London, England, May 9, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Walter Kasper has called for the Anglican Church to “clarify its identity,” saying the church must make “certain difficult decisions” to determine whether it belongs to the Catholic and Orthodox Churches of the first millennium or the Protestant Churches of the 16th century.
The cardinal’s remarks precede the Anglican Communion’s upcoming Lambeth Conference, a worldwide gathering of Anglicans that takes place every ten years. Controversies concerning biblical authority, sexual morality, and the ordination of women and homosexuals as bishops are expected to dominate the conference.
According to the Catholic Herald, Cardinal Kasper said the Anglican Church must ask itself where it belongs.
“Does it belong more to the churches of the first millennium -Catholic and Orthodox - or does it belong more to the Protestant churches of the 16th century? At the moment it is somewhere in between, but it must clarify its identity now and that will not be possible without certain difficult decisions,” said Cardinal Kasper, who is president of the Pontifical Council on Christian Unity.
The cardinal said he hoped that there would be a deciding moment for Anglicanism at the Church’s next Lambeth Conference. Cardinal Kasper has been asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head Anglican prelate, to address the conference.
“We hope that certain fundamental questions will be clarified at the conference so that dialogue will be possible.
"We shall work and pray that it is possible, but I think that it is not sustainable to keep pushing decision-making back because it only extends the crisis,” Cardinal Kasper said.
The Church of England is considering proceeding with the ordination of women bishops and the sanctioning of homosexual partnerships, both of which are serious obstacles to unity with other Christian bodies and within the Anglican Church itself.
Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, sparked controversy as the first openly homosexual Episcopalian bishop. His plans to enter a civil union with his partner have also angered conservative Anglicans. Bishop Robinson plans to attend public events at Lambeth despite the fact that he was not invited by Archbishop Williams.
Conservative bishops, led by Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola, have been dismayed by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s refusal to condemn homosexuality outright. According to the Catholic Herald, they plan a rival conference in the Holy Land in June.
Cardinal Kasper in 2006 said that Anglican plans to ordain women as bishops would lead to “a serious and long lasting chill.” However, last month the Church of England’s Legislative Drafting Group published a report preparing for women bishops, who are already ordained in several Anglican provinces.
Perth, Australia, May 9, 2008 (CNA) - In one of the first legislative actions involving embryonic cloning since the discovery of a breakthrough stem cell production technique, lawmakers in an Australian state have rejected legislation that would allow human cloning for research purposes, Cybercast News Service reports.
Advocates of bans on such cloning argued the new discovery has “radically changed” the field and helps justify the prohibition of research that destroys human embryos.
Last November, scientists in the U.S. and Japan reported the successful “direct reprogramming” of human adult skin cells into cells that behave like embryonic stem cells. These “induced pluripotent stem cells,” iPS cells, are considered to have significant research and therapeutic promise while avoiding the ethical problems involved in creating, manipulating, and destroying human embryos.
Cybercast News Service reports that the upper house of the Western Australia parliament on Tuesday voted down a bill presented by the Labor government that would have resembled federal legislation passed in late 2006 that lifted a ban on human “therapeutic cloning,” somatic-cell nuclear transfer.
Though several Australian states had passed similar legislation, the Western Australia bill was the first considered since the progress of iPS cell research was announced. Several lawmakers opposed to the bill said the legislation was rendered outdated by the new research.
Western Australia minister of health Jim McGinty attacked the vote, saying, "Conservative forces in the upper house… have denied the people of Western Australia world class medical research and denied people with life threatening medical conditions potential cures.”
Professor Peter Klinken of the Western Australia Institute for Medical Research said embryonic cloning was still relevant to stem cell research.
"All stem cell research has pluses and minuses and we need to explore all of them and not close off any doors," he said, according to Cybercast News Service.
The Australian Christian Lobby welcomed the decision, saying the lawmakers were the first “to reject pressure to line up with national cloning laws.”
