Archive of June 5, 2008

Bishop Oscar Cantú receives prayerful welcome to San Antonio at vespers, ordination

San Antonio, Texas, Jun 5, 2008 (CNA) -

As Bishop Oscar Cantú prepared to become the youngest Catholic bishop in the United States and San Antonio’s newest auxiliary bishop, Archbishop José H. Gomez presided over a vespers prayer service June 1 at San Fernando Cathedral.

During the ceremony, 41-year-old Bishop Cantú made a profession of faith and took an oath of fidelity. He professed his faith in all the truths the church teaches and promised his fidelity to the Holy Father and to the universal church. He promised to give special attention to his co-workers in ministry, the priests, deacons and religious in the archdiocese. Finally, he promised to promote the dignity of the lay faithful.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Archbishop Gomez blessed Bishop Cantú’s ring, miter and crosier that he wears as signs of his episcopal ministry.

Bishop Cantú was ordained auxiliary bishop the following day, June 2, at St. Mark the
Evangelist Church.

In his homily, Archbishop Gomez, the principal consecrator of the celebration, called the episcopal ordination a moment of great significance in the life and history of the Lord’s church.

“But it is also something deeply person,” the archbishop explained. “I’m sure my brother bishops here tonight share my experience – that our ordination to the episcopacy was a definitive moment in our lives. I am touched by moving memories of my ordination.”

Archbishop Gomez said that Pope Benedict reminded the bishops during his U.S. visit that their mission is to promote the encounter with the living God. “This becomes your mission now too my brother,” the archbishop told Bishop Cantú. “It is first given to the apostles. Through my hands, the Holy Spirit will anoint you preacher, apostle, and teacher.”

“Take courage, my brother!” proclaimed Archbishop Gomez. “You must answer our Lord’s call with Christian valor. You are not being given a spirit of fear or timidity. You will receive a spirit of power and love. The power and strength of God. This is the flame, the gift of God, you must keep. And what is this power, my brother? It is the power of the cross.”

Following his homily, Archbishop Gomez proclaimed the prayer of consecration. Then the archbishop and the two co-consecrating bishops placed their hands on Bishop Cantú, followed by Cardinal DiNardo and all of the attending bishops and archbishops. Next the new bishop’s head was anointed with holy chrism.

Archbishop Gomez then presented Bishop Cantú with the Book of the Gospels and other symbols of his office. With the words, “Receive this ring, the seal of fidelity: adorned with undefiled faith, preserve umblemished the bride of God, the holy church.” Bishop Cantú then received his episcopal ring, followed by his miter, and the crosier.

Near the conclusion of the celebration, Bishop Cantú addressed the congregation.
“The history of the Archdiocese of San Antonio is one that involves a strong Catholic presence in this geographical region, and the fruits of the church’s missions are still evident today,” said the auxiliary bishop.

In 1836, he explained, most Texas Catholics were Hispanic, while a smaller but significant number were Irish. “These demographics seem not to have changed much in San Antonio,” Bishop Cantu said to laughter from attendees. “Now as I come to San Antonio to serve as auxiliary bishop, I am deeply humbled that my personal history has somewhat mirrored the history of the church in Texas.”

“I ask for you prayers,” he told the congregation, “That I may carry out my ministry in truth and compassions, and that I might continue to model my life on the example of
Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.”

Article provided courtesy of the Archdiocese of San Antonio.  It will be printed in the June 6th edition of Today’s Catholic.

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Assyrian bishop explains his journey into communion with the Catholic Church

San Jose, Calif., Jun 5, 2008 (CNA) - Last month, Bishop Mar Bawai Soro and nearly 1,000 Assyrian Christian families were received into communion with the Chaldean Catholic Church in California.  Bishop Bawai explained the process to CNA, and expressed his hope that other Assyrian churches will also consider uniting with the Catholic Church. 

The Assyrian Church, centered in modern-day Iraq, dates back to the earliest days of Christianity.  Around the fifth century, the Assyrian followers began to embrace the teachings of Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople whose doctrines were condemned by the Council of Ephesus in 431. 

However, at the beginning in the sixteenth century, large numbers of Nestorian Assyrians came into union with Rome, creating the Chaldean Catholic Church which is now larger than the Assyrian Church.

