Glasgow, United Kingdom, Jun 4, 2008 (CNA) - On Wednesday Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of Glasgow, spoke with members of Parliament at a reception at the Scotland Office. In his remarks, he defended the coherence of the Catholic pro-life stand and discussed the proper role of the Church in political debate.
Cardinal O’Brien said his message was pro-life “in the widest sense of those words”:
“A call to give life to those many thousands dying each day through lack of food and drink; by joining in the anti-nuclear campaign and also the campaign for a greater awareness of climate change; by entering into the debate with regard to our present abortion laws and the great moral issues coming to the fore recently with regard to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill.”
Noting that the Church as an institution has contributed to major debates over the centuries, the cardinal said, “We can offer a reminder of the foundational values on which any just society must be built, values which uphold the dignity of all human life, which assert the necessity of supporting family life, of recognizing the limits of subsidiarity and the demands of solidarity.”
Cardinal O’Brien quoted Pope Benedict XVI’s words about politics, saying, “A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church.”
Pope Benedict has further described the role of the Church by saying, “The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time the Church cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument, she has to re-awaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper.”
Abuja, Nigeria, Jun 4, 2008 (CNA) - The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria has called on the Nigerian government to ensure that an international meeting on development not be used as an avenue to legalize abortion. Rather, they say, the meeting should be used to advance human dignity.
The conference’s statement, signed by Archbishop Felix Alaba-Job, exhorted Nigerian public leaders to firmly defend life and family, the News Agency of Nigeria says. The statement said that the upcoming Tokyo meeting of the International Conference on African Development (TICAD) should be focused upon ensuring human security rather than the expansion of legalized abortion.
"Our concern derives from the fact that the Tokyo agenda for action foresees the provision for access to abortion and family planning services,” the archbishop explained.
"There is no doubt that this agenda represents a renewed attack on the dignity of human persons, human life and family values," the bishops’ statement said. It called for public officers to publicly affirm the “inviolability” of human persons.
The bishops’ statement advised that TICAD seek for ways to assist African countries in general, and Nigeria in particular, in securing the prerequisites for development. The bishops said that the TICAD meeting is an opportunity for Nigeria to display its democratic progress and to promote the dignity of the human person.
"Nigerian authorities should declare to the world that population is our strength and provide us with the resources for development," the bishops said.
Vatican City, Jun 4, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict held his weekly General Audience this Wednesday in St. Peter's Square. As he pondered what makes St. Gregory the Great truly deserving of his title, the Holy Father said that his humility is the true measure of his greatness.
Today's general audience marks the second week in a row that the Pope has devoted his address to Gregory the Great. The Holy Father devoted his remarks today to the saint's literary legacy and his goal of constantly presenting the Church's teaching on the ways that lead to the contemplation of God.
"His ‘Homilies on Ezekiel,’ and his ‘Moral Commentary on Job’ present a model of spiritual life which integrates prayer and action. In his Homilies on the Gospels Saint Gregory explained how the preacher's own spiritual experience of Christ should form the basis of his exhortations. The Pastoral Rule describes the ideal Bishop as a teacher and guide who leads by example and adapts his preaching to the specific background of those he addresses," Benedict XVI said.
The Pope also mentioned the great saint's “Dialogues,” a collection of narratives that describe the lives of saints who were contemporaries of Gregory the Great.
"The ‘Dialogues,’ a work full of rich theological and spiritual insights, describe the lives of the saints of Gregory's epoch. In all things he insists on intellectual humility as a key to the meaning of Scripture, and proposes to Pastors and the faithful alike, the continual practice of lectio divina in order to better understand and follow God's will."
The Holy Father touched upon the excellent manner in which Pope St. Gregory carried out the duties of the papal office as well.
"In his heart", the Holy Father added, "Gregory continued to be a simple monk and for that reason opposed the use of grand titles. He wished to be 'servus servorum Dei' (servant of the servants of God). ... Intimately inspired by the humility of God Who in Christ became our servant, ... he was convinced that a bishop must imitate such humility."
