Harare, Zimbabwe, May 7, 2008 (CNA) - A Catholic peace and justice commission in Zimbabwe has said that it will be impossible to hold a meaningful run-off election between President Robert Mugabe and challenger Morgan Tsvangirai if state-sponsored violence against innocent civilians does not stop.
The Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA) reports that the Zimbabwean Bishops Conference’s Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJPZ) has said that political partisanship among the police and violence from irregular and regular security forces have destabilized the country.
“There are country-wide reports of systematic violence in the form of assaults, murders, torture, abductions, intimidation and wanton destruction of property against innocent civilians whose alleged crime is to have voted ‘wrongly’,” the CCJPZ said in a Sunday statement.
According to Fides news agency, the teachers’ union in Zimbabwe has said they have been main targets of the violence that followed the March 29 election. Union representatives said that last week 133 teachers suffered assaults and 496 were interrogated on “electoral matters.” Over 1,700 teachers have left the country because of threats.
“The population is now too traumatized that a run-off election will only serve to deepen this sad state of affairs,” the peace and justice commission said, noting that many people had been internally displaced and would be unable to vote in a runoff.
In the initial election for president Tsvangirai reportedly won 47.9 percent of the vote, while the incumbent Mugabe, who has held the presidential office for 18 years, won 43.2 percent. A candidate must win a majority of votes in the runoff election to become president.
CISA reports that the peace and justice commission has said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which delayed reporting election results for weeks, is no longer credible.
“Regrettably, the conduct of ZEC has seriously eroded its credibility as a neutral and non-partisan electoral umpire. All fair-minded Zimbabweans have lost faith and confidence in ZEC which can no longer be trusted to superintend a run-off,” the CCJPZ said.
The commission has called for the Southern Africa Development Community and the African Union to manage the run-off election and asked for the United Nations to play a supervisory role.
Adelaide, Australia, May 7, 2008 (CNA) - The Catholic Diocese of Adelaide has voiced its displeasure with the foul-mouthed television chef, Gordon Ramsay, saying his expletive-filled reality television shows should be either taken off the air or shown at a later time.
The diocese’s complaint came during an inquiry in the Australian Senate, which was prompted by British chef Gordon Ramsay’s behavior in his television shows “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Hell’s Kitchen.”
The Courier Mail reports that one recently broadcast episode shows Ramsay using a four-letter expletive more than 80 times and shouting “You French pig” at a chef.
In a statement to the parliamentary inquiry the Diocese of Adelaide said, “There can be no excuse for vilification of this sort. We conclude that this episode should never have been aired on Australian television.”
The inquiry has received more than 50 public submissions, of which the overwhelming majority favor tighter regulation and calls to censor Ramsay, the Courier Mail reports.
Two of Ramsay’s shows are broadcast in Australia at 8:30 pm, while “Hell’s Kitchen,” in which contestants compete to win a restaurant, airs at 9:30 pm. The shows regularly attract more than 1 million Australian viewers, but have also attracted complaints the shows are broadcast when children may be watching television.
According to the Scotsman, Ramsay’s spokesman has stated the chef was “hopping mad” about the controversy and had called the Australian Senate to complain.
The chef’s plans to open a restaurant on Sydney Harbor were also recently rejected by the on the grounds of decency.
Senator Drew Stockman addressed the controversy, reportedly saying, “We are not prudes… but we feel that allowing this sweary fellow to bring his bilious obscenities to Sydney's harbor-front is a step in the wrong direction.”
London, England, May 7, 2008 (CNA) - A British Minister of Parliament has proposed decreasing the time period for legalized abortion, saying Britain’s permissive abortion laws put it at risk of becoming Europe’s “Abortion Capital.”
According to BBC News, Tory MP Nadine Dorries, a former nurse, has proposed an amendment to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill to lower the upper limit on legal abortion from 24 weeks to 20 weeks.
