Archive of May 29, 2008

Schismatic St. Louis parish loses appeal to Vatican

St. Louis, Mo., May 29, 2008 (CNA) - The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has confirmed Archbishop of St. Louis Raymond Burke’s decree excommunicating the board of directors of a schismatic parish.  Archbishop Burke had excommunicated the leaders of the breakaway ethnically Polish parish for hiring a suspended priest to celebrate the Sacraments and sacramentals. 

The priest could be defrocked for remaining in schism, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has warned.

St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish had operated under a structure in which the pastor is subject to the authority of the parish governing board, in violation of canon law.  Archbishop Burke sought to bring the parish into line with canon law, but the parish resisted his efforts.  In August the archbishop removed priests assigned to St. Stanislaus and moved Polish language masses to a nearby parish.  In January 2005 parishioners voted 299-5 to retain full control of the parish.

In December 2005 Archbishop Burke issued a decree of excommunication condemning the church’s board of directors and the priest they had hired to celebrate their sacraments at the church.

According to Archbishop Burke’s May 30 column in the St. Louis Review, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has taken two actions.  First, it has rejected the recourse (appeal) presented by the Board of Directors of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Corporation, including the recourse of suspended priest Reverend Marek B. Bozek. 

“In other words, it has found the recourse to be without foundation,” Archbishop Burke said.

The Congregation communicated its decision in a May 15 letter signed by its head, Cardinal William Levada.  The archbishop said the Congregation has confirmed his December 15, 2005 decrees declaring the board of directors had incurred the penalty of excommunication because of “persistence in schism.”

Archbishop Burke said the Congregation gave two reasons for its decision. First, the board of directors did not observe the time limits set for recourses and neglected to fulfill the formal requirements for a recourse. Second, it said the members of the Board of Directors of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Corporation have committed schism and continue to persist in it.

The Congregation said in its letter that the board of directors had turned the former St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish into “an independent entity capable of appointing its own clergy apart from the hierarchy of the Church,” gradually removing it from the “jurisdiction of the local ordinary.”

Archbishop Burke regretted that the controversy surrounding the board of directors had been presented by the media as a personal conflict between the board members and the archbishop.  

“As their pastor, I have been obliged to call them to reconciliation and repentance for the good of the salvation of their souls and the good of the whole Church. In doing so, I have acted in accord with what the teaching and discipline of the Catholic Church require. My actions have nothing to do with any personal conflict but, rather, with the integrity of the Catholic faith and its practice, which I have the solemn responsibility to safeguard and promote,” he said.

The archbishop said that members of the church’s board of directors could appeal the Congregation’s decision to its Ordinary Session of the Cardinals and Bishops, or they could reconcile with the Church and “withdraw from the state of schism.”  The Congregation’s letter said “reconciliation with the Church necessarily includes repentance for the grave harm which their schismatic actions have caused to individual souls and to the whole Church.”

Archbishop Burke pledged to offer the board of directors “special pastoral care and kindness” if they accept the Congregation’s decision.  He expressed his commitment to reconciliation and said he will continue to act on that commitment.

In a separate letter, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith addressed the case of Father Marek  Bozek, saying he could be defrocked if he does not renounce his schismatic acts and continues to celebrate the sacraments illicitly.  Unless the priest reconciles with the Church, the Congregation said it will “present his case to the Holy Father for his dismissal ex officio from the clerical state.”

Father Bozek is a priest of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.  He had left his priestly assignment to join St. Stanislaus against the expressed will of his ordinary, Bishop John Leibrecht.

Archbishop Burke said the situation was “profoundly sad” and had caused “great spiritual harm” to the archdiocese.  He finished his column by asking for prayers from the faithful.

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Cardinal Zen regrets timing of publication of critical remarks in quake aftermath

, May 29, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun has said his interview with an Italian newspaper, in which he warned that Chinese nationalism could lead to fascism and dictatorship, was “belated and misplaced” for being published in the aftermath of the devastating Sichuan earthquake.

A May 27 statement issued on behalf of Cardinal Zen said the timing of La Stampa’s release of the interview had dismayed many people.  The statement said it was “highly inconceivable” that the paper had chosen the aftermath of the earthquake to juxtapose fascism and Chinese leaders.

Also on May 27 Chinese media carried reports of Cardinal Zen’s critical remarks, which were made the day before the Sichuan quake, May 11.

