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Archive of March 17, 2008

Pope advances Knights of Columbus founder toward sainthood

Vatican City, Mar 17, 2008 (CNA) - This past Saturday, March 15, Pope Benedict XVI approved a decree recognizing the heroic virtue of Father Michael J. McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus. If Fr. McGivney is recognized as a saint, he will be the first American-born priest to be so honored.

The Pope’s declaration significantly advances the priest’s process toward sainthood and gives him the distinction of “Venerable Servant of God.” The progress of the Fr. McGivney comes as the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, promised last August at the Knight’s annual convention to personally advocate his cause.

“All of us who are members of the Knights of Columbus are profoundly grateful for this recognition of the holiness of our founder,” said Carl Anderson, the head of the Catholic fraternal organization. “The strength of the Knights of Columbus today is a testament to his timeless vision, his holiness and his ideals,” he added.

His Life

Worried about the religious faith and financial stability of immigrant families, Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus with the help of several men at St. Mary’s Parish in New Haven in 1882.  The group also rallied around supporting widows and orphans with financial assistance. Fr. McGivney soon gained a reputation for his tireless work among his parishioners.

Born in Waterbury, CT on Aug. 12, 1852, Michael Joseph McGivney, was the first of Patrick and Mary McGivney’s 13 children, six of whom died in infancy or early childhood. His parents, natives of Ireland, had immigrated to the United States during the 19th century. Patrick was a molder in a Waterbury brass mill, where Michael himself worked for a brief time as a child to help support his family.

From an early age, however, he realized a calling to the Catholic priesthood. After studying in several seminaries, he was ordained in Baltimore’s historic cathedral by Cardinal James Gibbons Dec. 22, 1877. He took up his first assignment, as curate at St. Mary’s Church, New Haven, Conn., Jan. 2, 1878. Father McGivney was named pastor of St. Thomas Church in Thomaston, Conn. in 1884. He became seriously ill with pneumonia in January 1890, and died Aug. 14, 1890 at age 38.

The cause, or process, for Father McGivney’s sainthood, was opened by Hartford Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin, in December 1997. The cause was presented to the Vatican in 2000, where it has been under review by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. With the Pope’s decree on Saturday, and the authentication of a miracle at Father McGivney’s intercession, the priest could be declared a blessed. A second miracle would be required for him to be recognized as a saint.

The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic Fraternal Organization with more than 1.7 million members in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America, the Caribbean islands, the Philippines, Guam and Poland.

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Official program for Pope's U.S. visit released

Vatican City, Mar 17, 2008 (CNA) - With less than a month to go before Pope Benedict makes his first trip to the U.S., the Vatican’s Press Office has published the itinerary for his visit.

The Holy Father’s trip will take place April 15-21.

The Pope will depart from Rome's Fiumicino airport at midday on Tuesday, April 15 and land at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington at 4 p.m. local time, where he will be greeted by U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife.

The welcome ceremony will be held at 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday April 16, after which the Pope will make a courtesy visit to the U.S. president at the White House. That afternoon he will preside at the celebration of Vespers and hold a meeting with U.S. bishops at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass at 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 17 in the Nationals Stadium in Washington. At 5 p.m. on the same day he will participate in a meeting with representatives from Catholic universities at the Catholic University of America, also in Washington, then meet with representatives of other religions in the city's Pope John Paul II Cultural Center.

On the morning of Friday April 18, the Holy Father will travel from Washington to New York where, at 10.45 a.m., he is scheduled to address the General Assembly of the United Nations. That evening he is due to participate in an ecumenical meeting at the church of St. Joseph in New York.

At 9.15 a.m. on Saturday, April 19, the Holy Father will celebrate Mass with priests and religious in St. Patrick's Cathedral. He will then lunch with bishops of the archdiocese of New York and, at 4.30 p.m., preside at a meeting with young people and seminarians at the seminary of St. Joseph.

On Sunday April 20, Benedict XVI is to visit "Ground zero" where he will pray for the victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001. At 2.30 p.m. he will celebrate Mass at New York's Yankee Stadium.

