Archive of June 17, 2008

Pope Benedict to confirm 24 at World Youth Day Mass

Sydney, Australia, Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will confirm 24 young people at the World Youth Day Final Mass near Sydney on Sunday July 20, it has been announced.

Twenty-four candidates for confirmation, 14 Australians and ten people from other countries, will receive the sacrament that marks the completion of baptismal grace through Pope Benedict.

“It’s not every day that one is confirmed by the global leader of the Catholic Church before hundreds of thousands of people,” said World Youth Day 2008 Coordinator, Bishop Anthony Fisher OP.

“The sacrament is life changing and to receive the sacrament in this way will prove an unforgettable experience, one that they will each carry with them for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Bishop Fisher said the Australian candidates were selected as representatives of their regions by bishops across the country. The Australian candidates range in age from 16 to 43 and are from every state and territory.

“We are absolutely delighted to be able to present them to the Pope for this momentous occasion,” he said.

The ten international candidates are in the final process of selection.

Up to 500,000 people are expected to attend the final Mass at the close of World Youth Day, which will take place from July 15 to 20.

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Anglican priests’ same-sex ‘wedding’ adds to global row

London, England, Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - The recent revelation that two Anglican clergymen exchanged last month vows in a version of a marriage ceremony has renewed the controversy over same-sex unions within the Anglican Communion.

Critics condemned the latest ceremony as blasphemous, saying it also flouted church guidelines.

The ceremony, which used formal rites, took place at St. Bartholomew the Great Church in London in May. It was conducted for Reverend Peter Cowell and Reverend Dr. David Lord, who were already civil partners. According to BBC News, the couple reportedly exchanged vows and rings in front of hundreds of guests.

Reverend Martin Dudley, who conducted the service, said he had not broken any instructions issued by the bishops.

“It wasn't a gay church wedding, it was the blessing of two people who have contracted a civil partnership,” Rev. Dudley said.

"They wanted more than I was able to give - they wanted something more like a wedding. I was not willing to do that because I believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” he told BBC News.

Rev. Dudley said he and the couple had to negotiate the form of the ceremony so that he could say the words of the rite “with integrity.”

The Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Reverend Henry Orombi, told the Sunday Telegraph, “The leadership tried to deny that this would happen, but now the truth is out.

"Our respect for the Church of England will erode unless we see a return to traditional teaching."

Under Church of England guidelines, homosexual priests can enter civil partnerships as long as they remain celibate. The guidelines also say that homosexual couples who ask a priest to bless their partnership must be treated “pastorally and sensitively.”

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Pro-life pharmacies opening around the U.S.

Chantilly, Va., Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - A pro-life pharmacy which will not stock contraceptives will open this August in Chantilly, Virginia, is joining several pharmacies around the country that accommodate workers with objections to distributing contraceptives.

The DMC Pharmacy, located in a shopping plaza near a major thoroughfare, aims to support pharmacists and other health-care workers whose consciences do not allow them to distribute such products, the Washington Post reports. The DMC Pharmacy is an expansion of Divine Mercy Care in Fairfax, Virginia, a nonprofit healthcare organization that adheres to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

"We're trying not to leave our faith at the door," said John Bruchalski, who chairs the group's board of directors. "We're trying to create an environment where belief and professionalism come together."

Bruchalski said that one of the organization's major goals is helping needy, uninsured patients obtain health care. The group also runs the Tepeyac Family Center, an obstetrics-gynecology practice that offers natural family planning instead of contraceptives, sterilization, or abortion.

Other pro-life pharmacies are in operation around the United States.

"We try to practice pharmacy in a way that we feel is best to help our community and promote healthy lifestyles," said Lloyd Duplantis, who owns Lloyd's Remedies in Gray, Louisiana, and is a deacon in his Catholic church. "After researching the science behind steroidal contraceptives, I decided they could hurt the woman and possibly hurt her unborn child. I decided to opt out.”

Conscientious objection by pharmacists has become a flashpoint for the debate surrounding freedom of conscience and reproductive health.

Objecting pharmacists have refused to fill prescriptions for birth control pills, morning-after pills and other forms of contraception, saying that they believe such methods can cause an abortion. Also cited are the beliefs that contraceptives promote promiscuity, divorce, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and other evils.