In the interview with La Stampa, Cardinal Zen referred to analysts who “see in recent events in China the danger that the country is on the road to fascism, or maybe is heading towards a dictatorial regime with strong nationalist tendencies.”

“The government has insisted greatly on Chinese pride for the upcoming Olympic games, saying it is only a healthy national sentiment and not ideological nationalism,” the cardinal said.

The cardinal’s statement said that in the La Stampa interview, he had prayed “that China would escape from the dictatorship of nationalism.”

The cardinal’s reaction also mentioned that after the Sichuan earthquake, Cardinal Zen immediately directed the Diocese of Hong Kong and Caritas Hong Kong to deliver assistance.  In addition, the statement praised the Chinese leaders’ response to the disaster for manifesting “high transparency and openness in relief process and strategy -- a human orientated mind-set.” 

The cardinal also said that a local Chinese paper had made a serious mistake when it misquoted him as saying that the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association is highly appreciated by the "open" and "underground" Catholic communities in mainland China. 

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Holy See and Israel report progress in discussions on Church tax status

Vatican City, May 29, 2008 (CNA) - On Wednesday the Holy See’s Bilateral Working Commission for negotiations with Israel met at the Vatican to continue discussions on the tax status of the Church in the Holy Land.

Following the Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel in December 1993, full diplomatic relations between the two countries were established, but an agreement about the tax-exempt status of churches, hospitals and other Catholic institutions in Israel has thus far eluded the commission.

According to a communiqué released yesterday afternoon, the Holy See delegation was led by Msgr. Pietro Parolin, under-secretary for Relations with States, and the Israeli delegation by Aaron Abramovich, director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The commission reports that it achieved “significant progress towards the shared goal, both substantially and in terms of putting in place procedures to improve desired effectiveness and on-going negotiations." In May 2007 the joint committee also reported "important progress."

The bilateral commission will convene again in December.

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Exhibition on Matilda of Canossa opens at Vatican museums

Vatican City, May 29, 2008 (CNA) - The exhibit, “Matilda of Canossa, the Papacy and the Empire” which will open at Vatican museums on August 31, was presented this morning at the Vatican.

The exhibition will run until January 11, 2009, at two separate sites: the Casa di Mantegna in Mantua and the abbey of San Benedetto Po. 

The display will focus on the biographical and political events of Matilda's life to allow visitors to examine a period of confrontation between Popes and emperors which led to the separation of the religious and secular power – a concept that has continued in the West today. 

Countess Matilda of Canossa, born in 1046 was a powerful feudal landowner who supported the Papacy in the controversy over the appointment of Church officials.  She died in 1115.

The exhibition includes works of art, documents and artifacts from various museums in Italy and Europe which reveal a world undergoing a profound transformation. Matilda's fame and the need to make her a symbol of support for the Papacy has inspired such figures as Dante, Giulio Romano and Gianlorenzo Bernini who recreated her figure in masterpieces of literature, painting and sculpture.

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True human education places God at the center, Pope encourages Italians

Vatican City, May 29, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican’s Synod Hall was filled today by the bishops of Italy as they listened to the Pope’s address on the theme of evangelization and education among the new generations. The Holy Father spoke of the “educational emergency” in forming the youth and insisted that truly human formation involves God.  

The Pope began his address by recalling the “educational emergency" he has referred to on a number of previous occasions. This emergency "assumes a very specific form” when dealing with “the transmission of the faith to the new generations," he said.  Educating the youth in today’s culture requires us to “negotiate the obstacles placed in our way by relativism, by a culture that puts God within parenthesis and discourages all truly committed choices, and in particular definitive choices, rather privileging ... self-affirmation and immediate satisfaction."

To confront these difficulties, Benedict XVI told the bishops that they should turn to the "many charisms and forms of evangelizing energy" present in their dioceses and accept them with joy.

Other tools at the bishops’ disposal "are personal relationships, especially sacramental confession and spiritual guidance. Each of these moments represents an opportunity given to us to help our young people see the face of the God who is the true friend of mankind."

According to Pope Benedict, the educational crisis can be solved by introducing an “education that is truly educational," an education that "re-establishes full and integral formation of the person as the center of its focus.”

