Beijing, China, Jun 27, 2008 (CNA) - The Chinese government has said it will permit booklets of the Gospels, New Testaments, and full Bibles to be distributed during the Olympic Games, even though it normally controls publication of the Bible.
The Bible Society, a British-based Christian charity, has confirmed that 50,000 bilingual booklets containing the four Gospels will made available in the Athletes’ Village in Beijing and five other Olympic Cities. Additionally, 10,000 New Testaments and 30,000 Bibles will be printed, the Times Online says.
The nearly $400,000 cost of printing the Olympic Bibles will be met by the Bible Society. The Bibles themselves will be printed by Amity Printing Press at a new multimillion dollar facility which opened in Nanjing last month. Amity produces one Bible every second. It produced its 50 millionth in September.
For the first time, Bibles will be distributed outside of registered shops and with the approval of the Communist party. The Beijing Olympics organizing committee is allowing the free use of its logo on the Scriptures.
During China’s Cultural Revolution Bibles were banned and confiscated. Bible printing in China resumed in the 1980s with the assistance of Bible Societies from around the world.
Christians in China can own Bibles, but they still face persecution if they practice Christianity outside of registered churches. According to the Times Online, a June report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide and the China Aid Association said there has been a recent crackdown on “house churches” and claimed foreign Christians are being expelled at a rate “not seen since the 1950s.”
Olympic athletes and visitors will be allowed to take religious materials into the Olympic Village for their own use. On the other hand, The Times Online reports that Beijing officials are unlikely to permit the mass distribution of religious literature deemed to be propaganda material, such as the writings of the Dalai Lama.
Jerusalem, Israel, Jun 27, 2008 (CNA) - At a press conference on Thursday, Kenyan Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi gave an update on a statement assessing the state of the Anglican Communion, which is being drafted by the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) at their Jerusalem meeting.
Archbishop Nzimbi said that the GAFCON final statement is still being developed, but certain themes are emerging.
“There is a passion for the Gospel, a determination to stay true to the Bible, to continue the work of mission and to do so as Anglicans,” he said. There is also a “profound sadness” about the state of the Anglican Communion and a “sense of betrayal and abandonment” by the exiting leadership and church structures.
The archbishop said attendees wanted GAFCON to become “a movement and not simply a moment.” To sustain the movement, attendees know an “agreed theological framework” and appropriate structures will be necessary.
GAFCON attendees agree that more permanent structures need to be established for “faithful Anglicans who live and serve in provinces that have left the traditional teachings of scripture.” They have also endorsed outreach to other Anglicans who share their common faith “so that we can grow in our witness to the world of God’s transforming power,” Archbishop Nzimbi said.
The first draft of the GAFCON statement will be read to all attendees on Friday. The statement is scheduled to be finalized before the close of the conference on Sunday.
Tallahassee, Fla., Jun 27, 2008 (CNA) - The archbishops and bishops of Florida have delivered a letter to Florida Governor Charlie Crist urging him to stop executions in the state, beginning with the scheduled July 1 execution of Mark Dean Schwab.
According to Florida Today, Mark Dean Schwab was convicted in 1992 of kidnapping, raping, and killing 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez.
“We can never fully comprehend the pain the victim’s family feels after losing their loved one and we extend our sincere sympathy to the family of Junny Rios-Martinez, the victim in this crime. But killing someone because they killed only perpetuates violence and coarsens the public’s attitude about the sanctity of life, including the lives of those who have committed grave offenses,” the bishops’ letter said.
In their June 25 letter, the bishops said they recognize the right of the State to impose the death penalty. However, they said that Florida should join “the growing number of states who are re-examining the death penalty.” Findings of racial bias and “serious problems” in Florida’s death penalty system, the bishops said, were also a cause for concern.
“The recurring question of innocence, the exorbitant cost, the inconsistency in sentencing, and the capriciousness of who is executed, each calls for re-examination,” the bishops wrote.
“Governor Crist, you can set a new standard of respect for life in Florida, turning away from execution and imposing a life sentence without possibility of parole for Mark Dean Schwab,” the letter said. “Incarceration allows the wrongdoer the possibility of conversion and the ability to make public restitution for crimes through life imprisonment.”
The bishops said they pray for Schwab’s victim Junny Rios-Martinez, his family, the governor, and for all those on death row, that “we all will acknowledge God as the Lord of Life, and that we all may learn, not only to obey the commandment not to kill human life, but also to revere it.”
Bishop of St. Augustine Victor Galeone, who is also episcopal moderator for the State Pro-Life Coordinating Committee of the Florida Catholic Conference, spoke separately, saying, "The Lord commands us to forgive, just as our heavenly Father has forgiven us. It is only through the process of forgiveness that we are healed and our suffering can be alleviated.”