Women seeking contraceptives claim to be traumatized by pharmacists’ refusals to fulfill their requests, while pharmacists have been fired, fined, or reprimanded for refusing to distribute contraceptives.

Some pharmacists have stopped carrying such products or have opened pharmacies that do not stock any. One organization, Pharmacists for Life International, promotes a pharmacist's right to refuse to fill such prescriptions and supports pro-life pharmacies.

"This allows a pharmacist who does not wish to be involved in stopping a human life in any way to practice in a way that feels comfortable," said Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life.

The group’s website lists seven pharmacies around the country which have pledged to follow pro-life guidelines. Brauer added that the list was “just the tip of the iceberg.” She said the pro-life pharmacies were identical to other pharmacies in all other respects. Some pharmacies, she added, also refuse to sell tobacco or tobacco products or pornography.

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‘Catholic’ mayor celebrates homosexual ‘marriages,’ Catholic bishops express regret

San Francisco, Calif., Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - California went ahead with implementing its Supreme Court’s ruling on homosexual "marriages" on Monday evening. Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, officiated over the ceremony of a lesbian couple to champion what he sees as a victory for the cause of equality.

As was announced by the Supreme Court on June 4, recognition of same-sex "marriages" went into effect at 5:01 p.m. local time. Dozens of gay and lesbian couples waited at county clerks' offices around the state seeking legal validation of their relationships.

Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, who initiated the legal battle that resulted in the state’s decision to strike down its marriage laws, presided at the ceremony of Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 84 at City Hall. The lesbian couple was selected by Newsom because of the length of their relationship (55 years) and his view that they are pioneers of the gay rights movement, according to CNN. 

The ceremony took place in room full of supporters while a small group of people protested gathered outside.

Newsom, who describes himself as a Catholic, credits his activism to the "Catholic formation" he received at the Jesuit-run Santa Clara University in Northern California.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles reacted to the situation by issuing a statement on behalf of seven bishops Monday, saying the Catholic Church "cannot approve of redefining marriage."

Marriage "has a unique place in God's creation, joining a man and a woman in a committed relationship in order to nurture and support the new life for which marriage is intended," the statement said. "The meaning of marriage is deeply rooted in history and culture, and has been shaped considerably by Christian tradition. Its meaning is given, not constructed. ‘When marriage is redefined so as to make other relationships equivalent to it, the institution of marriage is devalued and further weakened’.”

Clerks expect a much larger number of couples to show up on Tuesday to complete marriage-license applications that replace "Bride" and "Groom" with "Partner A" and "Partner B." In San Francisco, more than 600 same-sex couples are reported to have made appointments to get marriage licenses over the next 10 days.

With this latest ruling, California is only the second state, after Massachusetts, to legalize same-sex marriage. 

Shortly after the ruling went into effect the San Diego County-based United States Justice Foundation asked a Sacramento court to order the California agency responsible for marriages to stop the issuance of the new marriage licenses.

Gary Kreep, a representative of the foundation told the AP that his group filed a petition on behalf of five county supervisors from Yuba, Stanislaus, Nevada and Sutter counties. The petition argues the state Department of Public Health failed to hold legally required public hearings on the licenses and that the new licenses cannot be valid until state lawmakers rewrite marriage laws.

The California Supreme Court’s decision could be trumped in November 2008 if California voters approve an amendment to the state’s constitution defining marriage as “between a man and a woman.” The amendment was certified for the ballot on June 2 by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

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Holy Father appoints president for the Pontifical Academy for Life

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - This morning, Pope Benedict appointed Bishop Salvatore Fisichella, current Auxiliary of Rome and the rector of the city's Pontifical Lateran University, as president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. 

Bishop Fisichella, who has also been elevated to archbishop, succeeds Bishop Elio Sgreccia who resigned after reaching the age of 75, the mandatory age for resignation. 

Born in Codogno in Northern Italy on August 25 1951; Salvatore "Rino" Fisichella was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Rome on March 13,1976; was appointed Auxiliary of Rome on July 31, 1998 and was named Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University on January 18, 2002. 

He is also a member of two congregations within the Roman Curia: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. 