What must happen in Italy is, “to overcome a difficult period in which economic and social dynamism seemed to weaken, faith in the future diminished, and the poverty of many families led to a growing sense of insecurity," the Pope said.

The Holy Father also pointed to "signs of a new climate" due to "a more serene relationship between political forces and the institutions" which has been inspired by "a more acute sense of a shared responsibility for the future of the nation. ... There exists, in fact, a widespread desire to resume the journey, to face and resolve at least the most urgent and pressing problems, to open a new season of economic (but also civic and moral) growth."

The Church must not fail to make her contribution to this renewal, “so that Italy may see a period of progress and harmony," he said.

The greatest service that the bishops can provide is to “first of all bear frank witness to the fact that ... the fundamental problem of mankind today remains the problem of God. No other human and social problem can truly be solved if God does not return to the center of our lives," the Pontiff asserted.

While the Pope explained that the government should maintain its lay character, he also said that it is “important to resist all tendencies to consider religion, and in particular Christianity, as a purely private matter."

He laid particular emphasis on the prelates' concern for "the family founded on marriage, ... in order to encourage a culture favorable, and not hostile, to the family and to life, and to ask public institutions for coherent policies that recognize the central role families play in society, especially in generating and educating children."  Furthermore, he added, "our commitment to the dignity and protection of human life in all moments and conditions must remain strong and constant."

"We cannot close our eyes and remain silent in the face of the poverty, discomfort and social injustice that afflict such a large part of humankind, and that require generous commitment from everyone," Benedict XVI concluded.

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Pope praises Uganda’s AIDS prevention program

Vatican City, May 29, 2008 (CNA) - Among Pope Benedict XVI’s meetings today was the reception of nine new ambassadors to the Vatican, an unusually high number. In his address to Uganda’s new ambassador Nyine S. Bitahwa, the Holy Father praised the country’s successful efforts to curb the spread of AIDS through encouraging abstinence and fidelity, in defiance of U.N. pressure to rely only on condoms.

Uganda’s efforts to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS have been met with a high success rate and rely on what is known as the ABC method, which does not emphasize the use of condoms.

Pope Benedict lauded the advances in healthcare made by Uganda and its “successful policy of prevention based on continence and the promotion of faithfulness in marriage."

The U.N. Population Fund places very little emphasis on behavioral change and instead works off the assumption that people will not be faithful. Consequently, they also place the majority of their efforts on distributing free condoms.

Another Ugandan development that the Pope found praiseworthy was, “the culmination of efforts to formalize peace agreements and to bring to a conclusion the long years of warfare marked by cruel and senseless violence."  He also expressed his hope that all displaced people may "return to their homes and resume a peaceful and productive existence."

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Cardinal in charge of Catholic education visits NY elementary school

Rockville Centre, N.Y., May 29, 2008 (CNA) - New York will receive a prestigious visitor on Friday, the Diocese of Rockville Centre has announced. Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, who is in charge of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, will visit St. Agnes Elementary School to witness an average day in Catholic education.
According to a press release from the Diocese of Rockville Centre, on his visit to the elementary school, the Polish prelate will be treated to a student-taught lesson on baseball, a reading of the classic poem, ‘Casey at the Bat’ and a group of students singing, ‘Take me out to the ballgame.’

Most Rev. William Murphy, the bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Center expressed his joy in welcoming the cardinal to the diocese.  He explained that Cardinal Grocholewski is the head of the congregation for education “where he oversees the Church’s commitment to education from schools to universities to seminaries.”  The bishop also spoke of the privilege it was to host Cardinal Grocholewski. “It is an honor to receive such a distinguished Cardinal of the Church who wishes to visit St. Agnes Cathedral School, one of the many excellent Catholic schools that serve our families and our diocese and indeed the whole community.”

The superintendent of schools in the diocese also conveyed her excitement for the cardinal’s visit.  “The Catholic school community is delighted to welcome Cardinal Grocholewski to the Diocese of Rockville Centre,” said Sr. Joanne Callahan, O.S.U. 

“As Prefect of Catholic Education, the Cardinal is aware of what is happening around the world in Catholic education.  We will have the opportunity to show him one of our elementary schools.  Our only regret is that he will not have the opportunity to see all of the wonderful educational and religious formation activities going on in all of the Catholic elementary and secondary schools in our diocese.  Perhaps he will come again for a longer visit,” Sr. Callahan said.
During his trip to the U.S., the prelate will visit two additional schools: Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Manhattan and Xaverian High School in Brooklyn.

