Warsaw, Poland, Jun 23, 2008 (CNA) - Polish Catholic News Agency reported last week that a 14 year-old Lublin girl known as “Agata” who was pregnant has undergone an abortion after pressure from her mother and from activists of the International Planned Parenthood Foundation. The abortion took place on June 17, probably in the city of Gdansk.
Several days ago the Polish branch of the International Planned Parenthood Federation demanded Prime Minister Donald Tusk intervene and force the girl—who was allegedly raped--to undergo an abortion in keeping with the wishes of her mother. The girl said she wanted to keep her baby and that her boyfriend was the baby’s father. Various pro-life groups had offered to help her.
Bishop Stanislaw Stefanek of Lomza expressed sadness at the news and said it was “a reflection of the ideology of death. It is a tragedy. A child has been killed and as a consequence the heart of a mother who was suffering and was unable to face the pressure has also been harmed.”
Archbishop Josef Miroslaw Zycinski of Lublin called the incident the “death of an innocent child.”
Vatican City, Jun 23, 2008 (CNA) - In anticipation of the beginning of the Pauline Year next Saturday, the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff announced today that celebrations of the Apostle will commence with Vespers.
The Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls will host the celebration of first Vespers at 6 p.m. on Saturday June 28, which is the eve of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Pope Benedict XVI will preside at the Vespers ceremony to launch the Pauline Year. The ceremony will be attended by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and by representatives of other Churches and Christian communities.
Vatican City, Jun 23, 2008 (CNA) - On Saturday, June 21, Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of His Beatitude Michel Sabbah upon having reached the age limit of 75 years old. Archbishop Fouad Twal has succeeded him as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
The new patriarch was born in Madaba, Jordan, on October 23, 1940. He was ordained a priest in 1966 and then spent several years as part of the Holy See’s diplomatic corp.
His tenure as a diplomat lasted from 1977 to 1992 and included stints at the apostolic nunciatures of Honduras, Germany and Peru. During this time he also served at the council for public affairs at the Vatican Secretariat of State.
Fouad Twal became a bishop on July 22, 1992, when he was ordained as the bishop of Tunis. On May 31, 1995, he was made archbishop of the same city.
He received his appointment as coadjutor of Jerusalem on September 8, 2005.
Vatican City, Jun 23, 2008 (CNA) - During a Mass Saturday at the Basilica of St. John Lateran celebrating his 25th year as bishop and marking the end of his tenure as Vicar of the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Camilo Ruini left a “small testament” to the faithful encouraging them to “look upon the world with the eyes of faith and not to become discouraged ‘like others who have no hope’.”
According to L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Ruini was ordained a bishop on June 29, 1983 in the city of Reggio Emilia. During his homily on Saturday he thanked Pope Benedict XVI for his kind letter which he sent him on the occasion of his episcopal anniversary.
Cardinal Ruini also thanked the Servant of God Pope John Paul II for naming him Vicar of the Diocese of Rome in 1991 and said, “Throughout these years I have received a great gift from Rome itself, the Diocese of Rome, the city of Rome: I have come to understand this gift more and more. As I end my service as Cardinal Vicar, I trust I will enjoy it and treasure it even more, returning it to you all in the years that I have left through my memories and my prayers.”
After reflecting upon what it means to serve in the Church as a bishop, noting that “love for the office” is of primary importance for those who are called to this service, Cardinal Ruini said, “The little testament I wish to leave the Diocese of Rome is this: Let us look at the great challenge that we must face today. Let us be aware, let us not hide from it,” he said.
The 77 year-old cardinal said the faithful must look at this challenge of evangelization “with the eyes of faith,” which is more than just a merely human perspective. “With the light of faith we can know by intuition the profound reality of man, in which God is present to attract us to Himself and to guide people and history to Christ,” he said.
“I dare say God continues attracting this city of Rome to Himself in a special way, as I have seen so many times during these years. Lord willing, I hope to continue working in a different way, so that the people of Rome and all Italians may know how to see the world and life through the eyes of faith and will not be discouraged ‘like others who do not have hope’,” the cardinal said.
The Italian media has speculated that a possible successor to Cardinal Ruini may be Cardinal Agostino Vallini, who is currently Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.
