London, England, May 28, 2008 (CNA) - A lay Anglican pressing the Church of England to work to convert Muslims to Christianity has reportedly secured enough support for his motion to be debated at the next Anglican General Synod.
The motion calls on the Anglican Church to proclaim that Christianity is the only route to ultimate salvation, BBC News reports.
Paul Eddy, a lay Anglican who is training to be a priest, has been denounced by some Muslims for his campaign to convert Muslims. In an interview Sunday on BBC Radio Four, he said that the Anglican Church had “lost its nerve.”
"Both Christianity and Islam are missionary faiths," he said. "For years, we have sent missionaries throughout the whole world, but when we have the privilege of people of all nations on our doorstep, we have a responsibility as the state church to share the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Eddy claimed that 20 percent of Anglican parishes contained populations in which 60 percent of people were not Christian. Without evangelization, he said, the church's inaction was in danger of creating “no-go areas for the Gospel.”
He also said he has received angry e-mails and telephone calls from leading Anglicans denouncing his motion. He also claims to have the support of at least 124 members of the synod, including the Bishops of Rochester, Carlisle and Chester.
Eddy said that his move would not upset many Muslims.
"Most Muslims that I've talked to say, 'I really wish that Christians would stop watering down their faith and expecting us to do the same.'”
"Until we start really saying what we really believe in our faith, there will be no respect,” Eddy said.
He continued: "They will expect us - if we're true Christians - to try to evangelize them, in the same way they will expect us, if they're true Muslims, to adopt their faith.”
Eddy has called for bishops to draw up a code of good practice to advise church members how to evangelize and how to support former Muslims who are ostracized by their communities for converting to Christianity.
Stockholm, Sweden, May 28, 2008 (CNA) - Chaldean Christians exiled from Iraq on Sunday demonstrated outside Sweden’s parliament to draw attention to the plight of their fellow Iraqi minorities. Demonstrators denounced what they said was “a new wave of ethnic cleansing” in Iraq, warning that the ancient non-Muslim communities of Iraq could be wiped out by sectarian violence and intimidation.
The protests come just days before an international conference dedicated to political and economic reform, Cybercast News Service reports. Attendees at the conference, scheduled for Thursday near Stockholm, include U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. The conference is a follow-up to last year’s International Compact with Iraq.
Speeches at the protesters’ rally focused on the continuing harassment and violence inflicted by fundamentalists in Iraq. Speakers denounced abductions and assaults on girls and women and also the forcing of women to wear veils in line with some Islamic doctrines. They also decried extremists’ murder of Christian clerics such as Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul Paulos Faraj Rahho, who died after gunmen abducted him from a church earlier this year.
Rally participants called for international support for an autonomous safe region for Iraqi Christians in the historical Assyrian region in northern Iraq.
"A new wave of ethnic cleansing is going on in Iraq," Iraqi Christian representative Behiye Hadodo said at the rally. "If these atrocities continue, the Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrian communities there will be wiped out altogether, creating a new catastrophe for humanity."
The Iraqi Assyrians are a non-Arab ethnic minority located mainly in northeastern Iraq. Most are adherents of Christian churches, including the Chaldean Catholic and Syriac Orthodox Churches.
A 1987 census reported about 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. Their numbers began to decrease after the Gulf War in 1990. Before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, their population was at about 800,000. Many have fled persecution, including killings, church bombings, kidnappings, and forced conversions instigated by Islamic radicals.
Many have moved to Syria and Jordan, while others have emigrated to northern Europe, Australia, and the United States. Nearly half of the estimated 70,000 Iraqi Christians in Europe live in Sweden.
According to Cybercast News Service, last year the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent body advising the White House and Congress, placed Iraq on a “watch list” due to the unchecked violence against religious minorities. The commission also indicated there was “evidence of collusion between Shi'a militias and Iraqi government ministries.”
Vatican City, May 28, 2008 (CNA) - In his weekly audience today, Pope Benedict XVI continued his lessons on the Fathers of the Church by focusing on Pope Saint Gregory the Great. From St. Gregory we can learn that closeness to God brings true peace and hope, Pope Benedict said.