Well-known for his dialogue with non-Catholic intellectuals, he was instrumental in the conversion to Catholicism of one of the most noted Italian Muslims, Magdi Alam; who was received into the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict during the 2008 Easter Vigil at St. Peter's Basilica.

He is also recognized for his friendship with controversial Italian writer, journalist and political interviewer Oriana Fallaci, a self-proclaimed agnostic who was known for being strongly opposed to abortion and harshly critical of Islamic presence in Italy.

After Fallaci was diagnosed with cancer, Bishop Fisichella intensified his dialogue with her regarding faith issues and on August 29, 2005, he brought the writer to a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

In the wake of Fallaci's death on September 15, 2006, some Italian media speculated that she had come back into communion with the Catholic Church. Bishop Fisichella, nevertheless, rejected any request to discuss Fallaci's final days, insisting on the author's desire for total privacy.  

The Italian media have described Fisichella as someone "who has always held very strong positions on issues like homosexual unions, abortion and embryonic stem cell research, becoming a frequent participant in television debates on the issue, but never loosing his calmness and great respect for those dissenting with his position."

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Delegates from Vatican conclude visit to Vietnam

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - Three Vatican officials recently returned from a visit to Vietnam in which they met with government authorities and spoke to the Catholic community.  The delegates dealt with various topics including the “appointment of bishops, the gradual restoration of formerly-nationalized property to Church use, the application of norms on religious freedom,” and several other issues of importance in the country.

According to a release from the Holy See Press Office, the delegation which was led by Msgr. Pietro Parolin under-secretary for Relations with States, discussed “the contribution of Catholics to human promotion, the spread of a culture of solidarity towards the weakest sectors of the population, and the moral education of future generations,” during their June 9 – 15 stay in Vietnam.

In one meeting, the Vatican delegation was received by Pham Gia Khiem, deputy-prime minister and minister for foreign affairs. The diplomats discussed “the current international situation with reference, above all, to the seat as a non- permanent member of the U.N. Security Council that Vietnam will occupy for the first time this July.”

The prelates also met with the president of the People’s Committee of Hanoi, and with the vice-presidents of the People’s Committees of the provinces of Lam Dong, Thua Thien Hue and Quang Tri. “With the former, mention was made, among other things, of the events that involved numerous faithful from the archdiocese at the end of last year and the beginning of 2008,” namely the peaceful protests of Catholics to seek the return of the former Apostolic Nunciature to the Catholic Church.

“In this context, consideration was given to the importance of continuing to pacify the situation, avoiding measures that may create contrary effects, and to maintain dialogue between interested parties in the search for adequate solutions that take into account the needs of justice, of charity and of the common good,” explains the release.

The statement also noted that, “The delegation expressed its gratitude to the local authorities of the province of Quang Tri for their decision to return the land around the Marian shrine of La Vang to Church use, and for their will to face, along with the archdiocese of Hue, the outstanding problems for the effective implementation of the decision."

The Vatican trio, along with 2,000 Catholics also attended Mass at the Marian shrine of La Vang.  According to UCA News, after the Mass, one of the delegates “told local Catholics Pope Benedict XVI will send a message and his blessings to devotees at the Marian Congress in August.”

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Five hundred priests threaten to leave Anglican church over female bishops

London, England, Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - The Times of London reported this week that the Anglican Church is facing a new crisis with 500 priests threatening to leave if women are ordained bishops.

The newspaper reported that the priests have said they would leave the Church if the proposal is approved at the next general synod scheduled for July of this year.

Many priests said they feel betrayed by the proposal, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and Archbishop John Sentamu of York have responded by saying they would work for a compromise rather than allow female bishops, even though both are in favor of female clergy.

Fifteen provinces of the Anglican Communion have voted in favor of female bishops, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Central America, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa and the United States.

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Polish lawmaker wants to name Eurocup 2012 stadium after John Paul II

Warsaw, Poland, Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - Polish congressman Artur Gorski has asked the country’s Minister of Sports, Tomas Lipiec, to name the new soccer stadium being built for the Eurocup 2012 tournament in Warsaw after Pope John Paul II.

During a press conference, Goriski said, “The presence of the Holy Father will remind fans of their obligation to behave correctly during sporting events and not riot.”