“Britain has 200,000 abortions a year, or 600 a day. That is just too many, we must slow down on abortion,” Dorries said. While saying she respected “a woman’s right to choose,” she said babies born at 24 weeks are increasingly surviving.
“It is now time to adopt a more moderate, commonsense approach to abortion,” she said.
Dorries has made several previous attempts to reduce the upper limit.
Junior health minister Ann Keen argued that only 12 percent of babies born less that 24 weeks into pregnancy survive their first birthday, claiming that there was “no evidence of a significant improvement” in survival rates in the last 18 years in the United Kingdom.
The British Medical Association and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have both said they favor the present 24-week limit, the BBC reports.
Conservative MP Philip Hollobone said it was “truly appalling” that in England in 2006 there were 59,687 abortions by women who had already had at least one abortion.
Backers of the present time limit are proposing their own bill that would further deregulate abortion by eliminating the need for two doctors to agree to an abortion procedure. It would also allow nurses to carry out abortions in the early stages of pregnancy.
MPs will reportedly be allowed a free vote on any abortion-related amendments.
Brighton, Mass., May 7, 2008 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Boston has broken ground on the Columbia Campus of the new Pope John Paul II Academy as part of a reconfiguration of the Catholic school system in the Boston neighborhoods of Dorchester and Mattapan. Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, joined by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Meninio, local clergy, students, teachers, and officials from Catholic school organizations, attended the groundbreaking ceremony.
The Boston Globe reports that the archdiocese plans to replace seven existing parish schools with the Pope John Paul II Academy, a single regionalized school operating on five campuses. All campuses will serve grades from pre-kindergarten through grade eight.
Commenting at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Columbia campus, Cardinal O’Malley said, “The Archdiocese is blessed by the contributions many people are making toward our efforts to strengthen and enhance Catholic education.”
“Generations of families have been educated in Dorchester/Mattapan, our Catholic schools' alumni are well represented among leaders in education, government, business and many other professions. We look forward to educating future generations and helping to develop tomorrow’s leaders at Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy,” he added.
According to the archdiocese, the reorganization will provide greater resources for curriculum, staff, technology, and finances and will ensure the “long-term viability” of the schools while maintaining their Catholic identity. The academy will be managed by a regional board and a regional director.
The plan reportedly will cost $68 million and will be paid for largely through private donations.
The Dorchester reorganization is part of the archdiocese’s 2010 initiative to strengthen the struggling Catholic schools in the Boston area. According to the Boston Globe, there are now only 99 Catholic elementary schools in the archdiocese, compared to 250 in 1965. The archdiocese continues to close several parish schools each year.
About 1,500 students are expected to begin attending Pope John Paul II Academy in September.
Vatican City, May 7, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict greeted His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, during his weekly general audience on Wednesday morning. In his remarks, the Pope emphasized that ecumenical dialogue is fuelled by the Holy Spirit and prayer.
"It is my great joy today to greet His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and the distinguished delegation accompanying him. Your Holiness, I pray that the light of the Holy Spirit will illumine your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, the important meetings you will have here, and particularly our personal conversations. I ask all who are present today to pray for God's blessing upon this visit.”
The Holy Father also thanked Karekin II for his “personal commitment to the growing friendship between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church.” Recalling the string of visits between John Paul II and the patriarch, Pope Benedict said that, “I am sure that this spirit of friendship will be further deepened during the coming days.”
In an external niche of Saint Peter's Basilica, there is a fine statue of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, founder of the Armenian Church. It serves to remind us of the severe persecutions suffered by Armenian Christians, especially during the last century. Armenia's many martyrs are a sign of the power of the Holy Spirit working in times of darkness, and a pledge of hope for Christians everywhere.
Your Holiness, dear Bishops and dear friends, together with you I implore Almighty God, through the intercession of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, to help us grow in unity, in one holy bond of Christian faith, hope and love."