Under the hot Roman May sun, the Holy Father taught the thousands of visitors and pilgrims in St Peter's Square about how Gregory the Great left a life of civil service for the service of God.
"Born of a noble Roman family, Gregory entered the civil service, in which he rose to the dignity of Prefect of the City, and then embraced the monastic life.”
Upon noticing Gregory’s skills and experience, Pope Pelagius II appointed him as deacon and sent him as ambassador to Constantinople "to help surmount the last vestiges of the Monophysite controversy and, above all, to obtain the emperor's support in the struggle to counteract the pressure of the Lombards."
Pope Benedict noted that Gregory's papal ministry was marked by tireless energy and a clear vision of the grave problems facing civil society and the Church:
"Gregory made every effort to contain the Lombard invasion, to provide for the evangelization of that people, and to establish peace throughout Italy. In addition to his preaching, teaching and pastoral activity, he also reorganized the management of the Church's goods and ensured a more effective administration of her charitable works,” Benedict XVI said.
Caring for the poor was also a priority for St. Gregory the Great.
Pope Benedict related one example of his compassion: “With the income of the considerable patrimony which the See of Rome possessed in Italy, especially in Sicily, he bought and distributed grain, helped those in need, assisted poverty-stricken priests, monks and nuns, paid the ransom of citizens who had fallen prisoner to the Lombards, and bought armistices and truces."
"Gregory," the Pope explained, "undertook these intense activities despite poor health which often forced him to keep his bed for days on end. ... Notwithstanding the difficult conditions in which he had to work, he managed, thanks to the holiness of his life and his abundant humanity, to conquer the trust of the faithful, achieving what, for his own time and for the future, were truly grand results."
"He was a man immersed in God. The desire for God was perpetually alive in the depths of his soul and precisely for this reason he always remained close to others, to the needs of the people of his time. At a time of disaster - a desperate time - he managed to create peace and bring hope. This man of God shows us,” Benedict XVI concluded, "where the true sources of peace are, where true hope comes from, and thus he is also a guide for us today."
Vatican City, May 28, 2008 (CNA) - The congregation charged with overseeing religious men and women has published an instruction to help improve the understanding of the roles of authority and obedience in religious communities.
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life today released an Instruction entitled: "The Service of Authority and Obedience," which was presented this morning at an assembly of male and female superiors general held at the Salesianum in Rome.
The first topic that the new instruction addresses is religious obedience.
While some think of religious obedience as simply an adherence to “ecclesiastical or religious laws and rulings,” the congregation explains that this is not how it should be understood. Rather, religious obedience has its roots in the “search for God and for His will.” It springs from the “momentum of a journey in search of God which involves listening to His Word and becoming aware of His design of love - the fundamental experience of Christ Who, out of love, was obedient unto His death on the cross.”
The practical outcome of this is that, obedience, “is not justified on the basis of religious authority.” Instead, “because everyone in a religious community (first and foremost the authorities themselves) are called to obedience, Authority places itself at the service on the community so that God's will may be sought and achieved together."
The parallel issue of religious authority must be seen in the context of the “shared commitment to obedience, ... the theme that opens and closes this document," an explanation of the instruction says.
How to respond in matters of “difficult obedience” is also addressed by the document. The congregation describes these instances of “difficult obedience” as instructions that are “particularly hard to carry out, or in which the subject feels he sees 'things which are better and more useful for his soul than those which the superior orders him to do'.”
Room is also made for situations in which the one who must obey has 'objections of conscience.' This reference is meant to help people “consider obedience not just as a passive and irresponsible execution of orders, but as a conscious shouldering of commitments ... which are a real actuation of the will of God," a press release explains.
"The Instruction seeks to recall, above all, that obedience in religious life can give rise to difficult moments, to situations of suffering in which it is necessary to refer back to the Obedient One par excellence, Christ.”
However, those in authority can also experience “difficult” moments, the instruction notes. They can experience “moments of discouragement and fatigue which can lead to resignation or inattention in exercising an appropriate guidance ... of the community."
The document also contains “a vast and coherent set of guidelines for the exercise of authority," such as "inviting people to listen, favoring dialogue, sharing, co-responsibility, ... and the merciful treatment of the people" of those under authority.