“There is no other public figure as important as John Paul II,” the congressman said.  His Law and Justice Party has proposed that the venue be called the John Paul II Stadium, the EFE news agency reported.

Construction of the stadium has not yet begun, although officials in Warsaw are confident the venue will be ready in time for the 2012 soccer tournament.

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Vatican recalls life and teachings of Pius XII 50 years after his death

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - The Holy See has announced that it will undertake two initiatives to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of the Servant of God Pope Pius XII: a Congress on his Magisterium and a photographic exhibition of his life.

At a press conference this morning, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, highlighted the Italian Pope’s  1939 – 1958 pontificate as one characterized by his "great stature, especially in spiritual terms, but also intellectually and diplomatically."

The archbishop continued by recalling that several significant historical situations occurred during the pontificate of Pius XII: “the genocide of the Jews, the communist occupation of various Christian nations, the Cold War, new advances of science, and the innovations of certain schools of theology."

The prelate also noted that although many aspects of the pontificate have already been studied, "what remains largely unknown is Pius XII's influence on Vatican Council II." The bishop brought to mind the 43 Encyclicals "which marked his pontificate, and the many discourses in which he examined the most controversial questions of his time.”

In these teachings, Archbishop Fisichella added, one can identify certain features that can be summarized into three points: “firstly the promotion of doctrine, the definition of the dogma of the Assumption in 1950 being particularly memorable; ... secondly defending doctrine and indicating errors." He also recalled that the Encyclical "Humani Generis" (1950) confronts “the serious problem of theological relativism.  Lastly, the prelate added, “Pius XII never failed to make his voice clearly and explicitly heard when circumstances required it."


Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda S.J., rector of Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, spoke of the congress due to take place at the Gregorian and Lateran Universities from November 6 - 8.

The congress, which will be attended by professors from both universities, will be held over two days: the first “will be dedicated to four introductory lectures on the general views of Pius XII and the cultural and historical context in which that great Pontiff developed his Magisterium." The themes will include: "the development of biblical studies, evangelization, religious freedom and Church-State relations, and the social communications media."

The second day will focus on "Pius XII's teaching in the fields of ecclesiology, liturgy and the role of the laity. The afternoon will be dedicated to his vision of relations between the Church and the world, Mariology, medicine and morals and, finally, questions of canon law."

Photo Exhibition

The commemorative photo exhibition entitled “Pius XII: the Man and the Pontificate,” according to Msgr. Walter Brandmuller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, “will illustrate the life of this great and exceptional Pontiff who was already an object of admiration among his contemporaries.”  The exhibit reconstructs the Pope’s life “from boyhood to death, using images (many of them unpublished), as well as documents, personal objects, gifts and clothes: his formation at the Pontifical Roman Athenaeums, his training for a diplomatic career at the Secretariat of State; his mission to Germany (first in Bavaria then in Berlin); his return to the Vatican as secretary of State and, finally, his election to the Pontifical throne."

The exhibition, which will be held in the Charlemagne Wing off St. Peter’s Square October 21 – January 6, 2009, will follow the Pontiff’s life "through contemporary photographs, largely supplied by L’Osservatore Romano, documents and personal effects, provided by his family and by the 'Famiglia Spirituale Opera'."

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Bishops in Argentina issue urgent call for peace amidst farming crisis

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - Several bishops in Argentina have joined together in calling for peace and calm in response to the crisis gripping the agricultural industry in the region.


“In the difficult times we are experiencing, the bishops of the Province of Entre Rios, as pastors, brothers and citizens, call on Christians and all those who profess faith in God, in the diverse religious confessions, to pray with greater insistence and trust in the Lord” for a resolution to the crisis.


“We emphatically call on everyone, authorities, leaders of organizations and the people, to find the path to open, loyal and sincere dialogue, and to be calm in order to overcome the present difficulties,” the bishops said.


At the same time, Archbishop Jose Maria Arancibia of Mendoza called on the Catholics of his archdiocese to “renewed prayer for the country during these difficult moments.”


He stressed that the rule of law consecrated in the country’s Constitution is “the civilized path towards finding solutions to the prolonged conflict that is affecting us all, especially the poor and those excluded.  He prayed to “Jesus Christ and his Mother, the Virgin Mary, for our beloved homeland.”


