Archive of April 23, 2008

Young British Catholics trained for World Youth Day communications

Liverpool, United Kingdom, Apr 23, 2008 (CNA) - Nearly thirty young people from dioceses across England and Wales are being trained as World Youth Day Communications Officers for the July event in Sydney. 

Fifteen young people have just completed a training weekend in Liverpool.  Participants learned how to write a press release, how to put together a podcast, and how to handle a video camera.  They also learned how to interview and how to be interviewed.  Two took part in a live BBC radio interview to report on the weekend.

Archbishop of Liverpool Patrick Kelly opened the weekend and celebrated Mass for the trainees, commissioning them to “go out and preach the good news.” 

Colm Cahill, a participant from Jersey, said, “The course was very informative and certainly gave me an inspiration to do more on the subject of evangelizing the youth of today. I look forward to getting down there and truly putting it into practice.”

Over 13 dioceses will be sending World Youth Day Communications Officers to Sydney.  Another training day will take place in London at the end of May.

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John Henry Cardinal Newman to be beatified

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican has approved the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the English convert and theologian who has had immense influence upon English-speaking Catholicism, the Birmingham Mail reports.

John Henry Newman was born in 1801.  As an Anglican priest, he led the Oxford Movement that sought to return the Church of England to its Catholic roots.  His conversion to Catholicism in 1845 rocked Victorian England.  After becoming an Oratorian priest, he was involved in the establishment of the Birmingham Oratory. 

He died in 1890 and is buried at the oratory country house Rednall Hill.

The Catholic Church has accepted as miraculous the cure of an American deacon’s crippling spinal disorder.  The deacon, Jack Sullivan of Marshfield, Massachusetts, prayed for John Henry Newman’s intercession.

At his beatification ceremony later this year, John Henry Newman will receive the title “Blessed.”  He will need one more recognized miracle to be canonized. 

The case of a 17-year-old New Hampshire boy who survived serious head injuries from a car crash is being investigated as a possible second miracle.

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Church custodian on trial in Italy for weeping statue hoax

Rome, Italy, Apr 23, 2008 (CNA) - A former church custodian accused of faking an incident where a Virgin Mary statue wept blood was put on trial in the northern Italian city of Forli’ on Friday, ANSA reports.

Police accuse Vincenzo Di Costanzo of dripping his own blood onto the face of the statue in Forli’s Santa Lucia Church in a March 2006 attempt to simulate a miracle.

Forensic experts who examined the blood found the DNA matched that of a saliva sample taken from Di Costanzo.

"This is a case of high sacrilege," said the public prosecutor Alessandro Mancini, according to ANSA.

The ex-custodian denies the charges.

Two years ago, a group of elderly women worshippers noticed that red tear-like drops had appeared on the face of a 1.2 meter-tall statue of the Madonna.  People flocked to the church to see the statue, whose face looks upward to heaven with its hands drawn together in prayer.

The local bishop, when informed of the alleged miracle, removed the statue to his offices and called police.  The statue did not weep again after being moved.

With the growing number in recent years of reported cases of Madonna statues moving or weeping, the Church has become very cautious about approving such cases.

In 1995, thousands flocked to a family garden in the town of Civitavecchia to see a Madonna statue that appeared to weep blood.  The local bishop said that he himself had seen it weep.  The blood on the statue was later found to be male.  The statue’s owner, Fabio Gregori, refused to take a DNA test.

After the Civitavecchia case, dozens of reputedly miraculous statues were reported.  Almost all were shown to be hoaxes, where blood, red paint, or water was splashed on the faces of the statues.

In the 1950s, a weeping Madonna in a Sicilian house was deemed a miracle.  Pope John Paul II dedicated a shrine devoted to the apparition in 1994.

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Vatican spokesman: Pope has helped to close “chapter of shame and sorrow” in U.S.

