Archive of July 16, 2008

Soccer pro retires to pursue Catholic priesthood

Boston, Mass., Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - A professional soccer player in Massachusetts has retired from the sport to enter a Catholic seminary, saying he is “moving on to something much greater.”

Chase Hilgenbrinck, a defender for the New England Revolution, explained the motives for his retirement:

"After years of discernment, I feel strongly that the Lord has called me to become a priest in the Catholic Church," he said in a press statement released by his team. "Playing professional soccer has been my passion for a long time and I feel blessed to have successfully lived out this dream. My passion now is to do the will of God, which is wanting only what He wants for me. Though I will miss the game of soccer, I know that I am moving on to something much greater."

Hilgenbrinck, 26, was a starting player for the team’s two U.S. Open Cup victories in July and for all six of the reserve team’s games. In the latter, he captained the team twice.

He had signed with the Revolution in March following a four-year career in Chile.

“I grew up as a Catholic. I was always involved in the church, went to Catholic schools,” Hilgenbrinck told the Associated Press. “It was when I got out on my own that my faith really became mine. I really embraced it. I didn't have to go to church any more, I was free to really believe what I wanted to believe.”

"I looked to strengthen my personal relationship with Christ. And when my personal life started to flourish, I couldn't turn my back on that relationship.”

He said he considered delaying his pursuit of the priesthood until after his career ended, but reconsidered.

“Delayed obedience is disobedience,” he said. "We are all called to do something. I feel like my specific call is to the priesthood. So, no, it was not possible to continue with soccer. It's absolutely inevitable."

Hilgenbrinck will attend St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where he was accepted in March. He will have to spend six years studying philosophy and theology before he can be ordained a priest.

Revolution Vice President of Player Personnel Michael Burns commented on Hilgenbrinck’s decision, saying in a team statement, "We understand Chase's decision to retire from soccer and pursue his mission of helping others and we support his desire to make this change in his life."

"We wish Chase the best and thank him for the service and leadership he provided in his brief tenure with us."

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International Criminal Court’s indictment of president has divided Sudan, bishop says

Khartoum, Sudan, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - A Sudanese Catholic bishop has said that the International Criminal Court’s decision to indict Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir for genocide and for crimes against humanity has divided the country. While those in conflict-torn Darfur are happy with the move, demonstrations in support of the president have broken out in Khartoum and in other parts of the country.

“Demonstrations supporting the president have already started in El Obeid. This morning all the schools participated in a great demonstration in the centre of the town. Surely, in the coming days other groups will do the same,” Bishop Antonio Menegazzo of El Obeid told Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA).

The location of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, has aggravated the reaction, he said.

“Do not forget that politics in the Moslem world are always tied up with religion, even if religion has nothing to do with this case. The indictment is coming from Europe; the ICC resides in a Christian country,” the bishop explained.

“Even those opposed to Omar al-Bashir will support him against the interference by the ICC. Even the peace process for Darfur will suffer,” Bishop Menegazzo stated.

On Monday ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo formally charged President al-Bashir, alleging that the president “bears criminal responsibility” related to 10 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

Moreno-Ocampo alleged that the president masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa peoples on account of their ethnicity. The chief prosecutor then requested an arrest warrant for al-Bashir from the ICC judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber I.

Some international observers said the move could further destabilize Sudan, while some human rights groups welcomed the indictment.

The indictment was also welcomed by Father Jude Waweru, an official with the eight-nation Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA).

“If it is true that President al-Bashir has contributed in the war crimes in the Sudan, I think justice has to be pursued,” said Father Waweru, who is the AMECEA Justice and Peace Coordinator in Nairobi.

“He has been there all these years and how has he contributed to peace in the country? He has not delivered. If he is guilty, his arrest will benefit the African continent, where leaders mismanage resources and oppress the people.”

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Archbishop Chaput urges Sydney youth to shun ‘part-time Christianity’

Sydney, Australia, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - Charles J. Chaput, the Archbishop of Denver, spoke in Sydney on Wednesday night at a Theology on Tap session as part of a World Youth Day Youth Festival Event. In a speech which will be broadcast on the Australian television station Channel Nine, he exhorted young Catholics to avoid living a double life of “part-time Christianity,” and to know and love Christ “like our lives depend on it.”