The bishops’ call for peace comes as strikes have crippled Argentina’s agricultural industry for the forth time in three months as farmers protest taxes being imposed by the government. 

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Religious marriage is sacred act and not a social event, says Mexican archbishop

Guadalajara, Mexico, Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, has called on the faithful to reflect on the meaning of marriage as a sacrament in which the spouses promise before God to love each other and respect each other until death, as opposed to a social event “to show off one’s friends” or “making a show of one’s wealth.”

“For many people weddings are a social celebration, a pretext for showing off one’s friends to others or for making a show of one’s wealth.  It becomes an event that is anything but religious, when for Christians it should be a sacred act” in which God is witness to “the solemn promises to love one other, respect each other and be faithful all the days of their lives,” the cardinal said in an article published by the archdiocesan weekly Seminario.

The cardinal also lamented that “the majority of those who get married are not prepared (for the sacrament) and see religious marriage as a purely social event, and they think mostly about what they will wear and what the guests will wear.” Couples are also concerned about the music, which many times is not sacred, and about having a wedding in another place besides a church, the cardinal lamented.

“Whoever asks for this or falls into this does not have any sense of the religious and is not taking the Sacrament of Marriage seriously, and the difficulties start right there, as they enter and exit marriages in a frivolous manner since they cannot make a profound and serious commitment before God, and that’s why so many families end up in disaster,” he explained.

For this reason, Cardinal Iniguez called on the faithful, especially on young people, to take “the marriage commitment seriously, to think hard before marrying, to chose your partner carefully, because if you get that right, you’ll get your life right, and whoever fails in marriage will fail in everything, especially in the eyes of the Lord, who I hope will bless you.”

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Pro-life leader sees moment of opportunity, launches ‘Pledge of Assent’ for clergy

Front Royal, Va., Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - Father Thomas J. Euteneuer, STL, president of Human Life International, has invited every Catholic bishop, priest, deacon, and seminarian in the world to sign a “pledge of assent” affirming their adherence to Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.

Writing in a press statement, Father Euteneuer said the goal of the pledge was to form a new “generation of assent” to overcome what he called “a whole generation of silence and dissent” that followed the encyclical, which discussed the nature of human sexuality and reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on artificial birth control.

According to HLI’s president, “The generation between 1968 and the present has largely been a generation of dissent. But we see great signs of hope that a younger generation of Catholics who grew up amid the wreckage wrought by not heeding Pope Paul’s warnings is coming of age and recognize dissent from Humanae Vitae and the Magisterium in general for the folly that it is.”

“It is our desire and purpose to tell the world that we will not be silent about this encyclical or its teaching,” Father Euteneuer said. “Nor will we stand by idly when Pope Paul VI’s predictions of cultural and spiritual degradation are manifesting themselves around us in broken marriages, devastated families and pernicious immorality.”

“We believe that the Catholic clergy has a large part to play in turning this situation around, and only a full, conscious and active promotion of the teachings of this encyclical by the clergy will be a force for change in our present culture of death,” he continued.

Fr. Euteneuer explained the timing of the initiative to CNA in an email, saying, “We are doing this at this time because 2008 is the 40th anniversary year of Humanae Vitae’s release by Pope Paul VI. Traditionally, forty years is the span of a generation, and a very significant span of time in biblical tradition. The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert, and Jesus spent 40 days in the desert…”

Momentum for a new generation of assent is part divine and part human, Fr. Euteneuer asserts. “We believe the Holy Spirit is renewing the Church, leading her back to the wisdom of orthodoxy and we want to help Him!”

The signs of this movement are “all around us,” the pro-life leader says.  Among the signs that he sees are “a renewed interest in apologetics among young people and a general rediscovery of the richness of Catholic Tradition. We see a new generation of clergy and seminarians on fire for Christ and His authentic teachings. Again, this is a generation that grew up in the wreckage of dissent. We see the young “rebelling” against what has been bequeathed to them and embracing orthodoxy.”