"Human embryo cloning has always been wrong, as human life should not be
arbitrarily created and destroyed, no matter how noble the supposed goal might be," said the lobby's Western Australia director, Michelle Pearse.
Dr. David Van Gend, national director of Australians for Ethical Stem Cell Research, said the lawmakers understood that stem cell science has “so radically changed since November 2007, providing such a magnificent and ethical alternative to cloning, that there is no longer any compelling argument for cloning.”
“This blighted science can be left to wither on the vine,” he said.
Van Gend noted that world leaders in cloning science, including Ian Wilmut, creator of the first cloned mammal, Dolly the Sheep, had abandoned cloning in favor of directly reprogramming cells.
Van Gend urged other Australian states to rescind their approval of therapeutic cloning.
Washington D.C., May 9, 2008 (CNA) - A study of potential ordinands for 2008 reveals a diverse set of men will present themselves for priestly ordination this year.
According to a press release from the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, 401 men will be ordained in 2008. The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) surveyed about 84 percent of the potential new priests on behalf of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations.
The CARA survey revealed that most ordinands have been Catholic since birth, though almost one in ten is a convert. Ordinands were somewhat more likely to have attended a Catholic high school, and much more likely to have attended a Catholic college. Between half and three quarters of the 2008 class had been active in parish ministry before entering the seminary, serving their parishes as lector, altar server, or Eucharistic minister.
The average age of an ordinand is 36 for the diocesan priesthood and 39 for the religious orders, according to the CARA survey. About 30 percent of new priests are between 25 and 29 years of age, while about 39 percent are in their thirties.
Jeffrey Montz, one of the youngest ordinands at 25, said the call to the priesthood was clear when he was young. He started his freshman year of college in the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ formation program at St. Joseph Seminary College.
David Link, 72, is one of the five future priests over the age of 65. A former dean of the University of Notre Dame law school, Link is a widower who heard his call to the priesthood through prison ministry.
The Archdiocese of Chicago will ordain 11 men, four of whom were born in Poland and two of whom were born in Mexico.
One third of the ordinands for 2008 were born outside the United States. They include Hai Duc Din, 46, from the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, who spent a year in a Vietnamese labor camp.
The Archdiocese of Boston will ordain seven priests, as will the Archdiocese of Washington. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia will ordain three men, all of whom are in their twenties.
The Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan, will ordain four men, its most since 1982. The Diocese of Rockford, Illinois will ordain seven.
The three men being ordained for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati are all fourth degree Knights of Columbus. The Diocese of Santa Fe will also ordain three men, one who is a former Marine and another who is a former Episcopalian minister.
More information on the 2008 class of ordinands is available at www.usccb.org/vocations/classof2008
Vatican City, May 9, 2008 (CNA) - The Holy Father and His Holiness Karekin II, the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, met privately at the Vatican this morning and then went on to pray the Midday Liturgy of the Hours with the Armenians delegation. The Holy Spirit, the Pope encouraged in his remarks to the group, can work miracles to bring about unity between Christians if we are open to Him.
The group of 75 Armenian faithful and 18 bishops gathered in the Clementine Hall with their patriarch to celebrate Midday Prayer, while the Holy Father led the prayers.
After the Patriarch's greeting, the Pope spoke to those assembled about the importance of striving for Christian unity.
Recalling that Sunday is the Solemnity of Pentecost, Benedict XVI said that, on this day, "we will pray in a particular way for the unity of the Church. (...) If our hearts and minds are open to the Spirit of communion, God can work miracles again in the Church, restoring the bonds of unity. Striving for Christian unity is an act of obedient trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church to the full realization of the Father's plan, in conformity with the will of Christ."
Pope Benedict also drew upon the history of the Armenian people, saying, "the recent history of the Armenian Apostolic Church has been written in the contrasting colors of persecution and martyrdom, darkness and hope, humiliation and spiritual re- birth."
