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Archive of June 12, 2008

Archbishop of Baltimore asks Legionaries to report area activities

Baltimore, Md., Jun 12, 2008 (CNA) - Edwin F. O’Brien, the Archbishop of Baltimore, has written to the Superior General of the Legionaries of Christ, Monsignor Alvaro Corcuera Martinez del Rio, asking the leader of the prominent religious order to identify all Legionary-associated clergy, ministries, apostolates and youth programs in the archdiocese. The archbishop also asked Father Alvaro to impose certain restrictions on vocations promotion in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Some critics of the Legionaries of Christ have said that the order recruits people under age 18 for vocations and doesn’t explicitly identifying groups and apostolates associated with the order.

In his June 6 letter to Father Alvaro, Archbishop O’Brien noted the importance of ecclesial movements and communities and the calling of bishops to “reach out to those groups with love.” He then made several specific requests from Father Alvaro.

The archbishop first requested that the superior general appoint a priest by June 13 to be liaison from the Legionaries of Christ to the archdiocese. The archbishop said the liaison should be knowledgeable about the Baltimore-area activities of the Legion and its affiliated association Regnum Christi, which is an apostolic movement that includes laymen and women as well as deacons and priests.

Archbishop O’Brien then detailed the requests he will make of the Legion’s liaison.

First, the liaison will need to report to his office the names and ministry sites of all Legionary Priests in his archdiocese. Second, the archbishop asked that the contact be able to identify all Regnum Christi groups and all Legionary or Regnum Christi youth programs in the archdiocese and also report their “activities, meeting locations and schedules, membership rolls and methodologies for gaining new members.” He further asked that the liaison identify all other Legionary or Regnum Christi ministries and apostolates in the area, including their activities and frequency thereof.

Saying that the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life is an “important duty” of the Church, the archbishop wrote that he wishes to ensure that such promotion is “carried out in a way that respects the rights of parents in the upbringing of their children and the rights of young persons themselves to be able to make free and fully informed decisions about their futures.”

To this end, the archbishop asked that “ongoing and individual spiritual direction” not be given to those under the age of 18 “to avoid any undue sense of vocational obligation.” He said the Legionary liaison should notify the archdiocese of all of the order’s summer programs, including the names and addresses of participants under 18 years old. The archdiocese, Archbishop O’Brien said, will then give that information to the participants’ pastors.

Archbishop O’Brien also asked that the archdiocese’s vocations director be notified of all candidates for the priesthood and religious life who plan to attend the Legionaries’ high school seminaries or boarding schools. The archbishop said the vocations director will review such information with the parents and pastors of these candidates.

Citing the “deep commitment” of the Legion and Regnum Christi to their mission and charisms, he asked that every six months the liaison share with the archbishop the “long- and short-range planning goals and objectives” of the order’s groups as they relate to the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

In a statement Jim Fair, Communications Director for the Legionaries of Christ, said that Father Alvaro Corcuera and Archbishop O’Brien had a meeting on June 6 in which they had a “fruitful and substantive discussion” laying the groundwork for the Legion’s continued ministry in the archdiocese.

“They were able to clarify issues and came up with concrete points that we will work on,” the statement said. “We would hope that all Regnum Christi members will also see this as an occasion to love and serve the Church,” Fair said.

“We look forward to supporting the Archbishop’s efforts to spread the Gospel in this great and historic Archdiocese. We pray for Archbishop O’Brien and Fr. Alvaro, that the Lord may bless them abundantly for the tremendous leadership they give to us.”

Sean Caine, Communications Director for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, was also contacted by CNA for comment, but he was not available before press time.

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Kenyan bishops mourn deaths of two MPs

Nairobi, Kenya, Jun 12, 2008 (CNA) - Catholic bishops joined other Kenyans in mourning the deaths of two cabinet members who, along with a security officer and a pilot, died when their light aircraft crashed in southwest Kenya on Tuesday afternoon.