The “pledge of assent” is part of HLI’s Humanae Vitae Initiative, which commemorates the 40th anniversary of the encyclical.  It can be signed at

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Group calls for amendment to U.S. Constitution to protect marriage

Washington D.C., Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - Reacting to the granting of marriage licenses to homosexual couples in California, the Alliance for Marriage Foundation is calling for the U.S. Congress to pass its Marriage Protection Amendment, which would change to the U.S. Constitution.

According to the foundation, that the California Supreme Court decision that instated homosexual “marriage” proves the need for the foundation’s proposed amendment.

"In the most populous state in the Union, radical activists have convinced judges to ignore the will of the people and to follow the destructive lead of the Massachusetts courts in striking down the common sense definition of marriage," said Matt Daniels, president and founder of the Alliance for Marriage Foundation. “California is now ground-zero in the Battle to Protect Marriage, and the fight in California must now be joined in the Congress.”

The proposed amendment reads: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union between a man and a woman. Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

Marriage amendment proponents say that without such action, couples who contract same-sex marriages in California will return to their home states and attempt to change the laws there.

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Vatican press office director says Pius XII beatification not imminent

Rome, Italy, Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - Father Frederico Lombardi, director of the Holy See’s press office, on Tuesday said that the beatification of Pope Pius XII will not take place in the near future.

The priest spoke at a presentation of November events scheduled to mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s death, ANSA reports.

“The beatifications of Pius XII, as well as John Paul II, remain in the kingdom of the future” Father Lombardi said. “In other words, it is not possible to say with any certainty when they will be celebrated.”

Beatification is the final step before sainthood. When beatified, a person is given the title “Blessed” and may be venerated in the place where he or she lived.

Pope Pius XII’s papacy lasted from 1939 and 1958. Critics allege that Pope Pius was reluctant to speak out publicly against Hitler and the Holocaust, with Jewish circles being particularly outspoken in their criticism.

His defenders say Pope Pius was reluctant to confront Hitler because of fears of further backlash against the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, in June of last year said the critical view of Pope Pius XII “is now so firmly rooted that people just ignore evidence to the contrary.”

“He is falsely painted as indulgent with Nazism and insensitive to the fate of their victims... whereas many documents and witnesses show this idea is totally groundless,” Cardinal Bertone said.

Last May, according to ANSA, cardinals voted to recognize the “heroic virtues” of the wartime Pope, a requirement for beatification. Pope Benedict XVI has not yet approved the beatification.

Earlier this year, Vatican officials formally denied that plans to canonize Pope Pius XII have been postponed.

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German Lutherans consider election of first openly homosexual bishop

Berlin, Germany, Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - The Lutheran Church in Germany could elect its first openly homosexual bishop, prompting claims that the move would alienate many Christians and open new divisions in the Lutheran Church.

Horst Gorski, a senior cleric from Hamburg, being considered for the post of bishop of Schleswig in northern Germany against Gerhard Ulrich, a senior cleric from the Schleswig area, according to Reuters. The post will become vacant in September.

According to Reuters, Gorski is a widely respected theologian who has helped set up a center for gay and lesbian Lutheran pastors.

Critics of Gorski’s candidacy argue his election as a bishop would alienate many German Christians.

"Many members of the community would have little understanding for a bishop with this kind of lifestyle," Ulrich Ruess, a pastor in the northern city of Hamburg, told Die Welt newspaper.

Election committee member Bishop Maria Jepsen, the world's first woman Lutheran bishop, defended Gorski’s candidacy, saying both candidates were “experienced provosts” who have “excelled in their localities.”

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which represents nearly 69 million Christians in 140 church bodies in 78 countries, said it would not involve itself in the episcopal election because it has no common stand on homosexuality.

Last year the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest U.S. Lutheran body, said it would allow homosexual clergy in same-sex relationships to serve as pastors.

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Pro-family and church leaders respond to homosexual weddings in California

Los Angeles, Calif., Jun 17, 2008 (CNA) - Leaders in the Catholic Church in California and national pro-family organizations have published their reactions to the first homosexual marriages contracted in California beginning on Monday night.

The bishops of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles reasserted the state’s duty to protect and promote the family, while Kansas Senator Sam Brownback and the Alliance for Marriage Foundation both called for a federal marriage amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Another group, Concerned Women for America, called for Tuesday to be observed as a day of prayer and fasting.