Rome, Italy, Jun 23, 2008 (CNA) - The Pope addressed participants at the closing Mass for the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec, Canada via satellite from the Vatican yesterday. In his homily, the Pope encouraged to look at the Eucharist as a “mystery of alliance” and not a “meal among friends.” He also announced that the next International Eucharistic Congress will take place in 2012 in Dublin, Ireland.
Calling to mind the theme of the congress - "The Eucharist: gift of God for the life of the world" - the Holy Father, in French, recalled the importance of the Blessed Sacrament: "The Eucharist is our most precious treasure. ... It is the Sacrament par excellence ... It contains all the mystery of our salvation, it is the source and the summit of the activity and the life of the Church."
He also offered some word for pastors and the laity, calling on them to “always seek a more profound understanding of this great Sacrament. Each will thus be able to strengthen his faith and better achieve his mission in the Church and in the world, recalling the fecundity of the Eucharist for his personal life, and for the life of the Church and the world."
"Participation in the Eucharist," said Pope Benedict, "does not distance us from our fellow man; quite the contrary, being the most exalted expression of God's love, it calls us to commit ourselves alongside our brothers and sisters to facing the challenges of the present and to making the planet a pleasant place to live. To this end, we must struggle tirelessly so that all people may be respected from conception to natural death, that our rich societies may welcome the poorest and restore their dignity, that everyone may feed themselves and their family, and that peace and justice may shine out on all continents."
The Pope then turned to the English-speaking audience and exhorted the faithful “to make a similar commitment to a renewal of Eucharistic catechesis, so that they themselves will gain a genuine Eucharistic awareness and will in turn teach children and young people to recognize the central mystery of faith and build their lives around it."
With this heightened awareness, the Pope encouraged the audience “to renew their concern for their preparation for receiving the Eucharist, despite our weakness and our sin, Christ wishes to dwell within us. ... For this reason we must do everything possible to receive Him with a pure heart, ever seeking to regain - through the Sacrament of Confession - the purity that sin has blemished."
Benedict XVI also underscored that "sin, and especially grave sin, opposes the action of Eucharistic grace in us. ... People who because of their situation cannot take communion, will find strength and salvific effectiveness in a unity of desire and in participation in Mass.”
"The Eucharist is not a meal among friends. It is a mystery of alliance", said the Pope. "We are called to enter this mystery of alliance, conforming our everyday lives to the gift received in the Eucharist."
The Pope invited those present to not only pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood, but also to invite the young to respond to the call of Christ. He prayed “that they may joyfully and fearlessly respond to Christ. They will not be disillusioned. May families be the birthplace and the cradle of vocations."
The Holy Father concluded his homily by inviting everyone "to join me in praying for the success of the next International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in 2012 in the city of Dublin."
Atlanta, Ga., Jun 23, 2008 (CNA) - The Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta was packed Saturday as about 30,000 Roman Catholics gathered for the second and final day of the 13th Eucharistic Congress of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
The two days of teaching, preaching, music and worship were a hallmark event for the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the 750,000 Catholics who attend its 100 missions and churches.
The theme of this year's event, which brought together converts, cradle Catholics, scholars and clergy, was, "I Am the Living Bread."
On the issues facing the Catholic Church and all faiths in America, Helen M. Alvare said, "A big challenge is the marriage and family crisis —- not just because it's internal, but it's also external to the United States. It has what I call tentacles.”
"Without a solid marriage and family culture, society really is in big trouble," said Alvare, an associate professor at George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Va. "And particularly among the poor and among immigrants, their marriage and family life is falling apart at a faster rate than people with more money.
"It's not just a sex issue. It's not a 'This is where you follow Catholic doctrine' issue. It's more, are you going to be able to fulfill the meaning and purpose of your life, which is loving care for other persons who are given to you? And are we going to be able to build a strong society, not just for Catholics, but for the whole country?"
The Archdiocese of Atlanta’s annual Eucharistic Congress has been held around the Feast of Corpus Christi for the last 13 years. Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue began the event in 1995 to encourage Eucharistic Adoration in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. At present, over 600 volunteers make the Eucharistic Congress possible.
The event opened with a procession joined by children of the Archdiocese who received their First Communion dressed in white dresses and suits.