As the Church prepares to celebrate Pentecost, Benedict XVI said that these days should “renew our hope in the help of the Holy Spirit to advance along the path of ecumenism. We have the certainty that the Lord Jesus never abandons us in our search for unity, because His Spirit is tirelessly at work to support the efforts we make to overcome all forms of division."
"Since the first moment of her existence the Church, thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit, has spoken in all tongues and lived in all cultures. She destroys nothing of their history and gifts, but assumes them all in a great and new unity, which reconciles unity with the multiplicity of forms. With its power, the Holy Spirit ... unites divided man in divine charity and thus creates ... the great community which is the Church in all the world."
While some may think of Pentecost as a one-time event in the life of the Church, the Holy Father said, "the Church is always, so to say, in a state of Pentecost. Gathered in the Cenacle, she prays incessantly to obtain ever new effusions of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, ... and is not afraid to announce the Gospel to the furthest confines of the earth. This is why, faced with difficulties and divisions, Christians cannot resign themselves or give way to discouragement.
"This is what Christ asks of Christians: to persevere in prayer in order to keep alive the flame of faith, hope and charity, and the longing for full unity", the Pope encouraged.
Referencing his speech to ecumenical leaders at St. Joseph’s Church in New York, Benedict XVI said that prayer is central to the ecumenical movement. “In this period of globalization and, at the same time, of fragmentation, 'without prayer ecumenical structures, institutions and programs would be deprived of their heart and soul'," he said.
At the end of the audience, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages. Among the English speaking pilgrims, he greeted delegates taking part in the in the Annual Conference of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland, as well as pilgrims from Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Qatar.
"Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from England, Scotland, Australia, India, Indonesia, Korea, Canada, Guam and the United States, I cordially invoke Almighty God's abundant blessings of joy and peace."
Vatican City, May 7, 2008 (CNA) - During Wednesday’s general audience, Pope Benedict also expressed his grief over the tragedy in Myanmar, also know as Burma, where upwards of 20,000 people are dead and some 40,000 still missing after a devastating cyclone ripped through the south eastern part of the country.
"I make my own the cry of pain and the cry for help of the dear people of Myanmar, who have seen the sudden destruction of so many lives by the shattering violence of the cyclone Nargis, in addition to goods and means of subsistence,” the Pope said.
“As I have already assured in the message of solidarity sent to the President of the Episcopal Conference, I am spiritually close to all those affected. I also want to repeat to all the invitation to open your hearts in pity and generosity that, thanks to the cooperation of those who are able and wish to provide aid, we can alleviate the suffering caused by so terrible tragedy."
Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga has also sent a message of solidarity to those affected by cyclone’s devastation.
“People in Myanmar are facing a terrible humanitarian crisis. The message of our global network to them is that they are not alone. Messages of support have flooded into our offices from around the world,” the cardinal said.
“The Burmese should know that we are doing everything we can to ensure international aid efforts get through. So far we are receiving very positive messages from the Myanmar government on their need for international help. We hope this will allow non-governmental organisations such as ourselves access into the affected areas,” he added.
Cardinal Rodriguez also explained that Caritas is well equipped to respond to the humanitarian crisis due to their past experience. “We know from past emergencies such as the Asia tsunami and Cyclone Sidr that getting fresh water, medical supplies, food and shelter into a disaster zone quickly can prevent a second wave of deaths from disease and exposure. Caritas are [sic] ready to use that experience to help survivors in Myanmar as quickly as possible.”
Caritas is an international network of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations working to build a better world, especially for the poor and oppressed, in over 200 countries and territories.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 7, 2008 (CNA) - The Brazilian courts have initiated a new trial of the men accused of killing the American religious sister, Dorothy Stang, who was shot in February of 2005 in the state of Para.
Sister Dorothy was killed while working with the rural poor and peasants who were opposing the destruction of the rain forest and being threatened by loggers and ranchers for doing so.
