Albany, N.Y., May 30, 2008 (CNA) - The state of New York has announced that it will recognize homosexual marriages legally performed in other states and countries.
A memo from legal counsel David Nocenti to Governor David Paterson says that state agencies, including those governing insurance and health care, must immediately recognize same-sex marriages legally contracted outside of New York, the governor’s spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
The memo is based upon a February 1 decision from judges on the New York Appellate Division which said there was no legal impediment to recognizing the unions. The appellate judges ruled that the state legislature may prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages contracted abroad, but they said until the legislature acts, such marriages are “entitled to recognition” in the state.
In response to this decision, Gov. Patterson issued a directive that asks agencies to recognize same sex marriages just as they would any other marriage. The directive does not legalize homosexual marriage, but Governor Paterson called the measure “a strong step toward marriage equality right here in our state,” according to the Associated Press.
Homosexual marriage is not legal in New York. The Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, has said it can only be legalized by the legislature.
Massachusetts is currently the only U.S. state that recognizes same-sex marriage. Its residency requirements would bar New Yorkers from marrying there. California will begin performing same-sex marriages on June 17, barring further action from its state Supreme Court.
Toronto, Canada, May 30, 2008 (CNA) - As the Toronto Catholic District School Board works to avoid being taken over by the provincial government, the Archbishop of Toronto has rebuked the board for losing public trust, poorly representing the Catholic community, and falling “far short” of expected standards.
The board has been strongly criticized from many sides for excessive spending on meals, alcoholic drinks, and vacations, the Toronto Sun says. Controversy over such expenses and an unbalanced budget has prompted the provincial government to consider taking control of the board.
On Tuesday night, as the trustees opened the first of two special meetings working to avoid a takeover, Archbishop of Toronto Thomas Collins sent a two-page letter to the trustees regarding the situation.
Archbishop Collins, who is the honorary chairman of the board, said "This board's actions over the past few years reflects poorly on Catholic education, and on our whole Catholic community." Such actions, he said, “fall far short of the standard expected of any board exercising a public trust.”
The archbishop endorsed the Hartmann report, which blasted board trustees for voting to give themselves large medical benefits, taking large car allowances and double billing the board for expenses. Archbishop Collins said the report was a “thorough, fair and excellent report outlining with painful but most fruitful clarity the actions of the board and its members," actions that he said “fall far short” of the standards of public trust.
Archbishop Collins said the board can learn both from the history of Catholic education in Toronto, including its past failures.
"This is no time for fruitless recrimination, or divisive bickering,” he said. “Only selfless pursuit of the common good of the children can restore the trust that has been lost."
Madrid, Spain, May 30, 2008 (CNA) - The organization Padres en Accion has sent more than 862 new objections to the controversial school course Education for Citizenship to the city of Madrid, making the total number of objections filed nearly 7,000.
The school course has not yet been implemented in Madrid. Officials have set 2010 as a deadline for implementing the government-sponsored subject.
According to Professionals for Ethics, Padres en Accion is one of the organizations charged with promoting objections to Education for Citizenship. Spokesman Celia Cuevas said the group has stepped up efforts to inform parents about the course in recent weeks by setting up kiosks on street corners, visiting schools and going door to door.
“Parents object to the course Education for Citizenship because it is mandatory and is an attempt to form the moral consciences of students according to the ideology of the government currently in power,” Cuevas said, noting that such action violates the Spanish Constitution, which recognizes the rights of parents to educate their children according to their own moral and religious convictions.
According to Professionals for Ethics, “The campaign in support of objecting to Education for Citizenship has only just begun, and in the coming months the number of objections is expected to multiply. In addition, parents who object are waiting for the Madrid Community to publish norms on what type of instruction children who are exempted from the class for reasons of conscience will be receiving.”
Madrid, Spain, May 30, 2008 (CNA) - The Spanish Evangelical Alliance issued a statement this week supporting a proposal by the United Left Party in Congress to eliminate religious symbols from all official ceremonies of public institution and entities.