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2008 (CNA) - In statements broadcast by Vatican Radio, the director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, said that with his recent visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI has helped the Church in that country to close a chapter of shame and sorrow over the sex abuse scandal.
“The Pope has helped the American Church to close a chapter of shame and sorrow over the faults and grave responsibilities of the past,” Father Lombardi said, and that he did so “without escaping from the difficulties, with loyalty, honesty and clarity of conscience.”
According to Vatican Radio, despite having been in only two cities—New York and Washington DC—the Pope “had a packed schedule that allowed him to reiterate on American soil some essential themes of his pontificate.  The central point of his trip was the speech on human rights at the UN. The most emotional moment was his visit to Ground Zero.”
“The Pope also praised the American secular model, which instead of excluding, encourages the presence of faith in public discourse.  This presence allows democracy to remain healthy and vital, without losing ‘it’s values’,” Vatican Radio reported.

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Deceased cardinal's “zeal and passion” praised by the Pope

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2008 (CNA) - The Church continued to witness to the life of Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo today as it celebrated a funeral Mass and Pope Benedict delivered a homily praising his lifelong defense of the truth, especially of the family.

As he spoke to those gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica, Benedict XVI said, "The late cardinal drew his love for the truth about mankind and for the gospel of the family from the belief that each human being and each family reflects the mystery of God Who is Love.”

The Holy Father recalled the biography of Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, noting that he was the youngest cardinal created by John Paul II in the consistory of 1983. Among other notable accomplishments, the Pope highlighted the late cardinal’s priestly ordination in 1960, his work as auxiliary bishop of Bogota in the 1970s, as president of the Latin American Episcopal Council from 1979 to 1983, as president of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia from 1987 to 1990 and his appointment as president of the Pontifical Council for the Family in 1990.

One of the qualities that the Colombian cardinal was known for was his “zeal and passion" with he worked during the 18 years he spent as the head of the Pontifical Council for the Family. Pope Benedict described him saying, "his tireless activity in safeguarding and promoting the family and Christian marriage" as well as "the courage with which he defended the non-negotiable values of human life".

“We cannot", he added, "but be grateful for the tenacious battle he fought to defend the truth of familial love and to spread the gospel of the family".

He also recalled the Synod of 1997 during which the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family "proposed a highly effective form of spirituality for those committed to realizing the divine plan for the family.”

The Pontiff also noted that Cardinal Lopez Trujillo was attentive to science as well. At the 1997 Synod he said “if science does not dedicate itself to understanding life and to educating for life, it will lose the most important battles in the fascinating and mysterious field of genetic engineering".

Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, whose motto was "Veritas in caritate", dedicated "his entire life to affirming the truth", said the Pope. This, he explained, was because "the truth of love" always remained the bedrock of the cardinal's life. While still in Colombia, he sought "to discover the significance of genuine liberation in the area of theology" and later, in Rome, he dedicated himself to "proclaiming and spreading the gospel of life and the gospel of the family, as a collaborator of the Holy Father".

"May the generosity of the lamented cardinal - which translated into multiple works of charity, especially in support of children in various parts of the globe - encourage us to use all our own physical and spiritual resources for the Gospel, may it spur us on to work in defense of human life, and help us to look constantly to the goal of our earthly pilgrimage," the Pope concluded.

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Holy See to calmly reflect on status of suspended bishop elected president of Paraguay

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2008 (CNA) - The EFE news agency reported this week that the Vatican will take its time in reflecting on the best solution from a canonical point of view to define the status of Fernando Lugo, the suspended bishop who has been elected president of Paraguay.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi acknowledged that voters “have the right to freely choose their leaders” and he recalled that Lugo, due to his “a divinis” suspension, was no longer exercising the episcopal ministry and therefore his electoral victory does not demand that new measures regarding his status with the Church be “urgently” adopted.

“If new measures need to be adopted in this new stage, the competent authorities (the Congregation for Bishops) will carry out a calm analysis.  There is no seriously urgent problem.  The fact that he was no longer exercising his episcopal ministry means an analysis about his status can be calmly carried out,” Father Lombardi said.

Likewise, Father Lombardi clarified that the Vatican does not question his election as president of Paraguay and he denied that the Church is acting as a “sort of private opposition.”

“The issue is how to correctly define his status, since he was a bishop.  It is a canonical issue about his role, his status in the Church.  It is not a problem of diplomatic relations,” he insisted.