Tom Peterson, president of the non-profit organization Catholics Come Home, said, "The biggest problem facing the Church, and Christianity in general, is the world doesn't think we need God. We have become too smart for our own britches.”
"We believe with our intellect and our money, we can do what we want. We are happy. We are wealthy, and we don't need God. Isn't that the same as the original sin of Adam and Eve, where through our pride we become our own gods?" Peterson asked.
"I think it's very important that not only Catholics, but the larger Christian community as a whole, focus on becoming more humble, praying for humility and praying to know and do God's will," he said. "We don't know what we're missing.
"So many people are starving for Jesus in their life. They just don't know they're starving for it. They've been deceived. The world has gotten in their face, and it's distracted them. But they know they're not happy down deep. As St. Augustine said: 'Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.'"
This year's event included a Healing Mass, the Revive Young Adult Track, as well as tracks for the Deaf, Hispanics, Vietnamese, Kids and Teens.
The General Track included as speakers Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory, Archbishop of Atlanta and former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Most Reverend William George Curlin, founder of the Mount Carmel House for homeless women; Steve Ray, convert and author of "St. John's Gospel", "Upon This Rock", & "Crossing the Tiber"; Dr. Helen M. Alvaré, pro-life advocate, author and former pro-life Secretariat of the USCCB; and Matthew Kelly, speaker and best-selling Catholic author.
The two days of teaching, preaching, music and Masses have become a hallmark celebration for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. It has grown from slightly more than 1,000 attendees at the first congress in 1996 to a meeting that includes programs in multiple languages, which reflects the rapid growth and diversification of Catholics in Georgia. The archdiocese has grown from 311,000 in 2000 to an estimated 750,000.
The congress draws Catholics from Georgia and neighboring states.
Managua, Nicaragua, Jun 23, 2008 (CNA) - Declassified files from the Ministry of Security, known as the Stasi, of the former East Germany show that the Sandinista government of Nicaragua in the 1980s “committed serious errors with the schematic application of Cuban experiences from conflicts with the Catholic Church.”
The Nicaraguan daily La Prensa cited the report of a Stasi agent in Managua, who said, “The mistakes made had grave consequences, above all because the Soviets did not have much experience in this area either. The most famous case was that which the State Security carried out against Father Bismark Carballo,” who was then director of Radio Catolica and one of the most prominent critics of the Sandinista regime.
On August 11, 1982, Father Carballo, who was pastor of the Church of San Miguel, was invited to have lunch at the house of one his parishioners. While there, a man forcibly entered the house, began to the beat the priest and forced him to take off all of his clothes. The Sandinista Police showed up and dragged him out onto the street where he was grabbed and photographed by a mob and a group of Sandinista photographers. The pictures were later published insinuating a homosexual relationship between Father Carballo and the parishioner. In 2004, Daniel Ortega apologized to Father Carballo and asked for his forgiveness.
A top official in the Nicaraguan government who wanted to remain anonymous told La Prensa that the framing of Father Carballo backfired and “caused the opposite effect and led the Catholic Church to personify opposition to the Sandinistas.”
According to La Prensa, the Stasi files confirm that the work of the Nicaraguan State Security was concentrated on the CIA and the Contras, as well as on the Church. “The Sandinistas believed the CIA was financing the Catholic Church and had taken it as part of its policy against the Government,” the newspaper reported. The main targets in the Church were the leaders of the Bishops’ Conference, specifically eight priests and Cardinal Miguel Obando, then Archbishop of Managua.
Jerusalem, Israel, Jun 23, 2008 (CNA) - The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), a group of Anglicans seeking to preserve Christian orthodoxy in the Anglican Communion, began a key meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday, where a prominent Nigerian archbishop reemphasized the conference would not go into schism.
The meeting was preceded by a Thursday book release explaining the theological and historical justifications for their movement, which formed in response to Anglican and Episcopalian revisionists who have endorsed homosexual relationships and minimized the authority of Scripture.
The Theological Resource Team for GAFCON has written a 94-page book titled “The Way, the Truth and the Life,” which outlines the recent conflicts within the Anglican Communion and sets out to define what it believes to be “authentic Anglicanism.” The book discusses the consequences of the conflict and examines the future of “orthodox Anglicans.”