Bishop Soro described the process of coming into communion with the Catholic Church to CNA:  Twenty years ago, many of the Assyrian church’s faithful realized that other than Papal Primacy, there were no theological issues that existed between themselves and the Catholic Church.  He explained that, “the more I studied Catholic theology, the more I became certain that both Churches were basically of the same apostolic faith and practice.”

The Assyrian prelate wasn’t the only one who saw this similarity.  Bishop Soro recalled that, “at the same time, this hypothesis was also pondered upon by the official dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.  The conclusion after twenty years of casual ‘talks’ and official dialogue proved this hypothesis to be correct.”

However, in 2004 the patriarch and bishops “decided to suspend the dialogue with Rome” even though “all obstacles for restoring communion with the Catholic Church (Papal Primacy not included)” were proven not to exist. 

Bishop Soro said that his fellow bishops’ rejection came despite a recognition that there was an agreement between the two traditions. He explained that, “they knew well that the ecclesial patrimony of the Assyrian Church of the East -- canonical, liturgical, and patristic -- recognizes the Primacy of the See of Rome.  Despite the fact that this was my appeal and argument to my church leaders for many years - -be faithful to your tradition and enter the Catholic Communion, i.e., accept the Primacy of the Pope - - they did not listen.”

Instead, in 2005, “they decided both to break the dialogue with Rome and to suspend me from the Assyrian Church of the East.  And so, since 2005, I have been able to rally those Assyrian faithful who became as discontent with their church’s attitude as I was and bring them to understand that the best step to be taken is the restoration of communion with Rome.  In the past two and half years, we gradually paved the way for the historic move to unite with the Chaldean Church.”

Bishop Bar Mawai also spoke of his hope for the rest of the Assyrian Church of the East to unite with Rome.  In an interview with, the bishop stated that while there is a possibility for community, two factors must be considered: time and hard work. 

The prelate explained: “At the present time, some of the anger has to melt away before any realistic attempt is reinitiated.  We are doing all that is humanly possible to reply with compassion and reason to all the accusation and condemnations some of the radical Assyrian groups and individuals are directing at us because of our union with Rome.  We hope that ultimately the truth of God’s work and the message of His forgiving love will prevail over all trials.”

In regards to the second factor, the bishop emphasizes the importance of showing the world, “that church unity is a win/win proposition,” especially for Christians in Iraq.  “The Christian communities out there need all the help and support they can muster.  And, through such unity, for example, Iraqi Christians become more assertive of their commitment to all that will give witness to their Christian character and advance their genuine contribution Iraq.”

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Ontario government has “no confidence” in Toronto Catholic school board

Toronto, Canada, Jun 5, 2008 (CNA) - The Province of Ontario has moved to take control of Toronto’s scandal-ridden Catholic District School Board, with the provincial Minister of Education saying she has “no confidence” in the board.

A special investigation team created by Ontario Education Minister Kathleen Wynne found that board trustees have not stopped their inappropriate use of expenses, the Canadian Press says.  Trustees have allegedly misspent taxpayer funds on items ranging from hotel minibars to a trip to the Dominican Republic.

Last month the trustees voted to relinquish medical benefits to which they were not entitled, give up their monthly car allowances, and seek board approval for future business trips.

The board has also been criticized for not balancing its budget as required by provincial law.

Education Minister Wynne in a statement said, “The board’s actions have called into question the trustees’ credibility, and as a result, I have no confidence in their ability to continue to manage the board’s affairs.

“My actions today will ensure that this board is put back on track so that it can make responsible decisions that are in the best interests of students. Public confidence in this board must be restored.”

Wynne has appointed Norbert Hartman as board supervisor, saying he will take over control of the financial management and administration of the board.  According to Wynne’s statement, a deficit of $5-10 million (CAD) is forecast for the fiscal year 2008-2009.

Archbishop of Toronto Thomas Collins, who is the honorary chairman of the board, has said the board's actions over the past few years “reflect 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.”

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Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor shows youth 'pointers to hope'

Liverpool, United Kingdom, Jun 5, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, on Wednesday addressed an international gathering of youth at the opening of the Big Hope Conference at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool.  Calling young people “remarkably generous and self-giving,” he told them that community, dialogue and a personal, interior spiritual life were “pointers to hope” crucial to human flourishing and to nurturing greater hope for God.