Addressing a crowd of young people in P.J. Gallagher’s Irish Pub in Sydney, Archbishop Chaput said that Christian believers are pressured to live a “double life,” that is, “to be one person when we’re in church or at prayer and somebody different when we’re with our friends or family, or at work, or when we talk about politics.” He said Catholics should not internalize the “old adage” to avoid talking about religion and politics.

“These are precisely the things we should be talking about,” the archbishop argued. “Nothing else really matters. What could be more important than religious faith, which deals with the ultimate meaning of life, and politics, which deals with how we should organize our lives together for the common good?”

The archbishop noted how Australian bishops’ opposition to a bill that would allow the cloning of embryonic stem cells, opposition which he called courageous, was greeted with talk about charging Catholic leaders with intimidating Ministers of Parliament and tampering with the legislative process.

“All because they had the audacity to voice a political opinion that was based on their religious convictions,” Archbishop Chaput said. He further noted that a Belgian bishop had even faced criminal charges, which were dismissed, for explaining Church teaching that homosexual activity is a sin.

The archbishop continued, “these cases have a very calculated ‘chilling effect.’ They reinforce, with the threat of jail and fines, the pressures that we Catholics already feel to keep our mouths shut. To obey the ‘double life’ rule. To define our faith as simply private prayer and personal piety.”

But Christians cannot “live a half-way Christianity.” “Every double life will inevitably self-destruct,” Archbishop Chaput insisted.

The way to lead a Christian life in a secular age, he said, rests on knowing what to think about Jesus despite popular misconceptions about him.

The archbishop quoted a statement from the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, who said an influential view of Jesus holds that he was someone “who demands nothing, never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything, who no longer does anything but affirm us.”

“We’ve remade him in the image and likeness of secular compassion,” Archbishop Chaput elaborated. “Today he’s not the Lord, the Son of God, but more like an enlightened humanist nice guy.”

“The problem is this: If Jesus isn’t Lord, if he isn’t the Son of God, then he can’t do anything for us. Then the Gospel is just one more or less interesting philosophy of life.”

The archbishop critiqued another misconception of Jesus, saying:

“Jesus didn’t come down from heaven to tell us to go to church on Sunday. He didn’t die on the cross and rise from the dead so that we would pray more at home and be a little nicer to our next-door neighbors. The fact that you smile when I say these things means we know intuitively how absurd it is to imagine a privatized, part-time Christianity.”

Rather than believe such false conceptions, he said, “we need to take Christ at his word. We need to love him like our lives depend on it. Right now. And without excuses.”

“Jesus wants all of us. And not just on Sundays. He wants us to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind. He wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is, with a love that’s total.”

Being a follower of Christ is not just one part of life. “Being a Christian is who you are. Period. And being a Christian means your life has a mission. It means striving every day to be a better follower, to become more like Jesus in your thoughts and actions.”

Archbishop Chaput invoked as model Christians Blessed Charles de Foucauld and Blessed Franz Jagerstatter. The former, he said, asked himself what God wanted of him and how he should follow Christ. The latter man, an Austrian, refused to cooperate with the Nazi regime and was executed as what the archbishop described as “a martyr for the truth that a Catholic can never lead a double-life.”

He exhorted the audience to prayer, “talking to God, humbly and honestly,” to daily reading of the Gospels, and to study the teachings of the Church.

“Love the Church; love her as your mother and teacher,” he counseled. “Help to build her up, to purify her life and work. We all get angry when we see human weakness and sin in the Church. But we have to remember always that the Church is much, much more than the sum of her human parts.”

He asked the audience to explain and to defend Christian teaching at every level of society in the face of “inhuman trends.”

“The leaders of today’s secularized societies like to fancy themselves as true humanists and humanitarians,” Archbishop Chaput said. “But these same societies justify killing millions of babies in the womb and dismembering embryos in the laboratory. We dispatch the handicapped and the elderly and call it ‘death with dignity.’ Our very language has become distorted.”

Without the truth of Christ, he said, Christians living a double life will self-destruct or, worse, merely waste away.

“Only the truth can set people free. That truth is Jesus Christ. So if we truly love our neighbors we will want them to know the truth. The whole truth. Not just the parts of it that make them feel good, the parts that don’t challenge them to change.”

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Minnesota professor repeats threat of Eucharistic desecration

Morris, MN, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - University of Minnesota at Morris biology professor P.Z. Myers has repeated his threat to desecrate the Eucharist, saying “I have to do something. I’m not going to just let this disappear.”