San Diego, Calif., Jun 27, 2008 (CNA) - Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke to a meeting of the Catholic Healthcare Association (CHA) in San Diego on Monday on the topic of healthcare reform, pledging to pray “twenty rosaries every day” if that is what is necessary to have the California legislature pass his health care plan.
Governor Schwarzenegger, who was introduced by former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, addressed the CHA audience to congratulate Lloyd Dean’s assumption of the association’s chairmanship, the California Catholic Daily reports.
The governor said he was excited that Dean had become CHA chairman, praising his “tremendous work” in California as leader of Catholic Healthcare West (CHW).
“And, man, he’s an action hero, I can tell you that,” said Schwarzenegger, a former action movie star, who said Dean had balanced the deeply troubled finances of CHW after only two years.
Lloyd Dean, the governor said, had helped assemble “an unprecedented and historic coalition of hospitals, doctors, insurers, patients’ groups, business groups, and labor groups” to support Schwarzenegger’s health care plan, which he said is based upon shared responsibility among employers, healthcare providers, insurers, individuals, and government.
Schwarzenegger said that California’s uninsured population is a “moral crisis,” saying 6.7 million Californians are uninsured, including one million children.
The governor said he can implement his health care program with the help of CHA members.
“And I know that, with your help, we can do it,” he said. “And even if it takes praying 20 rosaries every day, I will be on my knees praying the 20 rosaries – but we are going to get the job done!”
Madrid, Spain, Jun 27, 2008 (CNA) - The civil rights watchdog website HazteOir.org reported this week that Spain’s Socialist Party and the Green Party of Catalonia have grated orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas and other apes the “inalienable right” of “companions of humanity.”
The Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Fishing of the Spanish Congress approved a proposal that would press the Zapatero administration to support the Great Ape project in order to guarantee apes the right to life, liberty and the right not to be tortured. The final text of the proposal was drafted by Green party and Socialist lawmakers, with the more conservative Popular Party not participating.
Congress is pressing the Spanish government to declare its support for the Great Ape Project within the next four months as well as to promote it in the rest of the EU countries. The Great Ape Project aims “to preserve and protect from abuse and death these genetic companions of humanity.”
According to HazteOir.org, the four purposes of the project include the prohibiting of experimentation and research on apes that harms them and is of no benefit, the establishing of strict conditions for their captivity, the prohibiting of captivity for commercial or entertainment purposes and the establishing of serious penalties for cases of commerce, illegal captivity or abuse of apes.
Raquel Arias, a spokeswoman for the Popular Party, said she was embarrassed that Congress would “try to make apes legally equal to humans” while people everywhere are suffering from an economic crisis.
She said the project is an attempt grant apes the moral and legal protection that only human beings currently enjoy.”
Joan Herrera of the Catalonia Green Party said apes “are beings capable of knowing themselves and have wide and complex cognitive capacities.”
Vatican City, Jun 27, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI brought together around 400 people from the Diocese of Rome on Friday to thank Cardinal Camillo Ruini for his service as the Vicar of Rome and to introduce Cardinal Agostino Vallini as the new vicar. Among the developments of Ruini’s tenure that the Pope highlighted was the spread of a spirit of mission.
Pope Benedict began his words by recalling the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. "The closing years of last century, and the first years of the new were a truly extraordinary time," said Benedict, "and all the more so for people who, like us, had the good fortune to experience them alongside a true giant of the faith and of the mission of the Church, my venerated predecessor."
Collaborating closely with John Paul II, "we were 'drawn along' by his exceptional spiritual strength, rooted in prayer, in profound union with the Lord Jesus Christ and in filial intimacy with His Most Holy Mother. John Paul II's missionary charisma had ... a decisive influence on his pontificate, in particular on the period of preparation for the Jubilee 2000. And this was directly evident in the diocese of Rome, the Pope's own diocese, thanks to the constant commitment of the cardinal vicar and his collaborators."
Two examples of Cardinal Ruini’s commitment, said the Pope, are "the Rome Citizens' Mission and the Dialogues in the Cathedral.” Both of these groups showed “a Church which, at the very moment in which she was gaining a greater awareness of her own diocesan identity, ... opened herself ... to a missionary mentality ... destined to last not just the length of a season, but ... to become permanent."
Cardinal Ruini was also praised by the Pope for his great concern for promoting the missionary outreach and his willingness to help inform it with his “outstanding capacity for theological and philosophical reflection.”
“The apostolate, especially in our own time, must be constantly nourished by thought in order to explain the significance of gestures and actions which otherwise lapse into sterile activism,” Benedict XVI said.
The Holy Father also brought to mind how he spent time with Cardinal Ruini working to respond to the “most urgent pastoral questions” of the diocese, while taking account of the “social and cultural context of the city."