"Pope Gregory defended the prerogatives of the See of Rome, but with humility as the servant of the servants of God, and respected the rights of other Pastors, especially the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria. May the life and teaching of Saint Gregory guide and inspire us on our way to the joyous contemplation of God in eternity!"
Although Gregory's wish had been "to live as a monk in permanent communion with the Word of God," Benedict XVI explained that, "for His love he became the servant of everyone in a time full of tribulation and suffering; he became the servant of the servants. This is why he was 'Great' and shows us the measure of true greatness."
In his remarks to the faithful in Polish, the Holy Father recalled a more recent reformer, Blessed John XXIII, who passed away 45 years ago this week.
Pope John XXIII, Benedict noted, convened the Second Vatican Council, which began the renewal of the Church, and the reform of the Church's structures and liturgy. During the audience, the Pope also prayed that the renewal will bear fruits in all the faithful and in the whole Church in the Third Millennium.
After the catechesis, Pope Benedict greeted pilgrims in many languages, including English.
"I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today, including the groups from England, Australia, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Canada and the United States.
I extend special greetings to the group of Episcopalian pilgrims from Jerusalem, and to the many student groups present at this audience. May God bless you all!"
Chicago, Ill., Jun 4, 2008 (CNA) - The controversial Catholic priest who recently caused Barack Obama to leave his church, has been placed on temporary leave by Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago.
In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, Cardinal George said that he has asked Fr. Michael Pfleger to take leave from his duties as pastor at St. Sabina’s Parish for “a couple of weeks” effective as of Tuesday. The time away is to help Fr. Pfleger “put recent events in some perspective,” the cardinal said.
Fr. Pfleger, Cardinal George said, “does not believe this to be the right step at this time.”
But Cardinal George disagreed with the embattled pastor, saying, “While respecting his disagreement, I have nevertheless asked him to use this opportunity to reflect on his recent statements and actions in the light of the Church’s regulations for all Catholic priests. I hope that this period will also be a time away from the public spotlight and for rest and attention to family concerns.”
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, additionally, the 59-year-old pastor was instructed to move out of the rectory during his two-week leave.
Fr. Pfleger’s temporary suspension comes after he delivered a sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, in which he made fun of Hillary Clinton crying just before the New Hampshire primary and said that she was shocked by Sen. Barack Obama’s performance in the primaries because she felt entitled to win since she is a white woman.
A group of parishioners from St. Sabina’s reacted to the news by holding a service on Tuesday night with Rev. Jeremiah Wright in attendance. The group of parishioners called for Fr. Pfleger’s reinstatement and a meeting with Cardinal George, according to the Associated Press.
In his statement about Fr. Pfleger taking leave, Cardinal George said that he hopes “that the life of St. Sabina’s parish may continue in uninterrupted fashion.” He also added that, “Fr. William Vanecko, Pastor of St. Kilian’s parish, will be temporary administrator of St. Sabina’s and will assure the full complement of ministerial services during this period. I ask the members of St. Sabina’s parish to cooperate with him and to keep him and Fr. Pfleger in their prayers. They are in mine.”
Rome, Italy, Jun 4, 2008 (CNA) - One year after the murders of Father Ragheed Ganni and Deacons Basman Yousef Daoud, Ghasan Bidawid and Wahid Hanna, Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk has said, “We need peace and reconciliation. That’s what we hope will come from this sacrifice.”
In comments to Vatican Radio, the archbishop said he was close friends with Father Ragheed, who was his student in Mosul. He said the other companions that were killed as well as the Archbishop of Mosul (who was kidnapped and killed earlier this year) “give us great hope and comfort. They died a martyr’s death because for us that’s what they were.”
He said that while there are “many dangers and problems” in Iraq, “we also have much hope in the Lord.”