Roads Minister Kipkalya Kones and Assistant Minister in the Office of the Vice President Lorna Laboso were killed en route to Kericho to oversee an election in Konoin Constituency on Wednesday. The Catholic Information Service for Africa reports that the constituency’s former Minister of Parliament was shot and killed earlier this year.

“We send our sincerest condolences to their families, their constituents, their colleagues and the Government of the Republic of Kenya”, the bishops said in a media statement signed by John Cardinal Njue, the Chairman of the Kenya Episcopal Conference.

“We are praying for the souls of the deceased and all those who have been left behind.

“As Kenya continues to nurture the path of peace and reconciliation, let’s take comfort in each other and remember that in times of sorrow and joy we remain a family," the bishops said.

Both officials were also Ministers of Parliament and members of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), which joined the Party of National Unity to form a governing coalition. Two other Kenyan MPs, also members of the ODM, have died since the nation’s controversial December 27 election.

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Catholic evangelist is semifinalist for ‘Keep Going’ Hall of Fame

Evans City, Pa., Jun 12, 2008 (CNA) - A Catholic author and evangelist, who is suffering from cancer, is a semifinalist for Energizer’s Keep Going Hall of Fame because of his charitable work supporting orphans overseas.

Thomas Rutkoski, a resident of Evans City, Pennsylvania, was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable blood and bone cancer in 2005. In 2006, he founded Abode for Children, a non-profit organization that provides food, clothing, shelter and values-based education to children suffering from poverty and disease. The organization runs two large orphanages in Nigeria and India, respectively.

After becoming convinced of the need for someone to help the poor children he met in the two countries, Rutkoski made the decision to underwrite Abode for Children largely with sales from his four books:  “Apostles of the Last Days,” “Miracles and How to Work Them,” “Great Divide” and “My Scriptural Rosary.”

Rutkoski was a fallen-away Catholic for 27 years. He was a photojournalist for a Pittsburgh television station when his work took him to Jerusalem where he believes God began his journey to conversion. After later visiting Lourdes and Fatima, he gave up his television career to travel the world and tell people how God changed his life.

In 1990, to fulfill a promise he made to Christ in gratitude for his conversion, he founded Gospa Missions, a Catholic nonprofit foundation dedicated to evangelization and humanitarian efforts. Gospa is Croatian for Our Lady. The mission now includes worldwide retreats, conferences, prison ministry, healing ministry, speaking engagements, publishing and humanitarian efforts.

The semifinalist is also a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus and has served as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and as a member of his parish council.

Rutkoski and 99 other semifinalists contending for a place in the Keep Going Hall of Fame will be entered into a second phase of the contest in which judges will choose ten finalists. One winner will be chosen from the ten finalists by a public vote beginning June 12 on the energizer.com web site.

The Hall of Fame winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize plus a $5,000 donation to the winner’s favorite charity. The winner will also be formally honored at an induction ceremony in August in St. Louis, Missouri.

According to a press release from Energizer, the Keep Going Hall of Fame was created in 2006 as a way to share the stories of people “who live every day with the same spirit as the Energizer Bunny.” The Energizer Bunny is a toy drum-playing rabbit used in battery advertisements bearing the slogan “It keeps going and going.”

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Be witnesses of integrity and holiness, Pope encourages bishops

Vatican City, Jun 12, 2008 (CNA) - This morning at the Vatican, Pope Benedict welcomed bishops from Bangladesh and spoke to them about the need to continue forming the faithful in their care as well as the need to be witnesses of the faith to non-Christians.

"Personal integrity and holiness of life are essential components of a bishop's witness… Bishops are called to be patient, mild and gentle in the spirit of the beatitudes,” the Holy Father reminded the visiting prelates. "In this way they lead others to see all human realities in the light of the Kingdom of Heaven.”  

The Pope explained that this vision is important for Bangladeshi Catholics to see because, “Many of your people suffer from poverty, isolation or discrimination, and they look to you for spiritual guidance that will lead them to recognize in faith, and to experience in anticipation, that they are truly blessed by God."