“Our journey is a witness that the truth of God is accessible. We are convinced that God has made himself known, sufficiently for us to be able to respond to him, and to make truly moral choices between obedience and disobedience,” the book says, according to a GAFCON statement.
Rev. Dr. Arne H. Fjeldstad, GAFCON Head of Communications and CEO of the Media Project at the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life, told CNA in an e-mail the book “is for discussion and reflection and is not the conclusion” of the GAFCON debate.
“The Leadership Team is particularly concerned about making the coming week into a process where the participating bishops, clergy and laity will have a very real input to the final conclusive document. There is nothing particularly new in the document and it is not actually proposing a split but factually stating the very troubled situation for the Anglican Communion,” Rev. Fjeldstad said.
An excerpt from “The Way, the Truth and the Life” reads:
“These past ten years of distraction have been agonizing, and the cost has been enormous. The time and financial resources spent on endless meetings, whose statements and warnings have been consistently ignored, represent a tragic loss of resources that should have been used otherwise. It now appears, however, that the journey is coming to an end, and the moment of decision is almost upon us. But this is not a time to lose heart or fail to maintain vigilance. It would be an even greater tragedy if, while trying to bring others back to the godly path, we should ourselves miss the way or lose the race.”
The book says that GAFCON participants want unity, but “not at the cost of relegating Christ to the position of another ‘wise teacher’ who can be obeyed or disobeyed.” The book also professes a desire to heal the Anglican Communion, “but not at the cost of re-writing the Bible to accommodate the latest cultural trend.”
The road that follows the current path of the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada, the book’s authors say, “is one that we simply cannot take: the cost is too high. We must not sacrifice eternal truth for mere appeasement, and we must not turn away from the source of life and love for the sake of a temporary truce.”
Rather, the book exhorts, Anglicans should commit themselves to many traditional beliefs, including the “authority and supremacy of Scripture;” the doctrine of the Trinity; the person, work, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; the recognition of the divinity of Jesus and His being the only means of salvation; the sanctity of marriage; and morality grounded in biblical revelation.
The book says these commitments are not “onerous burdens or tiresome restrictions” but rather God’s gift to free mankind from the bondage of sin and to assure us of eternal life.
“We have arrived at a crossroads; it is, for us, the moment of truth,” the book says.
“We have made enormous efforts since 1997 in seeking to avoid this crisis, but without success. Now we confront a moment of decision. If we fail to act, we risk leading millions of people away from the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures and also, even more seriously, we face the real possibility of denying our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” said Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Abuja, Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman of GAFCON, in his contribution to the book, an essay titled “A Most Agonizing Journey towards Lambeth 2008.”
Archbishop Akinola, speaking in his opening address at the GAFCON Jerusalem meeting on Sunday, defended the decision to break communion with the Episcopal Church. “We had to stand up for our convictions based on the word of God, the Bible, and the faithful witness of a long succession of Anglicans, rather than fall for anything in the name of enlightened logic and the dictates of modern cultural trappings,” he said.
At a later news conference, Archbishop Akinola said, “I don’t want the failures of the last five years, and the endless meetings to continue.”
However, he emphasized that GAFCON would not leave the Anglican Communion.
“We have no other place to go, nor is it our intention to start another church,” he said.
GAFCON’s Jerusalem meeting will last seven days. According to GAFCON, representatives at the gathering account for 75 percent of the Anglican Communion. The 1,200 Conference delegates include 300 bishops, 250 clergy, and 200 non-ordained leaders.
The GAFCON meeting precedes the Anglican Communion’s Lambeth Conference, which will begin in Canterbury, England in mid-July and lasts into August.
Rev. Fjeldstad told CNA he did not know the Lambeth Conference’s plans, but said they are “well aware” of the concerns of the Global Anglican Future Conference.
“I believe the conference itself is a message to Lambeth,” he said.
Sydney, Australia, Jun 23, 2008 (CNA) - Registrations for World Youth Day 2008 (WYD08) are nearing 200,000, organizers for the July event have announced.
“Our estimations for the event have always been based on 125,000 international and 100,000 domestic registered pilgrims,” stated WYD08 Chief Operating Officer Danny Casey.
Casey said that international registrants had registered early, but registrations from Australians are presently rising.
