Archive of April 9, 2008

Washington bishop apologizes for hiring worker facing child porn charges

Yakima, Wash., Apr 9, 2008 (CNA) - In a letter read at 40 Catholic parishes in the state of Washington, Bishop Carlos Sevilla has apologized to his diocese for hiring an ex-seminarian to work in a parish despite knowing he was under investigation for viewing child pornography, the Yakima Herald reports.

On Sunday Sevilla personally delivered his apology to parishioners at St. Juan Diego Catholic Church in Cowiche—the church that the ex-seminarian worked at. 

"I respectfully ask your forgiveness for my errors and for the embarrassment this may cause you, and your forgiveness for any damage this may cause to the work of the Church in our Diocese," he said in the letter.

"Please pray for me, for the former seminarian who has now been arrested to face these charges, and for continued healing and forgiveness for all those who suffer from childhood sexual abuse," he continued.

The accused ex-seminarian, 37-year-old Juan Jose Gonzalez Rios, was arrested last month on an outstanding Oregon warrant after he was pulled over for speeding.  He is being held in Yakima County jail pending an extradition hearing, with his bail set at $80,000.

Gonzalez was hired at St. Juan Diego originally to deal with adults, but his duties later included teaching youth classes in Cowiche and at Holy Redeemer Parish in Yakima.  There are no allegations of misconduct by Gonzalez, though the diocese has hired a private investigator to examine his conduct.

Some parishioners gave their opinion about the bishop’s apology.

Patricia Williams, a parishioner in Cowiche, said she appreciated that Bishop Sevilla made an apology in person to the church.  She said the bishop seemed sincere, according to the Yakima Herald.

Kathy Scott, a parishioner at Holy Redeemer, said she had been surprised when she heard about the allegations against Gonzalez, but said, "I still stand behind the bishop."

The day of Bishop Sevilla’s apology to parishioners at St. Juan Diego, family members of Gonzalez handed out a letter outside the church alleging that Gonzalez had been sexually abused by a priest who once served at the parish.

Gonzalez’s lawyer, J.J. Sandlin, alleged that the priest sexually assaulted Gonzalez at least once.  The incidents are alleged to have taken place more than nine years ago, before Gonzalez entered the seminary.

The family also alleged that Gonzalez had been "exposed to a variety of inappropriate sexual conduct” while studying at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon.  The Gonzalez family alleged that the misconduct took place while Gonzalez was in his early 20s.

The family claims that Gonzalez informed Sevilla about both the alleged sexual misconduct of the priest and the alleged misconduct at the seminary.

Father Robert Siler, the diocesan chief of staff, addressed the family’s accusations, saying, “if an allegation of abuse occurs between adults, the bishop handles it with confidentiality and does not make his findings public unless authorities need to be involved.” 

When asked if the priest’s behavior had been or would be investigated, Father Siler said he could not comment.

Williams, the parishioner in Cowiche, said Gonzalez “seemed very nice.”  She said she saw the letter distributed by Gonzalez’s family, and found the controversy disturbing.  She said she did not believe the allegations the letter makes against the priest.

"The whole thing is unsettling for everybody," she said, according to the Yakima Herald.

The Diocese of Yakima has 41 parishes and more than 80,000 Catholics.

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Diocese of Camden announces massive “reconfiguration”

Camden, N.J., Apr 9, 2008 (CNA) - Citing population shifts, a decline in the number of priests and an “appalling” Mass attendance rate of 24 percent, Bishop Joseph A. Galante of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, has announced a “reconfiguration” that would reduce the diocese’s number of parishes from 124 to 66.

“What is not an option is inaction,” he said.

Under the planned reorganization, the diocese will have 38 merged parishes, three parish clusters involving six parishes, and 22 stand-alone parishes.  A press release from the diocese says that some places will serve as year-round “worship sites,” while others will serve as secondary sites, mission sites, or overflow sites used to accommodate populations in shore areas during the peak tourist season. 

Thirty parishes will close entirely.

