Archive of May 24, 2008

Custodian of Holy Land praises Middle East diplomatic progress

Rome, Italy, May 24, 2008 (CNA) - Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custodian of the Holy Land, on Thursday praised the official announcement of Israel-Syria negotiations and the recent agreement electing a new Lebanese government. 

“Excellent news is coming from the country of the cedar trees,” said Father Pizzaballa to the Italian bishops’ SIR news service.  “The new president and the new Government will at last put an end to a crisis that was dangerously spiraling out of control.”

The Custodian, a Franciscan priest, also said he was glad the Turkey-mediated negotiations between Syria and Israel had been publicly acknowledged for the first time.

“Dialogue is always a good thing, but there is still a long way to go. There are problems within the Israeli Government, and there are many pressures on both sides,” Father Pizzaballa said.

“We hope they will go on without dithering and will find a solution soon,” he continued.

The Custodian said that since the 2007 U.S.-sponsored Middle East conference in Annapolis, nice words had been said but “nothing has changed locally.” 

With “healthy Christian realism,” Father Pizzaballa said, care must be taken to ensure that such statements will be followed by real actions.

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Calif. Supreme Court asked to delay same-sex marriage decision

San Francisco, Calif., May 24, 2008 (CNA) - Opponents of same sex marriage have asked the California Supreme Court to delay its decision to allow homosexual marriages until after the November election, when California voters will likely decide a proposed constitutional amendment to reinstate and preserve the previous definition of marriage.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that organizations including the Proposition 22 Legal Defense Fund and the Alliance Defense Fund filed a request seeking the delay on Thursday afternoon.

"Permitting this decision to take effect immediately - in the light of the realistic possibility that the people of California might amend their constitution to reaffirm marriage as the union of one man and one woman - risks legal havoc and uncertainty of immeasurable magnitude," the filing states.

The request added that after the election, “the people of California will have definitively expressed their will on the issue of marriage, and that oft-debated issue will be settled once and for all in this State—settled by the proper voice in a constitutional democratic government, i.e., that of the people.”

While the proposed homosexual marriage ban has not officially been placed on the November ballot, supporters have obtained the necessary number of signatures and are waiting for the Secretary of State to verify them.

"It is to no one's benefit to redefine marriage for four or five months," said Andrew Pugno, legal counsel for the Proposition 22 Legal Defense Fund.

A spokesman for San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said the city would fight any delay in issuing marriage certificates to homosexual couples.  Many county clerks believe same-sex marriages could begin as early as June 16.

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World Day of Prayer for China to be held on May 24

Konigstein, Germany, May 24, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has specially composed a Marian prayer for the World Day of Prayer for China, a day which the head of an international Catholic charity has said should not be allowed to “pass by unnoticed.” 

The World Day of Prayer for China is scheduled for Saturday, which is the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians.  For the day of prayer, Pope Benedict XVI specially composed a prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan, whose image is greatly revered by Chinese Catholics.

Pope Benedict’s prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan closes, “Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love, ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.  Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and forever. Amen!"

Father Joaquín Alliende, the president designate of the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) praised Saturday’s World Day of Prayer for China.  He said the Holy Father’s action shows that the Pope, “by virtue of his universal office and as the father of Christianity, has a view of the whole picture.” 

The priest said that Benedict XVI’s composition of a prayer for the Church in China, which he noted has long been a suffering member of the Church, shows that this flock is especially close to the Holy Father’s heart.

Father Alliende said he hoped that the day of prayer will enable the country to become a “new Cana” and to echo the event where the Virgin Mary “anticipated the hour of Jesus” and proved herself to be the “best of advocates.”

He said that China is a great and important land that will significantly contribute to the future of mankind.  However, he noted the suffering of Christians in China and said it must not be forgotten.

Despite all its difficulties, Father Alliende said, Christianity in China truly has a future.  While Communism has led to an “absence of meaning,” the priest said that the growth of the Church there is a sign that people in China are seeking answers not only in the Catholic Church but also in other Christian churches and communions.

Even though he welcomed world attention on China as the Beijing Olympic Games approach, Father Alliende warned that China’s problems would continue even after the games end.

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