Archive of April 29, 2008

Malaysian Catholic newspaper continues legal fight to use “Allah”

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Apr 29, 2008 (CNA) - A Catholic newspaper in Malaysia on Friday continued its fight to use the word “Allah” to signify God in its newspapers.  The newspaper has appealed to the High Court to hear its case, Agence France Presse reports. 

On Friday before an audience of two hundred, including Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Murphy Pakiam, High Court Judge Lau Bee Lan decided that the arguments from both sides would be heard on Tuesday to determine if the case should proceed.

In January the Catholic weekly The Herald almost had its publishing license revoked because it used the word “Allah” in its Malay section.  “Allah” is both the Malay and the Arabic word for God.  Authorities warned the paper not to use the word again in the future.

The Malaysian Cabinet last year ruled that the word could be used only by Muslims.  The internal security minister also issued a ban on its use in a non-Muslim context.

When the paper’s license was renewed in January, the publishers assumed they could use “Allah.”  They are seeking to ensure their right to use the word even after the permit expires in October.

"We are asking the court to say the decision was wrong and quash it and declare that The Herald can use the word 'Allah' in its publication," the paper's lead counsel, Porres Royan, told reporters after an initial hearing at the Kuala Lumpur High Court last Friday.

"If we don't comply with the decision beyond October, the government can refuse to renew our publication permit based on the earlier order," said Annou Xavier, a lawyer for the paper.

Many Malaysians are concerned about what they see as a growing “Islamization” of the country. 

The Herald circulates among the country’s 850,000 Catholics, with articles written in English, Chinese, Tamil, and Malay.

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Catholic radio station to reduce Protestant programming in “identity change”

Hartford, Conn., Apr 29, 2008 (CNA) - Citing the need to make an “identity change” and an overly competitive spirit among some of its non-Catholic radio shows, a Catholic-sponsored radio channel in Connecticut is reshuffling its schedule and cutting many of its Protestant slots, the Hartford Courant reports.

WJMJ, which broadcasts on 88.9 FM in the Hartford area, was created more than 30 years ago by Archbishop John F. Whealon, with the goal of broadcasting ecumenical programming.  The station is owned by the Archdiocese of Hartford.

Father John Gatzak, executive director of the archdiocese’s Office of Radio and Television, said that the archdiocese believed it was time to give the station an “identity change.”  This change, the archdiocese decided, required using the station more effectively to reach out to Catholics, creating more listener-friendly programming and revamping the ecumenical aspect of the station.

"The identity of the station will be Catholic, yes, but that does not mean we will not reach out to other Christian denominations to invite them to participate," Gatzak said Friday, according to the Hartford Courant.

Father Gatzak said the problem with the Protestant programming broadcast on the station was not its opposition to Catholic teaching but rather that many of the programs are not suited to a radio audience.

"There is one Protestant church after another, and most of them put on their worship service that's from a week ago and then they invite people to their churches," Gatzak said. "Instead of collaboration, it becomes a competition of one religious programmer after another — who can deliver the best sermon, who has the best music ministry. That's what I'd like to see removed from WJMJ."

Rev. Chris Rose, who broadcasts on WJMJ the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut’s program “Sunday at Six,” was upset that his show was being canceled under the proposed plan.

"The purpose of the station was not to criticize other Christians, but to lift up what was good about what other churches were doing. I think that's important because we have too much cynicism and criticism already," Rose said, according to the Hartford Courant. "If this does go through, it will add to the cynicism, instead of promoting common ground. That is the most dangerous fallout from this. I think that would be sad."

While there was some confusion over whether all Protestant programming would be cut, Father Gatzak denied that the archdiocese had ordered the cancellation of all Protestant shows.

Two ministers say they were ordered not to broadcast “trailers” on WJMJ inviting people to their religious services.

Some legal problems could arise from the planned changes.  A 1987 ruling brought by the St. Thomas Seminary, which houses the radio station, against the Burlington Zoning Board sought to overturn the board’s denial of an application for a zoning variance to build a higher tower. 

The court ruled in the seminary’s favor, but said the variance could be granted only on the condition that the Church maintain the tower, and use it solely for a nonprofit radio station that broadcasts classical music programs and “other programs which shall not be restricted to religious programs for only one religious denomination.”

Father Gatzak said he was unaware of the court ruling’s ecumenical stipulation and questioned its compatibility with FCC regulations.