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Vatican decrees excommunication for participation in 'ordination' of women

Vatican City, May 29, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican declared today that any women who attempt “ordination” or any bishops who attempt to “ordain” women are automatically excommunicated from the Church by their actions. The decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is said to be absolute, universal and immediately effective.

The decree which was published in the Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, comes in the wake of several women attempting to be “ordained” as Catholic priests.

The most recent attempt to ordain a woman occurred on May 4 in Winona, Minnesota when Kathy Redig, participated in a ceremony of ordination.  

Bishop of Winona Bernard Harrington responded to the news of Redig’s purported ordination by saying it made him “very, very sad.” The bishop also said that “She, by her actions, has excommunicated herself.”

Another occurrence of attempted ordination occurred in St. Louis, Missouri on November 11, 2007. The ceremony involved a German woman named Patricia Fresen conducting a would-be ordination ceremony at a St. Louis synagogue.  Fresen used the formula and rite of a Catholic ordination to “ordain” as priests two St. Louis-area women, Rose Hudson and Elsie McGrath. 

The attempted ordination caused Archbishop Raymond Burke of the Archdiocese of St. Louis to declare the three women excommunicated for taking part in an attempted ordination of women to the priesthood.  The archbishop said the excommunication was part of his “solemn duty” to protect the faith and unity of the Church.

Archbishop Burke, who is regarded as one of the foremost experts on canon law, explained that this type of situation has been addressed before. In August 2002, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also excommunicated two women who had taken part in an invalid ordination ceremony, he said. 

Patricia Fresen, the archbishop said, had “formally and directly engaged” in founding a “new and separate sect” called Roman Catholic WomenPriests USA.

The decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also mentions that it applies to all people in communion with the Catholic Church, including any bishops or women who are members of the Eastern Churches. Anyone who incurs this excommunication can only be received back into the Church by the Apostolic See, the decree says.

The declaration, which is signed by Cardinal William Levada, concludes by saying that it is absolute, universal and immediately effective upon its publication in L’Osservatore Romano.

Translated text of the Decree:

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
General Decree

Regarding the crime of attempting sacred ordination of a woman

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to protect the nature and validity of the sacrament of holy orders, in virtue of the special faculty conferred to it by the supreme authority of the Church (see canon 30, Canon Law), in the Ordinary Session of December 19, 2007, has decreed:

Remaining firm on what has been established by canon 1378 of the Canon Law, both he who has attempted to confer holy orders on a woman, and the woman who has attempted to receive the said sacrament, incurs in latae sententiae excommunication, reserved to the Apostolic See.

If he who has attempted to confer holy orders on a woman or if the woman who has attempted to receive holy orders, is a member of the faithful subject to the Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Churches, remaining firm on what has been established by canon 1443 of the same Code, they will be punished with major excommunication, whose remission remains reserved to the Apostolic See (see canon 1423, Canon Law of the Eastern Churches).

The current decree will come into immediate force from the moment of publication in the 'Osservatore Romano' and is absolute and universal.

William Cardinal Levada
Angelo Amato, S.D.B.
Titular Archbishop of Sila

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Paraguayan president-elect names ex-priest Minister of Social Affairs

Asunción, Paraguay, May 29, 2008 (CNA) - In a decision that could increase tensions with the Vatican, Paraguay’s president-elect, former bishop Fernando Lugo, has named ex-priest Pablino Caceres as Secretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs, whose mission is to fight poverty in the country.

Caceres confirmed his appointment during a press conference.  “President Lugo has entrusted to me the task of combating poverty from the office of Social Action,” he said.  Caceres, 55, is a former Redemptorist priest and was director of Social Ministry for the province of Concepcion in northern Paraguay.  In 2001 he requested to be released from the clerical state.

Caceres said in his new post he would be dedicated to “attacking poverty on many fronts, both in urban and in rural areas, without forgetting our indigenous brothers and sisters.”

One of the concerns of the bishops of Paraguay is that the Lugo administration will lead to a new wave of political involvement by priests and religious, whose numbers have been dwindling as pastoral needs increase.