Speaking in an interview with the Minnesota Independent, Myers characterized the Eucharist as a “cracker.” He said that the vitriolic responses he received from self-described Catholics had strengthened his resolve.

“I have to do something,” he said in the interview. “I'm not going to just let this disappear. It's just so darned weird that they're demanding that I offer this respect to a symbol that means nothing to me. Something will be done. It won't be gross. It won't be totally tasteless, but yeah, I'll do something that shows this cracker has no power. This cracker is nothing.”

According to Myers, a minority of the threats even directed anti-Jewish remarks at him. Myers was in fact raised Lutheran.

When the Minnesota Independent asked Myers how his proposed action differed from U.S. military personnel’s reported abuse of the Koran, Myers responded:

“There's a subtle difference there -- maybe an important difference. I don't favor the idea of going to somebody's home or to something they own and possess and consider very important, like a graveyard -- going to a grave and desecrating that. That's something completely different. Because what you're doing is doing harm to something unique and something that is rightfully part of somebody else -- it's somebody else's ownership. The cracker is completely different. This is something that's freely handed out.”

Myers claimed the furor generated by his threat was a result of the weakening state of religion. “This is them lashing out. It's a disparate ploy to be relevant and to be important again... They're looking for somebody to take their ire out on.”

Last week Myers had threatened to desecrate the Eucharist in response to a Florida incident in which a student senator allegedly held a consecrated Host hostage.

“Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers?” Myers wrote on July 8 on his blog Pharyngula. “…if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage… but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web.”

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, in a Tuesday statement criticized Myers for showing deference to Islam but not Catholicism in Myers’ Minnesota Independent interview.
Donohue cited Myers’ 2006 remarks on a Danish controversy surrounding derogatory depictions of Mohammed, in which he said the cartoons “lack artistic or social or even comedic merit, and are presented as an insult to inflame a poor minority.”

Donohue continued: “He even went so far as to say that Muslims ‘have cause to be furious.’ (His italic.) Worthy of burning down churches, pledging to behead Christians and shooting a nun in the back…”

“We hope Myers does the right thing and just moves on without further disgracing himself and his university,” Donohue stated. “The letter I received from University of Minnesota President Robert H. Bruininks makes it clear that school officials want nothing to do with his hate-filled remarks. It would also be nice if Myers’ fans would cease and desist with their hate-filled screeds.”

In a Friday Catholic League statement Donohue said that Myers’ remarks and the reactions of Myers’ supporters has prompted Thomas E. Foley, a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, to voice concern for Catholics who are attending the September convention.

“Accordingly, Foley has asked the top GOP brass to provide additional security while in the Twin Cities so that Catholics can worship without fear of violence,” Donohue said.

The Florida incident which provoked Myers’ desecration threat happened in June when Webster Cook, a student senator at the University of Central Florida, reportedly received a consecrated Host at a campus Mass and took it back to his seat to show his curious friend. When confronted by a Catholic leader who reputedly tried to retrieve the Host, Cook left the church and stored the Sacrament in a plastic bag. He returned the Host on Sunday July 6 and apologized, but said he was motivated by his opposition to the Catholic campus group’s use of student funds.

Catholic students in an official complaint charged Cook with disruptive conduct, while Cook responded with an official complaint concerning alleged physical force.

According to, Cook is now pressing charges against the University of Central Florida Catholic Campus Ministries for hazing, alleging the Catholic group violated an anti-hazing rule against the forced consumption of food. The rule is normally applied to fraternity initiations.

Cook has also charged the Catholic group of violating the school’s underage alcohol policy by serving communion wine to underage students.

Anthony Furbush, an officer in the university’s Student Government Association (SGA), has filed an affidavit of impeachment against Cook, alleging that he violated SGA ethics when he announced that he was an SGA official during the Mass. He claimed this status as a reason he did not have to leave the Mass when asked. If impeached, Cook would be stripped of his SGA position.

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'Reformed Catholic Church' backed by Chavez, says Venezuelan bishop

Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Roberto Lückert, vice president of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, told a local radio station this week that the recently created “Reformed Catholic Church” which says it supports President Hugo Chavez is backed by the government.

The self-proclaimed “Reformed Catholic Church” has not generated much interest among Venezuelans, but according to Archbishop Lückert, thanks to the support of the government, it already has opened four places of worship in the country.

The archbishop pointed out that the church was founded be a former Catholic priest, a Lutheran minister and an Anglican minister, “and that the government pays priests to attend their events, including hotel and airfare.”

