Archive of March 7, 2008

Holy Father to spend summer vacation in Italian town of Alto Adige

, Mar 7, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will spend part of his summer vacation this year in the region of Alto Adige in the northern province of Bressanone, after which he will head to Castel Gandolfo for the rest of the summer.

During a recent press conference, Bishop Wilhelm Emil Egger of Bressanone said that during his days of rest from July 28 to August 11, the Holy Father will stay at the seminary of Bressanone.

“I very much esteem Pope Benedict XVI. He can attract both the masses and the intellectuals, the bishop said, adding that in Bolzano, “he is going to find an intimate and tranquil atmosphere.”

Likewise, Bishop Egger said the Pontiff “knows the seminary of Bressanone well, because he often visited here when he was cardinal.”

The Pope will suspend his Wednesday general audiences during his summer vacation, and will meet with the faithful only on two occasions, August 3 and 10, to pray the Sunday Angelus at the Cathedral of Bressanone.

In 2005 and 2006, Pope Benedict XVI spent his summer vacation in Valle de Aosta and last year in Lorenzago in the Italian Alps.

The region of Alto Adige is northern Italy and residents there speak Italian and German. The last time a Pope visited the area was in July of 1988, when John Paul II came on pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Pietralba in the town of Nova Ponente.
The Vatican has yet to confirm the Pope’s summer plans.

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California ruling could put homeschooling in jeopardy

Los Angeles, Calif., Mar 7, 2008 (CNA) - A California court decision restricting two parents’ ability to homeschool their children could subject all California parents to criminal penalties for homeschooling, WorldNetDaily reports.

Allegations of abuse had been brought against Phillip and Mary Long of Los Angeles, who disciplined their homeschooled children with spankings.  After the case was closed by the court, the two attorneys appointed to represent the Longs’ two youngest children filed a special appeal challenging the Longs’ right to continue homeschooling their children.

The Second Appellate Court in Los Angeles granted the attorneys’ appeal.  Justice H. Walt Croskey, whose opinion was joined by two other judges, declared, "Parents who fail to [comply with school enrollment laws] may be subject to a criminal complaint against them, found guilty of an infraction and subject to imposition of fines or an order to complete a parent education and counseling program."

The Long family’s children were enrolled in Sunland Christian School, a private homeschooling program.  Judge Croskey, without hearing arguments from the school, said this was a "ruse of enrolling [children] in a private school and then letting them stay home and be taught by a non-credentialed parent.”

The appellate court confirmed a lower court’s finding that "keeping the children at home deprived them of situations where (1) they could interact with people outside the family, (2) there are people who could provide help if something is amiss in the children's lives, and (3) they could develop emotionally in a broader world than the parents' 'cloistered' setting." 

The appeal’s ruling also said California law requires persons aged six to 18 to be in “the public full-time day school,” with exemptions only for those in a private full-time day school or those "instructed by a tutor who holds a valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught."

Roy Hanson, chief of the Private and Home Educators of California, expressed concern about the way the ruling was issued.

"Normally in a dependency court action, they simply make a ruling that will affect that family. It accomplishes the same thing, meaning they would force [the family] to place their minor children into school," he said, according to WorldNetDaily.

Such rulings “done in the best interests of the child” are not unusual, he said.  However, in this case the court went much further and ruled that the law did not allow parents to educate their children at home.

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, described the decision as “stunning.” 

"The scope of this decision by the appellate court is breathtaking," Dacus said. "It not only attacks traditional homeschooling, but also calls into question homeschooling through charter schools and teaching children at home via independent study through public and private school."

"If not reversed, the parents of the more than 166,000 students currently receiving an education at home will be subject to criminal sanctions," he said.

The Home School Legal Defense Association said that though the ruling "has caused much concern among California homeschoolers,” the court’s decision made no changes to California law concerning homeschooling.

The Longs have disputed with local officials over homeschooling and other issues for years.  The Longs said that in at least two previous decisions, courts had affirmed their right to homeschool.  They are considering appealing the court’s decision to the California Supreme court because of its impact on their family and because of the anti-homeschooling precedent it could set.