Thorough training in how to effectively transmit the faith was also a concern of Pope Benedict since well trained catechists are essential for preparing lay people to receive the Sacraments. “This is especially true in the increasingly important work of preparing young men and women to recognize the Sacrament of Matrimony as a life-long covenant of faithful love and as a path to holiness,” he said.

"I have often mentioned,” the Pope added, "my concern regarding the difficulty modern men and women have in making a lifelong commitment. There is an urgent need on the part of all Christians to reassert the joy of total self-giving in response to the radical call of the Gospel. One clear sign of this radical commitment is seen in the many vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life the Church in your country is currently experiencing."

Addressing the Bangladeshi bishops as his “dear brothers," Benedict XVI spoke of how much they are able to offer their nation through their efforts to inspire tolerance, moderation and understanding. “By encouraging people who share important values to co-operate for the common good, you help to consolidate your country's stability and to maintain it for the future.”

Pope Benedict then turned his attention to religious atmosphere of Bangladesh.

Interestingly, the Holy Father described dialogue between the various religious groups in the country and the Catholic Church as an "essential component of the Church's mission 'ad gentes'.” While saying that sharing the Gospel with non-Christians is a delicate task, the Pope noted that it “cannot fail to have a positive influence on the social climate of your country.”

This inter-religious dialogue cannot be entered into without a “thorough preparation of clergy and lay people, first of all by offering them a deeper knowledge of their own faith and then by helping them to grow in their understanding of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and the other religions present in your region," the Holy Father said.

As a final note, Pope Benedict reminded the bishops of the Pauline Year, which will commence on June 28, 2008. This year, he said, "will be for the whole Church a renewed invitation to announce with unfailing courage the Good News of Christ Jesus. ... I am aware of the difficulties of this mission entrusted to you. Like the first Christians, you live as a small community among a large non-Christian population. Your presence is a sign that the preaching of the Gospel, which began in Jerusalem and Judea, continues to spread to the ends of the earth in accordance with the universal destination the Lord willed for it."

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Cardinals Foley, Brady and DiNardo appointed to positions by the Pope

Vatican City, Jun 12, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI announced a large number of appointments to the various Vatican congregations and councils on Thursday. Among the English speaking prelates who received appointments were Cardinal John Foley, Cardinal Sean Brady and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.

The following is the list of appointments made by the Holy Father:

- As a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa, Italy.

- As members of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco Vicente, archbishop of Valencia, Spain; Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa, Italy; Cardinal Theodore-Adrien Sarr, archbishop of Dakar, Senegal, and Cardinal John Patrick Foley, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

- As members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"; Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the papal basilica of St. Peter's in the Vatican, vicar general of His Holiness for Vatican City and president of the Fabric of St. Peter's; Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and Cardinal Raffaele Farina S.D.B., archivist and librarian of Holy Roman Church.

- As members of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, France; Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa, Italy; Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and of the Governorate of Vatican City State, and Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

- As members of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, Cardinal Theodore-Adrien Sarr, archbishop of Dakar, Senegal; Cardinal John Njue, archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya; Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches; Cardinal John Patrick Foley, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum."

- As members of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Cardinal John Njue, archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya, and Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum".

- As a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Cardinal Raffaele Farina S.D.B., archivist and librarian of Holy Roman Church.

- As a member of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Spain.

- As a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Spain.

- As members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Sean Baptist Brady, archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

- As members of the presidential committee of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Agustin Garcia-Gasco Vicente, archbishop of Valencia, Spain, and Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, France.

- As a member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum."

- As a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston- Houston, U.S.A.

- As a member of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

- As a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and of the Governorate of Vatican City State.

- As a member of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and of the Governorate of Vatican City State.

- As members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega, archbishop of Monterrey, Mexico, and Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

- As members of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church, Cardinal Sean Baptist Brady, archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, and Cardinal Raffaele Farina S.D.B., archivist and librarian of Holy Roman Church.