Community, he said, can be one such pointer.  Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor told of his visit to a men’s house for recovering drug addicts in Lourdes.  He said that the house’s community was “a glimpse of the Kingdom of God” and relied totally on providence in its regular life of prayer and work.  Each member supported the others in overcoming their addictions.  He recalled one member told him “We are taught to have a mind to the person beside us in whatever we are doing, whether it is making a meal, or painting a wall, or working in the field. It moves us beyond our self to look at the other.”

The cardinal said, “I think that is something of what young people crave. They need to know that they are loved, that someone is looking out for them. In community they can discover a place of healing, of forgiveness, and the opportunity of a fresh start.”

On the topic of dialogue, he said that Catholics must recognize not all people share our views or even “our deepest convictions.” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor explained that this means “We can recognise people’s differences without saying that our differences are unimportant.  This is precisely why we need to have space in our societies for proper dialogue where nobody is prevented from expressing his or her convictions simply to conform to somebody’s idea of political correctness.”

This dialogue, the cardinal said, included not only dialogue between “people of religion” but also dialogue with people who do not believe. 

“Out of dialogue emerges a commitment to the common good,” he told the youth.  “That common good by far transcends our private goals.”

 He expressed his hope that tomorrow’s leaders “will be people of courage and compassion; people who can combine a passion for truth with the ability to see beyond ideas to the men, women and children who express them.”

The cardinal also emphasized the importance of a “life of interiority” for young people, noting the first words of the Rule of St. Benedict were “Listen, my son.” 

“It is not easy for young men and women, in a world bombarded by noise and rapidly changing pictures, to be able to be silent,” he said.  “To stay sane we need to be able to decide what is worth ignoring and what is valuable.  So silence is a discipline. It is not easy to learn but one which can help in the discernment of sense and non-sense, good and bad, what is peripheral and what is genuine.”

Finally, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said that amid these hopes, we must never forget the greater hope who is God.  He quoted Pope Benedict XVI’s words on hope:

“We need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day.  But these are not enough without the great Hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God Who encompasses the whole of reality and Who can bestow upon us and what we by ourselves cannot attain.  The fact that it comes to us as gift is actually part of hope.”

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Australian government reconsidering ban on foreign aid funding for abortion

Sydney, Australia, Jun 5, 2008 (CNA) - The Australian government is considering overturning a 12-year-old policy prohibiting the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) from funding abortion advice, training and services in developing countries.

Opponents of the policy change say it is driven by domestic ideological concerns rather than requests from aid-receiving nations.  Those supporting a revamp of the current policy claim it harms women in the Asia-Pacific region’s poorest countries, Cybercast News Service reports.

The present Australian policy was instated by the Liberal-National coalition government of former Prime Minister John Howard due to the work of pro-life independent senator Brian Harradine.

There is growing support for the “Harradine guidelines” to be overturned.  A cross-party parliamentary group in May 2007 called the policy “cruel and illogical” and claimed it effectively encouraged unsafe illegal abortions.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Labor government is now examining the issue.  Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, who can lift the restrictions without any legislative action, has asked the Labor caucus to debate the issue and recommend what action to take, if any.

Senator Ron Boswell of the National Party is leading efforts to preserve the regulations.  He asked a Senate hearing on government expenditure whether AusAID recipient countries had requested abortion-related funding.

"The [foreign affairs] department responded that they were not aware of any particular requests to fund abortion related activities," he said.

"Why is the Rudd government even considering funding abortion in its overseas aid programs when Australia has never done so in the past and has not been approached by other countries to do so?"

Boswell said churches and church aid agencies would oppose “any decision to use Australia's overseas aid programs to further the ideological aims of a pro-abortion lobby group at home.”  Boswell predicted a backlash from Christian voters if the policy is changed.

According to Cybercast News Service, Labor lawmaker Bob McMullan said some Australians share Boswell’s view of the policy, but “a large bulk of people” did not feel passionately about it, and others opposed it.

The Harradine guidelines have been compared to the U.S. government’s “Mexico City Policy,” which denies aid funds to non-governmental organizations that promote or perform abortions.