“In all, up to 100 worship sites could be utilized by the 66 parishes, depending on the time of the year,” said a statement from the Diocese of Camden.  It projects the reorganization to take place over the next one to two years.

Bishop Galante said the reconfiguration is necessary to strengthen and revitalize parish life.  He said the move responds to population changes, a decline in religious practice, the declining number of priests and the need to advance pastoral priorities identified by Catholics at “Speak Up” sessions.

At present, 162 priests serve 124 parishes.  The diocese expects fewer than 85 diocesan priests will be available for ministry in 2015 as fewer new ordinations fail to replace the number of retiring priests.

Mass attendance has fallen from its peak of 74 percent five decades ago to less than 24 percent.  Further, Catholics have moved out of population centers where facilities located very close to each other now serve diminished Catholic populations.

"I know that these are serious challenges,” Bishop Galante said, “But I believe that far greater are the opportunities for our parishes to become dynamic life-giving centers for the practice of our faith if we take bold action together, confident that the Spirit is guiding us on our way. 

“What is not an option is inaction.  What is not an option at this time is leaving things alone and hoping for the best.  We've tried that for too many years and it doesn't work."

At a press conference last Thursday, Bishop Galante said that today’s priests “have to be the enablers, the catalysts who will bring the laity in to share responsibility.”  He said he tells seminarians the major role of the contemporary priest is the “formation of his collaborators.”

Bishop Galante also spoke of the perception that religious formation is primarily for children, saying that such formation has to be life-long.  In addition, there is a need for better youth ministry and for ministry to young adults; “the forgotten 18-to-35s, who need to be drawn into parish life and eventually into leadership roles,” he said.

The bishop said that one goal is a better ministry to young married couples, which could include parish day-care centers for working parents and those who run errands.

"Then there's ministry to the elderly, some of whom need day care, and bereavement ministries. How do we respond to families that suffer losses?” he asked.

Bishop Galante hopes that merging and clustering parishes will help revitalize parishes by “combining human and financial resources in a way that will allow the newly configured parishes, under the direction of good pastoral leadership and staffing, to better serve the needs of the people.”  He said it would be essential to add paid, professional staff to each parish to carry out key ministries and improve service to parishioners.  Under the present configuration, he said, many parishes do not have the means to support such staff.

“I recognize that these changes will require sacrifice," Bishop Galante said.  "The giving up of the familiar and the comfortable is never easy for any one of us.”

He said the diocese would help parishes transition to the new configuration.  Over 100 trained facilitators, the diocese’s statement said, would “work with pastors and parishioners to deal with the feelings of loss that will occur as parishes adopt new structures.”

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the 69-year-old Bishop Galante told a press conference “I don't expect to be around to see the full flowering of what we want to do.

"But I hope to see the beginning," he quipped.

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Popemobile routes offer public chance to see Pope in D.C.

Washington D.C., Apr 9, 2008 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has announced the planned Popemobile routes for Pope Benedict XVI’s April visit to Washington, D.C.  It has also announced locations where Catholics and the general public can see the Pope as he travels through the city.

The motorcade traveling west on Pennsylvania Avenue from the Pope’s April 16 meeting at the White House will provide the best chance to see the Pope.  After his noon meeting, the Pope’s route will follow Pennsylvania Avenue to Washington Circle.  From there, the motorcade will head toward Massachusetts Avenue through Rock Creek Parkway, and then to the papal nuncio’s residence located across from the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Sidewalks immediately in front of the White House and Lafayette Park, directly across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, in addition to Washington Circle, will be closed to the public.

Later on April 16, at about 4:15 p.m., the Pope will travel via Popemobile from the offices of the USCCB at 3211 4th Street, NE, to the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Michigan Avenue, where he will meet with the U.S. bishops.  The west side of 4th Street, NE, and the south side of Michigan Avenue in front of and across from the Shrine will provide opportunities for the public to view the Pope.

Sporadic automobile traffic restrictions will occur during the Pope’s travel times.