Speaking about the ongoing exodus of Christians from Iraq, Archbishop Sako said the Church in Iraq and its neighboring countries needs to develop a ministry to “help Christians and their families return.”
He pointed to the northern cities of Iraq as places where Christians can find greater security and employment opportunities. The diminishing number of Christians “is a great loss for us,” he said, “and also for Muslims, because of our openness and our moral and Christian testimony.”
Archbishop Sako renewed his “heartfelt” plea that Christians in Iraq not be forgotten and stressed that the Church and the government have a duty to help minorities to stay in the country and to protect their religious, ethnic, cultural and social patrimony. All of this is a great treasure.”
Church of martyrs
Auxiliary Bishop Shelmon Warduni of Baghdad told the SIR news agency that there was hope that the murders committed a year ago by Muslim extremists would be the last, “but that has not been the case. We had others like Archbishop Rahho, who celebrated at the funeral of Father Ganni. Less than a year later he suffered the same fate. We also remember all the other priests and faithful who lost their lives violently,” he said.
“The Catholic Church in Iraq is becoming a Church of martyrs, but we should not lose hope. Their blood can bring fruits of peace and security for all of Iraq. The example of these martyrs should strengthen our faith. For Iraq, but also for the rest of the countries in the region, the exodus of Christians is a disaster,” Bishop Warduni said.
He noted that there has been some slight improvement in the situation, with some Christian families returning. Even though the seminary and the Church of San Giacomo were recently ransacked, “hope still sustains us,” he said.
Father Ragheed Ganni and Deacons Basman Yousef Daoud, Ghasan Bidawid and Wahid Hanna were killed on June 3, 2007, after celebrating Mass. Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was kidnapped on February 29 of this year and found dead on March 13.
San Francisco, Calif., Jun 4, 2008 (CNA) - The California Supreme Court has denied requests to stay its May 15 decision instituting homosexual marriages until after the November 2008 election.
The court also denied rehearing petitions by a 4-3 vote.
The Campaign for California Families and the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund had petitioned for a delay citing the confusion that would be created if a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman succeeds in November.
The Liberty Counsel, which filed the request on behalf of the Campaign for California Families, argued that, “A stay would avoid the circus-like atmosphere that occurred in 2004 when 'same-sex marriage' licenses were issued by San Francisco and then later voided. The Amendment would similarly overrule this Court’s decision and nullify the licenses issued between the end of June and November."
The attorneys general of Utah, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Carolina and South Dakota had also submitted a request for a stay, arguing the new marriage law would excessively burden other states when same-sex couples legally married in California try to force other states to recognize their unions.
The state Supreme Court said its May 15 decision will become final on June 16 at 5:00 p.m.
Rome, Italy, Jun 4, 2008 (CNA) - Germany may open its doors to Iraqi Christians fleeing from persecution by Muslim extremists if the countries of the European Union vote to refuse to do so.
Germany’s Commissioner for Immigration Affairs, Maria Boehmer, told the website ankawa.com that “members of the Christian minority are regularly threatened by Muslim gangs and heads of families are forced to convert to Islam or leave the country in 24 hours.”
“Quick action is necessary considering the grave crisis of human rights in the region,” she said. “The situation is worsening for non-Muslim refugees in Jordan and Syria who have escaped persecution.” The SIR news agency reported that some countries of the EU consider helping Christians to be “discrimination against Muslims who leave Iraq.”
In response to the criticism, Boehmer said, “We must begin by helping those who are in the worst condition,” including religious minorities, women who are alone and children—“people who do not have the possibility of returning to Iraq and don’t know how to live.”
Rome, Italy, Jun 4, 2008 (CNA) - Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Relations and top negotiator for the country’s entry into the European Union said this week there is no religious freedom even for Muslims in the country.
Chancellor Ali Babacan told the EU Commission for International Affairs in Brussels that Muslims in Turkey “can’t practice their faith either,” after members of the commission expressed their concern over the limits on religious freedom experienced by Christian minorities in Turkey.
