Archive of June 18, 2008

Chinese sister dies in flood after escorting leprosy victim to hospital

Rome, Italy, Jun 18, 2008 (CNA) - A religious sister who worked with lepers died on Friday after being caught in a flood in the Chinese province of Guangdong.

Sister Xue Ling, a member of the diocesan Congregation of the Holy Family, had just returned from an inauguration ceremony at St. Peter’s Church in the city of Danshui, Agenzia Fides reports. The mayor of the town where the lepers live told her that one of the sick required immediate hospitalization and Sister Xue left immediately to accompany the sick patient to the hospital.

As Sister Xue returned to her house, the car she was in was overtaken by floods. Rescue workers on the scene saved the driver and two patients but were unable to revive Sister Xue.

“She lost her life in a generous testimony of love for her brethren, the lepers,” Agenzia Fides reported.

Sister Xue was born in 1965 and made her perpetual vows in 1999. Five years ago her congregation sent her to Guangdong province to work with lepers.

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Catholics continue to help in quake's aftermath

Chengdu, China, Jun 18, 2008 (CNA) - Catholic aid for China’s earthquake victims continues to arrive.
On Friday another 100 tons of rice and 10 tons of cooking oil arrived in nine trucks. The supplies will feed over 10,000 people near the epicenter for ten days. On June 8, 20 tons of rice and 307 barrels of cooking oil arrived in an affected area.

Priests, religious and lay relief volunteers, who are coordinated by Jinde Charities, have helped unload the supplies in nine of the poorest districts near the epicenter. The local authorities have told the priests, “we assure you, on our honor, to distribute the aid well, doing all we can to be worthy of the Catholics’ love and generosity.”


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Archbishop Niederauer praises Tim Russert’s devotion to faith, family

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Communications Committee, the late Tim Russert on Tuesday for his devotion to his Catholic faith, family, work as a journalist and his work with Catholic charities.

"Russert was valued by Americans for his tremendous command of the political and electoral process and his commitment to discovering each aspect of the story that contributed to people having a better awareness of the issues of public life and candidates for political office," Archbishop Niederauer said.

"But those of us who shared his Catholic faith and his deep love for it appreciated his sharing of the story of his own faith and his loyalty to the life of the Catholic Church in this country and the many charities to which he contributed his time and talent," he said.   

The archbishop also praised NBC News for asking Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington, to come to their studio for their staff in the hours after Russert’s death.

"Tim Russert was not shy about telling people to turn to prayer and promising to pray for them in their time of need," he continued. "That the network thought of his staff and followed his example speaks well of them."

Archbishop Niederauer said that Russert’s producer noted there were two things the newscaster never missed: Mass and an event for his son Luke.

"Russert in his public life was loyal to journalism. In his private life he was faithful to his family, fatherhood and faith. That's a wonderful measure of a man.”

Tim Russert’s burial is scheduled for Wednesday after a funeral Mass in Washington.

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Archbishop Fisichella: Pius XII had positive influence on Vatican II

Rome, Italy, Jun 18, 2008 (CNA) - In light of the 50th anniversary of Pius XII’s death, the new President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop-designate Salvatore “Rino” Fisichella, published an article in L’Osservatore Romano this week on the important contribution of the 43 encyclicals the Pontiff contributed to the Second Vatican Council.

Bishop Fisichella said that while many aspects of Pius XII’s life have been studied, something that is not as well-known is his influence on the development of the Second Vatican Council.  “His profound teaching with a vision towards the future is reflected in the sequence of the 43 encyclicals that marked his pontificate and the numerous discourses with which he confronted the most controversial issues of the day.” The prelate continued by explaining that the Pope’s influence could be broken down into three aspects, the first of which is “the promotion of doctrine.”

This is evident, he continued, in the Pope’s definition of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary on November 1, 1950, and in his letter Mystici Corporis dated June 29, 1943, “which at the time was considered theologically innovative.”  The archbishop also pointed to the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu from September 30, 1943, which promoted biblical studies and renewed devotion to Sacred Scripture.

The second aspect of the Pope’s influence was “the defense of doctrine and the relevance of errors,” which was evident in the letter Mediator Dei.  The letter, dated November 20, 1947, was written on the liturgy and the sacrificial nature of the Mass and the distinction between the priesthood of the laity and the priestly ordination.  Bishop Fisichella said Humani Generis, published on August 22, 1950, addressed theological relativism and in hindsight was a prophetic document in light of what happened in the Church after Vatican II.

The third aspect, the bishop continued, was Pope Pius XII’s “clear and direct manner of speaking when circumstances required it or when there was exact information about issues and their consequences.”

Pope Pius XII’s legacy, he said, demonstrates the continuity of the Church’s doctrine and her patient and unwavering commitment to passing on the one true faith.

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Bear witness to Christ with contemplation and action, Benedict XVI declares

Vatican City, Jun 18, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI greeted thousands of pilgrims gathered under a warm Roman sun in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday. In his address, the Pope focused on how Christians must live out their faith by uniting contemplation with action.