“Rejection (of the new denomination) has not only come from the Catholic Church, but the Lutheran and Anglican Communions have also expressed their disapproval of this church,” the archbishop said.

He also pointed to TV stations that have been required to air ads promoting the new church as proof of the government’s support for the new sect.

“This church only aims to use the name ‘Catholic’ to confuse the weakest of the faithful.  They are against the unity of the Catholic Church and are therefore outside it,” Archbishop Lückert warned.

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Professor who threatened desecration claims to have consecrated Hosts

Morris, MN, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - University of Minnesota Morris biology professor and science blogger Dr. Paul Zachary Myers, who last week threatened to desecrate the Eucharist and to broadcast the act on the internet, says he has acquired Eucharistic Hosts consecrated at a Catholic Mass.

Prof. Myers explained in an e-mail to CNA that he has received the Eucharist from several people. “So far, the crackers I have received have been given to me in person or sent to my home address.”

Myers has been derisively referring to the Eucharist as a “cracker.” He began his desecration campaign on his blog “Pharyngula” in reaction to an incident at the University of Central Florida in which a student senator allegedly held the Eucharist hostage.

When asked by CNA whether he considered taking consecrated Hosts from a Catholic church to be theft, he replied:

“I'm not taking the crackers from any church. I'm not interested in attending church, nor would I misrepresent myself as a Catholic to receive it.

“It is freely handed out to people taking communion in the church. The people who are sending me crackers have received it openly,” he wrote.

Myers also could not see how others could consider taking a consecrated Host to be theft. “No. This ‘theft’ nonsense is a rationalization people are making up to justify hysteria.”

Myers said the reason to abuse a Host is “to expose the witch-hunt tactics of extremist Catholics like Bill Donohue.”

CNA asked Myers if he had received any “intellectually worthy” replies to his desecration threat, to which he responded “No.” “It's your job to give me one. ‘I will pray for you,’ ‘you must hate Catholics,’ and ‘why don't you desecrate a Koran?’, which are the most common messages I'm being sent, are not rational.

He noted that his blog Pharyngula has an open comments policy where critiques are already posted.

On Friday the Catholic League reported that Thomas E. Foley, a Virginia delegate to the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Minneapolis has asked that increased security be considered for the event in light of Myers’ threat to acquire and desecrate the Eucharist.

“I just felt security at the Republican National Convention ought to look at him and his followers,” Foley told CNA in a phone interview on Wednesday morning. He reported that he had not received an update about his request.

Voicing his concerns about Myers, Foley said: “What I think he has done, he’s loaded a cyberpistol and he’s cocked it and he’s left it on the table. He may have set something in motion that no one can stop. It was irresponsible, a hell of a thing to do.”

Foley explained that he thought Myers should not be able to incite such acts with “impunity,” saying that he was especially disturbed by the comments posted on Myers’ blog. He said it was “eye-opening” to read the people who supported Myers’ action. Even at his age of 63, Foley said, he had never “personally encountered such bigotry.”

He also objected to Myers’ recent description of Catholic League President Bill Donohue as “braying,” which Foley, a self-described Irish Catholic, claimed was “a great insult for the Irish.”

Foley said he believes Myers was telling his readers to acquire a consecrated Host at Mass, which Foley thought would result in disruptions.

“What’s he telling them to do? Consecrated Hosts are not just lying around,” he said to CNA, noting that the only other possible way to secure a Host would be to accost a priest, nun, or layman taking the Sacrament to the sick. Even E-bay, Foley emphasized, has prevented the sale of consecrated Hosts.

Foley said he thinks Myers’ actions have ended his career. “Who can listen to him lecture on science without thinking ‘Polly wants a cracker’?” he asked.

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How is the Holy Spirit calling you? asks Bishop Pepe

Sydney, Australia, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - Around 400 youth packed St. Benedict's Church to hear Bishop Joseph Pepe of Las Vegas, Nevada deliver a catechesis on the Holy Spirit on Wednesday morning. The bishop challenged the youth to ask how the Holy Spirit is calling them vocationally. 

During World Youth Day, catechesis or teaching sessions will be conducted in 29 languages in 235 different locations throughout Sydney.

Catechesis, which comes from the Greek word for echo, consists of a time of teaching where Catholic bishops from around the world fulfill their role as successors to the apostles by echoing their teaching. Sessions will involve a time of teaching, followed by a time for questions and answers. Most sessions will conclude with the celebration of the Eucharist and lunch.