This past Wednesday Patriarch Karekin II also picked up on the Armenian Church’s history at the general audience. Karekin II addressed the crowd of 20,000 in English and raised the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 as an act of ‘genocide’. The Patriarch said that, “the denial of these crimes is an injustice that equals the commission of the same."
Benedict, however, pointed beyond the atrocity to "the restoration of freedom to the Church in Armenia” as “a source of great joy for us all.” He also praised the fact that ‘remarkable pastoral results that have been achieved in such a short time."
"Thanks to your pastoral leadership," the Pope assured, "the glorious light of Christ shines again in Armenia and the saving words of the Gospel can be heard once more. Of course, you are still facing many challenges on social, cultural, and spiritual levels. In this regard," he added, "I must mention the recent difficulties suffered by the people of Armenia, and I express the prayerful support of the Catholic Church in their search for justice and peace and the promotion of the common good".
Despite these obstacles, the Holy Father applauded the progress made over the last five years of ecumenical dialogue with the Armenian Church, saying, “important progress has been made in clarifying the doctrinal controversies that have traditionally divided us.”
Pope Benedict finished his address on a note of hope, praying that ecumenical dialogue “will bring us closer to full and visible communion, and that the day will come when our unity in faith makes possible a common celebration of the Eucharist. (...) Only when sustained by prayer and supported by effective cooperation, can theological dialogue lead to the unity that the Lord wishes for his disciples."
Bogotá, Colombia, May 9, 2008 (CNA) - Death threats against priests in the Colombian town of Magdalena Medio have led Church officials to move two priests from their parishes for security reasons, despite their requests to remain at their posts.
The Colombian daily El Tiempo reported that death threats were being made by members of the paramilitary organization Aguilas Negras, a group of former militia soldiers who are involved in organized crime.
The two priests, Father Leonel Comas of Arenal and Father Francisco de Roux, are in a region located in eastern Colombian near the Magdalena River.
Vatican City, May 9, 2008 (CNA) - The captain of the Milan soccer team Inter, Javier “Pupi” Zanetti, said this week, ‘I firmly believe that without Christ, man cannot live in fullness.”
After this week’s Wednesday General Audience, at which Pope Benedict XVI greeted the soccer players from the Milan team and emphasized “the importance of moral values in sports in order to educate young people,” Zanetti gave the Pope an official Milan jersey with his name “Benedetto XVI” on the back.
“I have been a practicing Catholic since I was child,” Zanetti said. “The blessing of the Pope is another reason for us to understand our role as Christian witnesses, in our families, in sports, and our duty to help the less fortunate, especially children,” he told the AICA news agency.
“This has been an important day, this visit has been very emotional, and to shake the Pope’s hand is one of those things you remember forever,” Zanetti said. The team captain, together with his wife, directs the PUPI Foundation, which is dedicated to “returning faith, dignity and hope to children and their families who have social problems.”
The soccer players also gave the Pope an official Inter fan club gold card, a black and blue medallion—the team’s colors—a white medallion with a red cross, and an official book on the history of the soccer team.
Tachira, Venezuela, May 9, 2008 (CNA) - The director of the Diario Catolico in Venezuela, Father Jose Laureano Ballesteros Blanco, has denounced the “hunt for kids” in the city of Tachira. The targeting of young people is done through radio commercials encouraging them to visit brothels and by religious sects that seek to “brainwash them, isolate them from their families and form fundamentalist groups.”
Father Laureano pointed out in an editorial that Venezuelan officials have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the Church’s condemnation of a host of evils that include the trafficking of children and young people, the spread of drugs and “the always-present male prostitution, especially of children.”
He also warned against the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, which he said are a result of “deceptive and clever campaigns by some FM radio stations” to encourage young people “to go to prostitution motels on the outskirts of the city to find love.”
Father Laureano said these campaigns, as well as efforts by some religious sects to swindle the young into joining their groups, often go unnoticed by parents and teachers. He denounced these schemes as, “brainwashing them, isolating them from their families and forming fundamentalists groups that range from the pseudo-Christian to the satanic.”