Continuing his catechetical series on ancient figures in the Church, the Pope turned his attention to the St. Isidore of Seville, the brother of Saint Leander and a contemporary and friend of Saint Gregory the Great. 

Isidore, under his brother's guidance, became disciplined and studious. Their house had a large library of pagan and Christian works, and hence Isidore's writings "reveal an encyclopedic knowledge of classical pagan culture as well as a profound understanding of Christian culture."

The Holy Father also noted that St. Isidore lived during the Visigothic invasions of Spain, devoted much energy to converting the barbarian tribes from heresy and preserving the best fruits of classical and Christian culture.

Despite the tendency to think of ancient writings as irrelevant to modern society, Pope Benedict said Saint Isidore’s reflections, which "gather and express the full Christian life,” are still valid today.

Isidore worked to bring the richness of pagan, Jewish and Christian learning to the rapidly changing political, social and religious situations in which he lived. 

Another observation about St. Isidore that was highlighted by the Pope as worthy of reflection is how, throughout his life, Isidore was torn between his devotion to study and contemplation, and the demands made by his responsibilities as a bishop, especially towards the poor and those in need.

He found his model in Christ, who joined both the active and contemplative life, and sought to "love God in contemplation and one's neighbor in action."

The Pope explained that St. Isidore’s writings are relevant today because they bring clarity to “the relation between life active and contemplative life."

Quoting St. Isidore, Pope Benedict said, “The servant of God is wholeheartedly devoted to contemplation without denying the working life. To behave otherwise would not be right…. Just as you should love God with contemplation, so you must love one's neighbor with action.”

Pope Benedict concluded, “This synthesis is the lesson that the great bishop of Seville leaves us Christians today, called to bear witness to Christ at the beginning of a new millennium."

At the end of his catechesis, Pope Benedict encouraged young people still in the midst of exams, and urged youth to “take advantage of summer vacation for meaningful social and religious experiences."

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Pope greets Eucharistic congress participants, prays for revival of belief

Vatican City, Jun 18, 2008 (CNA) - After delivering his reflections on St. Isidore of Seville at his Wednesday general audience, Pope Benedict addressed some remarks to participants in the International Eucharistic Congress being held in Quebec, Canada, from June 15—22 on the theme: "The Eucharist: gift of God for the life of the world."


"I am spiritually present at this most solemn ecclesial meeting", he said, "and I trust it will be a time rich in prayer, reflection and contemplation of the mystery of the Blessed Eucharist, for the Christian communities of Canada and for the Universal Church. May it also be a favorable moment in which to reaffirm the Church's faith in the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament."


Benedict XVI concluded his remarks by praying that the congress "may revive in believers - not just in Canada but in many other nations in the world - an awareness of the evangelical and spiritual values that have forged their identity along the course of history."


While Pope Benedict is not attending the Eucharistic congress, he will give the homily for the closing Mass on June 22 via a live satellite link from Rome. The faithful will be able to view the Holy Father’s homily on large screens stationed throughout the area.

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Bishop mediating negotiations over release of 60 policemen taken hostage in Peru

Lima, Peru, Jun 18, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Marco Antonio Cortez Lara of Tacna and Moquegua in Peru has begun mediating negotiations with a group of protesters that took 60 policemen hostage during a violent strike. 

On Wednesday morning 12 police officers wounded by the captors were released.  The others are being held inside the Church of Santo Domingo in Moquegua, which is in southern Peru.

Speaking on CPN Radio, Bishop Cortez said, “This is a difficult situation, and therefore we call on everyone to be calm because we can’t continue like this.  The solution has not yet been found, but we are trying to initiate negotiations, which is what the Church urgently desires.”

He called on Peruvians to reflect calmly on the situation to determine what the next step should be, since “violence brings more violence, and the most important thing is peoples’ lives.”

Residents in the city of Moquegua have been protesting for an equal distribution of mining revenues.  Some 20,000 protestors clashed with the police officers who attempted to disperse the crowds.

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Health Minister seek consensus to change law on abortion in Spain

Madrid, Spain, Jun 18, 2008 (CNA) - The Spanish newspaper ABC reported this week that the country’s Health Minister, Bernat Soria, who supports the legalization of abortion, is “hoping” to get a majority of lawmakers to back a Congressional proposal to change Spain’s law on abortion.


“The reform of a norm is something that is usually proposed by the government, and I hope we achieve a consensus,” Soria said.


Nevertheless, the Zapatero administration “has not said whether or not it would take up the initiative, and we only know that it intends to issue norms on the confidentiality, the quality of services and the legal protection of those who practice abortions,” ABC reported.

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Fire destroys Catholic church in Egypt

Cairo, Egypt, Jun 18, 2008 (CNA) - Fire destroyed a Coptic Catholic church in the Egyptian town of Kafr el Sheij this week, coming just three weeks after another church was burned in the country because of conflicts between Christians and Muslims. 


The Catholic bishops in Egypt have called on the government to provide greater security for Christians.  According to the newspaper Al Ahram, the blaze required emergency response from eight fire trucks in order to put it out. 