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Photos link Governor Sebelius to late-term abortionist

Kansas City, Mo., May 29, 2008 (CNA) - In the wake of the Archbishop of Kansas City’s reaffirmation of his public admonishment of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius for her pro-abortion politics, a pro-life group has published damaging photographs showing Sebelius hosting a reception at the governor’s residence for a late-term abortionist and the staff of his abortion clinic. 

The governor’s spokeswoman has admitted that a reception was held for notorious late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller last year at the governor’s residence.  Nicole Corcoran, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Governor Sebelius had donated the reception as an item for a fundraising auction for the Greater Kansas City Women's Political Caucus, the Associated Press says.  Tiller purchased the item and the event was held on April 9, 2007.

The pro-life group Operation Rescue, which has campaigned against Tiller’s abortion clinic, published photographs of the event on its web site on Wednesday night. The photos depict Tiller, his wife, and the staff of his Women’s Health Care Clinic at the governor’s residence.

In one picture Governor Sebelius cheerfully greets Tiller.  According to Operation Rescue, Tiller presented her with a paperweight and pin bearing his favorite slogan, “Attitude is Everything.” Tiller’s wife and employees are shown with the governor both in one-on-one pictures and in a group photo.

In one photo, Governor Sebelius is seen holding a t-shirt with the words “Trifecta: Sebelius, Parkinson, Morrison.”  All are pro-abortion Democrats supported by Tiller.

Operation Rescue said a “confidential source” described the event as a party held “exclusively in Tiller’s honor.”  The group also alleges that Tiller has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to pro-abortion Democrats through a “complicated series of political action committees and non-profit organizations.”

According to the Associated Press, the governor’s spokeswoman denied that the April 2007 event should be characterized as one honoring Tiller.

Operation Rescue asserted on Thursday that, "There is not one shred of evidence to support Gov. Sebelius's claims” that the event was not held to honor Tiller.

Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue said that, “If Gov. Sebelius' story were to be true, the dinner prize that Tiller supposedly bid on would have been auctioned by the Greater Kansas City Women's Political Caucus at the Torch Dinner in 2006, because their 2007 auction event was held in November, 2007, well after the Tiller party.”

Newman says that he looked into Sebelius’ claims that the meeting was auctioned off.

“According to the Greater Kansas City Women's Political Caucus Political Action Committee expenditure reports on file with the Kansas Governmental Ethic Commission, auction receipts benefited the PAC, yet there is no evidence of any contribution from George Tiller, his wife, Jeanne, or his abortion clinic Women's Health Care Services in 2006 or 2007,” said Newman.

"Sebelius' office arrogantly believes that they can keep her strong ties to Tiller a secret, but their efforts to keep the truth from the public have only exposed their corruption,” Newman claimed.

"Sebelius would not be governor today if not for Tiller's financial support. She owes him her career. Every agency in Kansas that could hold Tiller accountable for illegal late-term abortions, from the Board of Healing Arts to the Kansas Supreme Court to the Attorney General, are all laced with Sebelius appointees. It is little wonder that they all have done nothing but stall and obstruct efforts to prosecute him.”

Operation Rescue also says it has obtained a receipt that shows that the State of Kansas paid for the April 9, 2007, dinner with George Tiller. Responding to queries about the state footing the bill on Wednesday, Gov. Sebelius said that the reception was reimbursed by the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus. Upon examining the caucus’ financial records Operation Rescue says no such reimbursement exists. 

Archbishop of Kansas City Joseph F. Naumann has called Dr. George Tiller “perhaps the most notorious late-term abortionist in the nation.”  In a May 9 column in his archdiocese’s newspaper The Leaven, the archbishop asked Governor Sebelius to refrain from receiving Holy Communion until she publicly repudiates her support for abortion. In the same column he specifically lamented reports that Sebelius’ campaign has accepted donations from Tiller and his political action committees.

Archbishop Naumann has reaffirmed his actions concerning the governor in a more recent issue of The Leaven.

Governor Sebelius is considered a possible vice-presidential candidate for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama. As a white woman, it is believed she would appeal to voters that would vote for Obama rival Sen. Hillary Clinton.

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Pope’s World Youth Day itinerary released

Sydney, Australia, May 29, 2008 (CNA) - The organizers of World Youth Day have released a partial itinerary for Pope Benedict XVI’s time at the international youth event.

Pope Benedict will meet with several officials of the Australian government, including Governor-General of Australia, Major General Michael Jeffery; Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd; New South Wales Governor Marie Bashir; and New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma.