Ranchers Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura and Rayfran das Neves had been sentenced to 30 and 27 years respectively in a previous trial for the murder of the sister.
According to Brazilian law, any person sentenced to more than 20 years in prison has the right to appeal. The appeals of both men were accepted and a new trail began on May 5.
In his opening testimony, Rayfran das Neves changed his version of the story for the tenth time, claiming this time that he was solely responsible for the murder and exonerating Bastos of any role in the act. Bastos had been considered the mastermind of the murder.
In his new testimony, Bastos said he did not know Rayfran and that he was innocent of involvement in the crime.
In the first trial the Brazilian court found four men guilty of the murder. Together with Rayfran and Bastos, guilty sentences were also handed down to Amair Feijoli da Cunha, sentenced to 18 years, and Clodoaldo Carlos Batista, sentenced to 17 years, both for witnessing the crime but doing nothing to stop it.
Prosecutors are calling for the two accused men to be given the maximum sentences for the murder.
, May 7, 2008 (CNA) - Two bishops in northern Brazil have denounced the increase in human trafficking and said that authorities have not been able to prevent pedophilia and the sexual exploitation of minors.
Bishop Flavio Giovenale of Abaetetuba and Bishop Jose Luiz Azcona of Marajo met with human rights leaders in Brasilia to warn them of the critical situation in the Amazonian state of Para.
Bishop Azcona said he denounced human trafficking and pedophilia two months ago to Brazilian officials but “so far I have not received any response.”
The region of Para caught the attention of the public last year when a teen who was being held in a jail with adult men was sexually assaulted.
According to the bishops, there are some three hundred people who have received death threats for denouncing human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors.
“I’m not so concerned about my own safety, if three hundred men and women have been marked for death,” Bishop Azcona said. “This reflects a society that is sick, poor and dying. We need a change in mentality, a conversion.”
He said officials in Para are often accomplices in cases of prostitution, drug trafficking and child abuse.
Bishop Giovenale said, “The threats are real, as in this region (Para) we’ve seen cases like that of Sister Dorothy Stang,” the American nun who was killed in February 2005 for her work in defending the rural poor.
Toledo, Spain, May 7, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, said this week the main message Pope Benedict XVI has conveyed during his three years as Pontiff is that the fundamental purpose of human existence is the encounter with God.
“Benedict XVI, the Pope of reason and of what is essential, like Benedict of Nursia, has shown us in these three years that the fundamental purpose of our existence—indeed, the only one—is the search for God,” the cardinal said in an article published by the archdiocesan newspaper “Padre Nuestro.”
According to the cardinal, Benedict XVI knows by experience and by reason itself “that when a believer enters into a profound relationship with God, he cannot be content with living a mediocre life according to a minimalist ethic and a superficial religiosity.” This is the secret of the Pope, he said, the knowledge that the world needs the true revolution, which is “the revolution of God.”
Cardinal Canizares called Pope Benedict one of the most lucid and deepest thinkers of modern times. “He has just told us that ‘people today need to be called again to the ultimate purpose of their existence’,” the cardinal said.
This is the message the Pope gave during his visit to the United States, Cardinal Canizares said. “The encounter with the living God is the source of that hope that transforms lives and is spoken of in the Gospels,” he recalled from the Holy Father’s U.S. speeches. The Spanish cardinal noted that the Pope invited the faithful to recognize that “deep inside they have a profound thirst for God,” and that although it is easy “to be attracted by the almost unlimited possibilities that science and technology offer,” it is all an illusion, since without God “our lives are truly empty.”
Madrid, Spain, May 7, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishop of Ciudad Real in Spain has opened the diocesan phase of the cause of beatification of Ismael Molinero Novillo, also known as Ismael Tomelloso, a heroic soldier who offered his life for the faith during the Spanish Civil War.
The official opening took place at the bishop’s residence in Ciudad Real.