The latest fire came a few weeks after conflicts between Christians and Muslims, including an attack on a Christian-run jewelry store, which resulted in the death of the owner and the wounding of four others.


The Vatican daily “L’Osservatore Romano” said Muslim groups accuse the Catholic Church in Egypt of seeking “to form a parallel state with the help of foreign subjects” in order “to change the Muslim-Arab nature of the nation.”


Chaldean Catholic Bishop Youseff Ibrahim Sarraf of Cairo said there was no religious motivation behind the violence against Coptic Christians but rather, that the violence was the result of “ordinary criminal activity.”

Even though Muslims extremists have been reportedly increasing their influence in Egypt in recent years, Bishop Sarraf called relations between Christians and Muslims “cordial” and said the government is trying to keep extremists from entering the country and fostering “dangerous internal conflicts.”  “We must also be vigilant,” he added.


Coptic Catholics make up between 6 and 10% of the Egyptian population, which numbers 80 million.

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Muslim organization calling on Obama to invite women to future rally

Detroit, Mich., Jun 18, 2008 (CNA) - In an attempt to silence rumors that he is secretly a Muslim, two Barack Obama campaign volunteers prevented two women wearing headscarves from appearing in a picture with him at a Monday campaign rally. Reacting to the news, the Council on American-Islamic Relations told CNA that they are asking for Obama to invite the women to another rally.  


According to news reports, Aref Koussan and Shimaa Abdelfadeel were prohibited from sitting behind Barack Obama’s podium so that they wouldn’t appear in photographs or on television in their hijabs (Islamic headscarves) with the presidential candidate.   


Although, Obama’s campaign has apologized to the women, both Obama supporters say that the way that they were treated at the rally left them feeling betrayed.  

“This is of course not the policy of the campaign. It is offensive and counter to Obama’s commitment to bring Americans together and simply not the kind of campaign we run,” said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. “We sincerely apologize for the behavior of these volunteers.”


The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) National Legislative Director Corey Saylor responded to the situation by saying, "We welcome the campaign's apology and urge candidates of all parties not to give in to pressure from the vocal minority of Islamophobes in our society that seeks to stigmatize Islam and marginalize American Muslims.”


"All presidential campaigns need to clearly answer the question: Should American Muslims be marginalized from their country's political process simply because of their faith?" Saylor added.


Speaking with CNA about the issue, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said that they are urging Sen. Barack Obama to invite the two Muslim women to an upcoming campaign event.

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Roe v. Wade’s “Jane Roe” to appear in pro-life commercial

Roswell, Ga., Jun 18, 2008 (CNA) - Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff “Jane Roe” in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, will appear in her first-ever television commercial to lament her role in the case.

Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, documented abortions have killed more than 50 million unborn babies in the U.S.

In the new commercial McCorvey says, “back in 1973 I was a very confused twenty-one year old with one child and facing an unplanned pregnancy. At the time I fought to obtain a legal abortion, but truth be told, I have three daughters and never had an abortion." 

“Upon knowing God,” she continues, “I realize that my case, which legalized abortion on demand, was the biggest mistake of my life.

“You read about me in history books, but now I am dedicated to spreading the truth about preserving the dignity of all human life from natural conception to natural death."

McCorvey is now an active Catholic.

The commercial is produced by Virtue Media, which describes itself as an organization “dedicated to producing and airing powerful and life-saving television, radio commercials and educational films.”

Susan Gerdvil, Communications Director at Virtue Media, told CNA that the organization is working with different pro-life groups to air the commercial but a broadcast is not yet scheduled.

Norma McCorvey’s commercial is viewable at Virtue Media's website.

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Anglican leaders respond to clergymen’s same-sex ‘wedding’

London, England, Jun 18, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York on Tuesday released a statement in response to news that two Anglican clergymen who exchanged vows in May in a version of a marriage ceremony. The archbishops voiced “very great concern” and referred to previous Anglican teachings against sexually-active same-sex unions.

The same-sex 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.

The ceremony was criticized as blasphemous, not in keeping with the regulations of the Anglican Church and for adding to the controversy over homosexuality within the global Anglican Communion.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Archbishop of York John Sentamu, the two highest-ranking clergymen in the Church of England, said in their Tuesday statement “We have heard the reports of the recent service in St. Bartholomew the Great with very great concern. We cannot comment on the specific circumstances because they are the subject of an investigation launched by the Bishop of London.”

“Those clergy who disagree with the Church's teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others within the Church of the reasons why they believe, in the light of Scripture, tradition and reason that it should be changed. But they are not at liberty simply to disregard it."

The archbishops said the “various reference points for the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality,” such as the 1987 Synod motion, the 1991 Bishops' Statement “Issues in Human Sexuality,” and the House of Bishops' 2005 statement on civil partnerships, “are well known and remain current.”

The 2005 statement said entering a domestic partnership is “not intrinsically incompatible” with Anglican holy orders, provided partners affirm the standards set out in the 1991 statement “Issues in Human Sexuality.” That earlier statement said clergy “cannot claim the liberty to enter into sexually active homophile relationships.”

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