On April 17, there will be an opportunity to see Pope Benedict on the campus of the Catholic University of America as he travels to meet with religious leaders of other faiths at the nearby Pope John Paul II Cultural Center.  Access to observation areas on the campus will be provided only to those with tickets.

The university has made tickets available through local Church-sponsored Catholic organizations, including parishes.  Submissions to receive the tickets, available in blocks of 50 to such organizations, must be sent no later than Thursday, April 10, to the address [email protected].  The submissions must include name, address, and affiliation.

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Researchers use new adult stem cell technique in possible Parkinson’s treatment

Cambridge, England, Apr 9, 2008 (CNA) - A new study from scientists at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reports that reprogrammed skin cells can become functioning neurons when transplanted into the brains of mice and rats.

In what the MIT Technology Review calls a “proof of concept” finding, the researchers report that the cells can improve symptoms in a rat model of Parkinson’s disease.

The use of the reprogrammed cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), could sidestep ethical and logistical obstacles that afflict stem cell research which destroys human embryos.

The research team, led by Rudolph Jaenisch at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT, published its results in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”  The researchers used a previous method for reprogramming cells in which the skin cells of a mouse can be made pluripotent when infected with a retrovirus carrying four specific genes.

The scientists established that these modified mouse skin cells could be turned into functioning neurons in a culture.  They then transplanted the neurons into the brains of fetal mice.  When the mice reached adulthood, the researchers examined the mice’s brains and identified the transplanted cells, which they had labeled with a fluorescent marker.

According to Marius Wernig, a postdoctoral fellow at the Whitehead Institute, the cells “migrate nicely” into the brain and mature there.  "They adopt functions of mature neurons," he explained.

The researchers also tested whether the cells could repair damaged dopamine neurons in rats. This would reveal if the cells could help alleviate Parkinson’s disease, since it involves the loss of these dopamine producing neurons.

According to the study, rats that had damaged dopamine neurons were given transplants of neurons derived from the iPS cells. The scientists noted an improvement in the motor skills problems associated with Parkinson’s.

John Gearhart, a stem cell biologist at John Hopkins School of Medicine who was not involved in the study, said that previous studies of the iPS cells had conflicting results.  Some studies showed the cells performing similarly to embryonic stem cells, while other studies did not.  According to the MIT Technology Review, Gearhart said the latest study was important because it compared the iPS-derived cells with neurons derived from embryonic stem cells.

At present, the iPS cells are considered unsafe for human use because the way they are created has the potential to cause cancer.  Two of the four genes used in the retrovirus are known as oncogenes, also known as tumor promoters, which help cells proliferate. 

Tumors have also been observed in experiments with embryonic stem cells.

According to Wernig, the next major effort is "to try to reprogram human cells without the use of a retrovirus and without oncogenes," perhaps by targeting the genes with drugs.

Induced pluripotent stem cells avoid using and destroying embryos created through so-called therapeutic cloning, a process that itself involves technical challenges and ethical problems.  If iPS cells come from a patient’s own skin, there would be no potential complications from the immune system’s rejection of foreign tissue.

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Europe should look to St. Benedict for model of renewal, Pope urges

Vatican City, Apr 9, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI held the last general audience today ahead of next week’s papal trip to the United States, urging a renewal of the Christian faith in Europe.
With Easter celebrations subsiding, Pope Benedict returned to his teachings on the lives of the Early Fathers of the Church this Wednesday, as he greeted 20,000 visitors and pilgrims in an overcast St. Peter's Square.
This week the Pope began a catechesis on the Father of Western monasticism, St. Benedict:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,….the most important source of information on his life is the Second Book of the Dialogues of Pope Saint Gregory the Great.  Writing in a time of turmoil and moral decadence following the fall of the Roman Empire, Pope Gregory believed that the life and Rule of Benedict could be a light leading the people of Europe out of darkness".
St. Benedict was born in 480 in the region of Nursia.  He came to Rome to study but soon left the city so as to live in silence and to please God alone.  He spent some time in a religious community before becoming a hermit in a cave.
"After struggling victoriously against the fundamental human temptations of pride, sensuality and anger, he decided to found a monastery at Subiaco.  Years later he established a new community on a mountain, Montecassino, to symbolize the public role of a monastery called to be a light shining for the good of the Church and society.  Indeed, when he died in 547 Saint Benedict left behind a thriving spiritual family and a Rule, which invites us to search for God in prayer, obedience and humility while attending faithfully to daily duties and to those in need," the Pope said.

