London, England, May 26, 2008 (CNA) - Three men who attacked a priest in his own home have been sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison.
Paul Hands, 28, his brother Andrew Hands, 25, and Stephen Hinchcliffe, 25, all of Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire, UK, were each jailed for four years after admitting burglary and assault.
Fr Francis Wadsworth, 37, the parish priest of St Ann’s in Ashton-under-Lyne, was in court to hear sentence passed. He sat only feet away from his attackers during the trial at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, but said he had forgiven them for what they had done.
Fr Wadsworth had just returned home from visiting a parishioner in hospital last November when he answered a knock at the door.
The men forced their way into the house, demanding keys and cash. Fr Wadsworth was punched in the face, but fought back, biting one of his attackers.
He suffered bruising to his right eye and was left very shaken. They escaped with church funds.
Fr Wadsworth said: “I am happy that sentence has been passed on these three young men because it sends the message to the general public that crime does not pay.
“I hope and pray that as a result of what I’ve experienced, other victims of crime will come forward because they have seen the parish priest do it.
“I will get on with my life now and try to serve the best I can. I’m a lot more wary about answering the door.
“It certainly was not pleasant being in court and seeing them and their relatives and friends. I have to forgive them because that is the ethos of the Church.”
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Ann Arbor, Mich., May 26, 2008 (CNA) - An administrator at the University of Toledo who was fired for writing an editorial objecting to the comparison of homosexual rights to the civil rights struggles of African Americans and expressing her Christian views against homosexuality has accused the university of violating her First Amendment rights when it terminated her employment earlier this month.
Crystal Dixon, former associate vice president of human resources at the state-run University of Toledo, argued in an April 18 column in the Toledo Free Press that those “choosing the homosexual lifestyle” should not be considered “civil rights victims.” Dixon, who did not identify herself in the column as a university administrator, said that while she cannot change her identity as a black woman, “thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle.”
She also quoted two passages from the Bible, one concerning the nature of marriage and another saying that one should hate the sin but love the sinner.
Following a decision by the university to fire her for her views, Dixon spoke to a group of about 60 people at her church, the End Time Christian Fellowship, saying the issue is not the correctness of her beliefs but whether she is free to express them.
“This is a matter of principle, plain and simple,” she said.
Thomas A. Sobecki, Dixon’s attorney, said she was fired from her job “because she exercised her right to free speech… She spoke about something certain people at the university disagreed with.”
“She doesn't want to sue; she'd rather be working right now,” he said.
Dixon has also retained for her defense the Thomas More Law Center, an Ann Abor-based organization which says it is “dedicated to the defense and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians.”
“Essentially she was fired for being a Christian,” argued Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center.
“Crystal Dixon is a courageous Christian woman whom we are privileged to represent,” Thompson continued. “The University of Toledo brags about being friendly to ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning individuals.’ They apparently are also proud of their hostility toward Christians.”
“Where is the so-called free expression of ideas that universities so adamantly defend in other contexts?” he said.
Crystal Dixon has launched a web site at www.crystaldixon.com, “Crystal Dixon: Faith and Free Speech Defender,” to explain her story and to ask for donations.
Washington D.C., May 26, 2008 (CNA) - The American Life League (ALL) says that its preparations for a national day of protest against the birth control pill are gaining momentum. Pro-lifers are planning June 7 protests outside of facilities that distribute the pill because of its reported abortifacient effects.
“We have been in contact with people all across the country who are excited and ready to protest,” said Marie Hahnenberg, Project Manager of Protest the Pill Day. “So far, we have heard from people in at least 10 states, including California, Texas, Wisconsin and North Carolina, that they will be participating in Protest the Pill Day. Even protesters in Canada are participating.”
“Pro-lifers understand that life does in fact begin at fertilization and the birth control pill kills babies,” Hahnenberg said. She said there was so much “disinformation” about the pill that organizers decided a national protest was the best means to educate people.