A Monday statement from the bishops of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said that U.S. Catholic bishops have “affirmed repeatedly” that persons with a homosexual orientation “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” The statement said that all people regardless of sexual orientation are called to holiness and to live according to the teachings of the faith.

“Nonetheless,” the statement continued, “the Church cannot approve of redefining marriage, which has a unique place in God’s creation, joining a man and a woman in a committed relationship in order to nurture and support new life for which marriage is intended.” Quoting the U.S. bishops’ 2006 statement “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination,” the statement said “When marriage is redefined so as to make other relationships equivalent to it, the institution of marriage is devalued and further weakened.”

The bishops’ statement said that the state has a primary and fundamental obligation to protect and to promote the family, which it said is rooted in marriage and sustained by it. The statement also said that some benefits sought by same-sex partners can already be obtained without marital status.

The statement closed by calling for people to strengthen their resolve to protect the sanctity of marriage.

The Alliance for Marriage Foundation said in a statement that the California Supreme Court decision that instated homosexual marriage proves the need for the foundation’s proposed Marriage Protection Amendment to be added to the U.S. Constitution.

"In the most populous state in the Union, radical activists have convinced judges to ignore the will of the people and to follow the destructive lead of the Massachusetts courts in striking down the common sense definition of marriage," said Matt Daniels, president and founder of the Alliance for Marriage Foundation. “California is now ground-zero in the Battle to Protect Marriage, and the fight in California must now be joined in the Congress.”

Marriage amendment proponents say that without such action, couples who contract same-sex marriages in California will return to their home states and attempt to change the laws there.

Sen. Sam Brownback(R-Kansas) reacted on Monday by saying that the California ruling was a rebuke to those who believed a federal marriage amendment was not necessary. “In the wake of this decision, it is apparent that the marriage laws of all 50 states continue to be at risk from judges who desire to legislate their views on important social issues from the bench and that only a constitutional amendment will suffice to protect marriage as the union of a man and a woman,” Sen. Brownback said.

“If the experience of the last 40 years tells us anything, it is that the consequences of weakening the institution of marriage are tragic for society at large. The percentage of children born out of wedlock has increased almost tenfold during this period. And the jury is in on our experiment in raising children without a mom and a dad: The verdict is that it increases the risks for children substantially,” he continued.

“Marriage is designed to maximize the chances that each child will be provided with a mother and a father, in a stable family setting, during the years when children are too young to fend for themselves. To redefine marriage in such a way as to remove its essential connection to parenthood is to take away its very purpose,” he said.

Sen. Brownback said the social costs of the government not upholding marriage are “tremendous,” saying studies show that children raised by their married, biological parents have fewer educational and behavior problems, are less likely to suffer parental abuse, and are less likely to use drugs or be sexually active.

“The moral imperative today is to do things that will strengthen marriage and help children, like eliminating disincentives to marriage in our welfare benefit system and reestablishing a culture that values moms and dads who get married and honor their commitments in marriage. Now is not the time to take the enormous risk of further weakening this vital foundation of our society,” his statement concluded.

The group Concerned Women for America called for a day of prayer and fasting in a Monday press release. Phyllis Nemeth, State Director for CWA of California, said, "Prayer is the key to this battle. We need to see hearts changed by God at the same time that we're trying to change minds. That's why I'm inviting my fellow Californians especially to join CWA in prayer and fasting for our state and our nation."

CWA President Wendy Wright said, "CWA was founded on 'prayer and action.' The decision by the California court on same-sex 'marriage' is an affront to God and His plan for marriage and family. It will cause long-term problems and risks for families, churches, and agencies that work with children, and many others - leading to more lawsuits and damaged lives. While many will be working to protect the true definition and meaning of marriage, our first action must be to pray for God to intervene. Please join us in prayer and fasting on June 17.”

In a May 15 statement issued shortly after the California Supreme Court’s ruling instating same-sex marriages, California Catholic Conference spokesman Ned Dolejsi said, “Although we strongly disagree with the ruling, we ask our Catholic people, as well as all the people of California, to continue to uphold the dignity of every person, to acknowledge individual rights and responsibilities, and to maintain support for the unique and irreplaceable role of traditional marriage as an institution which is fundamental to society.”

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