Throughout his life St. Benedict "was immersed in an atmosphere of prayer, the main foundation of his existence. Without prayer there is no experience of God, but Benedict's spirituality was not an interior life divorced from reality. In the disquiet and confusion of his time, he lived under the gaze of God and with his own gaze fixed upon God, though without losing sight of his daily duties and the concrete needs of mankind".
In 1964, Pope Paul VI proclaimed Saint Benedict Patron of Europe recognizing the role that his teaching and his disciples had played in shaping Europe's spiritual life and culture.  "Having just emerged from a century profoundly marked by two world wars and following the collapse of the great ideologies, ... Europe today is searching for its own identity", remarked Benedict XVI.

The Holy Father concluded his teaching with a fervent wish that Europe's new unity may be enlightened and nourished by a religious and moral renewal drawn from its Christian roots.
"May your lives, after the example of Saint Benedict, be lived in humility, prayer, obedience to God and faithful service to your neighbor.  May the Lord bless you and your families!" Pope Benedict exclaimed.

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Pope speaks about religious sister who was killed by Satanists

Vatican City, Apr 9, 2008 (CNA) - Today at the end of the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict spoke to a group of nuns and lay people, who were present to honor the memory of Sr. Maria Laura Mainetti, a religious sister who was killed by Satanists.

That Italian sister, said the Holy Father, "with a total giving of self, sacrificed her life while praying for those who were attacking her".

The murder of Sr. Maria Laura happened during the night of June 6-7, 2000 in the small town of Chiavenna, Italy. The sister was stabbed to death by three girls, two of whom were 17, while the third was 16.

Sister Maria Laura was well known in the small town she lived in for her social and charitable commitment to young dispossessed and poor people. Consequently, the three girls were able to draw her into an ambush by saying that a pregnant girl was in serious need of her help.

After luring Sr. Maria Laura to their ambush, the girls stabbed the sister to death as a sacrifice to Satan. As Sr. Maria Laura died, she found the strength to pray for her killers and forgive them.

Police investigators discovered the satanic plot and arrested the three girls 22 days after the sister’s murder.

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints recently recognized the death of the religious as martyrdom, thus opening the way to her beatification.

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Children make 600 rosaries for gifts during papal visit to New York

, Apr 9, 2008 (CNA) - Students from Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic School in Staten Island are counting the days until their encounter with Pope Benedict XVI in New York, when they will give him 600 hand-made rosaries as a gift.

According to press reports, the children are setting aside time each day to make the rosaries that will be given as gifts during the Pope’s encounter with young people in Yonkers at St. Joseph’s Seminary.

The school sends rosaries twice a year to places as far as Iraq or to nearby homes for the elderly.

“When we go on the bus we will hand out the rosaries for people to pray and if we can we will give them to the Pope,” said Cesar Fernandez, a seventh grade student.

Like his classmates, Cesar says he is very excited to see the Pope.  “I never thought I would be able to meet him, I have only seen him on the calendar my grandma has here in Staten Island,” he said.

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Morning after pill a question of human rights, not of faith, says Chilean bishop

Santiago, Chile, Apr 9, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Juan Igancio Gonzalez of San Bernardo said this week that the Church’s opposition to the use of the so-called morning after pill is not based on the faith but rather on the defense of fundamental human rights.

In response to the ruling by the Constitutional Court prohibiting the distribution of the controversial drug at public health facilities and the reaction of President Michelle Bachelet who questioned the ruling, Bishop Gonzalez said human life must not be attacked either in public health system or in pharmacies.