The American Life League, Pro-Life Wisconsin and Pharmacists for Life International are organizing the protests.
Counter-protests are reportedly being prepared by abortion rights activists.
Hahnenberg said the ALL welcomed counter-protesters since it will provide her organization the opportunity to educate them. “Women have been deceived for years and we must take a stand and do something about it,” she said.
Geneva, Ill., May 26, 2008 (CNA) - A “coherent response” is necessary to address the “overwhelming challenge” of the food crisis caused by a surge in global food prices. The remedy is a new mentality that would “place the human person at the center and not focus simply on economic profit,” Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi said to the Human Rights Council on Thursday.
Archbishop Tomasi, head of the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, said that the public must realize that chronic hunger can cause violent conflict, uncontrolled migrations, environmental problems, epidemics, and even terrorism.
The archbishop said that intergovernmental agencies “rightfully have concluded that hunger is not due to lack of food.” Rather, he said, hunger is caused by the lack of both physical and financial access to agricultural resources.
The food crisis should direct everyone’s attention to the 854 million people plagued by chronic hunger, whose ranks are joined by four million new people each year, the archbishop said.
“Higher prices may cause some inconvenience to families in developed countries since they find it necessary to spend 20% of their income on food. However, such prices are life threatening for the one billion people living in poor countries since they are forced to spend nearly all their daily income of $1 per day in search of food,” Archbishop Tomasi said.
The present food production problem, he said, is more than a “temporary emergency.” Rather, it is structural in nature and should be approached in the context of just and sustainable economic growth.
The archbishop also pointed out that international trade and liberalization in agricultural products tend to favor multinational corporations over small local farms, which he said are the base of food security in developing countries. The remedies, he said, are investment in agriculture and rural development and solidarity with the most vulnerable. Also important is the condemnation of hoarding and price speculation as “unacceptable,” and the recognition of individual property rights.
The archbishop called for the elimination of unfair agricultural subsidies and the organization of cooperative structures for smaller farms. The use of food production, he said, eventually has to be balanced “by mechanisms that respond to the common good” and not the market.
Archbishop Tomasi closed his address with a call for a new mentality that would “place the human person at the center and not focus simply on economic profit.”
Vatican City, May 26, 2008 (CNA) - The 75th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to an eleven year-old girl named Mariette will take place on May 31, 2008 in Belgium. The celebrations will be joined by Pope Benedict’s special envoy, Cardinal Godfried Danneels.
On Saturday, the Vatican made public a letter from the Pope, written in Latin and dated March 27, to Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, Belgium, making him the papal envoy to the anniversary celebrations of the apparitions of the Virgin of the Poor.
The celebrations will take place at the shrine of Banneux, Belgium on May 31. The Virgin of the Poor first appeared to Mariette Becco on January 15, 1933 and lasted until March 2 of the same year.
At her second apparition, the Blessed Mother led Mariette from her house to a spring, which she told the girl would bring healing to all nations.
Many people, including Mariette's father, were converted to Catholicism upon hearing accounts of the apparition. Five hundred thousand pilgrims visit the site of the apparitions every year and over fifty miraculous cures have been documented at the spring.
Cardinal Danneels will be accompanied on his mission by Fr. Karl Gatzweiler and Fr. Joseph Bodeson, members of the cathedral chapter of Liege, Belgium.
Vatican City, May 26, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that the Holy Father has appointed a new bishop for the Diocese of Prince-Albert in Canada. Fr. Albert Thevenot, will succeed Bishop Blaise-Ernest Morand, whose resignation was accepted by the Pope.
Bishop-elect Thevenot M. Afr., currently serves as the provincial superior for Canada of the White Fathers, and as bishop of the Diocese of Prince-Albert he will serve 49,942 Catholics.
The bishop-elect was born in Treherne, Canada in 1945 and ordained a priest in 1980.