"It would seem to me that this is an infringement of the FCC to authorize the licensee to determine how it can best serve the needs of the community," Father Gatzak said.

Rev. Shelley D.B. Copeland, president and chief executive officer of the Capitol Region Conference of Churches, said that after talking with Father Gatzak she understands the motive for the archdiocese’s planned changes.

"I understand why, because there is no other Catholic radio station," Copeland said. "It would be poor stewardship of ministry on the part of the Catholic Church not to care about their priority audience. That's their bottom-line job."

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Attack on me is attack on black church, Rev. Wright says

Washington D.C., Apr 29, 2008 (CNA) - In a Monday morning speech at the National Press Club, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the controversial Chicago pastor who was a mentor to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, called reaction to some of his sermons an “attack” on the black church. 

Wright also warned Senator Obama that he would go after the senator if he wins the presidency because he will be representing “a government whose policies grind under people.” 

Rev. Wright also spoke of the radical social change he believes God wants in the United States.  Rev. Wright asserted that God desires "a radical change in the social order that has gone sour," saying God does not want some people to see themselves as superior to others.  He also said God does not want the “powerless masses” to “stay locked into sick systems” that treat people unequally.

"God's desire is for transformation -- changed lives, changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders and changed hearts in a changed world," Rev. Wright said. "This principle of transformation is at the heart of the prophetic theology of the black church," he added.

He said the “two foci” of liberation and transformation have been “at the very core” of the black religious experience.  Both, he said, were also at the “very core” of the United Church of Christ, the denomination of which Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ is a part.

The pastor had been criticized for what some called racist and unpatriotic comments, some of which were made years previously.  One film clip repeatedly shown on television shows Rev. Wright shouting that instead of saying “God Bless America,” some should say “God d—n America!”

Wright responded to criticisms of his past preaching, saying a hostile media had taken his comments out of context to make Obama look bad. 
“This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright -- it's an attack on the black church,” he claimed, according to Cybercast News Service.

Several prominent Christians responded to Rev. Wright’s depictions of attacks on himself as attacks on the black church.

Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said he was “absolutely stunned” by Wright’s comments. 

“This is simply a transparent attempt by Rev. Wright to draw attention away from his thoughtless and bitter comments and attempt to make it about race,” Rev. Mahoney said.

"Instead of working to build a thoughtful and honest conversation on race in America, Rev. Wright has poisoned the waters by saying the criticisms against him were really an attack on the black church in America.”

Rev. Mahoney said Wright must take responsibility for his “harsh and insensitive words.”

Bishop E.W. Jackson Sr., a prominent black minister, criticized what he saw as Wright’s suggestion that he is being attacked because the media does not understand the style of black preaching. 

“Style is not the issue," Bishop Jackson said. "The problem is the substance of what Rev. Wright says, not his 'bombastic' style. Preachers from many cultural backgrounds raise their voices at times. The question is not their volume, but their values. The rub with Wright is that he's wrong, not that he's loud. Rev. Wright does not represent the Biblical Christianity of the black church, and it is presumptuous for him to suggest that he does."

In his National Press Club speech, Rev. Wright also referenced Barack Obama and his campaign for the presidency, saying that if Obama is elected president, "I'm coming after you, because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people.”

Wright had presided at the marriage of Senator Obama and his wife and baptized their children.  After various media reported Wright’s controversial comments, Obama distanced himself from Wright. 

Earlier this year, Rev. Wright announced that he will retire as pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in June.

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Christians and Buddhists can cooperate on the environment, pontifical council says

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2008 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue sent its annual Message to Buddhists for the Feast of Vesakh.  The letter stated the importance of environmental concerns and spoke of Christians and Buddhists uniting to care for the earth.

Vesakh, the main Buddhist festivity, marks three fundamental moments in the life of Gautama Buddha. It is held during the full moon of the month of May because, according to tradition, Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment and passed away in that period.

The message entitled, "Christians and Buddhists: Caring for the Planet Earth," indicates that the “preservation of the environment, promotion of sustainable development and particular attention to climate change are matters of grave concern for everyone.”

The letter points out that contribution of religious leaders is not “just a reaction to the more recent pressing threats associated with global warming. Christianity and Buddhism have always upheld a great respect for nature and taught that we should be grateful stewards of the earth. Indeed it is only through a profound reflection on the relationship between the divine Creator, creation and creatures that attempts to address environmental concerns will not be marred by individual greed or hampered by the interests of particular groups.”