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Pope to convene congress on hope for Diocese of Rome

Vatican City, Jun 5, 2008 (CNA) - The Diocese of Rome will be gathering for three days this coming week to focus on prayer, action and suffering as sources of hope in the light of the Resurrection. Pope Benedict will personally open the conference on Monday.

The Holy Father will inaugurate the congress in the basilica of St. John Lateran, at 7:30 p.m. on Monday June 9. The ecclesial congress will run from June 9-12 and will focus on the theme: "Jesus has risen. Educating for hope in prayer, in action and in suffering."

The Vicariate of Rome, which announced the congress, explains that “pastors, priests, religious and above all lay people and youth from diocesan parishes, associations and movements are all invited to attend.”

Attendees will also reflect on the implementation of the diocesan pastoral programme for the coming year.

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Cardinal Bertone to visit Catholic Church in Belarus

Vatican City, Jun 5, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican’s Press Office announced today that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone will visit Belarus from June 18 – 22.


Cardinal Bertone, who will be visiting the former Soviet republic in his capacity as the Vatican’s Secretary of State, will meet with members of the government, presiding at liturgical celebrations and other moments of prayer in the archdiocese of Minsk-Mohilev and in the dioceses of Pinsk and Grodno. The cardinal will also meet with members of the Belarusian Catholic Episcopal Conference.


Christianity’s presence in Belarus stretches back to the late 10th century when Princess Olga was baptized, and then requested a bishop and priests for her people from the king of Germany.


Since 2000 the Archdiocese of Minsk-Mohilev reports that the number of parishes and believers in Belarus is growing. Catholics have also been able to restore a number of churches as well as build new parishes.

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Sex-ed program violates parents rights, says Argentinean pro-family leader

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 5, 2008 (CNA) - The president of Worldwide Action of Parliamentarians and Leaders for Life and the Family, Senator Liliana Negre de Alonso, warned this week the sex-ed program approved by the Federal Education Council of Argentina violates the fundamental rights of parents.

The contents of the program violate “the constitutional right of parents to participate in the education of their children in conformity with their intimate principles and convictions, violating the private sphere of the family and with that the guarantees conferred by the Constitution and by international agreements.”

Argentina’s Federal Education Council approved a sex-ed program that will be obligatory in all schools, from elementary to high school.

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British official punished for refusing to perform homosexual “weddings”

London, England, Jun 5, 2008 (CNA) - A British civil servant has requested permission from a London labor court to be exempted from celebrating gay “marriages” based on conscientious objection.

Lillian Ladele, a Christian who has worked for sixteen years as a local official in the London suburb of Islington, said presiding at such ceremonies would go against her faith.

Ladele told the Catholic weekly magazine The Tablet, “My Christian conscience prevents me becoming an active part in marrying a gay couple. I am not trying to prevent such marriages taking place, because I have many colleagues who would be prepared to do that.”

Ladele had previously avoided performing the ceremonies by having co-workers fill in for her, but since the government enforced a law last December, which overrules religious objection to gay marriage, this has become impossible, SIR news agency reports.

Since Ladele refused to comply, her salary was reduced and she and was prevented from celebrating any kind of marriage.

Gay marriage was introduced in the United Kingdom in 2004 and is considered equivalent to traditional marriage.

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Bishops call for stop to implementation of Education for Citizenship

Madrid, Spain, Jun 5, 2008 (CNA) - The bishops of the dioceses of Galicia in northern Spain are defending the rights of parents to “determine the moral education of their children” and are calling for the implementation of the school course Education for Citizenship to be stopped.


In preparation for the next school year, the bishops issued a statement reiterating “the teaching that the Bishops’ Conference of Spain have put forth in various documents” on the course and said that among the rights that make freedom and peace possible in society is “the right of parents to choose the kind of moral and religious foundation they want for their children.”


“The State cannot legitimately impose a moral formation of the consciences of students apart from the free choice of parents, as is the aim in the course Education for Citizenship and in the decrees that develop it,” the bishops explained.


They also noted that “students cannot be forced to understand and adhere to fundamental values through a legal imposition by political powers and that this does nothing to ensure peaceful coexistence.”


The Education for Citizenship course, which was created by the Spanish government, promotes abortion, homosexuality, gender ideology, atheism and secularism. It is mandatory for all students and the government has refused to allow parents to withdraw their children from the classes.