“We are either asleep or bewildered by the improbable adventures of politicians while our city is sinking in its abandonment of young people, the trash of moral and spiritual contamination, the silence of teachers and the complicity of those who have the duty to protect the life, honor, possessions and security of all citizens,” the priest stated.
CNA STAFF, May 9, 2008 (CNA) - “A Civilization of Love,” written by the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, continues to be a NY Times bestseller for the 5th week in a row.
Carl Anderson, the head of the Knights of Columbus explained the success of the book to CNA saying that, “The strong sales of this book, which is based to a great extent on thoughts of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, is a testament to the hunger people in this country have to answer the call of these two great popes to build a 'civilization of love.' It is my hope that this book will give its readers a means of putting the call of the Gospel into action in their own lives."
In an internet discussion with readers of his book, Anderson stated that the inspiration for the book came not only from the recent Popes, but also from the dedication of members of the Knights of Columbus.
Another factor that seems to have boosted the book’s popularity is due to a recent shift in the view of Catholicism among those who describe themselves as practicing or non-practicing Catholics.
In an interview of over 1,000 adults in the U.S., the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion found much more positive views of the Church and Pope Benedict following the Pontiff’s April visit to America.
Not only did the Pope’s visit appear to raise the public opinion of the Church, but additionally, half of the people interviewed stated that they are more likely to lead a moral life and make family a bigger part of their lives.
Regarding the poll results, Anderson stated that Americans “responded very positively to the message of faith, hope and love that the Holy Father delivered throughout his visit. It is now up to all of us in the Catholic community to walk through the door he has opened for us, and work together to build a civilization of love.”
Anderson’s book, “A Civilization of Love,” can be purchased online at: http://www.acivilizationoflove.com/buybook.html
Rome, Italy, May 9, 2008 (CNA) - Vitorrio Messori, the most popular Italian Catholic writer has slammed so-called “adult” Catholics who want to minimize the role of the Virgin Mary, just days before the presentation of his new book “Hypothesis About Mary” in Spain.
The best-selling author of books such as “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” addresses who Mary is for believers in his new work, the credibility of apparitions in Lourdes and Fatima and Mary’s role in Christian belief. The new book has yet to be translated into English.
Messori confesses that years ago he was asked to write a book about Mary, but the proposal “seemed extravagant.” However, little by little, he realized that “the Mother is discovered afterwards, when one has entered into a relationship with the Son…Then we realize that the discreet presence of Mary is essential.”
According to Messori, the fact that certain Catholics “are ashamed” of Mary is due “above all to a Protestant influence on Catholicism. Reformation theology has always been convinced that what is given to the Mother of God is taken away from the Son. In reality, the truth is the opposite: wherever Mary is eclipsed, Jesus disappears as well, either before or after. As almost five centuries of experience shows, the faith has been preserved much better between Catholics and Orthodox, who give Mary the role that is hers. The fact is that this Woman is the guarantor of the truth of the Incarnation: it is her flesh, it is her uterus that guarantees that God has truly been made man.”
“Many theologians,” he went on, “believe that Marian devotion isn’t ‘elegant,’ and they think that it is a sentimental deviation unworthy of adults. And it is true that, often times, devotion to Mary has been mere sentimentalism; but what I have tried to show in my book, where there is no rhetoric, is that there can exist a ‘manly’ devotion, in the truest sense of the word, like the Medieval knights for example.”
Starting with the Enlightenment, he said, “a culture understood only in an academic and scholastic sense has been exalted. In reality, while this culture can lead to pride, the humility of the ignorant according to the world makes him more willing to understand the Mystery of a God who wanted to become a child, who we know knew how to read but who we are not sure knew how to write.”