"On a practical level can we Christians and Buddhists not do more to collaborate in projects which confirm the responsibility that falls to each and every one of us? Recycling, energy conservation, the prevention of indiscriminate destruction of plant and animal life, and the protection of waterways all speak of careful stewardship and indeed foster goodwill and promote cordial relations among peoples. In this way Christians and Buddhists together can be harbingers of hope for a clean, safe and harmonious world."

It is the hope that such ideas may be promoted “within our respective communities through public education and our good example in respecting nature and acting responsibly towards our one common planet Earth.”

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New York, Washington speak on Communion for pro-abort politicians

Washington D.C., Apr 29, 2008 (CNA) - Robert Novak’s latest column on pro-abortion politicians receiving Communion during the Pope’s visit to the U.S., has caused both Cardinal Egan and the Archdiocese of Washington to speak about the situation.
In his Washington Post column on Monday, the recent convert from Judaism to Catholicism argued that allowing politicians who support abortion to receive the Eucharist during the Pope’s visit “reflected disobedience to Benedict by the archbishops of New York and Washington.”

According to Novak and other news sources, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and three senators — John Kerry, Edward Kennedy, and Christopher Dodd—received Communion at an outdoor Mass at Nationals Park in Washington. Rudy Giuliani, on the other hand, received Communion at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, according to Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York.

Zwilling added that the statement from Cardinal Egan was prompted by Robert Novak’s column and by comments circulating about the elected officials who had received Communion. “The cardinal felt it was important to clarify what had been the understanding, and to address it publicly,” he said.

The Archdiocese of Washington also weighed in on the controversy, telling the New York Times that Archbishop Donald Wuerl had “consistently and persistently presented the Church’s clear teaching on the evil of abortion and the need for those in public office to recognize that the support of abortion is wrong.”

“How to respond to those in public office who support abortion legislation is open to various legitimate pastoral approaches, as the United States bishops affirmed in their June 2004 statement on Catholics in political life,” the statement said. “The decision concerning the refusal of Holy Communion to an individual can best be made by the bishop in the person’s home diocese with whom he or she presumably is in conversation.”

When contacted for additional comment by CNA, Susan Gibbs, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Washington, said that she would not provide a statement. The reasons she gave for not providing a statement were that she doesn't consider CNA worthy of a statement and that she is "not interested" in providing one.  

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Venezuelans celebrate beatification of Mother Candelaria de San Jose

Caracas, Venezuela, Apr 29, 2008 (CNA) - Fifty thousand people were on hand at the Central University of Venezuelan’s baseball stadium for the beatification of Mother Candelaria de San Jose, the country’s second blessed.  The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

After Cardinal Jorge Urosa Sabino read the official document requesting the inscription of Mother Candelaria into the list of the blessed, Cardinal Saraiva proclaimed the formula for beatification, establishing her feast day as February 1.

During his homily, Cardinal Saraiva underscored that the work of Blessed Candelaria bore witness to the theology of consolation, because through her actions she conveyed joy to the sick, and therefore she was an instrument of God’s consolation.  “The love of God is intimately united with charity for one’s neighbor.  She bears witness that only love can change the lives of human beings.  She invites us to be concerned for the infirm, to alleviate the loneliness of the elderly and the poor.” 

“This beatification is very important because it is the first one to take place in our country and we hope there will be many more,” Cardinal Urosa said.  “What’s important is that we want to reaffirm our Christian living through the way of Jesus Christ, which is the only one to happiness.  She personifies the triumph of faith over unbelief, love over hatred, solidarity and mercy over egoism and indifference, peace over violence and war.”

Milagros del Valle Candelaria Bermúdez Meza, the 12 year-old girl whose miracle led to the beatification of the nun was present at the Mass with her mother, Rafaela Meza, as well as nuns from the Carmelite Sisters of the Third Regular Order, founded by Mother Candelaria.

Evelín González, superior of the congregation, said the ceremony represented a moment of renewal for Catholics because of the importance of the Church’s recognition of the virtues of this simple woman.  “We are happy to see her raised to the altar.  Another miracle that should be studied with care is needed for canonization.  There are experts who should confirm it,” she said.

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Pope's visit to France confirmed by bishops

Paris, France, Apr 29, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of France has officially announced that Pope Benedict XVI will travel to France for the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions that took place in Lourdes.