At the beginning of 2007, the Holy See suspended Lugo “a divinis” after he announced his decision to run for president.  The Congregation for Bishops issued a decree pointing out that the now president-elect remained “in the clerical state.”

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Church in Cuba hopes for greater government cooperation, says Cardinal Ortega

Havana, Cuba, Apr 23, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, said relations between the Church and the Communist government have improved in recent times, but the hope is that there will be more openness with regards to access to the media and education.

In an interview with the magazine Temas, Cardinal Rivera said the country is living “a very special” moment, as “a period of much reflection and debate (about life in Cuba) has begun and is very noticeable in the people, and sometimes in the electronic media, although not always.”  “This is an interesting moment and we are looking on with hope,” he said.

Cardinal Ortega said the good relations with the government “could improve with greater openness for the Church.” He specifically referred to the media and noted that while the bishops do have access to local radio stations, in the future they hope to have a program that is broadcast on a more regular basis, whether weekly or monthly.

He also expressed hope that the Church’s publications could be circulated throughout the country in accord with established law.

Regarding education, Cardinal Ortega admitted that there is less of a chance of the Church gaining greater control over the administration of Catholic schools than for the Church to have greater access to the media. 

The cardinal said that requests by the bishops today are given greater consideration than before, such as “requests for missionaries or religious to come to Cuba for pastoral work, which are obtained today with relative ease.”

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Update: SSPX rejects “signing an agreement with Rome”

Paris, France, Apr 23, 2008 (CNA) - Bernard Fellay, the leader of the Society of St. Pius X, has rejected the idea of reaching an agreement with Rome and that the Motu Propio allowing broader use of the traditional Latin Mass would lead to an agreement between his group and the Holy See.

In a letter to the faithful of the SSPX, Fellay said the publication of the motu propio is “clear sign of his good will towards us,” and that therefore, “there would be nothing left for the Society to do but to ‘sign an agreement with Rome.’ Unfortunately, a few of our friends were deceived by such an illusion.”  “Basically, nothing has really changed except for the motu proprio’s liturgical Overture,” Fellay asserted.

He went on to discuss his understanding of the terms “heretic” and “schismatic” in the wake of Vatican II, saying these words “used to designate the religions closer to the Catholic Church” but have now “disappeared, except when they are occasionally employed, especially the term ‘schismatic,’ to label us.”

“The same holds true for the term ‘excommunication’,” Fellay said.  “The new approach is called ecumenism, and contrary to what everyone used to think, it does not mean a return to Catholic unity, but rather the establishment of a new kind of unity that no longer requires conversion.

Fellay went on to say, “The motu proprio that introduces the hope of a change for the better in matters liturgical is not accompanied by the logically related measures that should follow in other domains of the Church’s life.”

“We must conclude that nothing has changed in Rome’s intention to pursue the conciliar course despite forty years of crisis, despite vacant convents, abandoned rectories, and empty churches,” Fellay charged, adding that “Catholic universities persist in their divagations, and the teaching of the catechism is uncertain while Catholic schools are no longer specifically Catholic: they have become an extinct species...”

Fellay said the SSPX “definitely rejoices at the pope’s desire to reintroduce the ancient and venerable rite of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, yet it also observes the opposition— sometimes very tenacious—of entire bishops’ conferences. Without giving up hope and without impatience, we can see that the time for an agreement has not yet come.”

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Hillary Clinton wins Pennsylvania Catholic vote handily

Philadelphia, Pa., Apr 23, 2008 (CNA) - In Tuesday’s key Democratic presidential primary election in Pennsylvania, New York Senator Hillary Clinton defeated Illinois Senator Barack Obama with a commanding lead among the Democrat Party’s Catholic voters, according to CNN exiting polling. 

Among voting Pennsylvania Catholics who said they attend church weekly, Senator Clinton won 74 percent of the vote.  Catholics who said they attend church less than weekly went for Clinton by 65 percent, according to CNN exit polls.  Regular and irregular Catholic churchgoers each constituted 18 percent of the poll respondents.

Clinton’s victory among Catholic Democrats came despite Obama’s support from one of Pennsylvania’s most prominent Catholic politicians, Senator Bob Casey, Jr. 