In an interview with Radio Agricultura, Bishop Gonzalez said, “This is not a religious issue.  The Church wasn’t the one to ask the court for a ruling.  It is a fundamental human rights issue, because every life must always be respected, and we are going to defend this until the end because this is an essential element of the constitution of the human being, not only of Christians but of every human,” he stated.

Bishop Gonzalez also expressed his disagreement with Health Minister Maria Soledad Barria, who has promised to keep selling the pill in pharmacies.  The Constitutional Court “has said this drug attacks life and therefore cannot be used.  Nobody in Chile can use it. The ministry cannot give it away to those who have less nor can those who have more buy it at the pharmacy,” the bishop said.

The bishop also interpreted the ruling of the justices, saying that they decided “in a split vote that the use of this drug attacks human life when conception has already taken place, and therefore it cannot be used.  And human life cannot be attacked either in the public health system or at the corner pharmacy,” he stressed.

Speaking from London, President Bachelet said the court’s decision would increase social differences.

Bishop Gonzalez also spoke about the divisions created by the ruling. “What makes me sad is that when people don’t like a ruling, the court that issued it or made it public is attacked. But these are deep issues, and I think we have to be honest to realize that there are two visions of man here... and we think the Christian vision is what has made this nation what it is.”

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CNN founder says overpopulation causing climate change

, Apr 9, 2008 (CNA) - During a interview on PBS, the founder of CNN, Ted Turner, said the reason for climate change is because “We're too many people”  and that the government needs to “stabilize the population” with measures such as China’s one child per family policy.
According to, Turner made his statements during an interview on the Charlie Rose Program on PBS on April 1.  He said that after nuclear disarmament, the most important issue is “global climate change.  We're too many people. That's why we have global warming,” he claimed.

Turner, who praises the Chinese government’s one child per family policy, said, “"We've got to stabilize population.  On a voluntary basis, everybody in the world's got to pledge to themselves that one or two children is it."

"We'll be eight degrees hotter in ten, not ten but 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow,” the CNN founder claimed.  “Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals. Civilization will have broken down. The few people left will be living in a failed state -- like Somalia or Sudan -- and living conditions will be intolerable,” he said.

“We've got to stop doing the two suicidal things, which are hanging on to our nuclear weapons and after that we've got to stabilize the population," he claimed.

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Group proposing lay election of bishops runs ad anticipating papal visit

CNA STAFF, Apr 9, 2008 (CNA) - Today the group Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) ran an advertisement in the New York Times in anticipation of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States next week. In an email interview with VOTF leaders, CNA was able to discover what exactly the group means by calling for “structural change” within the Church.

The Wednesday full-page advertisement in the New York Times is part of a larger campaign VOTF is conducting to try and advance their view that lay people are not well represented in the Catholic Church.

As of April 2, the group said on their web site that so far they had raised $63,000 to promote their campaign.  The message said that the money would be used to place today’s full-page advertisement in the New York Times, to place smaller ads in other media and to fund “other communications centered on the papal visit.”

VOTF was founded in Boston in 2002 after a firestorm of news about clerical sexual abuse cover-ups.  On its planned advertisement published at its website, VOTF describes its mission to “provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church.”  It says its goals are supporting survivors of clerical sexual abuse, supporting “priests of integrity,” and shaping “structural change within the Catholic Church in full accordance and harmony with Church teaching.”

The body of the advertisement calls for a “transformed church” and makes claims about what that church would do.  

When CNA contacted VOTF to find out what they mean by a “transformed church”, the group’s media director John Moynihan described their mission as advocating “that the laity be consulted regarding the governance of a parish and in the selection of Bishops as they historically were in the early centuries of our Church’s history.”

One proposal from a Bridgeport, Connecticut branch of VOTF has advised establishing a committee from the diocese to choose local candidates for a vacant episcopal seat in a manner it says “provides much greater input by the laity.” 

The proposal involves setting up a 19-person committee that would propose candidates to fill a vacant episcopal see.

In an e-mail to CNA, Joseph F. O’Callaghan, a professor emeritus at Fordham University and a board member of the Bridgeport VOTF, explained how the group thinks the selection of bishops should be changed.

