Archive of March 1, 2008

Charity workers are called to be witnesses of the value of life, says Holy Father

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2008 (CNA) - The Holy Father received participants of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"on Friday, who are meeting to reflect on the theme: "Human and spiritual qualities of people who work in Catholic charity institutions".  The Pope called on them to never let their work simply become ‘philanthropy’ but for them to always be “witnesses of evangelical love.”

The Pontiff spoke of how “charitable activity occupies a central position in the Church's evangelizing mission.  We must not forget that works of charity are an important area in which to meet people who do not yet know Christ, or who know Him only partially. It is right, then, that pastors and those responsible for pastoral charity work ... should concern themselves with the human, professional and theological-spiritual formation" of people who operate in this field.

With this mission, "Those who work in the many forms of charitable activity of the Church cannot, then, content themselves just with offering technical services or resolving practical problems and difficulties. The assistance they provide must never be reduced to mere philanthropy but must be a tangible expression of evangelical love."

The Pope asked the charity workers to be "above all, witnesses of evangelical love." This can be achieved "if the ultimate aim of their mission is not that of being social service operatives, but of announcing the Gospel of charity. Following Christ's footsteps, they are called to be witnesses of the value of life in all its expressions, especially defending the life of the weak and the sick, following the example of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta who loved and looked after the dying, because life is not measured in terms of efficiency, but has value always and for everyone.”

Ecclesial charity workers, Benedict XVI continued, are also "called to be witnesses of love, of the fact that we fully become men and women when we live for others, that no-one must die and live for themselves alone."  He concluded, charity workers "must be witnesses of God, who is fullness of love and invites us to love."

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Obama promises to dedicate presidency to homosexual activism

Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2008 (CNA) - Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama has promised to use the presidency as a “bully pulpit” for homosexual activism, according to an open letter released on his campaign website.

In the February 28 letter posted under the “LGBT” section of the “People” heading, Senator Obama said he would press for the passage of hate crime laws and a “fully inclusive” Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

"As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws," Obama said.

Obama said he favored civil unions over same-sex marriage laws, but said, "I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples..."

He pledged to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” practice that excludes open homosexuals from military service.

Obama said winning broad support for his positions was important, saying he would bring his LGBT activism to “skeptical audiences as well as friendly ones.”

"I will never compromise on my commitment to equal rights for all LGBT Americans. But neither will I close my ears to the voices of those who still need to be convinced. That is the work we must do to move forward together. It is difficult. It is challenging. And it is necessary," he said.

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Anti-Catholic pastor who endorsed McCain likened to Farrakhan

Washington D.C., Mar 1, 2008 (CNA) - The endorsement of Senator John McCain by a Catholic-bashing Texas minister won swift rebuke from the president of the Catholic League and a Jewish leader concerned about his “vicious and inflammatory” anti-Catholicism. 

Both compared the minister to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

On Wednesday Pastor John Hagee endorsed Senator John McCain’s bid to become the Republican presidential candidate in the 2008 election. 

Senator McCain responded to the endorsement by calling Hagee “the staunchest leader of our Christian evangelical movement,” praising Hagee’s pro-Israel stance.

President of the Catholic League Bill Donohue harshly criticized the endorsement.

“There are plenty of staunch evangelical leaders who are pro-Israel, but are not anti-Catholic. John Hagee is not one of them,” Donohue said on Thursday.  “Indeed, for the past few decades, he has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church. For example, he likes calling it ‘The Great Whore,’ an ‘apostate church,’ the ‘anti-Christ,’ and a ‘false cult system’.”

Donohue said that in Pastor Hagee’s latest book the minister claimed Hitler was a Catholic who murdered Jews while the Catholic Church did nothing.  “The sell-out of Catholicism to Hitler began not with the people but with the Vatican itself,” wrote Hagee, according to Bill Donohue.