Over the next three days, the themes of the catechesis are centred on the Holy Spirit and Mission’ as part of the Pentecost event.

The Most Reverend Joseph Pepe, led the catechesis at the University of Notre Dame on today’s theme, titled “Called to live in the Holy Spirit,” which focussed on the scripture verse “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit,” (Gal 5:25).

“The Holy Spirit is a mysterious force, but certainly a powerful one, which we don’t often think about,” he told over 400 pilgrims who lined the halls of the University’s St. Benedict’s church, leaving standing room only.

After inviting the pilgrims to blow on their hands and then hold their breath for a brief moment, he said, “Breath is the essence of life, and yet is it so subtle… The Spirit is also subtle, and mysterious to us, yet He is the breath that is gentle, yet so present, and so powerful because we need Him to have life.”

He offered the pilgrims another contrasting description of the Holy Spirit, as “an image of fire, burning the world causing a tremendous change and transformation.”

The Holy Spirit is present in many instances in the Bible, said Bishop Pepe. With reference to Genesis, he spoke of how “the Holy Spirit came out of God the creator to transform water into chaos.”

The Holy Spirit was present in the exodus of ancient Israelites from Egypt, where he told the pilgrims, “our God breathed on the water and parted them so that the people could walk to freedom, to a promised land.”

“The Spirit worked to make these ancient people to make them more aware of each other and more aware that God was part of their lives.”

The Spirit is such a powerful force that “He descended on the womb of Mary to conceive the Son of God,” he said to pilgrims.

Bishop Pepe asked pilgrims to imagine all the elements that brought them here today, to remind them that the Holy Spirit that made that possible.

How to Live in the Holy Spirit

“Jesus is a transforming power in our lives,” said Bishop Pepe, “It is through the Holy Spirit that we received in Baptism that we can be transformed.”

“Our faith and our gift of faith is always a gift. We have been transformed into a new life. Jesus Christ made it possible to have this divine life. It gives us happiness, peace, a sense of presence of God in life, and great love that will last forever.”

“Gaining more knowledge of the Holy Spirit is an opportunity to become personally involved in God, to be come more aware of Him, and to integrate Him into your life,” said Bishop Pepe.

He finally asked the pilgrims to discern through the Holy Spirit what God was calling them to.

“What is God calling you to? Is He calling you to difficult challenges, special life in vocation, priesthood or religious life? Is He calling you to be a husband, wife, or to single life?” asked the Bishop.

Whatever the path they discerned, he urged them to “take the word of God and make it living… People experience the message of Jesus in a living way.”

After Bishop Pepe celebrated Mass with the pilgrims he told Catholic News Agency that delivering a catechesis to the large group of youth was “overwhelming.”

“It was awesome to see the faith of young people there, to see how many have come to hear and to listen to the word of the Lord. You feel like you are an instrument of God.”

“When he was talking about how the Holy Spirit was like breathing, and how necessary it was though subtle, [that] really struck me,” said Jeffery, a young pilgrim from California.

“I came to World Youth Day to “bolster my faith. [Bishop Pepe] really put the Holy Spirit and the Trinity in good perspective,” said Mike, one of 150 pilgrims attending Chaminade and Kellenberg on Long Island, New York who travelled to World Youth Day.

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Pope receives an unsual delegation: a koala, kangaroo and python

Sydney, Australia, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI held an unsual audience on Wednesday morning--a meeting with a koala, red-necked wallaby joey and other iconic Australian animals at the Kenthurst Study Centre.

“We wanted to offer the Holy Father an opportunity to experience some of Australia’s unique fauna, and were delighted when our partners at Taronga Zoo offered to help,” said Fr. Mark Podesta, WYD08 spokesman.

“The Holy Father expressed that he wanted to meet some of our native animals, so we were more than happy to offer him this experience,” he said.
Mr. Casey, Chief Operating Officer of World Youth Day, said the Zoo staff were very professional, showing great love for the animals in their care. The animals that they brought with them included a wallaby, koala, python, lizard, baby crocodile and an echidna.

The Pope patted each of the animals and thanked the team from Taronga Zoo.

