the Church’s civil and political activities to counter increasing anti-Christian violence in India.

Last December, Hindu extremists attacked Christians in the east-coast state of Orissa, disrupting preparations for Christmas and burning their property.

Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi and outgoing president of the CBCI, said that attackers had looted and burned Christian churches and homes.  “What they could not carry, they heaped them together and burned," he said, describing the destruction as “diabolic.”

Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, whose Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar includes the afflicted district, said the conflict began on December 23, when Hindu radicals forcibly shaved the head of a Protestant pastor.  The next day, the radicals disrupted Christmas preparations in a Christian-dominated village.  They pursued Christians and burned their shops.

Archbishop Cheenath urged India’s bishops not to treat the violence as isolated incidents, but instead to plan to deal with anti-Christian violence and propaganda at national and regional levels. "Be alert. Today it is Orissa; tomorrow it could be somewhere else," the archbishop said, according to UCA News.

The archbishop distributed an independent group’s report, written after twenty months studying Hindu radicals in Orissa.  The Indian People’s Tribunal, established in 2003 after sectarian violence killed hundreds of Muslims, said thousands of radicals were working in Orissa, using "coercion and force to promote Hindu supremacy and hegemony."

The tribunal head K.K. Usha, a former judge, has said that the radical groups "legitimize their actions against minorities by invoking specific and fabricated threats to Hindus from Muslims and Christians."

A diocese or religious congregation cannot counter a fundamentalist attack alone, Archbishop Cheenath said.   He said there were “too many dioceses” in the Indian Church, complicated by regional, linguistic, and ritual divisions.  He proposed the formation of a disaster management team at the national level.

A CBCI draft plan calls for the Church to formulate positions and disseminate them through statements and the media.  Other proposals include lobbying political and civil leaders, establishing national and regional coordination teams, and networking with other groups, including international organizations.

Among those included in the discussion of the tentative plan were Cardinal Paul Cordes, the Vatican official in charge of the pontifical council for charity work, and two officials of the German Church aid agency Misereor.

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Pope expresses thanks for Peter’s Pence

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2008 (CNA) - At the Vatican on Friday, the Pope received members of the Circle of St. Peter who brought him, as is traditional, the "Peter's Pence" collection conducted every year in the parishes and institutes of Rome's diocese.

Addressing the members of the society on the day that the Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Pope thanked them for their service, which he told the volunteers shows “your unconditional faithfulness to the Church and its universal pastor, the Roman pontiff".

"Yours, he continued, is a much appreciated apostolate that offers constant witness to the love that you hold for the Church and in particular for the Holy See".

Founded in the 19th century, the Circle of St. Peter gives voluntary help in papal ceremonies and cares for people in need in Rome. The Circle is also entrusted with the ancient privilege of collecting the fund known as Peter's Pence, which is given to the Holy Father so that he can respond to requests for aid from around the world, especially from the poorest countries.

Thank you for this service", he finished, "that you carry out with such generosity and a spirit of sacrifice".

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Second largest diocese in Ireland receives new bishop

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2008 (CNA) - The Holy Father has appointed Msgr. Noel Treanor as Bishop the diocese of Down and Connor in Ireland.  The bishop-elect currently serves as the Secretary General of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of the European Community.

Msgr. Treanor, was born in Silverstream, Ireland in 1950 and ordained a priest in 1976.  He will become the 32nd bishop of the diocese on Sunday June 29, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

The bishop-elect will succeed Bishop Patrick Walsh who submitted his resignation in 2006 upon reaching the age of 75. 

The bishop-elect will serve 321,021 Catholics and 243 priests.

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Vocations must be sown in children and young people, says the Pope

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2008 (CNA) - Today the Vatican released the Pope’s message for the 45th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which this year has the theme of "Vocations at the Service of the Church on Mission".  In his message, Pope Benedict stressed that Christian communities must prepare children and young people for vocations by their witness to the Gospel.

Pope Benedict began his message by recalling Jesus’ Great Commission to the Apostles (Mt. 28:19-20) to take the message of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. He then traced this mission back to its origins in the call of God to the prophets.

According to the Pope, the way the Gospel is transmitted today remains the same as in the time of the Apostles. “In the beginning, and thereafter, what ‘impels’ the Apostles is always ‘the love of Christ’. (...) In fact, the love of Christ must be communicated to the brothers by example and words, with all one's life.”