Honoring the cardinal’s faithfulness to the Church, the Pope said, “dear cardinal, you have given an example that goes beyond the initiatives of the moment, an example of commitment to 'thinking the faith' in absolute conformity to the Magisterium of the Church, with careful attention to the teachings of the bishop of Rome and, at the same time, while constantly listening to the questions that arise from contemporary culture and from the problems of modern society."
After his words to Cardinal Ruini, Benedict XVI greeted Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the new vicar of the diocese of Rome, who was previously the prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.
Welcoming him to his new office, the Pope said, "I entrust it to you bearing in mind the pastoral experience you gained first as auxiliary in the great archdiocese of Naples, then as bishop of Albano, to which experiences you add proven gifts of wisdom and cordiality."
St. Louis, Mo., Jun 27, 2008 (CNA) - Today the Holy Father appointed Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. The archbishop, one of the leading experts of Canon law in the United States will leave the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri to take up his new post in Rome near the end of August.
The appointment came on the same day that Pope Benedict named Cardinal Agostino Vallini, current prefect of the Supreme Tribunal, as the vicar general for the Diocese of Rome - the highest diocesan administrator. The position was previously held by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, whose resignation was accepted by Benedict XVI upon reaching the age of 75.
In a statement to the archdiocese, the archbishop admitted that he was deeply humbled at the new opportunity to serve the Church. “Although you will no longer pray for me as your archbishop, especially during the celebration of the Holy Mass, I ask your prayers for me, that I may faithfully and generously cooperate with God's grace in fulfilling my new responsibilities.”
“Leaving the service of the Church in the Archdiocese of St. Louis is most sad for me. It has been an honor and gift for me to serve the archdiocese over the past four years and five months. It had been my hope to serve here for a long time, but, as the bishop who called me to priestly ordination often remarked, ‘Man proposes, but God disposes.’ I trust that doing what our Holy Father has asked me to do will bring blessings to the Archdiocese of St. Louis and to me. St. Louis is a great archdiocese which will always have a treasured place in my heart.”
In his new position, Archbishop Burke will serve as the head of the Church’s supreme tribunal, which ensures that justice is correctly administered.
Also known as the Church’s Supreme Court, the Tribunal also oversees the administration of justice within the Church, examining administrative matters referred to it by the Congregations of the Roman Curia, as well as questions committed to it by the Holy Father.
Archbishop Burke is known as an accomplished Canon Lawyer. Born in 1948 in Wisconsin and ordained in 1975, the archbishop completed his graduate studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Burke was later named Moderator of the Curia and Vice Chancellor of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Prior to being named Bishop of La Crosse in 1994, Burke served as Defender of the Bond of the Supreme Tribunal for five years - the first American to hold the position.
In 2004, Burke became the eighth archbishop of St. Louis and has been one of the strongest voices in the American Church, speaking boldly against pro-abortion politicians who profess the Faith and assert that they are able to receive Communion.
The process for naming a successor for Archbishop Burke will begin immediately. Until he is appointed, an archdiocesan administrator will govern the archdiocese.
Santiago, Chile, Jun 27, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Bishop’s Conference of Chile, Bishop Alejandro Goic, called on Catholics and society in general this week not to abandon drug addicts and to combat the plague of drugs. This plague, he said, affects not only those with low incomes “but also those who are well-off and are often burdened by the lack of meaning in their lives.”
“Addicts are suffering people who, having lost their freedom through drug use, have developed a terrible capacity for hiding their pain, often living in a state of isolation that becomes increasingly desolate and dramatic,” Bishop Doic said in a message for the International Day Against Drug Use.
“If it is true that the person is the most important thing and that the person must be cared for and developed, then we cannot ignore this situation that harms so many of us and that therefore harms us all,” he added.
We Christians cannot “wash our hands of this social problem and leave these brothers and sisters abandoned,” Bishop Doic continued. He said society needs to be more humane in dealing with the problem of drug abuse and that greater effort needs to be made to reach out to those suffering from this addiction.
“This is not only a problem that affects those suffering from this scourge,” he said, “but rather a problem that affects us all as a society, although it manifests itself in concrete individuals.”
Rome, Italy, Jun 27, 2008 (CNA) - The Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Camilo Ruini, presided this week over the closing of the diocesan phase of the process of canonization for the Prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, who was the first successor of St. Josemaria Escriva.
The ceremony took place Thursday at the Lateran Palace in Rome with the current Prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez and members of the prelature in attendance.
During his discourse, Cardinal Ruini recalled that Bishop Del Portillo was “an example of fidelity in the following of the spirit of sanctification in work and in daily life,” and therefore his example should be a stimulus “for many people to be infected with love of God and neighbor.”