The trip, which is scheduled for September 12-15, 2008, will begin with a greeting by French officials after which the Holy Father will head to the College des Bernardins where he will address the “world of culture.”  Then the Pope will pray vespers at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.  Following the prayer service, he will address young people gathered at the Cathedral. 

On Saturday, September 13, the Pope will celebrate Mass in Paris and afterwards travel to Lourdes.  “During his visit to Paris, Benedict XVI desires to meet with representatives of other Christian confessions and of the Jewish and Muslim communities,” the French bishops’ said in their statement.

“In Lourdes on Saturday afternoon, the Pope will carry out the first stages of the jubilee way.  That night, at the end of the candlelight procession, he will address the pilgrims,” the bishops said.

On Sunday, September 14, the Holy Father will “preside at Mass for the pilgrims. That afternoon, he will meet with the Bishops’ Conference of France and end the day with a Eucharistic procession.”

Finally, on Monday morning, the Pope will take part in the fourth stage of the jubilee way and will bless the infirm during a Eucharistic celebration. He will return to Rome on Monday afternoon.

“The bishops of France express to the Holy Father their gratitude and invite the faithful to mobilize themselves to warmly welcome the Pope and to give thanks to God for his message in Lourdes,” the bishops said in conclusion.

More information on the trip can be found at: and

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Prime Minister deplores selective abortion of girls in India

Rome, Italy, Apr 29, 2008 (CNA) - High-ranking officials in India have acknowledged the macabre scope of the selective abortion of girls, a practice that is increasingly more common in the country.

India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, harshly criticized this situation, calling it “one of the most inhumane, uncivilized and reprehensible practices.

The IANS news agency reported that the phenomenon above all affects the wealthiest regions of India and has led to a drop in the number of women versus the number of men.  In the northeastern region of Punjab, there are only 798 girls for every 1000 boys; in Haryana, 819; New Delhi, 868 and in Gujarat, 883.

“This indicates that the growing economic prosperity and the education levels have not led to a corresponding alleviation of the problem,” Singh said.

He stressed that girls in India are more vulnerable because their parents fear early marriage, the payment of dowries, deficient nutrition or the lower status of women relative to men in society.

“The patriarchal mentality and preference for male children is complicated even more by the unethical conduct of members of the health care industry who offer sex determination services,” Singh said.

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New government laws attack the essence of the family, says association

Madrid, Spain, Apr 29, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Spanish Forum on the Family, Benigno Blanco, said this week, “In the last four years the government has promoted a true ideological revolution in the regulation of marriage and the family,” passing laws that “are doctrinaire and sectarian and are inspired by the theory of gender” that causes so much harm.

During the presentation of the book, “Challenges of the 21st Century for the Family,” Blanco said, “With express divorce, the theory of gender, the law on assisted reproduction and the law on education with Education for Citizenship, the essence of the nuclear family and its principles have been attacked.”

“The institution of the family is the most powerful interpersonal bond of solidarity that society has known, and at the same time it is the true ‘social security’,” Blanco said.  But “when the State attempts to assume this function, it does so with much less efficacy and great social cost.”

He also stated, “The family creates the ecological niche for human existence and is the atmosphere for the creation of life,” and for this reason there is an increasing awareness in Europe that “we need the family, and for this reason the governments compete to help it.”

In reiterating that the family is “an institution worthy of being protected”  that has stable marriage as its foundation, Blanco indicated that in Spain, “of the 11 million nuclear families that exist, 8 or 9 million are marriages, and thus it is reasonable to demand that this institution be given legal protection.”

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Socialists want to eliminate God from hospitals, says Spanish bishop

Madrid, Spain, Apr 29, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Tarazona in Spain has defended the right of Catholic chaplains to work in hospitals, saying that spiritual care is a right of the infirm and not a privilege of the Church, as the Socialist Party has sought to portray it.

In a message, Bishop Fernandez said the attempt to expel chaplains from local hospitals was due to a desire to “eliminate God from public life,” as the presence of priests “is the living presence of God in the world of health care, in order to respond to a right and need of the infirm.  Suppress chaplains and we will have expelled God from hospitals.”

Such a move would also take important ethical guidance away from patients and family members, he said.  “The sick and their families go to him (the chaplain) during the long hours of illness and find in him consolation and many times guidance in how to act.”
“Chaplains are a hindrance to the plans against life that are being and will be implemented,” the bishop continued.  “Respect for life from conception to natural death is a matter of common sense, which chaplains continually reiterate.”  Likewise, he said, the work of chaplains is not to proselytize, as “they do not minister to those who are of other religions.”  “If the sick person is Jewish or Muslim, they have the right to be visited and cared for by a minister of their own faith,” he said.