The proposal was defeated in a joint effort by the ruling Socialist Party and the more conservative Popular Party. Socialist Party spokesmen said that although they did not oppose the measure on principle, they felt the process should be “gradual” and “determined by a law.”
In their press release, the Alliance, which represents a small minority of Christians in Spain, insists that “public ceremonies (State ceremonies and others), as a rule, should not have any religious character, much less one that is ‘mono-confessional’.” By “mono-confessional” the Alliance is referring to Catholicism, the faith practiced by the majority in Spain and that is recognized in the country’s Constitution for its historical importance.
The Protestant group also wants religious symbols to be stripped from prison, hospital, airport and cemetery chapels, or at least that “mono-confessional (Catholic) religious symbols be moveable,” so that the chapels can be available to any religious group.
The Alliance also supports the United Left’s campaign to revoke the accords between Spain and the Holy See, and “if they can’t be annulled, they should at least be substantially modified.”
Mexico City, Mexico, May 30, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico has sent a message to Catholics urging them to courageously defend the unborn as a decision by the country’s Supreme Court looms on the constitutionality of a law allowing abortion in Mexico City.
In their message, the bishops recalled, “Our people have the right to a life in full, proper to the children of God, with more humane conditions: free from the threats of hunger and all forms of violence.”
Life is a “wonderful gift that God has given us that Catholics, believers, men and women of good will are called to care for and defend,” they said.
After pointing out the “spiral of violence resulting from the drug cartels” and encouraging the work “of authorities to combat this scourge,” the bishops called on Mexicans not to turn a blind eye to the problem, as any effort to successfully address it will require “the collaboration of all of society.”
“Respect for human life must begin at the moment of conception and continue to natural death, and therefore we have followed with great interest the public arguments being held by the Supreme Court related to the constitutional challenges to the law that legalizes abortion up to the twelfth week in Mexico City,” the bishops said.
“We believe that the arguments presented by different disciplinary fields have enriched this debate in which the common denominator is concern for life, that of the unborn and that of the mother,” they added.
The bishops expressed their gratitude for the pro-life marches that have taken place around the country in recent weeks. The prelates encouraged pro-lifers to “intensify their work in the formation of consciences that appreciate, respect and promote life.” They said such marches should continue. “We are with you, be not afraid. The Church is called to be an advocate of justice and a defender of the poor and defenseless,” the bishops stated.
Vatican City, May 30, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican's Press Office released the Holy Father's prayer intentions today for the month of June.
Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for June is: "That all Christians may cultivate a deep and personal friendship with Christ, in order to be able to communicate the strength of His love to every person they meet."
His mission intention is: "That the International Eucharistic Congress of Quebec in Canada may lead to an ever greater understanding that the Eucharist is the heart of the Church and the source of evangelisation."
Vatican City, May 30, 2008 (CNA) - During his visit to Russia, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity met with Holiness Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow, and delivered a message from the Holy Father. In his letter, Pope Benedict highlighted the similarities of the two Christian religions and expressed gratitude for the dialogue between the two churches.
The Pope writes that Cardinal Kasper’s visit to Russia provides a timely opportunity for the Pontiff to extend his greetings to the Russian Orthodox Church, “to express my esteem for your ministry in the Russian Orthodox Church and to restate my appreciation for your commitment to fostering relations between Catholics and Orthodox."
"It is with joy that I reflect on the experience of growing closeness between us, accompanied by the shared desire to promote authentic Christian values and to witness to our Lord in ever deeper communion.” To emphasize this point, the Pope recalled the “recent visit of Your Holiness to Strasbourg and Paris, and the warm welcome given to the Catholic archbishop of the archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow during the Christmas celebrations last year.”
"Another sign of fraternity and friendship towards the Catholic Church is to be seen in the invitation extended to Cardinal Kasper by His Eminence Kirill, metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, to visit that eparchy on the occasion of his name-day. This is not only a sign of personal goodwill, but also a gesture towards the Catholic Church which Cardinal Kasper represents."