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Catholics chafe under government mandates for British embryo bill vote

London, England, Mar 7, 2008 (CNA) - Catholic Ministers of Parliament could revolt against Labor Party leader Prime Minister Gordon Brown over a bill on embryo fertilization and research, the Telegraph reports.

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill will allow the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos containing both human and animal DNA and will loosen restrictions on in-vitro fertilization treatments for single women and homosexual couples.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, Defense Secretary Des Browne and Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy are devout Catholics, who have threatened to resist the bill because of ethical and religious objections.  The Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has criticized the bill and has called for “flexibility” in parliamentary deliberations.
Prime Minister Brown had considered permitting a free vote on the bill, which otherwise must be supported by all party members.  Brown decided such a move would anger other MPs who had previously stayed loyal to the government.

The opposition of such high-ranking Cabinet members has renewed the controversy.  A possible option is to allow Catholic legislators to abstain from the vote, though some Catholics have pressed for the liberty to vote against the bill or amend it to remove some measures.

According to The Telegraph, a government source said, "This is a vital Bill and the Prime Minister has taken a close interest.

"That means we have to get it through. But when you are talking about people's religious beliefs, particularly among Cabinet ministers, then it creates problems."

The Conservative Party leader David Cameron has allowed a free vote to his party's Ministers of Parliament.

The recent promotion of Paul Murphy to Welsh Secretary has also heightened the controversy, as Murphy is considered the most devout Catholic in the Cabinet.  Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, has also been the focus of controversy. Kelly reportedly argued with the government last year over government mandates that Catholic adoption agencies place children with homosexual couples.

Mr. Brown and Health Secretary Alan Johnson believe the Bill to be vital in the search for cures for syndromes such as motor neuron disease and cystic fibrosis.

The Bill, which has already been delayed in an attempt to reach a compromise, will be voted on in the next two months.

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Irish-American Catholics negotiate St. Patrick’s Day and Holy Week conflict

Chicago, Ill., Mar 7, 2008 (CNA) - A Holy Week calendar conflict with St. Patrick’s Day is forcing some localities to choose between parades and piety.


For the first time since 1940, March 17, St. Patrick’s Feast Day, falls during Holy Week.  Due to the solemnity of the period, Masses for Saint Patrick cannot be held during Holy Week.  Parishes must petition their bishop for permission to say a Mass in honor of the saint.


According to USA Today, some American bishops have moved the celebration of Ireland’s patron saint up to March 14.  The move has caused some secular organizers to change their schedule as well.


"To us first and foremost, it's a religious holiday, and we would never hold our festivities without the Mass," said John Forbes, general chairman of Savannah, Georgia's St. Patrick's Day Parade. The parade will follow religious services honoring St. Patrick on March 14.


Other cities are continuing to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 or the Sunday before, which is Palm Sunday.


"It's not at all surprising that the conservatives would recoil from parades" during Holy Week, Thomas Hachey of the Center for Irish Programs at Boston College told USA Today. "The festivities have degenerated in some instances. … They're not so much honoring a saint as they are a reflection of embarrassing displays of drunkenness and increasing amounts of commercialism."


In Columbus, Ohio, Bishop Frederick Campbell tried to persuade the organizers of the secular festivities, the Shamrock Club, to keep Holy Week free of parade floats or extravagant parties.  Despite months of negotiations, which included offers to make the bishop the grand marshal of the parade, both sides are at an impasse.


"The 17th of March is a huge day for any Irish community," said Mark Dempsey, president of the Shamrock Club of Columbus. He said that Irish-Americans "rely on that day (to communicate) a huge tradition of public service and charitable giving that Irish organizations do throughout the year."


Bishops in Boston and New York have not made objections to the local parades coinciding with Holy Week.


In Chicago, traditional celebrations such as dyeing the Chicago River green and its parade are always scheduled for the Saturday before March 17.


According to the Southtown Star, a parish priest in Chicago foresaw the conflict in 2006 and brought it to the local St. Patrick’s Day committee’s attention.  Father Frank Kurucz, pastor of St. Cajetan’s Church, was new to the parish when he looked at future calendars.


"I was looking at Easter for the next five years," he said. "I wondered, 'When's the parade?' "


After checking the calendar, he noticed the conflict.


"I thought, 'Uh-oh,' " Kurucz said.