The departure ceremony will be held at 8 p.m. on the same day, at New York's John Fitzgerald Kennedy international airport. The papal plane is due to land at the Roman airport of Ciampino at 10.45 a.m. local time on Monday April 21.

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Benedict XVI offers Mass for soul of Iraqi archbishop

Vatican City, Mar 17, 2008 (CNA) - On Monday morning the Holy Father presided at a Mass for the soul of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of the Chaldeans, who died in tragic circumstances following his kidnapping on February 29.  The Pontiff described the archbishop as taking up his cross to follow Christ. 

The Pope spoke of his closeness to the members of the "beloved Church which suffers, believes and prays in Iraq" and expressed the hope that "in the faith they may find the strength not to lose heart in the difficult situation they are experiencing."

The Holy Father also tied in today's Gospel reading about the anointing of Christ in Bethany with Archbishop Rahho's own "anointings" during his life, both sacramental and spiritual. 

He first mentioned the sacramental anointings: Baptism, Confirmation and his Ordination as a priest and then bishop. "But I am also thinking", he continued, "of the many 'anointings' of filial affection and spiritual friendship ... which his faithful gave him and which accompanied him in the terrible hours of his kidnapping and his painful detention (where perhaps he was already wounded when he arrived), and even unto his agony, his death and that unworthy grave where his mortal remains were found.

"Those sacramental and spiritual anointings were a guarantee of resurrection, a guarantee of the true and full life that the Lord Jesus came to give us," he added.

Benedict XVI also remarked on the reading from the prophet Isaiah on the Servant of the Lord who will bring, proclaim and establish justice. "The insistence on this term," said the Pope, "cannot pass unobserved."  The Servant "faced with an unjust condemnation bears witness to the truth, remaining faithful to the law of love."

The Holy Father continued: "On this path, Archbishop Rahho took up his cross and followed the Lord Jesus, thus he contributed to bringing justice to his martyred country and to the whole world, bearing witness to the truth. He was a man of peace and dialogue ... with a particular fondness for the poor and the disabled. ... May his example sustain all Iraqis of good will, Christians and Muslims, to build peaceful coexistence founded on human fraternity and mutual respect.”

The Pope praised God for the holiness of the archbishop: "Over these days, in profound union with the Chaldean community in Iraq and abroad, we have wept for his death and the inhuman way in which he was compelled to end his earthly life. But today in this Eucharist ... we wish to give thanks to God for all the good He achieved in Archbishop Rahho.

Finally he prayed for the intercession of Archbishop Rahho.  “We hope that, from heaven, he may intercede with the Lord to obtain for the faithful in that sorely-tried land the courage to continue to work for a better future.”

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BBC to present series exonerating Judas, Pilate and Caiaphas

London, England, Mar 17, 2008 (CNA) - The BBC of London is set to air a mini-series on the last week of the life of Christ which will exonerate Judas, Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas of responsibility for the death of Jesus.

The series presents a Judas who anguishes over his loyalties to Jesus and to Caiaphas and a Pilate who struggles to manage his wife’s social aspirations and his career while trying to keep a lid on tensions in Jerusalem.

The creators of “The Passion,” which will be aired in four installments, said they wanted to “understand the motives of characters.”

Frank Deasy, the series writer, said he wanted to discover the motives behind Judas’ betrayal “I’ve always had a problem with Judas in ‘Passion’ stories in that he suddenly and inexplicably betrays Jesus,” he said. “I was keen to develop a psychological reality to Judas’s portrayal.”

Nigel Stafford-Clark, who produced the BBC series, said he wanted to put the characters’ actions in context “so you can see it from their point of view and realize that what they did felt legitimate”.

In an interview with the Radio Times, Stafford-Clark said, "By such accounts as there are from the time, Caiaphas was reckoned to be a fair man and a good high priest. [He was] a man doing a very difficult job and doing it well."
 
A BBC spokesman said, "We are not seeking to subvert or rewrite the Gospel narrative – we are just retelling it to bring it alive for a contemporary audience."

The series will conclude on Easter Sunday and stars Paul Mawle as Jesus, Paul Nicholls as Judas, and James Nesbitt as Pilate.