An explanation of the instruction concludes by saying that the religious community should be “a place in which, under the guidance of the superior, a form of 'community discernment' must be exercised in decision- making. This practice, for the implementation of which important suggestions are offered, does not however eliminate the role of authority ... And it must not be forgotten that, by ancient tradition, the highest authority within religious institutes resides in the general chapter (or similar institution), which is a collegial body."
Kansas City, Mo., May 28, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop of Kansas City Joseph F. Naumann has further explained the motives for his public admonishment of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius for her support for legal abortion. The archbishop’s May 9 column, citing her recent veto of an abortion law reform bill passed by the Kansas legislature, had warned Governor Sebelius not to present herself for Holy Communion until she has publicly repented.
Writing in his column for the archdiocesan newspaper The Leaven, Archbishop Naumann repeated that Governor Sebelius must seek “to repair the public scandal of her long-standing support for legalized abortion.” He said he had personally received a number of letters both in favor and opposed to his actions regarding the governor. The archbishop explained that he was using his column to collectively respond to some of the critical letters he had received.
Addressing the question of why Governor Sebelius was “singled out” for public discipline, when others in elective office hold positions similar to hers, the archbishop said the governor holds the highest elective office in Kansas, making her “the most prominent Catholic in public life.”
Archbishop Naumann noted that his admonishments to the governor had begun before her veto of new abortion restrictions and added that his public request to her was not about any one action, but rather concerned her “30-year history of advocating and acting in support of legalized abortion.”
The archbishop described why the governor’s support for permissive abortion laws is scandalous, explaining that giving scandal means more than shocking or upsetting others. He said scandal is instead when “one’s action leads someone else to sin. Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil.” He also reiterated Catholic teaching that Catholics can receive Holy Communion only when free from mortal sin, saying that the bishop can intervene to stop scandalous actions both for the good of the sinning individual and to protect others from being misled.
Archbishop Naumann said Governor Sebelius’ support for abortion leads others to question the “moral gravity” of abortion. The governor’s continued reception of Holy Communion, coupled with her support for legalized abortion, convey the erroneous message that, “You can be a good Catholic and support legalized abortion,” he wrote.
The archbishop insisted that no one has asked the governor to ignore her oath of office, but rather that Governor Sebelius, as a Catholic, was obligated both to oppose “laws and judicial decisions that fail to protect the lives of the innocent” and to “do all in her power to work to change the law.” He said the governor must extend to the unborn the “maximum protection possible” under the limitations imposed by the Supreme Court.
In response to people who have complained that opposition to legal abortion is an imposition of Catholic doctrine, the archbishop countered that the right to life is not an exclusively religious issue. In fact, Archbishop Naumann said policies prohibiting abortion are like other policies that prohibit stealing, racism, or murder. Governor Sebelius’ expressed opinion that she is personally opposed to abortion, the Archbishop of Kansas City said, is similar to pro-slavery arguments before the Civil War. “Being pro-choice on a fundamental matter of human rights was not a morally coherent argument in the 1850s, nor is it today,” he said.
The archbishop cited as precedent for his actions St. Louis Archbishop Joseph Ritter’s 1946 threat to excommunicate a group opposed to desegregation in Catholic schools.
He also rejected the idea that Catholic disciplinary action only targets Democrats, noting that the Archbishop of New York Cardinal Edward Egan made a similar request to former Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. He encouraged Catholic Democrats to remain Democrats, but to change “the extremist position of the party on abortion.”
Archbishop Naumann said Catholics should also work to persuade others not to have abortions, but they also must change laws that permit the killing of innocents.
Lastly, the archbishop addressed those who claim that the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church discredits it from being able to address moral social issues like abortion.
“In logic,” he explained, “this type of argument is termed ‘ad hominem.’ It is an attempt to attack personally one’s opponent in a debate, rather than make substantive arguments about the issue being debated. It is usually an indication of a weak position by the person making the ‘ad hominem’ argument. What is needed is a substantive discussion of this important social and moral issue, not personal attacks!”