"All of the credit for everything going so smoothly and avoiding some of the issues that are plaguing some other organizing committees goes to Father Frank," said Mary Beth Sheehan, the Chicago parade’s spokeswoman.


Tom MacNamara, the 2008 parade coordinator, said holding the Mass was important, but so was the need to honor Holy Week.


"Palm Sunday is the first day of Holy Week," said Tom McNamara, this year's parade coordinator. "Holy Week is a somber and reflective time leading up to Easter. It's not a time for a big celebration and parties."


"A big part of the parade day for many people is Mass at St. Cajetan Church," he said. "It's a special liturgy with an Irish theme and Irish music. You wouldn't be able to do that on Palm Sunday."


St. Patrick’s Day will next fall during Holy Week in 2160.

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Ireland investigates sale of fraudulent Mass cards

Longford, Ireland, Mar 7, 2008 (CNA) - Leaders in the Irish Catholic Church have voiced concerns that Mass cards are being sold under false pretenses, with the money going to shop owners and distributors rather than being used for Mass offerings and charity, BBC News reports.

Mass cards with printed signatures are sold in some retail shops.  Bishop O’Reilly from Longford said the cards were part of a massive industry and its lack of accountability undermined the public’s confidence in missionary work.

The bishop said that missionary orders are concerned that purchasers of these Mass cards would think they were supporting charity work in the Third World, when, in fact, the money could go to retailers.

In the past, people would buy an unsigned card and have local priests sign them, while making a donation.

Bishop O’Reilly suggested a return to this practice.

"People that want to make Mass offerings should do so on a personal basis with an individual priest," said Bishop O'Reilly, according to BBC News.

"I would much prefer if they wrote a letter to the person who's been bereaved or better still if they undertook to personally fulfill some act of charity or prayer," he said.

The Irish government has investigated the issue in its reform of charity legislation.  Michael Ring, a deputy with the Fine Gael party, claimed that in some cases Mass cards sold at retail outlets used the names of priests “who had been dead for years.”

"In other cases, writing was illegible and they were not able to discern who the priest was," Ring said.

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Confession brings us the joy of God’s forgiveness, says the Holy Father

Vatican City, Mar 7, 2008 (CNA) - In one of several audiences today, Pope Benedict XVI addressed members of the Apostolic Penitentiary on the state of Confession and lamented that today the world “is losing the notion of sin”.

The Pope made his remarks to a group of prelates that is participating in a week-long seminar on the “internal forum”, that is to say, questions of conscience.  

“What is needed today is to ensure that people who confess experience that divine tenderness for penitent sinners which so many Gospel episodes express with intense emotion", he told the priests.

Referring to the episode of the sinful woman in the Gospel of Luke, the Pope highlighted "the eloquent message that emerges from this Gospel passage: to those who love much God forgives everything. Those who trust in themselves and in their own merits are, as it were, blinded by their own 'I' and their hearts harden in sin. On the other hand, those who recognize themselves as weak and sinful entrust themselves to God and from Him obtain grace and forgiveness. ... What is most important is to make it clear that in the Sacrament of Penance - whatever the sin committed - if sinners recognize it humbly and entrust themselves to the priest confessor, they will always experience the soothing joy of God's forgiveness".

The Pontiff also touched on "a certain disaffection" that exists today around the Sacrament of Penance, and offered some direction to priests who hear confessions saying, "when we insist only on the accusation of sin (although this must exist, and it is necessary to help the faithful understand its importance), we run the risk of relegating to second place what is, in fact, essential, in other words the personal meeting with God, Father of goodness and mercy".

According to a study done in 1998, 30% of the faithful in Italy do not believe that priests are needed in confessionals and 10% of Italian Catholics think that the priest gets in the way of a direct dialogue with the Lord.

Pastors, and especially confessors, must, said the Holy Father, "emphasize the close link between the Sacrament of Penance and an existence decisively oriented to conversion", so that "the grace of the Sacrament may support and nourish the commitment to be faithful disciples of the Lord".

"If this incessant longing is lost", he concluded, "the celebration of this Sacrament unfortunately risks becoming a formality which does not penetrate the fabric of everyday life. On the other hand, if people (though animated by a desire to follow Jesus) do not confess regularly, little by little they risk slowing spiritual rhythm until it weakens and perhaps even stops". 