Clinton also won over the majority of all Pennsylvania churchgoers, winning even those who said they attend only a few times a year.  Clinton won 51 percent of those who attend church more than weekly and 61 percent of those who attend church weekly.  She won those who attend church monthly and a few times a year by 54 percent and 55 percent, respectively.

In voter analysis broken down by religious observance, Obama defeated Clinton only among Pennsylvania voters who said they never go to church, winning by a margin of 54 to 44 percent.

By contrast, Obama won 58 percent of churchgoers’ votes in Wisconsin’s February 19 primary, enjoying a majority among all churchgoers except Catholics who attend Mass weekly.  Clinton won 53 percent of that demographic, compared to Obama’s 46 percent.

In the March 4 Ohio primary, Clinton beat Obama among weekly Mass-goers by 62 percent, and won 64 percent of Catholics who attend less than weekly.  Clinton tied Obama among overall Ohio churchgoers, winning only one segment, the group that attends church once a week, by a margin of 52 percent to 46 percent.

Some analysts speculate that Obama’s controversy-sparking remarks at an April 6 fundraiser in San Francisco about small-town Pennsylvanians who “get bitter“ and “cling to guns or religion” led to his demise in the Pennsylvania primary. 

Senator Clinton, who like Obama has opposed social issues like a partial-birth abortion ban and the Federal Marriage Amendment, attacked Obama’s remarks, calling them “demeaning.”

“The people of faith I know don't 'cling' to religion because they're bitter," she said, according to Cybercast News Service. "People embrace faith not because they are materially poor, but because they are spiritually rich.”

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Growing number of Italian doctors refusing to perform abortions

Rome, Italy, Apr 23, 2008 (CNA) - Nearly 70 percent of Italian gynecologists are now refusing to perform abortions on moral grounds, Agence France Presse reports.

A report by Italy’s ministry of health on Tuesday reported that between 2003 and 2007 the number of gynecologists invoking a conscientious objection clause in their refusal to perform an abortion rose from 58.7 percent to 69.2 percent.  The percentage of anesthesiologists who refused to help in an abortion rose from 45.7 percent to 50.4 percent.

According to the report, the increase is most pronounced in the south of the country.  In Campania, the region around Naples, the percentage of gynecologists refusing to perform abortions reached 83 percent, and in Sicily 84.2 percent refused.

Milan gynecologist and legalized abortion advocate Silvio Viale told ANSA news agency that “abortion law is in danger,” saying abortion procedures were “more and more resembling an obstacle course.”  Italy legalized most abortions in 1978.

The number of abortions in Italy has dropped slightly, from 131,018 in 2006 to 127,038 in 2007, a decrease of three percent.  According to the health ministry report, illegal abortions are also declining, presently numbering about 15,000 per year.

Legalized abortion became an issue in the recent Italian elections, due to action by the Catholic Church and the foundation of a pro-life party by journalist Giulio Ferrara, though the new party received only 0.37 percent of the vote.

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Faithful to be able to venerate exhumed remains of Padre Pio

Rome, Italy, Apr 23, 2008 (CNA) - The prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Jaime Saraiva Martins, will celebrate a Mass on Thursday in San Giovanni Rotondo, after which the public will be able to venerate the exhumed remains of Padre Pio.

Some 750,000 people are already signed up to venerate the remains of San Pio de Pietrelcina, the Italian saint who bore the stigmata in his hands and feet for decades.

The Mass with Cardinal Martins will be celebrated at 11a.m. at the Shrine of Holy Mary of Grace, where Padre Pio was buried.  Some 15,000 people and more than 100 journalists are expected to attend.

According to the SIR news agency, Archbishop Domenico d’Ambrosio of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo, said the exhuming of the remains “was a gesture of prayer and praise to give thanks to God for giving us a sign of the mystery of the cross in his faithful servant.”

The canonical permission to exhume Padre Pio’s remain was due to the “historical responsibility to guarantee, through appropriate procedures, a prolonged conservation of the body of our saint in order allow future generations the chance to venerate and keep his relics.”

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