Donohue criticized the remarks, saying, “For the record, Hitler persecuted the Catholic Church and was automatically excommunicated in 1931—two years before he assumed power—when he acted as best man at Joseph Goebbel’s Protestant wedding. Hitler even bragged about his separation from the Church. As for doing nothing about the Holocaust, Sir Martin Gilbert reminds us that Goebbel denounced Pope Pius XII for his 1942 Christmas message criticizing the Nazis (the New York Times lauded the pope for doing so in an editorial for two years in a row). Much to Hagee’s chagrin, Gilbert also says that Pius XII saved three quarters of the Jews in Rome, and that more Jews were saved proportionately in Catholic countries than Protestant countries.”

Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, echoed Donohue’s criticisms.  In a Friday statement, Rabbi Kula said, “Just as Jews and other people of good will have appropriately demanded that Barack Obama unambiguously renounce and reject the endorsement of Minister Louis Farrakhan because of his bigotry and rabid anti-Semitism so Jews and other people of good will should demand that John McCain renounce and reject the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee because of his vicious and inflammatory anti-Catholicism.”

Rabbi Kula said Pastor Hagee’s position on Israel “does not mean he should be given carte blanche to denigrate and malign another religion.”  He continued, saying, “Barack Obama showed his integrity when he rejected Minister Farrakhan’s hate whatever the political costs and sensitivities. John McCain is also a man of integrity. He needs to similarly reject Pastor Hagee’s hate whatever the political calculations and consequences.”

In a Friday statement Bill Donohue said Senator McCain’s opponent for the nomination, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, had expressed “disappointment and surprise” that Hagee had not chosen him.  Donohue also compared Hagee to Louis Farrakhan, wondering why the candidates were fighting over the endorsement of such a figure.

Donohue also called on McCain to shun Hagee’s endorsement.

“Just this week, McCain repudiated the remarks of talk radio host Bill Cunningham,” Donohue said.  “He should now repudiate Hagee’s long record of bashing Catholicism. After all, George W. Bush apologized for speaking at Bob Jones University, and Hagee makes Jones look like a lightweight in the ring of bigotry."

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Underground Buddhists side with Catholics in Vietnamese property dispute

Hanoi, Vietnam, Mar 1, 2008 (CNA) - A leader of the underground Buddhist Church in Vietnam has sided with Catholics in a property dispute with the Vietnamese government, in which the state-sponsored Buddhist organization claimed original ownership of a former papal nunciature now used by the government.

Hanoi Catholics had won a government promise to restore to Church control the building that once housed the papal nunciature, a building confiscated by the government in the 1950s. 

However, on February 16 Venerable Thich Trung Hau, a leader of the state-recognized Vietnamese Buddhist Church (VBC), wrote to the Vietnamese prime minister asserting a claim to the property.  He argued that the land had once been the site of Bao Thien pagoda,which he claimed was built in 1054.  He said French colonists had seized the property and given it to the Catholic bishop in 1883.

A state-run magazine published in 2001 stated that the Bao Thien pagoda was destroyed in 1426, saying it was located on land about five kilometers north of the former nunciature.

In a February 23 interview with the BBC, Venerable Thich Khong Tanh, an official in the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), supported the Catholic claim to the land.  He said the Catholic Church “had legally owned the land before the VBC was established, and even before Hau was born.”

He also questioned the motives of the VBC leaders.  “It is clear that the government is reluctant to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of Catholics. Now, they want to use Buddhists to confront the Catholics for them”, he said urging Vietnam Buddhists not allow the government to do so.

The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam claims to lead eighty percent of the Buddhists in Vietnam.  It has been outlawed since 1981, when the communist government set up the state-controlled VBC. 

Venerable Thich Khong Tanh, 65, had spent 15 years in prison for his support of the banned church and his advocacy of human rights.  He said his church “has nothing to deal with the nunciature,” and called for greater attention to two key UBCV institutions seized by the government:  the Vietnam Quoc Tu Pagoda and the Quang Duc Cultural Center in Saigon.

Father Joseph Nguyen, who helped lead the Catholic effort to reclaim the former nunciature, said government officials had criticized the use of the VBC letter.  The officials were concerned the action would force Catholics to cooperate with the underground UBCV.

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