For this reason, Bishop Fernandez concluded, the campaign against chaplains has been “intentionally unleashed,” and therefore intervention by the justice department has been requested.

Bishop Fernandez thanked chaplains for their pastoral work and said he hoped that “on my own death bed I will have at my side a Catholic priest who will help me pass from this world to the next in the peace of God.”

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Sacramento public library system continues policy allowing porn viewing

Sacramento, Calif., Apr 29, 2008 (CNA) - The Sacramento Library Authority Board voted last Thursday to retain its policy of minimal interference with patrons who access pornography on library computers, News10 Sacramento reports.  Board members also voted to spend $21,000 for more computer monitors with recessed screens to allow more private viewing.

"Pornography does nothing to enrich. Pornography does nothing to empower. Pornography is tearing families apart," parent Kimberly Woods told board members.

The library now has a “shoulder-tap” policy that allows patrons to object to what others might be watching. 

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Ann Brick argued even that policy was too restrictive.  “Is there a problem here or do we have people who want to engage in censorship?” she asked.

Brick claimed that there had been only 11 complaints about inappropriate material out of 500,000 hours of internet use.

Board member Robbie Waters explained his support for $21,000 for more private computer screens, saying he wanted people to be able to exercise their right to be able to view whatever they would like.  "It allows the screen to come right up at you and nobody can look over your shoulders," Waters said.

"The board members that voted against morality, their big hang-up is they are trying to hide behind the First Amendment to the Constitution, saying that we don't have a right to censor anything," said Sacramento resident Darlene Ward.

In a letter dated April 28 and provided to the California Catholic Daily, alternate Sacramento Library Board member David Sander said, “I am just stunned that this is even an issue that needs debating.”

“Pornography does not belong in public libraries -- period.  Libraries are places for kids and families to learn and explore -- not a den of sexual exploitation where anything goes,” he said.

Sander said that he was most upset that, in his view, half the library board members agreed with the ACLU that the library ought to increase access to pornography at taxpayer expense.

“What an outrage! As if there aren't already enough options for people to access pornography,” he said.

According to Sander, the board would study the policies of other library districts that ban pornography.

“With further demonstration that such bans both work and have not faced legal challenges, it's possible that we can gain one or more votes to follow suit and ban pornography in our Sacramento Public Libraries as well,” Sander said.

According to News10, library board members said they do not expect the issue to come before them again in the foreseeable future.


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Rep. Chris Smith proposes ban on human-animal hybrid embryo creation

Washington D.C., Apr 29, 2008 (CNA) - On Thursday Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives a bill that would ban the creation, transfer, or transportation of part-human, part-animal hybrids. 

While there are many ethical objections to the creation of human-animal hybrids, additional concerns about disease transmission and environmental effects are also being increasingly considered.

Researchers are presently perfecting hybrid embryo creation techniques, in which genetic material from humans and animals are combined in a single embryo.  The BBC recently reported that scientists at Newcastle University successfully created part-human, part-animal hybrids for the first time in the United Kingdom.

The bill presents several scenarios where the creation of human-animal hybrids would be forbidden.  The law would ban introducing animal cells into a human embryo, which the bill says “makes its humanity uncertain.”  It would ban fertilizing a human egg with non-human sperm and fertilizing an animal egg with human sperm.  Likewise, it would forbid creating an embryo both by introducing a non-human nucleus into a human egg and by introducing a human nucleus into a non-human egg.

The law would forbid the creation of an embryo that contains a mixed set of chromosomes from both a human and an animal.  Further, it bans the creation of animals with human reproductive organs or with a “whole or predominantly human” brain.

While the bill will likely be of interest to pro-life advocates, the bill could be relevant to public health and environmental debates as well.

A brief for the bill claims that the world has recently experienced an increase in health-threatening infections emerging from animal populations.  “Human-animal hybrids present an optimal opportunity for genetic transfer that could increase the risk for transmission of both human and animal diseases, such as Bird Flu and SARS," the brief said.

Genetically modified hybrids could also have a devastating effect on the natural environments of animal populations.  The introduction of human genes into animals, some claim, could lead to hybrids with superior abilities who could out-compete the natural animal population.  This could cause serious problems for ecosystems worldwide.

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