O’Callaghan said any proposed diocesan committee to choose a bishop should be “elected by and representative of the clergy and people of the diocese, rather than appointed or elected by the bishop, the Diocesan Pastoral Council or the Priests' Senate.”

“The laity, as the majority of the faithful, ought to be the majority on the committee,” O’Callaghan argued.

The committee proposed by the Bridgeport VOTF would include 19 people:  five laymen and five laywomen elected by parishioners, five priests elected by their colleagues, one deacon, one nun and one male religious elected by their respective groups, and one person chosen by the bishop from either the clergy or the laity. 

“The committee would serve for four years (with staggered terms), meet at least four times yearly, and consult the faithful regularly” to discuss potential candidates for bishop, O’Callaghan said.

When the local bishop dies or leaves office, the diocesan committee would report its recommendations to all the people of the diocese, the provincial bishops, the metropolitan, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Congregation for Bishops.

O’Callaghan said VOTF had sent their proposal to William E. Lori, the Bishop of Bridgeport, but O’Callaghan said “We have heard nothing from him about it.”

O’Callaghan also proposed that a diocesan synod be summoned by an archbishop in the case of a vacant see.  He said the synod would then elect one person as bishop to be confirmed and ordained by the archbishop and provincial bishops.  He claimed this would be “in conformity with centuries of church tradition.”  O’Callaghan said he outlined his views in his 2007 book “Electing our Bishops:  How the Catholic Church should choose its Leaders.”

Denver canon lawyer, J.D. Flynn, gave his opinion of the proposals in an e-mail to CNA.  Flynn suggested that the VOTF plan “seems to come from an innate distrust of clergy that works against the authentic collaboration between laity and clergy that the Second Vatican Council calls for.”  He added that the plan seems to “force the hand” of the Pope in selecting a candidate through a form of “media blackmail.”

“This seems disruptive to authentic communion between laity and ecclesiastical leaders, and personally disrespectful to the Holy Father, the pontifical legate, and the episcopal candidates themselves,” Flynn said.
He said that canon law already expects that the papal legate will consult with the laity in the selection, but Flynn said O’Callaghan’s outline of the proposal “seems not to realize that.”

“Much of what VOTF calls for in terms of lay, religious, and clerical participation in evaluating the needs of the diocese already takes place in a diocesan pastoral council and a diocesan synod,” Flynn explained.

While granting that lay input into the selection of bishops “is not, in itself, a bad thing,” Flynn said that because the VOTF proposal involves pressuring the Holy Father it would eliminate “both obedience and virtue from the responsibilities of the Christian.”

Flynn called O’Callaghan’s proposal for a direct election of bishops by a diocesan synod, with no confirmation from the Pope, “totally unacceptable.” 

“To remove the Holy Father, or seek to minimize his role, as the VOTF plan does, is to impede the communion of the divinely instituted college of bishops,” he said.

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Church condemns conduct of drug traffickers, Mexican bishops say

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 9, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico has denounced media reports accusing the Church of “recognizing the kindness of drug lords,” saying the Catholic Church does not support “the conduct and actions of drug traffickers; on the contrary, she condemns it and will continue doing so because it is an attack on life and on the good of Mexico.”

The accusations against the Church came after statements made by Bishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Texcoco during Lent, in which he called for the conversion of all Catholics and especially of drug traffickers, some of whom, he said, have come to the Church asking for support with the intention of changing their lives.”

In response, the Bishops’ Conference issued a statement lamenting that “militants of some political parties, social organizations and the intellectual class” have made comments on “a issue as delicate as that of the call to change one’s life” without knowing the context of Bishop Aguiar’s statements.

The statement pointed out that Bishop Aguiar was asked by a journalist if drug lords could be converted, to which he replied that even though some want to, “current legislation does not encourage such change,” and therefore many prefer to remain as they are although others “risk their own lives by accepting the call to conversion.”

The bishops’ also noted that while Bishop Aguiar did say that “many drug traffickers are welcomed in their places of origin” because “they have provided services to the people there,” what he never said was that “the Catholic Church had received donations from drug traffickers.”