Babacan is a member of the Party of Justice and Wellbeing, a Muslim-inspired movement that has been in power since 2002.
London, England, Jun 4, 2008 (CNA) -
British police said they will not apologize to two Christian preachers who were threatened with arrest by a Muslim police officer for preaching Christianity in Muslim communities in the city of Birmingham.
According to the Telegraph, the incident occurred last February when Christian ministers Arthur Cunningham and Joseph Abraham were handing out leaflets and speaking with four Muslim youths about Christianity in Birmingham. Naeem Naguthney, a Muslim police community support officer told them to cease-and-desist from preaching to Muslims and threatened to charge them with a “hate crime.”
"He said we were in a Muslim area and were not allowed to spread our Christian message," Cunningham told the Telegraph. "He said we were committing a hate crime by telling the youths to leave Islam and said that he was going to take us to the police station."
Abraham, an Egyptian-born Muslim who converted to Christianity, told the Telegraph his experience confirms Anglican Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali's controversial statement that parts of Britain have become "no-go" areas.
Algiers, Algeria, Jun 4, 2008 (CNA) - Four Algerian citizens who converted to Christianity have been condemned to prison and heavy fines, while two others were set free after renouncing their conversion. According to the AFP, the defense lawyer said the four were charged with “illegally practicing a non-Muslim faith.”
Attorney Khelloudja Khalfoun said one of the converts was sentenced to six months in prison and fined $3,087, while the other three were sentenced to two months in prison and fined $1,544 each.
The four converts, who were condemned by a correctional court in Tiaret, refused to deny their faith, in contrast with the two others who were freed. Kheloudja told AFP that he would appeal the verdict, since only the ones who admitted they had converted were found guilty. “They were judged by the facts themselves, and therefore all should be guilty or all should be freed,” he said.
The group of six converts was sentenced after being arrested for participating in an “illegal” service. According to a law passed in February of 2006 on religious worship in Algeria, places of worship must be designated as such by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
The court that handed down the verdict was the same court that tried Habiba Kouider, who was arrested on April 1 for carrying a Bible and "practicing a non-Muslim religion without a license." International media attention caused the judge to try to relieve some of the pressure by delaying her case and asking for an investigation.
Another correctional court in the city of Tissemsilt will issue a verdict against two other converts to Christianity on June 18, who were arrested on November 20, 2007 and condemned to two years in prison and fines of $7,718. The appealed the verdict and are awaiting the results of the appeal.
Sarasota, Fla., Jun 4, 2008 (CNA) - A Florida Habitat for Humanity affiliate has ceased to cooperate with Planned Parenthood’s attempt to build a new abortion facility in Sarasota, Florida.
Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, wanted to open an abortion clinic in Sarasota, but due to zoning ordinances they were unable to do so. The obstacle seemed to have been overcome when Habitat for Humanity Sarasota agreed to purchase a Planned Parenthood property for $10 and to build housing on part of it.
The agreement would have bypassed city requirements preventing Planned Parenthood from obtaining an occupancy permit. City ordinances required a multifamily “liner” building to be constructed at the back of the property before a clinic could be opened at the front.
On Wednesday morning the American Life League (ALL) reportedly was informed that Board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity of Sarasota, Inc., on Tuesday night voted to withdraw from the agreement.
Writing in a press release, ALL vice president Jim Sedlak said ALL was “extremely pleased” with the board’s decision.
“Organizations must realize that associating themselves with Planned Parenthood – operators of the nation’s largest abortion chain – will be viewed negatively by many good people in this country. Planned Parenthood is a controversial organization and that controversy will transfer to any group associated with Planned Parenthood.”
Sedlak said that ALL had worked with Sarasota-area pro-lifers to publicize the agreement. He said this resulted in a “large number” of phone calls to local and international Habitat for Humanity offices.