Rome, Italy, May 28, 2008 (CNA) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has requested an audience with Pope Benedict XVI during his upcoming visit to Rome on June 3 to 5.
Ahmadinejad has been granted visa to travel to Italy by Silvio Berlusconi’s government—a close U.S. ally— but only to attend the summit of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization summit, to be held in Rome from June 3 to 5.
According to the Italian news Agency ANSA, the Iranian embassy in Rome has confirmed Ahmadinejad's request, but there has not been an official response from the Vatican.
Italy's Secretary of State, Franco Frattini, said that the Iranian President, who is at odds with the U.S. and the European Union for its controversial nuclear program and its suspected role in supporting anti-Western militias in Iraq, will also be granted authorization to visit the Vatican, "if he needs to."
Frattini, nevertheless, dismissed any chance of direct contacts between Ahmadinejad and Italian authorities.
Lima, Peru, May 28, 2008 (CNA) - Two renowned pro-life leaders in Peru were kicked out of a press conference organized by pro-abortion organizations who promoted the event as “open” to the media and other interested parties.
Maggela de Tejada, secretary of the Peruvian Bishops’ Committee on the Family, and Carlos Polo, director of the Population Research Institute’s Latin American office, were “invited” to leave the press conference for no apparent reason.
Polo told CNA, “An hour before the press conference, we called the contact person listed on the invitation, Sonia Puerta, and she told us the event was open. However, it was Ms. Puerta herself who asked me to leave.”
Tejada was also asked to leave after she said she was a member of the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference, as “the invitation was only for members of the media.” “It was useless to explain to them that the bishops’ conference operates a number of media outlets and that if they kicked me out it would be a case of open discrimination and intolerance, since without any explanation they insisted that I leave,” Tejada said.
Another person attending the conference who asked to remain anonymous told CNA that he was not required to prove he was a member of the media. “In fact, I’m not, but they thought I was a sympathizer of their cause and they let me stay without any problem,” he said.
“This intolerant attitude shows that abortion supporters not only aim to interpret the law in an abusive manner, but also that they are closed to any kind of debate,” Polo said.
“These organizations,” he added, “seek to give the impression that they are open, they continuously repeat their slogan of ‘freedom of choice’ and even accuse others of being ‘fundamentalists’; however, they embrace an ideological totalitarianism that is expressed in the manipulation of the freedom of many poor women.” “They can’t even tolerate those who wish to listen to them with a critical ear,” Polo stated.
Madrid, Spain, May 28, 2008 (CNA) - The majority Socialist party in Spain’s Congress joined the opposition Popular Party in rejecting a law proposed by the United Left Party that would have prohibited the displaying of religious symbols during inaugural ceremonies for public officials.
The Socialist Party (PSOE) explained its vote against the law by saying measures against the cultural presence of the Catholic Church in Spain should be carried out “unhurriedly” and at a “slow pace.”
The United Left proposed prohibiting the use of crucifixes, the Bible and other Catholic symbols during official ceremonies, inaugurations and other official acts. Other lawmakers demanded the government renounce its accords with the Holy See, arguing they reflect “the outdated privilege and preeminence of Catholicism, which are the fruit of previous eras.”
Gaspar Llamazares, general coordinator of the United Left, noted the “paradox” that in a government as “modern” as that of Socialist leader President Jose Luis Zapatero, the Spanish president would take his oath of office in front of a crucifix.
Socialist Party spokesmen responded by pointing out that the Catholic symbols of some official ceremonies “are a vestige of the past adopted out of protocol by the Royal House, but there is no need for a law to eradicate them.”
The secretary general of the Socialist Party, Ramon Jauregui, said, “During the oath of office for ministers, having a crucifix there is going too far, but we won’t do anything to forbid it,” he said. “We need to move ahead in non-sectarianism but without creating unnecessary tensions,” Jauregui added. He noted that crucifixes have been removed from many schools voluntarily without the need for new laws.
Guayaquil, Ecuador, May 28, 2008 (CNA) - In a document containing fifteen conclusions from a “Workshop on the Prevention of Abortion,” organized in Guayaquil by the Ecuadorian Federation of Societies of Gynecology and Obstetrics, doctors agreed on the need to reject abortion as a way of solving problems related to women’s health.