Bishop Del Portillo’s cause of canonization was opened on March 5, 2004. The first phase was carried out by two tribunals, one at the Vicariate of Rome and another at the Opus Dei Prelature, which has not yet concluded it sessions.
The next step in the process, once the Opus Dei Prelature concludes its sessions, “is the drafting of the positio, a biography of the candidate for sainthood that shows that he or she has lived the Christian virtues heroically.” It is then presented by the postulator of the cause, Msgr. Flavio Capucci, to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
Vatican City, Jun 27, 2008 (CNA) - This morning, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his desire to welcome more bishops from mainland China to the Vatican soon. His prayer for the visits occured during a meeting with bishops from the Chinese dioceses of Hong Kong and Macao on their “ad limina” visit.
These two particular Churches, said the Holy Father, are "called to be witnesses to Christ, to look forward in hope and to announce the Gospel facing up to the new challenges that the people of Hong Kong and Macao must embrace."
One of the most pressing needs for the Church in the two dioceses is “adequate ongoing formation of the clergy," the Holy Father said. This will help to address the “rapid changes in the social and cultural conditions” of society and also aid the “'new evangelization' which constitutes the essential and pressing task of the Church.”
The Pope then turned to Catholic education and its contribution to Chinese society. "Catholic schools offer an important contribution to the intellectual, spiritual and moral formation of the new generations. This crucial aspect of personal growth is what motivates Catholic parents, and those from other religious traditions, to seek out Catholic schools."
"The Catholic schools of your two dioceses have given significant impulse to the social development and cultural growth of your people. Today these educational centers face new difficulties; be assured that I am with you, and I encourage you to ensure that this important service will never fall by the wayside," said Benedict XVI.
The Holy Father thanked the bishops "for the affection and devotion you have shown to the Holy See in different ways. As I congratulate you on the many achievements of your well-organized diocesan communities, I encourage you to even greater commitment in the search for adequate means of presenting the Christian message of love in a more comprehensible way to the world in which you live," he said.
"I also encourage your dioceses to continue your contribution to the life of the Church in mainland China, both by offering personnel for formation purposes and by supporting initiatives in the field of human promotion and assistance". Also mentioned by the Pope for their “invaluable service" were the diocesan offices of the charitable organization Caritas.
As he bid the bishops farewell, Pope Benedict said, "I hope and pray to the Lord that the day will soon come when your brother bishops from mainland China come to Rome on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, as a sign of communion with the Successor of Peter and the Universal Church."
Harare, Zimbabwe, Jun 27, 2008 (CNA) - Zimbabwe’s political opposition urged the international community to reject the results of Friday’s run-off presidential election in which President Robert Mugabe stood as the sole candidate.
Morgan Tsvangirai, who is Mugabe’s former opponent in the presidential race, along with the United States and the European Union, dismissed the election as “a sham” in comments made to reporters.
“Anyone who recognizes the result of this election is denying the will of the Zimbabwean people and standing in the way of a transition that will deliver stability and prosperity not just to the country, but to the region," Tsvangirai said.
Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), won the first round of the election in March with 47.9 percent of the vote, compared to Mugabe’s 43.2 percent. In the simultaneous legislative elections, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party lost control of parliament for the first time since the nation’s independence from Britain in 1980, though the outcome is being contested in courts.
The MDC has accused Mugabe of influencing voters through a campaign of violence and intimidation. Tsvangirai said there was no point in acts of defiance.
“If possible, we ask you not to vote today. But if you must vote for Mr. Mugabe because of threats to your life, then do so," he wrote in a letter to supporters, according to Agence France Presse.
“If forced to cast your ballot for Mr. Mugabe to avoid personal harm, then again I say do so.”
Allegations from some areas of Zimbabwe claim that officials are inspecting ballots before they are placed in ballot boxes. A senior MDC activist in Nyampada said he had intended to ruin his ballot to invalidate it but was confronted by a ZANU-PF official who demanded to see the voting slip.
"There was no way out. I had to vote for Mugabe,” the activist told Agence France Presse on condition of anonymity.
Mugabe, who has ruled the country since its independence, cast his own vote in the Harare suburb of Highfields. “I feel very fit and very optimistic," he said to reporters after voting.
At his final rally, Mugabe had said he would be willing to talk to his opposition but negotiations would only begin after he had won his sixth term.
Though Tsvangirai said he was open to negotiations, he added “Who do you negotiate with? Mugabe will be illegitimate.”
The opposition leader said he could not see “any role” in the future for South African President Thabo Mbeki , who had been mediating between the ruling party and the opposition, if Mbeki recognized the victory of his old ally Mugabe.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also called the vote a “sham,” pledging that the United States government would consider how to pressure Mugabe at the U.N. Security Council.