Before meeting our native friends, Pope Benedict sent out his daily text message: “the Holy Spirit gave the Apostles & gives u the power boldly 2 proclaim that Christ is risen! – BXVI”

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Benedict XVI appoints two auxiliary bishops to the same diocese

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - The Canadian Diocese of Sault Ste-Marie received a rare gift today from Pope Benedict XVI, not just one but two auxiliary bishops. The two bishops-elect are Father Noël Simard and Father Brian Dunn.

The appointment of the two priests as auxiliary bishops comes a little over a year after Bishop Robert Harris, the previous auxiliary of Sault Ste-Marie, was appointed to lead the Diocese of St. John in New Brunswick. The two bishops-elect will assist Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe in leading the faithful of the Diocese of Sault Ste-Marie.

Bishop-elect Noël Simard was born in St-Aimé des lacs, in the region of Charlevoix, Quebec, in 1947 and ordained to the priesthood in 1972. 

After having worked in the education milieu, from 1972 to 1980, he studied at the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome, where he obtained a doctorate in theology in 1984.  He then served as parish priest until 1988, when he started working as professor in religious studies and ethics at the University of Sudbury and later as professor of moral theology and bioethics at Saint Paul University, in Ottawa.

At the time of his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Sault Ste-Marie, he was the director of the Ethic Centre at Saint Paul University.

Bishop-Elect Brian Dunn was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 1955 and ordained to the priesthood in 1980.

He was then assigned to a number of parishes in the Diocese of Grand Falls until 1988, when he moved to Ottawa to complete his Doctoral studies at Saint Paul University.  In 1991, he was assigned to parishes while working as Vice-Chancellor and Chancellor for the diocese of Grand Falls and teaching theology in the Maritimes.  Since 2002, he has served on the faculty at St. Peter’s Seminary, in London, Ontario.  Since 2005 and until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Sault Ste-Marie, he has served as Dean of Studies. 

The Diocese of Sault Ste-Marie has 97 diocesan priests, 26 religious order priests, 101 permanent deacons, and 194 religious Brothers and Sisters serving a Catholic population of 206,405 in 106 parishes and missions, according to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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Pilgrims treated to a 'Great Australian Barbeque'

Sydney, Australia, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - Around Sydney, pilgrims were given a taste of Australian culture with the WYD Big Aussie BBQ. Taking place at more than 200 venues, over 220,000 slices of Tip Top “Daily Bread” were served with sausages and tomato sauce.

World Youth Day ambassador Jared Crouch grabbed the tongs today and served up sausages to pilgrims at the University of Notre Dame, Broadway.
According to World Youth Day organisers, if all the 220,000 slices of bread were lined up end to end they would cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge 21 times.

“I came for a different experience and to meet youth from all over the World,” said Sydney, who was fittingly named, and was amongst the pilgrims at the BBQ with 150 other pilgrims from New York. They came from Chaminade High School and Kellenberg High School, both on Long Island, and had arrived on Monday after visiting Australia’s tropical north for two days.

“Meeting all the people and being around everyone, I found it really fun,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to see the Pope. It’s going to be really awesome."

“The most striking thing I took from the catechesis is the message that we are chosen to love,” said Alexandra Smith, a student who travelled from Quinnipiac University, New York. “I’ve never left America before, and last night’s Mass was the most beautiful thing to see people from all over the world waving their flags.”

Kimberly Graham, from the Cayman Islands, a country near Jamacia comprising 3 small islands covering 100 miles in total, is finding Sydney “very different to home, and much colder.”

“Being a teenager or young adult today, you have a lot of pressure to do things that you may not want to do, so just to be able to know your beliefs and to be strong with them is nice.”

Coming to World Youth Day has really strengthened her faith, said Kimberly. “Where I’m from, Cayman Islands, is very small, so to see so many Christians in one spot, is amazing.”

The Australian Barbeque was served after the morning's teaching sessions that were conducted in 235 different locations throughout Sydney.

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Holy See to define canonical status of former bishop elected president

Asunción, Paraguay, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Claudio Jimenez of Caacupe said Tuesday the Bishops Conference of Paraguay hopes the Vatican will define the canonical status of former bishop Fernando Lugo, who has been elected president of Paraguay, “by the end of the month.”

Bishop Jimenez said the Apostolic Nuncio to Paraguay, Archbishop Orlando Antonini, is currently consulting with the Vatican and “will bring the response of the Holy See when he returns from Rome at the end of July.”

Pressed by reporters for more details about the decision by the Vatican, the bishop said he had no further comments and that the best thing was for the bishops “to be prudent.”