Additionally, the Pope mentions that the cardinal will visit Kazan to venerate the icon of the Mother of God that Pope John Paul II sent to Alexis II. “This icon represents a strong closeness between us” and “also provides an opportunity to encounter Muslims, who show great respect for Mary, the Mother of God.”
After reiterating his gratitude to Alexis II for his dialogue with various religions, the Pope concluded with a final blessing. "May the Risen Savior grant you health, peace and inner joy, and may he bring us closer to each other, that we may undertake together our journey towards full communion in Him."
Vatican City, May 30, 2008 (CNA) - The Year of St. Paul is fast approaching and in preparation for the celebrations of the Apostle to the Gentiles, permission has been given for a Mass for the Feast of St. Paul’s conversion to be celebrated on a Sunday.
Normally, feasts that occur on Sundays are moved to a week day since Sundays are reserved for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. However, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has issued a decree today authorizing the celebration of a Mass on January 25, 2009, for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
The decree is signed by Cardinal Francis Arinze and Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith, respectively prefect and secretary of the congregation. In the decree they explain that the authorization has been given because of the Pauline Year, due to be inaugurated by the Holy Father on June 28, 2008 to commemorate the 2000th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul.
Vatican City, May 30, 2008 (CNA) - Bishops from the afflicted country of Myanmar visited with Pope Benedict at the Vatican today, as they concluded their “ad limina” journey. In his time with the bishops, the Pope expressed his pleasure at the increase in religious vocations and the involvement of the laity in their country.
As he began his address to the bishops, Pope Benedict brought to mind that, "the Church in Myanmar is known and admired for its solidarity with the poor and needy.” Cyclone Nargis has made this “especially evident," he told the prelates.
"During these difficult days, I know how grateful the Burmese people are for the Church's efforts to provide shelter, food, water, and medicine to those still in distress," he said, assuring the bishops that the Universal Church "is joined spiritually with those who mourn the loss of loved ones.
In what was perhaps a reference to the government restrictions on foreign aid, the Pope also prayed that, “God open the hearts of all so that a concerted effort may be made to facilitate and co-ordinate the ongoing endeavor to bring relief to the suffering and rebuild the country's infrastructure.”
The charity and generosity of the Church in Myanmar, the Holy Father said, "shines forth in a particular way through the religious life. ... I am pleased to note that an increasing number of women are responding to the call to consecrated life in your region."
Benedict also said he was happy to see that, "Similar signs of hope are seen in the rising number of vocations to the priesthood. These men are both 'called together' and 'sent out to preach' to be examples of faithfulness and holiness for the People of God.” The Holy Father encouraged the prelates of Myanmar "to continue making the necessary sacrifices to ensure that seminarians receive the integral formation that will enable them to become authentic heralds of the new evangelization."
The laity’s “generous and prompt response” is also integral to the spreading the Good News, the Pope said. “They too are in need of a robust and dynamic Christian formation which will inspire them to carry the Gospel message to their workplaces, families, and to society at large."
During their meeting the bishops presented the Pope with a report on the Church in Myanmar that mentioned "the enthusiasm with which the laity are organizing many new catechetical and spiritual initiatives, often involving great numbers of young people." Benedict XVI told the bishops that the young must be reminded “to turn continually to the nourishment of the Eucharist through participation in the liturgy and silent contemplation."
The Holy Father also expressed his "sincere gratitude" to the prelates for their “faithful ministry in the midst of difficult circumstances and setbacks often beyond your control."
The bishops left their audience with the Pope with his reminder that, "Paul exhorts us to keep our gaze fixed on the glory that awaits us so as never to despair in the pain and sufferings of today."
Vatican City, May 30, 2008 (CNA) - The Holy See’s Press Office has released the full itinerary for Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to World Youth Day, which will take place July 15-20.
He will arrive at the Richmond Royal Australian Air Force Base at 9:15 a.m. local time on Sunday, July 13, after which he will spend three days resting in private.
On 17 July Pope Benedict will begin his World Youth Day activities by celebrating a Mass in private. He will then 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.