The Holy Father also made sure to note that no one is exempt from the call to evangelize, saying, “every Christian is called to bear witness and to announce the Gospel”. However, “this missionary dimension is associated in a special and intimate way with the priestly vocation,” the Pope said.

Perhaps most notable in the Pontiff’s message was his emphasis on the need to reach children and young people.

Benedict XVI praised “priests who have suffered even to the sacrifice of their lives in order to serve Christ” saying that “Theirs is a moving witness that can inspire many young people to follow Christ and to expend their lives for others, and thus to discover true life.”

He also called on Christian communities to “never fail to provide both children and adults with constant education in the faith.” The Holy Father added, “Vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life can only flourish in a spiritual soil that is well cultivated. Christian communities that live the missionary dimension of the mystery of the Church in a profound way will never be inward looking.

In his closing remarks, Pope Benedict thanked all those who promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life but also “to young people on their vocational journey”.

The celebration of the 45th World Day of Prayer for Vocations will take place on April 13, the fourth week of Easter, this year.

The full message from Pope Benedict XVI can be found at:

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Cardinal Bertone says Church in Cuba has right to evangelize "with no limits"

Havana, Cuba, Feb 22, 2008 (CNA) - During a huge Mass that filled the Cathedral square in Havana, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, demanded the right of the Catholic Church in Cuba to evangelize without limits imposed by the state.

Several key leaders of the Cuban government sat in the front rows of the square, while more than 3,000 people filled the outdoor square, in a public expression of faith unseen in the Cuban capital since the visit of Pope John Paul 10 years ago.

"We have to thank God because the Church in Cuba along the centuries has been a beneficial presence, marked by intense educational and social action, promoting the respect for the life of all human persons," Cardinal Bertone said.

"Therefore, the Church aspires to be ever more present and active in the midst of society, fulfilling its urgent mission to teach, heal, assist the poor and promote the dignity of all human beings," he also said.

After transmitting to "each one and all of you the spiritual closeness of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI," the Secretary of State concluded that "the fields in which the Church is present are vast,"  but the Church wishes to expand without limits it radius of action to other fields, to contribute to the common good of the Cuban people."

In recent years, the Cuban Bishops have requested from the government, without success, the right to provide Catholic education and to run their own media organizations. According to the Cuban constitution, only public education is legal and all media must be state-owned.

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Church calls Mexican capital “murderous city” and laments deaths by abortion

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 22, 2008 (CNA) - In an editorial published on its website, the Archdiocese of Mexico City lamented the death of the first girl to lose her life from a legal abortion in the Mexican capital and said the killing of the unborn has turned the Mexican capital into “a murderous city.”

“The death of a 15 year-old girl at the Balbuena hospital due to a botched abortion on February 15 is a tragedy,” the editorial states.  “There has been much public discussion of this incident because it was the first death of a mother seeking an abortion since April 24, 2007, when this practice was legalized in Mexico City,” the editorial continued.

“It is sad,” the article elaborated, “that from April 2007 to February 2008, there has been little public discussion of the scandalous carnage of 5,845 legal murders of defenseless children in the wombs of their mothers” in the wake of the decision by the Legislative Assembly to allow abortion based on a supposed “mother’s right over her own body,” when in reality “her child is not part of her body, although he does develop inside of her.”

The editorial pointed out that the use of the term “interruption of pregnancy” does not change the reality of the fact that abortion is a crime.  “We are sorry about the death of this mother, yes, but we cry with shame for the five thousand murders committed against innocent and defenseless humans in the hospitals of our murderous city,” the article concluded.

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Brazilian lawmakers and leaders sign pro-life manifesto

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feb 22, 2008 (CNA) - Brazilian political leaders gathered at the Senate’s Petronio Portela Auditorium for the First Brazilian Meeting of Legislators and Leaders for Life, which ended with the signing of a manifesto that will be sent to President Lula da Silva.

The meeting was promoted by the Parliamentarian Front in Defense of Life – Against Abortion and was intended to “establish a national articulation and mobilize political leaders in defense of life from the moment of conception.”

Among the issues discussed at the meeting were international population control policies and pro-life strategies in Brazil, including resistance efforts in Congress and by civil groups to the legalization of abortion.  At the conclusion of the event, a statement was approved that will be sent to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and to the leader of the Brazilian House of Representatives, Arlindo Chinaglia, and the leader of the Senate, Garibaldi Alves Filho.
Attendees of the event ranged from local officials to national representatives and senators, including US Senator Christopher Smith.