During the workshop, which was held at the Enrique Sotomayor Hospital, where no less than 100 children are born per day, doctors and specialists in obstetrics drafted a document with 15 conclusions, which they signed on May 23.
The conclusions state that the members of the Federation do not support abortion of any kind. “Life is inviolable from the moment of conception. The elimination of an innocent human being is ethically and medically speaking always unacceptable,” they said.
They went on to note that “science teaches that life begins and conception. If this truth is also affirmed by religions it does not therefore cease to be a strictly scientific truth to only become a debatable religious opinion. Whoever denies that life begins at conception doesn’t have an issue with religion but rather with science. To deny this certainty of biology is not an expression of a lack of faith, but rather a lack of an elementary knowledge of human genetics, or even worse, of simple general culture,” the doctors said.
“No matter what name is given to this new human person,” they continued, “zygote, morula, blastocyst, embryo, fetus, newborn, infant, teenage, young person, adult, elderly, terminally ill…They are all denominations of the one and same human person in the different stages of development through which he or she passes.”
The doctors acknowledged that certain pregnancies can present dilemmas, “but we know what not to do: directly kill the child, making ourselves into the owners and masters of life and death. Doctors are agents of life and not ambassadors of death,” they said. “Let us not forget that the second victim of an abortion is the mother who aborts. Modern psychiatry and psychology has coined the term ‘post-abortion syndrome’. We must remember that a mother can remove her child more easily from her womb than she can from her mind and her heart,” the doctors stressed.
They also noted that a doctor can sometimes be faced with a conflict between the life of the mother and the life of the child. In such situations “therapeutic abortion” is presented as the solution, but this term “is unfortunate and shameful” because the word “therapeutic” is synonymous with “healing,” and the doctor is killing the baby in order to save the life of the mother. “The life of the mother and the baby can never be subjected to an act of direct suppression: a doctor never kills,” they said.
The Federation plans to send its final document to “the highest levels of government” and to the members of the Constitutional Assembly, which is drafting a new constitution and is under pressure from anti-life groups to legalize abortion in Ecuador.
Rome, Italy, May 28, 2008 (CNA) - Eight fishermen have found a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes 33 years after the Communist regime in the country threw the statue into the Mekong River. Local residents have renamed the statue Our Lady of Mekong.
According to the L’Osservatore Romano, the fishermen were unaware of the value of the statue and sold it for “seven U.S. dollars to the inhabitants of a nearby town, who planned to keep the statue in their homes. However, some Christians in the region recognized it as a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes and explained the importance of the discovery.”
“Realizing they had a sacred statue in their hands, the inhabitants gave it to the parish of Areaksat, known as Our Lady of Peace, in exchange for seven bags of rice,” the Vatican daily reported.
Parishioners organized a solemn procession to enthrone the statue. Each day during the month of May, large numbers of people gather at the parish to place flowers before the statue and offer prayers to the Blessed Mother.
Rome, Italy, May 28, 2008 (CNA) - Italian journalist and Muslim convert to Catholicism, Magdi Allam, warned this week that Islam is growing as a result of the ideology of relativism that pervades the West and claims that there are many truths instead of one unique Truth.
In an article published by the magazine Mundo Cristiano and quoted by Analisis Digital, Allam explained that relativism, which attributes “equal dignity to everything regardless of the content” has made it possible for extremism and Islamic terrorism “to be introduced and to take root” in Europe, to the point that there are Islamic extremists with European citizenship who “act upon and spread an ideology of hatred and violence.”
Likewise, Allam, who was recently baptized by Benedict XVI, said it was impossible to be a moderate Muslim, because the religion of Islam is “physiologically violent, as confirmed by certain verses from the Koran that defend an ideology of hatred, violence, death and condemnation of those who are not Muslims. This way of thinking comes from Mohammed,” Allam said, adding that Islam is an “intrinsically violent” religion.
Asked about his conversion to the faith, Allam said he was convinced by the preaching and testimony of Benedict XVI, whose “strong affirmation of the relationship between faith and reason as a foundation for understanding the authenticity of true religion” fascinated him.