Vatican City, May 26, 2008 (CNA) - The feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius brought delegations from Bulgaria and Macedonia to the Vatican on Saturday as they honored the memory of the two missionaries to the Slavs.
Pope Benedict XVI first received Nikola Gruevski, prime minister of Macedonia, in an audience, and then Ivajlo Kalfin, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of the Republic of Bulgaria.
In his words to the Macedonians, the Pope said that the "shining spiritual witness" of Sts. Cyril and Methodius "points to a perennial truth which must be rediscovered to an ever greater degree: only when hope comes from God, is it trustworthy and secure."
The Holy Father also called the Macedonians to imitate Jesus’ example of "tirelessly dedicate themselves to laying the foundations of friendly coexistence among peoples, respecting the rights of each and seeking the good of everyone." This call from the Pope takes on particular relevance as Macedonia enters into its parliamentary elections, which have been marked by violence in recent weeks.
Speaking to the group from Bulgaria, Pope Benedict pointed them to the memory of the two saints, which "stimulates believers, both Orthodox and Catholics, in their desire to spur the country to probe more deeply into its rich Christian heritage, the origins of which go back to the tireless initiative of these two great evangelizers from Salonika."
The example of the two Greek saints should inspire Bulgarians to value evangelization because "it represents a model for the inculturation of faith" valid "even for the post-modern age,” the Pope said. “The Gospel does not undermine the authentic elements it finds in the various cultural traditions, but helps mankind of all times to recognize and achieve the real good, illuminated by the splendor of truth," he explained.
Benedict XVI concluded his remarks by highlighting how "the rediscovery of Christian roots is important for building a society in which the spiritual and cultural values arising from the Gospel remain present", values that "draw nourishment from constant union with God, as is evident from the lives of Sts. Cyril and Methodius who strove relentlessly to weave relationships of mutual understanding and cordiality between different peoples, and between diverse cultures and ecclesial traditions."
Vatican City, May 26, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, is in Russia to meet with the Catholic community there and with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexis II.
The Holy See said the purpose of the trip, “in addition to a personal meeting Cardinal Kasper will have with the Catholic community in Moscow and with top officials of the Russian Orthodox Church, is to make contact with some of the religions and cultural treasures of the Russian tradition.”
The visit to Russia will end on May 30. Among the activities scheduled during his visit is a Corpus Domini Mass at the Mother of God Cathedral in Moscow, a pilgrimage to Kazan and a visit to the Monastery of Diveevo, where he will venerate the relics of St. Seraphim of Sarof, one of the most famous Russian hermit saints.
Mexico City, Mexico, May 26, 2008 (CNA) - “The Truth Will Set You Free. Be Not Afraid. And the Murder of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo?” is the name of a new book by two Mexican lawyers examining unresolved issues related to the investigation into the murder of the archbishop of Guadalajara on May 24, 1993.
Fifteen years after the crime, Fernando Guzman and Jose Antonio Ortega, lawyers for the Archdiocese of Guadalajara, review the events that have occurred surrounding the murder and note that the official account of the cardinal being caught in crossfire was rejected by the Mexican Attorney General himself in 1999 during hearings on the case.
During those hearings, the Attorney General accepted the claim that it was the second round of gunfire that killed the cardinal and that came from a few meters behind his vehicle.
The book also recalls that after his investigation, the Attorney General concluded that Cardinal Posadas “led an exemplary and authentic life in accord with his way of thinking and his Catholic faith, both publicly and privately, and that he was an innocent victim of violence.”
In another chapter the authors assert that the “purpose of the murders was twofold: to deprive him of his life, and of his good name, his honor and his prestige by linking him to drug trafficking.” They also note that Bishop Luis Reynoso—who many people cited as a supporter of the “crossfire” hypothesis—acknowledged that the death of the cardinal was “direct and intentional.”
The book also documents the unanimous position of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, which between 2001 and 2005 “sent seven letters to President Vicente Fox asking for an explanation of the murder.”