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Tunic from Divine Child statue stolen from Venezuelan church

Caracas, Venezuela, Jun 5, 2008 (CNA) - A gold embroidered tunic used to decorate a statue of the Divine Child Jesus has been stolen from the Basilica of St. Teresa in the Venezuelan capital Caracas.  Msgr. Adan Ramirez, who is rector at the Basilica, said the incident proves “there are no values or respect for God.”
On Tuesday several people broke into the church and stole the tunic from the statue. They also carried off jewels left by the faithful in thanksgiving for favors received and the weekly collection.

“This is not theft against the pastor or the Basilica, but rather against the faithful who often give up something or make sacrifices in order to fulfill their promises,” Msgr. Ramirez said.

He said the tunic has incalculable religious value and that what happened was “a sign of the social decomposition we are experiencing.”  “There is constant theft and prostitution outside our church,” he lamented, and therefore the robbery “is a sign that there is no respect for anything or anybody.”

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Gangs attack Vietnamese protestors in church-government property dispute

Hanoi, Vietnam, Jun 5, 2008 (CNA) - Police in the Vietnamese province of Ha Tinh have begun using street and motorcycle gangs to threaten and attack Catholic protesters who are seeking the return of lands confiscated by government authorities in the 1950s.

Earlier this month, after receiving no response to their series of petitions for the return of their parish lands, hundreds of parishioners from the village of Ke Mui gathered before the People’s Committee of Huong Son District.  Leaders of the protests were told that the local government owns the land in dispute and that the land would be returned only if the parishioners paid a “huge amount” of money.

J.B. An Dang told CNA that parishioners refused to accept the terms offered to them and continued their protests. The next day, groups of gangs were brought to the site in police trucks. The gangs attacked the protestors, beating them and chasing them away.

The protestors returned the following day for a silent sit-in protest and again street gangs were called in to end the protest.

The Catholic activists called off their protests because of the violence.  Even then, motorcycle gangs were sent to Ke Mui.  Storming into the village in large numbers, they surrounded and verbally attacked the parishioners. One parishioner, Mrs. Phung Thi Lieu, injured her rib when she was hit by a motorcycle.

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Mugabe backers detain diplomats from U.S. and Britain

Harare, Zimbabwe, Jun 5, 2008 (CNA) - A group of British and American diplomats traveling to a meeting with the Zimbabwe opposition was stopped at a roadblock and attacked by both police and President Robert Mugabe’s “war veterans” in Zimbabwe on Thursday.  The diplomats were held at gunpoint for several hours after the incident, which has provoked international outcry.

Five American and four British diplomats left Harare on Thursday morning in a three-vehicle convoy to meet with activists from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the town of Bindura, The Times Online reports.

The house in which they were meeting was surrounded by police, who told the diplomats to report to a local police station.

The diplomats apparently refused and drove away.  Soon afterwards, their convoy was blocked by an unmarked truck manned by war veterans loyal to President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.

U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee told CNN about the confrontation.

"My people were stopped, detained," he said. "The police put up a roadblock, stopped the vehicles, slashed the tires, reached in and grabbed the telephones from my personnel. And the war veterans threatened to burn the vehicles with my people inside unless they got out of the vehicles and accompanied the police to a station nearby."

Sky News reported that two of the vehicles escaped, though one did not. A U.S. spokesman said that an American Embassy employee, thought to be a local staffer, was taken from the car and beaten. 

The detained diplomats were later released.

Addressing the incident, Ambassador McGee called Zimbabwe a “lawless society” and said there was a campaign of intimidation coming “directly from the top.”

“This is the co-ordinated campaign to try to intimidate us and people into not witnessing what’s happening in Zimbabwe,” he said.

The White House has denounced the incident as an "outrageous" and "completely unacceptable" attack. Downing Street said that the Zimbabwean ambassador to Britain has been summoned to the Foreign Office to explain the attack, the Times Online says.

According to Reuters, Zimbabwe's currency plunged to a new record low on Thursday, trading at an average 1 billion to the U.S. dollar on a recently introduced interbank market and triggering massive price increases. In February Zimbabwe’s inflation rate was officially reported to be the highest in the world at 165,000 percent. Analysts say the inflation rate reached as high as 1.8 million percent in May.

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