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Societies that ignore history are subject to manipulation, says Pope

Vatican City, Mar 7, 2008 (CNA) - On Friday, the Holy Father spoke with members of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences whose work he said is of “great interest for the life of the Church,” in a time when history is often ignored.

The Holy Father began by noting how during the pontificate of Leo XIII, "historiography was guided by the spirit of the times and hostile to the Church".  Pope Leo "opened the archives of the Holy See to researchers ... in the conviction that the study and description of the true history of the Church could not but be favorable to her.”

In contemporary society, the Church is still challenged with an unfavorable view of its history as well, the Pope explained. 

"It is no longer just a question of tackling a historiography hostile to Christianity and to the Church", he said. "Today it is historiography itself that is going through a serious crisis, having to fight for its very existence in a society ruled by positivism and materialism. These two ideologies have led to a boundless enthusiasm for progress which ... influences the view of life of large sectors of society. The past thus appears as a dark backdrop against which the present and future glitter with misleading promise."

"Typical of this mentality is a lack of interest in history", said Benedict XVI, "which translates into the marginalization of the historical sciences". This in turn leads to "a society which, heedless of its own past and hence lacking criteria acquired through experience, is no longer capable of harmonious coexistence or joint commitment in realizing future aims. Such a society is particularly vulnerable to ideological manipulation.

The Pope stressed that "this danger is becoming ever greater because of an excessive emphasis given to modern history, especially when research in this field is conditioned by a methodology which draws inspiration from positivism and sociology", ignoring "other important aspects of historical reality, even entire epochs.”

"Even when its does not specifically concern ecclesiastical history, historical analysis nonetheless contributes to describing the life context in which the Church has carried out and continues to carry out her mission,” he noted. 

“There can be no doubt that Church life and activity have always been determined (facilitated or made more difficult) by the various historical contexts. The Church is not of this world, but she lives in it and for it,” the Pontiff concluded.

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Pope receives Luxembourg’s prime minister, discusses euthanasia legislation

Vatican City, Mar 7, 2008 (CNA) - The tiny European country of Luxembourg is rarely heard about, but today the Pope received the prime minister of the Grand Duchy, which could become the third country in Europe to legalize euthanasia.

Jean-Claude Juncker, prime minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, met with the Pontiff this morning at the Vatican and discussed several items of mutual interest, the defense of life and the ongoing legislative process aimed at the legalization of euthanasia.

Thirty of Luxembourg’s fifty-nine lawmakers voted in favor of the potential euthanasia law, with nearly all the members of the prime minister’s Social Christian Party voting in opposition to the bill.
The bill must be approved at a second reading before it can take effect.

"This bill is not a permit to kill," said Socialist lawmaker Lydie Err, who helped draft the legislation.

World Congress of Families Global Coordinator Larry Jacobs reacted critically to the bill, saying, "Europe is quickly slipping into a new Dark Age, in the words of Winston Churchill, 'made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science’."

"Euthanasia proponents always assure us that the act will be voluntary," Jacobs observed. "But the devil is in the details. Frequently, if a patient is unable to indicate consent, this life-or-death decision is made for them by a relative or a physician."

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Archbishop condemns lynchings as evil, laments spread of violence

La Paz, Bolivia, Mar 7, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, has condemned the lynchings that have taken place in recent days and noted that they can never be consistent with Christian beliefs.

“Christians have only one way of looking at things, that of God.  A Christian is one who knows that our God is not arrogant, he doesn’t threaten, incarcerate, persecute, punch or beat up others, but rather he is a God of mercy who in purity looks upon all with love,” the cardinal said.

He lamented the breakdown in security and the widespread increase in crime, noting that it “doesn’t seem possible that in one week two or three lynchings take place,” the news of which reaches the ears of “our children at home.”

 Lynching is an evil that must be eradicated, he continued, and life must be respected, “even that of sinners, because they are the ones who need salvation.”

According to the vice minister of Justice, Valentin Ticona, and the national director of the Special Forces of the Struggle Against Crime, Coroner Adolfo Espinoza, lynchings are on the increase because people no longer believe in justice. 

Authorities estimate that so far this year, there have been 29 attempted lynchings and 11 deaths by lynching in the country.