“We always knew that the Aussies would come in late, but we are seeing growth in this segment as well.
“It’s great to see so many locals excited about this event,” Casey said.
Casey said he was surprised that a New South Wales government spokeswoman had said only 130,000 people had registered from the event. Casey suggested the spokeswoman only have been referring to the number of finalized registrations.
According to Casey, 132,671 pilgrims have completed their registrations. Another 64,181 have made a commitment to attend and are partly through their registration, indicating nearly 197,000 prospective attendees.
Casey said he expected the WYD08 estimate of 225,000 attendees to be met or exceeded.
“With almost 40 extra flights coming into Sydney airport just for the event, there is no doubt this city will be awash with hundreds of thousands of joyous young people – and let’s not forget one very important Head of State!” Casey stated.
World Youth Day will take place from July 15 to 20. Over 500,000 people are expected to attend the final Mass near Sydney, which is to be celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.
London, England, Jun 23, 2008 (CNA) - A new report by the British charity ActionAid indicates that unborn baby girls are being disproportionately aborted in some areas of India, while significant numbers who live until birth are being deliberately neglected and left to die. In one area in the state of Punjab, there are only 300 girls for every 1,000 boys among high cast families, the report claims.
ActionAid joined Canada's International Development Research Center (IDRC) to produce the Disappearing Daughters report, the BBC says. After interviewing more than 6,000 households in sites across five states in northwestern India, researchers found that the proportion of girls to boys was noticeably below the natural rate of 950 girls to every 1,000 boys.
In three of the five study sites, the ratio of girls to boys was under 800 per 1,000.
Researchers found the ratios of girls to boys were declining fastest in relatively prosperous urban areas, leading ActionAid to suggest that the increased use of ultrasound exams may be a factor.
Though a 1994 law banned selective abortion based on the sex of the unborn child, many families still use ultrasound scans to detect and abort female children.
ActionAid says other outlawed practices, such as allowing newborn girls’ umbilical cords to become infected, have also contributed to the sex imbalance.
"The real horror of the situation is that, for women, avoiding having daughters is a rational choice. But for wider society it's creating an appalling and desperate state of affairs," said Laura Turquet, women's rights policy official at ActionAid, according to the BBC.
According to the British medical journal The Lancet, about 10 million unborn baby girls have been aborted in the past 20 years.
Vatican City, Jun 23, 2008 (CNA) - As Cardinal Camillo Ruini celebrated the 25th anniversary of his consecration as bishop at a Mass on Saturday, he received a special gift—a letter from Pope Benedict thanking him for his dedicated service.
In his Letter, which is dated 19 June, the Pope thanked the cardinal for his "commitment to serving the Church of Rome" since January 1991 when he was appointed vicar general of the diocese.
Benedict XVI recalled that certain episodes during "these years of episcopate in the direct service of the Bishop of Rome", such as "the planning and celebration of the Citizens' Mission in preparation for the Great Jubilee 2000," the culminating moment of which "was the 20th World Youth Day."
Cardinal Ruini has also been a great support to scores of priests, Benedict XVI said. "Over the years, you have accompanied 484 diocesan priests to ordination and have supported, through various initiatives, the building of 57 new parish churches."
The Holy Father thanked Cardinal Ruini "for all you have done for priests, deacons, religious, seminarians, lay groups and all the people of God in the diocese of Rome", and he notes how the diocese "has grown in communion and in an awareness of the urgency of the mission".
“I must express my personal recognition for the dedication with which, over these years, you introduced me into the complex realities of this beloved Church," wrote the Pope.
Perhaps recalling the debacle when a speech by Pope Benedict was canceled at La Sapienza University due to faculty and student protests, the Holy Father said, "Thank you for having backed my call for a serious commitment to education and for having, on numerous occasions, brought so many faithful to St. Peter's Square to listen to, support and encourage the ministry of the Roman Pontiff."
Benedict XVI concluded his Letter by telling Cardinal Ruini - who from 1991 to 2007 was also president of the Italian Episcopal Conference - that "in all these circumstances you have shown exemplary faithfulness to your episcopal motto 'Veritas liberabit nos.' In name of this Truth, which is Christ Himself, you continually dedicated your energies for the sake of the People of God who are in Rome."