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Turkish bishops move up beginning of Pauline Year to June 22

Rome, Italy, Jun 12, 2008 (CNA) - The official Vatican daily “L’Osservatore Romano” has reported that the bishops of Turkey have decided to move up the beginning of the Pauline Year in that country to June 22.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, will celebrate a Mass on that day, and symposium on the writings of St. Paul as well as a national pilgrimage to Tarsus, Antioquia and Ephesus will take place until June 24.

In order to welcome visitors, the Church in Turkey has asked the government for permission to celebrate Mass and prayer services at the ancient Church of St. Paul in Tarsus, which today is a museum.

“Antioquia is the city that saw the birth of the first Christian communities,” the LOR report continued. “Here for the first time in history, the disciples of Christ were called Christians.  And in the same place where the first disciples of Christ met to pray, there is today a small Christian community made up of a dozen Catholic families and a considerable number of Arab-speaking Greek Orthodox Christians, who meet to share their faith and to grow spiritually.”

Msgr. Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, told the LOR, “We bishops think there are elements in the letters of the apostle that could be particularly useful for our communities that live as a religious minority.”

“A situation exists similar to that of the first communities of the diaspora, which makes us more conscious of our identity,” he said.

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Bishops to analyze Mass attendance, recent data on U.S. Catholic Church

Orlando, Fla., Jun 12, 2008 (CNA) - Today the U.S. bishops are gathering to discuss current issues relating to the American Catholic Church at the spring meeting of the United States Conference of Bishops.  In addition, CARA, a Georgetown-based research center will present findings from its study, “Sacraments Today: Belief and Practice Among U.S. Catholics.”

 

Over the course of their two day meeting in Orlando, the bishops will discuss a variety of pertinent topics to the American Catholic Church such as embryonic stem cell research, updates on the sexual abuse scandal, and the new translation of the Proper of the Seasons of the Roman Missal. 

 

Not to be overlooked amidst the high profile issues are two presentations from the well-known research groups Pew and CARA, which will help the bishops take the pulse of the Catholic Church in the U.S.

 

Pew will present their U.S. Religious Landscape Survey and CARA, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, will provide the bishops with an overview of their study, “Sacraments Today: Belief and Practice Among U.S. Catholics.”

 

CARA Senior Research Associate, Dr. Mary Gautier explained to CNA that their 178-page study “points out some of the issues regarding belief and practice in the Church today.”

 

In regard to the state of the Catholic Church today, Gautier said that “Mass attendance has been stable at about a quarter of Catholics attending Mass weekly or more.” 

 

Gautier further explained that the percentage of Catholics attending Mass has remained stable over recent years.  Though the researchers had expected Mass attendance to drop due to the sexual abuse scandal, they found it to remain constant throughout the recent turmoil, she said.

 

The report adds that older Catholics are more likely than younger Catholics to attend every week.  Reasons that Catholics do not attend weekly Mass were listed as: an “issue of schedules, health, or other responsibilities, while for others, the reason is related to their attitudes about their faith.”  

 

Another finding of the report was that 80 percent of those who attend Mass weekly are: “proud to be Catholic, believe sacraments are essential to their faith, and think of themselves as practicing Catholics.” CARA also reports that those who attend Mass less frequently “are less likely to agree with these statements.”

 

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Holy See to send decree of approval to leaders of Neocatechumenal Way

Rome, Italy, Jun 12, 2008 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council for the Laity will send the official decree approving the statues of the Neocatechumenal Way to founders Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez on Friday, June 13, at 11a.m., the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano reports.

The Pontifical Council for the Laity described the significance of the approval in a statement saying, “The definitive approval of the statutes undoubtedly constitutes an important stage in the life of this ecclesial reality, established in Spain in 1964.  This approval required consultation at various levels.  During the ad expermientum period of approval of the statutes, the Council had the chance to witness the great contribution the Neocatechumenal Way makes to the new evangelization through a catechetical-liturgical praxis, [that has been] esteemed during its more than forty years of existence.”