The Church has always exhorted those who have strayed from the path of goodness, “especially those who have fallen into drug use and the drug trafficking network, to change their ways,” the statement said.

Therefore, “the idea that the Church would seek out and promote repentance, forgiveness, unity, peace, stability and the overcoming of conflicts should not concern or scandalize us,” the bishops said, especially in Mexico, where “there are urgent needs for justice and reconciliation, as well as for an end to impunity”.

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Spanish bishops publish children’s catechism

Madrid, Spain, Apr 9, 2008 (CNA) - Children between the ages of 6 and 10 in Spain can now learn the basics of the Catholic faith with a new tool appropriate for today’s society.  The Bishops’ Conference of Spain has published a new catechism entitled, “Jesus is Lord,” which is aimed at kids who have made their First Communion.

According to the conference, the catechism “is intended for families, priests, catechists and those responsible for teaching ministry, in their mission to hand the faith on to children.”

In a letter to children about the new catechism, the bishops said it is “more than a book, it is a treasure, as it contains the Good News that the Church teaches us: God has given us his love through his only Son, Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary.  The bishops give you this catechism.  Guard its teachings in your hearts.  Read it attentively in your families and with your teachers.”

Bishop Javier Salinas, president of the subcommittee on Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, explained that catechesis has everything to do with society, since by passing on “a series of values and truths of the faith we are educating people with elements that make them capable of being good citizens: respectful, supportive, caring of others, and capable of confronting difficulties.”

The new catechism takes the place of one published in 1982 and is based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church promulgated in 1992 by Pope John Paul II.

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Vienna cardinal expresses regrets about controversial artwork display

, Apr 9, 2008 (CNA) - After a controversial piece of artwork depicting the apostles engaged in sexual acts was removed from an exhibit at the Vienna cathedral’s museum, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has expressed his “explicit regret” that the work was exhibited, reports.

The Cathedral Museum of Vienna had put on a retrospective exhibition honoring the 80-year-old artist Alfred Hrdlicka.  One of the pictures depicted what Hrdlicka described as a “homosexual orgy” involving the apostles at the Last Supper. 

Another sketch depicting the Crucifixion showed a soldier simultaneously beating Christ and holding his genitals.

The obscene depiction of the Last Supper was removed from the exhibit within a week.

On Wednesday morning, Cardinal Schönborn released a statement in which he explained why the exhibit had taken place and why the Last Supper artwork should not have been displayed.

The cardinal said the Cathedral Museum did not identify with every work of Hrdlicka it hosted.  In some of the artworks, the cardinal said, “he oversteps the essential threshold of respect for the Sacred. From the point of view of committed Christians, certain of his works must quite clearly be rejected.”

“I obviously would not have agreed to have blasphemous or pornographic works exhibited,” the cardinal continued.  “I therefore explicitly regret that a work of this kind was exhibited without my knowledge. I ordered the particular work, which committed believers find deeply distressing, to be removed on 20 March.”

The cardinal also noted the artistic contributions of Hrdlicka. 

“Hrdlicka is one of Austria’s most notable living artists who, probably more than any other living artist, has devoted himself to the suffering and downtrodden human being and has appealed for ‘compassion’ with the ‘Passion,’” the cardinal said, according to 

“He expresses this ‘compassion’ in a most perturbing way,” the cardinal said, citing prominent Hrdlicka works that include a Holocaust Memorial in front of a Vienna gallery.

“It is for this reason that I agreed to an exhibition of his works at the Cathedral Museum, albeit without detailed knowledge of the individual works to be exhibited.”

Cardinal Schönborn said that though Hrdlicka claims to be a communist and an atheist, throughout his life he has dealt with biblical subjects, “especially the sufferings of Christ.”

“He nevertheless has a burning interest in the Holy Bible, and has personally admitted that he has a great longing for faith,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Schönborn concluded his statement saying that Catholics must welcome the fact that artists who are not Catholic “occupy themselves so intensely with biblical subjects.”

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