Therefore, in “Hypothesis About Mary,” Messori explains that he seeks to convey that “without Mary Christianity is incomplete. What’s more, without Mary the faith itself is in danger, is unbalanced and without strong roots… In fact, in the book I show how the Marian presence prevents the faith from falling into error. It is an essential element of equilibrium, it’s not an optional choice,” he said.
Rome, Italy, May 9, 2008 (CNA) - The Pontifical Lateran University is hosting a congress on the 40th anniversary of the encyclical letter Humanae Vitae May 8-10.
The congress was inaugurated on Thursday by Msgr. Rino Fisichella, the rector of the university. The opening session focused on the implementation of Vatican II amidst the trial of a changing culture, and was presented by Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The conference entitled, “The loneliness of Paul VI and the weight of Tradition,” was led by the director of L’Osservatore Romano, Giovanni Maria Vian, and featured input from Father John Michael McDermott S.J., professor of dogmatic theology at the Josephinum in Columbus (Ohio) and Dr. Lucetta Scaraffia, of the Sapienza University of Rome
The afternoon session entitled, “A transformation of human nature?” was presented by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, which featured submissions from Dr. Janne Haaland Matlary of the University of Oslo (Norway), and Claudio Risé of the University of Milan.
Other sessions during the congress will feature discourses from Msgr. Grzegorz Kaszak, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family and Dr. Evelyn Billings, who together with her husband developed the Billings natural family planning method.
The congress will end on May 10 with an audience and a speech by Pope Benedict XVI.
Stevens Point, Wis., May 9, 2008 (CNA) - A “cemetery” of crosses displayed at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) to memorialize those killed by abortion has been publicly vandalized by a member of the student senate.
On May 1, at about 11 a.m., members of UWSP pro-life group Pointers for Life were repairing their “Cemetery of the Innocents” display, which had been defaced during the previous night. A group of angry students, led by UWSP Student Senator Roderick King, began to walk through the rows, taking crosses from the ground and throwing them.
Part of the vandalism was recorded and posted to the video-sharing web site YouTube.
King reportedly complained that the pro-life group had “no right” to display the crosses, saying it was “his duty as a paying student” to take them down.
After a campus Protective Services officer arrived, most of the students who were vandalizing the display stopped.
King, however, claimed “The freedom of speech does not cover these signs and symbols.” When the officer warned King he could be made to pay for damages, the student senator stopped.
Bob Tomlinson, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at UWSP, apologized to Pointers for Life for the disrespect and vandalism inflicted by the opposing students. Two student senators said the pro-life group had correctly reserved the space and were allowed to host the display.
In response to the vandalism, Pointers for Life filed a complaint with the Student Government Association asking for King to resign or be appropriately disciplined under the student government constitution.
In a letter to the Stevens Point Journal Newspaper, King explained his actions, saying he thought the display was “disrespectful” and that the university was “more than wrong” for allowing the display. He said the Pointers for Life request for his resignation or discipline from the student senate supposes that he is “more than a mere student” who “should be held to different standards.”
According to King, the pro-life group’s grievance against him was that he did not represent the student body. “On the contrary, many students agree with my actions,” he wrote. He claimed their motive for seeking disciplinary action was in fact based upon their opposing views about abortion.
King insisted he did not act in the incident as a member of the UWSP Student Government Association, but as “an individual who believes one person's right to freedom of speech stops when it infringes on another person's right to a secular education.”
Jackie Kryzkowski, president of Pointers for Life, said, “Student Senators should be helping to defend our freedom of speech, not trying to take it away because of personal beliefs. If students had a problem with the display, they could exercise their freedom of speech maturely by protesting it peacefully, not by defacing our display.”
Kristan Hawkins, Executive Director of Students for Life of America (SFLA), said, “This is not the first time that a student group has had this same type of peaceful display vandalized or has faced discrimination on a college campus. SFLA is here to make sure all college pro-lifers are guaranteed their rights to demonstrate on behalf of those who have no voice.”
A video of the vandalism is viewable at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5NeLyMZUYM