“Therefore, after an attentive review of the text of the statues and after implementing some modifications that were considered necessary, the Pontifical Council for the Laity decided to grant definitive approval to the statues,” the statement continued.

“The statues of the Neocatechumenal Way, approved now in definitive form, deserve to be supported as a valid instrument at the service of this ecclesial reality, so that it may continue contributing to the good of the entire Church.”

Cardinal Stanyslaw Rylko will deliver the decree to the founders, and at 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon, leaders of the Neocatechumenal Way will hold a press conference at their headquarters in Rome.

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‘Word of God’ to be focus of document for bishop’s synod

Vatican City, Jun 12, 2008 (CNA) - Today the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, presented the “Instrumentum laboris” (working document) to be used by prelates at the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will be held October 5 – 26.  The document focuses on the ‘Word of God’ and the life it brings to the Church.

Archbishop Eterovic explained that the assembly, with the theme, "The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church,” will focus on two main points.  “The first is the previous Synod on the Eucharist, and the second is the Pauline Year which will begin on June 28." 

The Pauline year will undoubtedly “arouse a renewed missionary drive in the Church, for the benefit of all humanity. The center of such dynamism remains the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist," he said.

The working document introduced by Archbishop Eterovic is divided into three parts: (1) The Mystery of God Who Speaks to Us; (2) The Word of God in the Life of the Church; (3) The Word of God in the Mission of the Church.

The first section begins by exploring the term ‘Word of God’ before reflecting on its relationship with “Tradition, Scripture and the Magisterium.” 

The document goes on to explain how the Word of God participates in the life of the Church.  “The ministry of the Word, which has various modes of expression, finds a privileged place in liturgical celebrations.”

The archbishop said that the second section also emphasizes the necessity “to exercise particular care over the liturgy of the Word, the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful, which are essential parts of the Mass."

Archbishop Eterovic then examined part three which begins by reiterating “the Church's mission to proclaim the Word of God” through the process of “evangelization and catechesis." The section then goes on to explain the importance of the Word of God for inter-religious dialogue, especially Islam.  "Sacred Scripture is an important bond of unity with other Christians.  There exists a special relationship uniting Christians and Jews, with whom they share a large part of Scripture."

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96 year-old activist is pride of Caritas Valencia volunteers

Valencia, Fla., Jun 12, 2008 (CNA) - Ninety six year-old Clotilde Veniel is the oldest Caritas volunteer in the Spanish Archdiocese of Valencia.  She visits the sick and the elderly at their homes in the town of Bicorp. According to the AVAN news agency, “Veniel has been a member of Caritas in Bicorp since it was founded in 1989 and she helps make pastries for the poor.”

“The sick people in our town always want her to come and visit,” AVAN reported.  She tries to “encourage them and talk to them about God and tell them to have faith and hope in Him.”

“Helping others is a great joy, because I can contribute to alleviating peoples’ suffering. It’s something my parents, who were very devout Catholics, taught me,” she said.  “My six brothers and sisters and I were very close, we learned to share and to support each other in difficult times,” she recalled.

For years, Veniel worked as a maid in Barcelona to help her parents.  She has two children and was widowed two years ago. She lives alone because, “thanks be to God I can still take care of myself.”

According her pastor Father Joaquin Civera, Veniel is “an affectionate woman, and she has a great sense of humor and extraordinary vitality and cheer.”  He administers to her the Anointing of the Sick at the annual Mass for the infirm each year, because “this sacrament is not only for those who suffer an illness, but also for older people, which is why Clotilde receives it.”

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Argentinean archbishop says drop in birthrate needs urgent attention

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 12, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata warned this week that the fall of the birthrate is “an urgent and very serious problem,” and that “it is not only a cultural, social and political issue, but also an ethical and religious one as well.”

In his television program, “Keys to a Better World,” the archbishop commented on a study published in Italy entitled, “Why We Should Have More Kids. The Consequences of the Drop in Births.”

After recalling the 40th anniversary of the publication of Humanae Vitae, the archbishop said Paul VI’s letter dealt with “a problem that was already resolved in the moral tradition of the Church.”