Sacramento, Calif., May 28, 2008 (CNA) - A new poll examining support for homosexual marriage in California vastly overstates voters’ opposition to a marriage amendment to the state constitution and understates support for the measure, Catholics for the Common Good charges.
The Field Poll survey, conducted between May 17 and May 26, follows a state Supreme Court decision which ruled that barring homosexuals from marrying each other violates the California Constitution.
According to Reuters, the poll reported that 51 percent of respondents were against approving a proposed November ballot measure that would ban homosexual marriage, while only 43 percent favored it. A differently-worded question found 54 percent opposed and 40 percent in favor.
Broken down by demographics, the Field Poll found that 68 percent of 18-29 year- old respondents approved of same-sex marriage, while those 65 or older disapproved by 55 percent.
According to the poll, 51 percent of Californians approve of homosexual marriage, an increase from 46 percent in 2006 and 30 percent in 1985. The poll of 1,052 California voters claimed a margin of error ranging from plus or minus 3.2 to 5 percentage points, depending on the question.
Mark DiCamillo, the poll's director, called the results a “milestone in California. You can't downplay the importance of a change in an issue we've been tracking for 30 years."
William B. May, chairman of Catholics for the Common Good, disputed the findings, saying, “Today's Field Poll shows data inconsistent with other reputable polls that show voter support for defining marriage in the state constitution as between a man and a woman.” Mr. May cited both a May 21 poll showing Californians supported the homosexual marriage ban 54-46 and a May 15 SurveyUSA poll showing a 52-36 margin favoring the ban. He said that results can vary substantially depending on how questions are asked, the order in which they are asked, and sampling techniques.
“I am confident that when voters read the one-sentence initiative in November, they will see it as common sense and will vote for it. But this election to reinstate marriage as only between a man and a woman will be very close and hard-fought," Mr. May said.
He said it was true that young people support same-sex marriage more than other demographics, explaining, “Young people have been immersed in a culture that is largely indifferent to marriage and have even been taught in schools that marriage is simply a lifestyle choice reflected in the fact that marriage has declined over the last thirty years.”
Mr. May argued that the California Supreme Court decision is “clearly in conflict with the common interest of every child without exception in having a married mother and father.
“Marriage has declined to the point that four out of ten children are now born out of wedlock -- a serious problem that calls for promoting and supporting marriage for people who engage in reproductive acts. However, it is now illegal for public schools or other government agencies to promote marriage for men and women, because it discriminates against the private interests of a particular group of adults,” he said.
Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health, issued a directive to California’s clerks on Wednesday afternoon explaining that, barring a reversal of the California Supreme Court’s decision, June 17 will be the first day homosexuals can be recognized as married in California.
Washington D.C., May 28, 2008 (CNA) - Prominent politicians, clergy, a genocide survivor, and an immigrant author will speak at the U.S. Bishops-sponsored National Migration Conference this July in Washington, D.C.
The National Migration Conference is sponsored by the Migration and Refugee Services department of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. “Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice” is the theme chosen for the conference, which is scheduled for July 28-31.
Archbishop of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony will deliver the keynote address. Scheduled speakers include U.S. Representative Chris Smith(R-NJ), Rwandan genocide survivor Immaculee Ilibagiza, and Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian immigrant and author.
In his keynote, Cardinal Mahony will assess the role and importance of church involvement in the national immigration debate. He is expected to draw upon Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical, “Saved by Hope,” and will examine the Church’s mission to “welcome the stranger.”
The second day of the conference will feature a panel of U.S. government officials from the U.S. State Department and the Department of Health. Lori Sciallaba, Associate Director for International Operations and Special Representative on Iraqi Refugees for the Department of Homeland Security, is also scheduled to participate on the panel.
Representative Chris Smith will discuss migration issues before Congress, including human trafficking, refugee protection, and immigration reform. He will also suggest how the Catholic community can positively influence Congress.
Other speakers include an immigrant to the United States, the inspector general of a Mexico-focused human rights commission, and a professor of globalization and education who will speak on global migration and examine the factors that drive people to move within and across borders.
The National Migration Conference Website is located at http://nationalmigrationconference.org/