On May 5, the 70th anniversary of the death of Ismael, Bishop Antonio Algora celebrated a thanksgiving Mass at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption.
According to the vice postulator for the cause, Blas Camacho Zancada, Ismael de Tomelloso was born on May 1, 1917. His father was an ironsmith and he was one of 11 brothers and sisters. He was known for his cheerful and friendly nature, and he often recited poetry and directed theatrical plays. He had a profound spiritual life and prayed for many hours before the Blessed Sacrament. He studied with the Daughters of St. Paul, where he developed an intense devotion for the Miraculous Medal. In 1933, he joined the Catholic Action youth group in Tomelloso. The Spanish Civil War had a great impact on him because of the murder of his spiritual director and the burning of churches.
In 1937 the Republican Army recruited him and forced him to participate in the war, but during the battle of Teruel he decided to lay down his weapon, holding his miraculous medal as he awaited death. He was detained by National troops and sent to a concentration camp.
While imprisoned he contracted pneumonia and was hospitalized in Zaragoza. There he established a profound friendship with the chaplain of the concentration camp. While captive, he hid his membership with Catholic Action so that he would not be given privileged treatment.
“I want nothing of this world. I belong to God and I live for God. If I die I will be totally God’s in heaven, and if I don’t die, I want to be a priest. We need saints!” he said from his hospital bed. He died on May 5, 1938, at the age of 21.
, May 7, 2008 (CNA) - This coming fall the School of Church Communications at Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross will be offering a one-week seminar designed to provide religion journalists with an array of tools to strengthen their coverage of today’s Roman Catholic Church.
A press release from the university explains that the seminar will be titled, “The Church Up Close: Covering Catholicism in the Age of Benedict XVI,” and be held in Rome from September 8 to September 14, 2008. Any working journalist may attend the English language seminar, but space is limited.
Speakers will include Cardinal Francis Stafford (former archbishop of Denver and head of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, now Apostolic Penitentiary), Rev. Brian Ferme (former dean of Catholic University of America’s canon law department and now head of a new school of canon law in Venice), Rev. David Jaeger, O.F.M. (the Holy See’s expert on relations with Israel) and Francis Campbell (the British Ambassador to the Holy See).
The idea for the week-long class was born out of the success of a seminar that the Holy Cross’ School of Church Communications already offers, according to school dean Prof. Diego Contreras.
“In essence, ‘The Church Up Close’ seminar is a condensed version of a series of classes that our School already offers – once a month, in Italian - during the academic year for Rome-based ‘vaticanisti.’ The success of that series inspired us to offer a similar program - all in one week, and in English - for journalists who are not permanently based in Rome,” Contreras explained.
In addition to classroom sessions, the fall seminar also features on-site visits and personal meetings with curial officials and veteran Vatican correspondents. The seminar aims to give journalists a survey of the Vatican’s operations, an in-depth analysis of specific hot-button issues facing the Church and insights into the Pope’s leadership of the world’s largest church.
Fr. John Wauck, one of the seminar’s organizers, says he thinks journalists will be helped by the course because, “Covering an institution as old and as large as the Catholic Church has always been a huge challenge, and in today’s shrinking world, it’s becoming ever more necessary to tell even local stories about the Church from a global perspective. The seminar should help reporters do that. What’s more, Rome is an ideal setting for reflecting on religion and the media with journalists from around the world.”
Detailed information about “The Church Up Close” seminar can be found at http://www.church-communication.net/
Salt Lake City, Utah, May 7, 2008 (CNA) - In a letter sent to all of the Episcopal conferences of the world, the Congregation for the Clergy has reiterated the desire of the Holy See that Catholic parishes refrain from opening their archives to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, who often request information through the Genealogical Society of Utah.
The letter signed by the prefect for the Congregation, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, indicates that “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, through a letter dated January 29 of this year, has responded to a question—raised by some bishops—about the possibility of allowing the Genealogical Society of Utah (Mormons) to microfilm and digitalize the information contained in parish registries.”