“In that encyclical the Pope warned about the consequences that would follow from the alteration of married life and the family order.  One of them is what the countries that have entered a sort demographic winter are experiencing,” the archbishop added.

He lamented that the Pope’s famous letter was not heeded like it should have been.  “Even within the Church herself it was disputed and many tried to discredit the Pope’s message in it.”

Archbishop Aguer suggested the encyclical be re-read, because the problem of the fall of the birthrate requires a “reformulation of the Christian conscience” and renewed adherence to “this norm of the natural order.”

“Marriage was made not only for the union of the two persons involved but also for the transmission of life.  The unitive and the procreative meanings of the conjugal act cannot be dissociated from each other with impunity,” the archbishop stated.

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Parents should defend children from ideological imposition, says Spanish cardinal

Madrid, Spain, Jun 12, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, encouraged parents to defend their children from the ideology the State is seeking to impose with the course Education for Citizenship, which all students will be required to attend in the region of Castilla-La Mancha starting next fall.

“Parents and schools, teachers and leaders of Catholic schools have the duty to defend your children and demand that they be given what is inalienably theirs by right. Your duties and rights must be respected.  That is how a democratic society and true coexistence is built,” the cardinal wrote in a pastoral letter to mark the end of the school year.

He noted that the Spanish Constitution protects the right of parents to choose the kind of moral education they wish their children to receive and their right to religious and ideological freedom.  For this reason he encouraged them to act with “lucidity, truth, responsibility and freedom,” in accord with their duties and rights.

“The State cannot legitimately impose any kind of formation on the moral consciences of students outside the free choice of you, their parents,” he said.  Catholic schools cannot allow Education for Citizenship to be taught because they would be going against their own philosophies. The State cannot force them to do so because it would be violating the right to freedom of education and of religion.”

“Public schools, for their part, by imparting this course, would lose their obligatory ideological neutrality, if they imposed on students a moral formation that was not freely chosen” by parents, the cardinal continued.

He thanked local officials for their willingness to discuss the issue, but he called on the governments of Castilla-La Mancha and Extremadura to continue working to find just solutions that “effectively respect and guarantee the rights of parents.”

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Students prep more than 275,000 World Youth Day backpacks

Sydney, Australia, Jun 12, 2008 (CNA) - Over 2,500 high school student volunteers are packing more than 275,000 backpacks for World Youth Day pilgrims at a packing center near Sydney. So far, over 200,000 have already been packed.

The backpacks contain items such as World Youth Day 2008 books, a pen, a bandana, a ‘Pilgrim Passport’ containing vouchers for McDonald’s and stores at Sydney Airport, a clip-on koala, tattoos, a poncho, a kinetic flashlight and a thermal blanket.

Each backpack also contains a set of rosary beads.

Upon arrival at the center, student volunteers are provided with a brief history of World Youth Day, undergo a short training session in safety procedures, and watch a demonstration of a backpack being packed.

Each student receives a backpack for him or herself at the end of a packing session.

“We are really pleased to have the young people of Sydney playing such an important role in preparing for World Youth Day,” said Geoff Morris, World Youth Day 2008 Director of Pilgrim Services.

“This is the perfect example of how the schools, parishes and wider communities are all coming together for a common cause. That is the whole purpose of World Youth Day,” he said.

Lina Maroun, World Youth Day 2008 Warehouse Coordinator, said on the first day of packing the students exceeded their target of 7,000 backpacks by 1,000. The next day, they packed another 10,000.

“The students now have a really good understanding of the significance of World Youth Day 2008 being hosted in our city. They are so excited to be part of the event preparation,” said Maroun.

Most of the backpacks will be sent to the around 400 accommodation centers around Sydney where pilgrims will stay during World Youth Day. Some backpacks will be sent to Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra for the Days in the Diocese celebrations that occur in the week preceding the event.

About 500,000 people are expected to participate in World Youth Day events between July 15 and 20. The event marks Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to Australia.

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