Following a brief display of traditional Aboriginal dances and songs, he will then board the ship "Sydney 2000" for his official welcome to Sydney at 2:45 in the afternoon.
On July 18, the Holy Father will again begin the day with a private Mass after which, at 10:30 a.m., he is due to participate in an ecumenical meeting in the crypt of St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney before going on to meet with representatives of other religions in the cathedral chapter.
Also on Friday, the Pope will have lunch with a group of young people and then following lunch he will proceed to the square in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral where he will begin the Way of the Cross with a prayer.
At 6:45 p.m. he will also meet a group of disadvantaged young people at the Sacred Heart church of Notre Dame University.
At 9:30 a.m. on Saturday July19, Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass in St. Mary's Cathedral with Australian bishops, seminarians and novices, and consecrate the building's new altar. Having had lunch with the bishops, that evening he will travel to the Randwick Racecourse to preside at a prayer vigil with young people.
Sunday will see the Holy Father arriving at the Randwick Racecourse in a helicopter to preside over Mass for 23rd World Youth Day and to recite the Angelus at noon. At 6 p.m. on the same day, he will deliver an address to the benefactors and organizers of World Youth Day in the chapter house of St. Mary's Cathedral.
The final day of the Pope’s itinerary will begin with a private Mass, followed by a trip to The Domain in Sydney where he will meet with the 23rd World Youth Day volunteers and bid farewell to the youth. He will then go directly to Sydney's international airport, where he will be greeted by the authorities before departing by plane for Darwin. After a brief stopover, his flight will proceed to Rome where the Holy Father is due to arrive at around 11 p.m.
“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.
Brasilia, Brazil, May 30, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of Brazil issued a statement yesterday deploring the approval of law that allows research with human embryos and underscoring its firm commitment to the defense of life from conception to natural death.
The Brazilian bishops’ response came in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that upheld the law which allows “the use of embryos created through in vitro fertilization and that have been frozen for more than three years in fertility clinics.”
The bishops noted the issue was “not one of a religious nature but rather of the promotion of human life,” and they underscored that life, which begins “at fertilization,” should be protected “in all circumstances.”
The embryo is “a human life,” as confirmed by “embryology and biology, and therefore the human embryo has the right to be protected by the State.”
“The fact that it is in vitro or in the mother’s womb does not diminish or increase this right. It is sad that the Supreme Court has not confirmed this clear right and has allowed human embryos to be destroyed,” the bishops said.
“Contrary to public opinion, embryonic stem cells are not the remedy for curing all illnesses. The more viable alternative for this scientific research is the use of adult stem cells, taken from the patients themselves, which have already benefited more than 20,000 people with different types of treatments for degenerative illnesses,” they explained.
“We reaffirm that the mere fact of being in the presence of a human being demands full respect for his integrity and dignity: any behavior that could constitute a threat or an offense to the fundamental rights of the human person, the first of which is the right to life, is considered gravely immoral,” the bishops stressed.
Chicago, Ill., May 30, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, has responded to a Chicago priest’s comments deriding Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton and advocating the candidacy of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, her opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination. Cardinal George said he regretted the remarks, calling them a partisan “political attack.”
Father Michael Pfleger spoke on Sunday at Obama’s Chicago church, Trinity United Church of Christ, saying Senator Clinton cried in public before the New Hampshire primary because she thought being white entitled her to the nomination, according to a video posted on YouTube.
"And then, out of nowhere, came 'Hey, I'm Barack Obama,'" Pfleger said at the church. "And [Clinton] said, 'Oh damn, where did you come from? I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show!' "
The priest’s energetic speech started a controversy after a video of it was posted on YouTube. The video has since been removed from the video sharing site.
Cardinal Francis George in a statement published on the Archdiocese of Chicago’s web site said the Catholic Church does not endorse political candidates.
“Consequently, while a priest must speak to political issues that are also moral, he may not endorse candidates nor engage in partisan campaigning,” Cardinal George said.
“Racial issues are both political and moral and are also highly charged,” he continued. “Words can be differently interpreted, but Fr. Pfleger’s remarks about Senator Clinton are both partisan and amount to a personal attack. I regret that deeply.”