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Mexican experts hope Supreme Court will rule against abortion

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 17, 2008 (CNA) - Two experts in law and philosophy consulted by the Mexican daily La Joranda expressed their confidence that the country’s Supreme Court would rule against the legalization of abortion in the Mexican capital.

Valdemar Martinez and Rodrigo Guerra lead a group of experts that has been sending specialized information to the justices and although they realize that the Court is facing a “very difficult” decision, they are sure there are sufficient legal, biological, public heath and empirical scientific foundations to find the law allowing abortion unconstitutional.

Martinez said that the Court is currently reviewing the case. “I think the Court will rule that the law is unconstitutional,” he said.

At least eight of the eleven justices that make up the Supreme Court must rule against the Mexico City law in order for it to be declared unconstitutional.

Guerra insisted that there is enough scientific evidence to argue that the human being in all stages of development, whether born or unborn, is the same organism and therefore is an authentic subject of rights.

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Nuncio to Iraq encourages continuation of inter-religious dialogue

, Mar 17, 2008 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq and Jordan, Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt, said the inter-religious dialogue that was encouraged and carried out for so long by the deceased Archbishop Paulo Faraj Rahho of Mosul must be continued in his memory.

In an interview with the L’Osservatore Romano, Archbishop Chullikatt emphasized that the Christian minority in Iraq is obligated to engage in dialogue and wants the Iraqi people to understand that Christians do not want war or misunderstanding but rather “peace and fraternity.”

Inter-religious dialogue, he said, “must continue moving forward. This crime will not wipe out our relations. For our part we are willing to carry forward our mission, the mission of the Church, just as the Archbishop of Mosul did for many years.”

“Archbishop Rahho was a convincing and effective promoter of inter-religious dialogue,” the nuncio continued, “and for this reason we must continue working with more dedication in his memory. We must continue the work of Archbishop Rahho so that it will not be wiped out by this crime.  Jesus Christ was also the victim of a cruel act,” he added.

Referring to the violence that takes place daily in Iraq, Archbishop Chullikatt lamented that “each day dozens of people die. Fundamentalists without scruples sow panic everywhere.  The entire population lives in fear.  The Christian community, as a minority, faces life in precarious conditions.”

However, he went on, “we cannot be locked in our homes.  We have the duty to talk and to dialogue with the populace and our community. For this reason we will ask the Iraqi government for greater protection, above all for priests, religious and ourselves.”

“We are losing valuable people who profess the word of God everyday,” the nuncio said.  “The Iraqi government must take adequate measures to allow us carry out our mission, the mission of the Church,” he stated.

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Pope highlights St. Paul’s contributions to Greece

Vatican City, Mar 17, 2008 (CNA) - On Saturday, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Miltiadis Hiskakis, the new ambassador of Greece to the Holy See.  In his address to the diplomat, the Pontiff recalled the evangelization efforts of St. Paul who strove tirelessly to bring Christianity to the Greek, Hellenistic culture.

The Pope spoke of the approaching Jubilee Year marking the bi-millennial anniversary of the birth of St. Paul, the Pope indicated that it "will be a particularly auspicious occasion to intensify our ecumenical endeavors. ... This brilliant 'Apostle to the Gentiles' dedicated his energies to preaching the wisdom of the cross of Christ amidst the people of Greece, who were formed by the highly sophisticated Hellenistic culture."

"The vibrant exchange between Hellenistic culture and Christianity allowed the former to be transformed by Christian teaching and the latter to be enriched by Greek language and philosophy. ... Even today, visitors to Athens can contemplate Paul's words - now etched on the monument overlooking the Areopagus - which he proclaimed to the learned citizens of the 'polis'. He spoke of the one God in whom 'we live and move and have our being.'"

St. Paul's words, said Pope Benedict, can help men and women “to appreciate more deeply their human dignity, and thus promote the good of the entire human family.”  The Pontiff explained that he hopes the Pauline Year “will spark reflection upon the history of Europe and stir its inhabitants to rediscover the inestimable treasure of values they have inherited from the integral wisdom of Hellenistic culture and the Gospel."