“In complete agreement with the grave reservations expressed by that Congregation,” the letter continues, “this dicastery desires to notify your episcopal conference, so that each Diocesan Ordinary be instructed not to consent, in his respective territory, to the above-mentioned practice which violates the privacy of individuals and, in addition, would involve cooperation in the erroneous practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”
The “erroneous practices” referred to in the letter from Cardinal Hummes is the LDS belief that one’s ancestors can be saved through “posthumous baptism.”
The Genealogical Society of Utah uses the ancestral lines reconstructed from parish archives in order to determine which ancestors can be “saved” through “proxy baptism.”
According to a source with the Congregation for the Clergy consulted by CNA, the letter from Cardinal Hummes “reiterates what the same Congregation stated on April 29, 2005, in protocol letter N. 20050757 signed by then-prefect Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos.”
Since the Diocese of Salt Lake City contains a large concentration of Mormons and the headquarters of the LDS Church, CNA contacted Colleen Gudreau, the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Salt Lake City to find out how this letter impacts the diocese.
Ms. Gudreau explained in an email to CNA that, “the Diocese of Salt Lake City has never released parish registers and has always had policy not to” therefore, “there is no need for any additional action.”
Although the letter from the Congregation for the Clergy mentions bishops who reported requests being made for baptismal records, Gudreau said that she is “not aware of any such requests” being made in the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
Rather than negatively impacting the Catholic Church’s relationship with the Mormon Church, Ms. Gudreau said she believes the letter will bring about a greater mutual understanding.
“The Diocese of Salt Lake City and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have long enjoyed a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation. Although we have a lot in common, there are also differences. The letter underscores one of the differences and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Dialogue requires truth. It helps us achieve a greater level of understanding,” she said.
Jerusalem, Israel, May 7, 2008 (CNA) - A Messianic Jewish student’s bid to win Israel’s annual youth Bible quiz has triggered a controversy because of her belief in Jesus.
In a protest letter quoted by the Israeli newspaper Maariv, the anti-missionary group Yad L’Ahim argues that the 17-year-old Bat El Levy should not be allowed to participate in the May 8 International Bible Contest for Jewish Youth, held in Jerusalem on Israel’s 60th Independence Day. Yad L’Ahim chairman Rabbi Shlomo Dov Lipschitz claimed Israeli law forbidding Christians from proselytizing should bar Levy’s participation. He further argued that the girl’s belief in Jesus should disqualify her from the quiz since, in his view, she is not Jewish.
According to Israel National News, Meir Porush, a member of the Knesset, asked that Levy be disqualified because she is not Jewish according to Israel’s High Court of Justice. The High Court has ruled in cases related to the Law of Return that citizenship is automatically granted to Jewish immigrants.
However, it has ruled that those who profess Christianity will not be recognized as Jews regardless of ethnic background.
Israel’s Education Ministry, which runs the contest, rejected the argument that Levy is not Jewish. “The girl is designated as Jewish, and her personal beliefs are not a matter of concern to us,” a spokeswoman from the ministry said.
Levy, who has won several regional Bible contests, is one of four Israeli students participating in the international competition.
The Levy family has not denied that they are members of a messianic Jewish congregation, and says there had been attempts by Yad L'Ahim to dissuade Bat-El from taking part in the competition.
Representatives of Israeli Jews who believe in Jesus say they number between 8,000 and 10,000 people, out of 7 million Israelis. They keep a low profile in a state where many blame Christianity for past European anti-Jewish persecution.
Jewish Christians in Israel have occasionally been targeted for attack. In March, a boy was maimed when a homemade bomb exploded in a West Bank settlement where members of the Jewish Christian community live. Last October, a firebomb attack damaged a Jerusalem church that holds services in Hebrew.
Several rabbis have called for a boycott of the Bible contest if the girl is allowed to participate.