The cardinal said that Father Pfleger has promised him that he will not “enter into campaigning” or publicly mention any candidate. The priest also promised to “abide by the discipline common to all Catholic priests.”
On Thursday evening Father Pfleger apologized for his remarks. The priest said in a statement posted on his church’s web site, "I regret the words I chose on Sunday… These words are inconsistent with Senator Obama's life and message, and I am deeply sorry if they offended Senator Clinton or anyone else who saw them."
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, commented on the priest’s remarks and his apology.
“Father Pfleger’s tirade would be inexcusable anywhere, but it is even more offensive when it happens in a church,” Donohue said. “It does not matter that it was not his own, nor does it matter that it happened in a church that has a record of allowing demagogues to exploit it. When churches become forums for political rallies, both religion and the First Amendment are corrupted.”
Donohue said Father Pfleger and Obama have had “long-standing ties,” claiming that as a state legislator Obama had secured state monies for social programs at Father Pfleger’s parish, St. Sabina’s Church. Donohue also questioned Obama’s choice to associate with the priest, who Donohue said has had a “troubling history.” He cited the priest’s “welcoming” of anti-Semitic preacher Louis Farrakhan to speak in his parish and his remarks at an anti-gun rally urging the crowd to hunt down a gun store owner “like a rat” and “snuff” him.
Obama rebuked Father Pfleger’s remarks, saying in a statement, “As I have traveled this country, I've been impressed not by what divides us, but by all that that unites us. That is why I am deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger's divisive, backward-looking rhetoric, which doesn't reflect the country I see or the desire of people across America to come together in common cause.”
Prior to the controversy, the Obama campaign’s web site included laudatory remarks from Father Pfleger and identified him as pastor of St. Sabina’s Church. The priest said he was concerned by poverty, justice, education, and heath care and he advocated the end of the war in Iraq. He said:
“The faith community has to be a prophetic voice to bring us to where we ought to be as a country. Its voice should call every individual to be their best and not assimilate into anything less. Obama is calling back those who have given up and lost hope in the political system both young and old in the belief that we can fix it. He has the intellect for the job and I haven’t heard anyone since Robert F. Kennedy who is causing such an emotional and spiritual awakening to the political possibilities.”
The Obama campaign has removed Father Pfleger’s remarks from its website.
Vienna, Austria, May 30, 2008 (CNA) - In response to a report in the Italian daily “La Repubblica” that Cardinal Christoph Schönborn could become the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the spokesman for the Archdiocese of Vienna, Erich Leitenberger, said on Stephanscom Austrian Radio that the rumor was unfounded.
On May 25, La Repubblica published an article by Marco Politi in which he offered a “general analysis” of the General Assembly of the Bishops’ Conference of Italy. Commenting on the rumor about Cardinal Schönborn, Politi said a personnel change at the Vatican was possible but that “until the Pope has signed off” on any changes, “everything is subject to question.”
The German daily Der Standard, picking up on the report in La Repubblica, said that if Cardinal Schönborn were to take the post, Cardinal Levada would have to return to the United States.
In response to the speculation, the spokesman for the Archdiocese of Vienna, Erich Leitenberger, said on May 27 that “the rumor has been brought up numerous times” and “has no basis in reality.”
Ibadan, Nigeria, May 30, 2008 (CNA) - Suspected assassins invaded the home of Archbishop Alaba Job on Wednesday night, wielding guns and demanding to see the archbishop. Before leaving, the unknown attackers injured the archbishop’s private secretary, Father Victor Amole, and two security guards.
The archbishop, who heads the Archdiocese of Ibadan, is also chairman of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Nigeria.
The Catholic Information Service for Africa reports that the intruders made several attempts to find the archbishop. When they failed to find him, they beat the three men and took three laptops.
It is unclear whether the assailants were assassins or armed robbers.
Archbishop Alaba has been involved in a property dispute with a prominent Ibadan politician. The politician has reportedly ignored a court order and resorted to “jungle justice” to force the Church out of its property.