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Family should never be object of experimentation, insists cardinal

Valencia, Fla., Mar 7, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco, wrote in his weekly letter that the family should never be the object of experimentation, and he warned that human dignity is “threatened when marriage between a man and a woman is weakened in the legislation of the State, thus producing confusion in society.”

The cardinal called for human rights and the family to be defended,” because the family is a natural reality that arises from the complimentarity between man and woman in the task of procreating and raising children,” according to the AVAN news agency.

Likewise, he explained that civil liberties “cannot be argued in order to strip the contents of marriage and the family institution, reducing them to mere voluntary associations.”

He pointed to terrorism first and warned that “the ignorance and scorn for human rights has led to insulting acts of barbarism for the conscience of humanity,” and is common among those who practice terrorism or who defend it or who come to see terrorists as valid representatives of society.”

Terrorism can only be overcome with reason and the rule of law, Cardinal Garcia-Gasco stressed, warning that “considering terrorists to be negotiators representative of society is a grave error that offends the culture of human rights.”  Therefore, “proposals of this type never deserve a hearing.  They are never opportunities for peace. They always prolong scorn for human dignity,” he said.

The cardinal also emphasized that human dignity is attacked whenever human life is not protected from conception to natural death, when the lives of the handicapped or terminally ill are not appreciated, when the right of parents to educate their children is not guaranteed, when the central role of the family in family policies and in the creation and development of schools is not promoted, when economic policies do not adequately recognize the contribution of families to the common good, when help is not given to immigrant families to reunite and to assimilate into responsible civil coexistence, when machismo is not rooted out.”
Cardinal Garcia-Gasco also made note of how “in recent years and months we have been witnesses of the sad spectacle of those who, under the guise of defending laicity, seek to silence those of us who exercise our freedom of speech and of belief.”
Faced with this situation, the cardinal said that “when the legitimate laicity of the State appears as an excuse to attack the freedoms of others, it becomes radical secularism that attacks religious freedom and whose ultimate consequences are unpredictable.”

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Bishops call on Chileans to pray for rain

Santiago, Chile, Mar 7, 2008 (CNA) - The executive committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Chile has asked Catholics to pray “during Mass and other religious observances” for rain, as the central and southern regions of the country are suffering from a severe drought.

In a statement signed by the conference president, Bishop Alejandro Goic, the bishops echoed the concerns of officials, leaders and experts over the lack of water, which is especially acute in rural areas.

“We trust that the pertinent institutions and the people who serve there are adopting the best decisions to confront this serious difficulty,” the bishops stated, adding that “as the Church, we join in the efforts called for by the country to save energy.”

The bishops called on families to use the situation as an opportunity to teach children about the value of natural resources.

“In this season of Lent which prepares us to live the Paschal Mystery, it is also important to meditate upon the marvels of creation that the Lord gives us each day, such as water, a gift that we do not always care for and share,” they said.

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Colombia unites in Our Father for peace

, Mar 7, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Bogota, Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Saenz, threw his support behind President Alvaro Uribe in the crisis with Ecuador and Venezuela and called on the country to pray the Our Father at noon on March 7.

“We must ask God to help us so that we can all live in peace.  At 12 noon let us stand up and pray the Our Father for Colombia,” the cardinal said.

Regarding the military action carried out by Colombia in Ecuadoran territory and the alleged death of the number two leader of the FARC, Raul Reyes, the cardinal said the incident has “unmasked many things that were hidden,” such as the fact that the rebel group is functioning “with the assistance of two sister countries,” Ecuador and Venezuela.

“If this had not been done, none of this unfortunate and diabolical plot would have been discovered,” the cardinal continued, adding that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez should slow down and reflect on what he is doing.  “He should think about what has been uncovered, because when errors are committed, they must be corrected,” the cardinal said.

Bishop Fabio Suescun Mutis of the Military Diocese of Colombia joined in the prayers for peace, and the military’s 173 chaplains were on hand for the noon-day prayer.

“The Our Father is the prayer we use when we have a particular need.   Therefore we call on all Colombians to unite in this prayer, to pray for a common cause which is peace, unity, brotherly coexistence with our sister countries,” Bishop Suescun said during a radio interview.

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