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Exiled Cubans join in prayer campaign called for by archbishop

Miami, Fla., Feb 22, 2008 (CNA) - The large Cuban community in southern Florida has joined in the prayer campaign convened by Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez of Santiago, Cuba on the occasion of the visit of Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who will visit his archdiocese on Saturday.

In a letter, Archbishop Garcia said the Archdiocese of Santiago would welcome Cardinal Bertone this Saturday “as a pilgrim to the Shrine of Our Mother and Patroness, the Virgin of Charity.  It will be a profound moment of prayer.  Young people from neighboring dioceses and from communities in our own archdiocese will join him in praying the Holy Rosary for reconciliation and fraternity between all Cubans.”

Therefore, he continued, “I invite all those who cannot be present at the Shrine together with us to join in our prayers and intentions, whether at home with family members and neighbors, in houses of prayer or in churches, by reciting the Rosary or attending Holy Mass.”

In Miami, the Cuban Catholic ministry “CRECED” announced that in response to the invitation, hundreds of the faithful “will meet in prayer at the Shrine to Our Lady of Charity in Miami” together with Auxiliary Bishop Felipe Estevez of Miami.

CRECED invited those who can not be present at the Shrine to join in prayer at 5:45pm local time and follow the rosary on Radio Paz, the Catholic station of the Archdiocese of Miami.

“How beautiful it would be that all of us show our love to the Virgin and to Cuba and join together if possible at the same in prayer to obtain these intentions which all Cubans of good will long for.  If we do this we are already beginning to obtain this longing,” Archbishop Garcia said in his letter.

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$4 million study to understand why people believe in God

Washington D.C., Feb 22, 2008 (CNA) - A group of researchers from the University of Oxford will spend $3.9 million on a three-year study to “explain” why humanity believes in God.

The Ian Ramsey Center for Science and Religion has decided to bring together anthropologists, theologians, philosophers and other scholars to academically define if belief in a “supreme being” is a basic component of humanity.

Roger Trigg, a senior research fellow at the Center, said the almost $4 million would be used to respond to the question, “What is it that is innate in human nature to believe in God, whether it is gods or something superhuman or supernatural?"

Trigg admitted that anthropological and philosophical research carried out up to now suggests that “faith in God is a universal human impulse found in most cultures around the world, even though it has been waning in Britain and western Europe.

"One implication that comes from this is that religion is the default position, and atheism is perhaps more in need of explanation," he said.

Funding for the study will come from the John Templeton Foundation, a U.S.-based philanthropic organization.

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Cardinal Bertone hopes the Pope will visit Cuba

Havana, Cuba, Feb 22, 2008 (CNA) - "I think the Holy Father welcomed Cardinal Ortega’s invitation to come to Cuba… I hope the Holy Father will visit Cuba in the future,” Cardinal Bertone said during a homily delivered to thousands of Cubans gathered for Mass in front of Havana’s Cathedral on Thursday evening.

The remarks by the Vatican’s number two came after the archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jamie Ortega y Alamino, reiterated a 2005 invitation for a papal visit in his welcoming address to Bertone. "I hope the visit of these days may be a good omen for a visit by our beloved Benedict XVI," said the cardinal.

The exchange was received by sustained applause from the crowd of 3,000 faithful, nuns, priests and delegates of other Christian religions as well as Cuban authorities.

Among the crowd in the square fronting the Cathedral, placards could be seen with the same invitation written on them: "Cuba espera a Benedicto XVI", or alternatively the words that John Paul II challenged Cubans with in 1998: "Be not afraid, open your hearts to Christ".

The two-hour Mass ended with Cardinal Bertone giving Cardinal Ortega an unexpected present: a chasuble of John Paul II’s, also received by applause from the crowd.

Also present for the Mass was a group of "Damas de blanco"—Ladies of White—mothers, wives, sisters and daughters of the 75 political prisoners arrested in March 2003. Out of those 75, twenty have been released for health reasons, while 55 are still in prison, serving about 20-year sentences.

“We are here so that Cardinal Bertone and the Pope may intercede with the government for releasing our relatives” – said Miriam Leiva and Laura Pollàn – “who have been in prison for years just because they dared voice their opinions”.

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