 He will arrive at the Richmond Royal Australian Air Force Base on Sunday, July 13, after which he will spend a few days resting.  His official welcome into Sydney will happen at Sydney Harbor and Barangaroo on July 17 at 2:45 in the afternoon.

On July 18, the Holy Father will preside over a re-enactment of the Last Supper during the Stations of the Cross. The re-enactment will take place on the steps of St. Mary’s Cathedral in spite of security concerns raised by the police.

A spokesman for World Youth Day, Jim Hanna, told the Sydney Morning Herald that police had advised the organizers “not to advertise the Pope's appearance because of the restricted capacity of Cathedral Square, not because of fears of an assassination attempt”, as other media outlets reported.

Before the final Mass on Sunday, July 20, Pope Benedict will be flown over Centennial Park and Randwick Racecourse in a helicopter.

His schedule also includes a private lunch with 12 young people, a meeting with disadvantaged youth, and meetings with Christian leaders and leaders of other faiths.

“His Holiness has a very full schedule on his first visit to Australia,” said Bishop Anthony Fisher OP, Coordinator of World Youth Day.  “He has requested specific meetings in order to connect with the full range of Australian youth and the youth of the world.

“As a Head of State, he will also be conducting several official meetings with civic leaders,” he said.

To see a more detailed itinerary released by the Holy See's Press Office click here or visit .

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Catholic hospital’s nurses vote against joining pro-abortion union

Fresno, Calif., May 29, 2008 (CNA) - Nurses at a Catholic hospital in Fresno have voted against joining a pro-abortion nurses’ union by a vote of 452 to 327.

The California Catholic Daily reports that nurses at St. Agnes Medical Center had debated whether to choose the California Nurses Association to represent them in labor negotiations. 

Association president Deborah Burger personally observed the voting and the nurses’ association leaders had even brought a cake to celebrate the victory they expected.

The California Nurses Association had a large staff of paid, professional organizers working to win the vote.  The association represents more than 60,000 nurses and has annual revenues of $60 million.  The association could have collected nearly $1 million in annual dues had St. Agnes nurses voted to join.

Last year a group of St. Agnes nurses began a self-funded effort to oppose association organizers, citing the organization’s pro-abortion agenda.  On May 15 nurses rallied against joining the association, saying the organization’s values conflicted with those of a Catholic hospital.  They cited the association’s support even for partial-birth abortion. 

St. Agnes Hospital chaplain Father Henry Williams also spoke out against abortion and urged nurses to consider the organization’s abortion position in deciding their vote.

“Some of the views of CNA just didn’t gel with the views and philosophy St. Agnes has and that was a huge concern for many of the voters,” Inge Schlegel, one of the nurses opposing the California Nurses Association, told KMPH-26 television news after the election.

Representatives from the California Nurses Association said they would challenge the results of the latest election, which had a 94 percent turnout.  The medical center’s nurses had previously rejected association representation in 1998 by a margin of only six votes. 

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Algerian archbishop calls on Muslim government to free convert to Christianity

Rome, Italy, May 29, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Emeritus Henri Teissier of Algeria has called on that country’s government to free Christian convert Habiba Kouider, who was arrested on April 1 for “practicing a non-Muslim religion” and is facing a three-year prison sentence requested by prosecutors.
According to Vatican Radio, Kouider was found with a Bible and was detained by police.  “I hope Habiba Kouider will be released since the judge in the case has expressed a different opinion from that of the prosecutor,” the archbishop told the El Kabar newspaper.
Ghechir Boudjema, president of the Algerian League of Human Rights, told Radio France Internationale that Kouider has done nothing illegal.  “It is a good ruling because (the judge) said the police and prosecutors made a mistake by bringing charges against Habiba Kouider,” he said.  There is no law in Algeria that forbids owning a religious book such as the Bible or the Koran, he added.
In the same city of Tiaret, six Algerian Protestants have been accused of proselytism and were arrested as they left a home where they had met for prayer. Prosecutors are asking for the men to be sentenced to two years in prison for “practicing a religion in an unauthorized place.”
Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs, Bouabdallah Gholamallah, said the group was acting “outside the law” and was seeking to “constitute a (Christian) minority in order to support foreign interference in the internal affairs of Algeria.”

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