Benedict XVI also thanked the ambassador for striving to “address administrative issues concerning the Catholic Church in Greece.  “The Catholic faithful, though few in number, look forward to the favorable results of these deliberations. Indeed, when religious leaders and civil authorities work together to formulate fair legislation in regard to the life of local ecclesial communities, the spiritual welfare of the faithful and the good of all society are enhanced."

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40 Days for Life reports saved lives, heightened awareness

Washington D.C., Mar 17, 2008 (CNA) - Sunday concluded the 40 Days for Life campaign that took place in 59 cities and 31 states.  The effort included 40 days of peaceful protest outside abortion facilities and Planned Parenthood clinics, and prayer and fasting to raise awareness of abortions taking place in local communities.

"We are seeing a tremendous change taking place across the nation as our second simultaneous coast-to-coast 40 Days for Life campaign draws to a close," said David Bereit, national campaign director of 40 Days for Life.

"We know lives have been saved. People participating in vigils across America report that women who were planning to abort their babies changed their minds - in many cases, just because of the simple presence of people standing vigil outside the clinics, praying for these mothers and their children," said Bereit in a press release. "The reports we receive every day always include mention of lives spared from abortion."

The campaign that began February 6 and ended March 16 also increased public awareness.

"I know many people are simply not aware that abortion is present in their neighborhoods," said Bereit, "but this effort has changed that. One of the leaders of a local 40 Days for Life campaign told me she had driven past a building almost every day for ten years, but never knew an abortion facility was present. A whole community knows it now."

Bereit stated that communities typically continue their efforts after the 40 days have elapsed.  He said people frequently ask him what happens on Day 41, when the formal part of the 40 Days for Life effort has ended. "The question seems to be answering itself.  For one thing, people see that being at the clinic saves lives. There are efforts under way in many cities to see that there are people praying outside whenever abortions are being done."

The campaign director also gave credit to God, saying, "We are most humbled by the many victories - God's victories - that have been reported during this 40 Days for Life effort.  We look forward to the future with hope and anticipation."

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Bishop calls on Venezuelans to spiritual journey with Christ during Holy Week

Caracas, Venezuela, Mar 17, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Mario Moronta of San Cristobal in Venezuela has invited the faithful to journey with Christ in the last moments of his earthly journey and to not be afraid to give witness to their faith.

“As Holy Week begins we prepare ourselves to accompany Jesus during the last moments of his earthly journey before his death.  We do it today acclaiming him with palm branches, the symbols of our faith to which we are not afraid to bear witness,” Bishop Moronta said during Mass on Palm Sunday.

He stressed that on Palm Sunday Christians reaffirm “that Christ is our hope and the way that leads us to the only authentic salvation: that which brings us into full and definitive communion with God.”

Bishop Moronta encouraged Christians in the work of evangelization because “if the way of Jesus leads to the fulfillment of the promise (of salvation) and reaches the cross in order to fulfill the hope of humanity, from the cross is born a new way that brings new hope, that which makes us cast out into the deep, to put our hands to the plow and look towards the horizon, to proclaim that He is the Lord.  We are pilgrims of hope and we know which way is ours,” he said.

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Family cannot be made equal with homosexual unions, bishop warns

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 17, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Ruben Oscar Frassia of Avellaneda in Argentina expressed dismay this week that many say “the family matters” but then consider gay unions to be equivalent to traditional marriage when that is not the case.

Lamenting that same-sex couples have become more prevalent and that the mentality of many is that these unions and traditional marriage “are the same,” Bishop Frassia responded that “in no way are they the same, because they do not conform to natural law,” which “is not dependent upon the whims of the moment and of life.”

“What do you want me to say? I really don’t understand it, I don’t understand. I can see why but I can’t justify it.  And they want to put it on the same level, they want to make it equal,” the bishop said during a recent radio program.

“We must be very clear,” Bishop Frassia said.  “If we sow wind, we will reap storms.  If we take God out of our families, our society, our laws, our personal things or out of nature itself, let’s not be surprised at the damage that we ourselves might provoke,” the bishop stated.

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