Lugo and Archbishop Antonini met on April 24 to find a solution to the unprecedented situation that confronts the Catholic Church with the election of a bishop as president of the country.

The Vatican suspended Lugo “a divinis” and refused to accept his resignation from the clerical state in January of 2007.  Lugo won the presidential election on April 20.

In April the Bishops’ Conference of Paraguay said Canon Law does not provide for the laicization of a bishop and suggested the President-elect could return to the Church when his term ends in 2013.
They noted that such a proposal would require Pope Benedict XVI to grant a special dispensation before Lugo takes office on August 15.

Soon after winning the election, Lugo publicly asked forgiveness for the “harm” he caused the Church with his decision to enter politics and disobey the Holy See.


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Pope Benedict holds emotional encounter with terminally ill police officer

Sydney, Australia, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - After resting two days at the Opus Dei Center in the Australian Blue Mountains, Pope Benedict XVI held an emotional encounter with members of his security team there, including one terminally ill police officer, before leaving for Sydney.


The Pontiff held a warm, informal meeting with the policemen and firefighters responsible for his security at the Opus Dei Center. Among them was a former officer who is now seriously ill.  The retired officer had worked in the police force for 25-years and was brought to the Pope's presence on a stretcher.


After receiving Benedict's blessing and a Rosary, the policeman unfolded the Rosary in his hand and immediately gave the Pontiff his police hat as a present.


Benedict responded with an additional blessing, words of comfort, and placed the police hat on his head as a sign of appreciation.

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Vatican requests exhumation of Cardinal Newman’s remains

London, England, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - The exhumation of Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman has been requested by the Vatican to make veneration easier for his devotees. The prominent nineteenth-century convert from the Church of England is being considered for beatification, the last step before he is declared a saint.

Cardinal Newman’s body was buried in a small cemetery at Rednal in 1890. According to the Telegraph, the Vatican wants his remains to be moved to a marble sarcophagus in the Birmingham Oratory.

Father Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, explained the reason for the request: "One of the centuries-old procedures surrounding the creating of new saints by the Catholic Church concerns their earthly remains.

"These have to be identified, preserved and, if necessary, placed in a new setting which befits the individual's new status in the Church.

"We hope that Cardinal Newman's new resting place in the Oratory Church in Birmingham will enable more people to come and pay their respects to him, and perhaps light a candle there.

"Many will surely wish to honor this great and holy man."

The exhumation and re-interment of Newman’s remains Birmingham City Council and the Ministry of Justice, which was accused of “procrastinating” but is expected to approve the action soon.

Newman, who became an Oratorian priest after his conversion, was involved in founding the Birmingham Oratory. At his funeral more than 15,000 people lined the route to his burial place located beside other deceased members of his community.

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Bishop Fischer’s comments on sex abuse case criticized, cardinal responds

Sydney, Australia, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Anthony Fisher, the auxiliary bishop of Sydney and coordinator of World Youth Day, is under fire for his remarks about World Youth Day being overshadowed by “old wounds” related to clerical sexual abuse. Cardinal Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, has responded to the situation by repeating his apology about the case in question.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports that when asked about the Church’s response to the crimes of Father Kevin O'Donnell in Melbourne, Bishop Fisher responded:

“Happily, I think most of Australia was enjoying delighting in the beauty and goodness of these young people and the hope - the hope for us doing these sorts of things better in the future - as we saw last night, rather than, than dwelling crankily, as a few people are doing, on old wounds.”

Father O’Donnell was accused of sexually abusing Emma and Katie Foster between 1988 and 1993. Emma went on to suffer from anorexia and drug abuse and committed suicide earlier this year. The younger sister became alcoholic and was hit by a car. She now requires 24-hour care.

The priest was never tried in the Foster sisters’ case but was convicted of other child sex crimes in 1995 and jailed. He died in 1997.

In 1998 the Foster sisters’ family received an apology from Cardinal George Pell, the present Archbishop of Sydney who had been appointed Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.  Archbishop Pell encouraged the family to enter the Towards Healing program, whose compensation payments were capped at AU$50,000.

The family refused and instead pursued litigation over an eight year period.

Anthony Foster, the Foster sisters’ father, was reportedly infuriated by Bishop Fisher’s comments.

Foster said an “open ended arrangement” was needed to care for victims of clerical sexual abuse.

"No limits, full and free flow of help to victims for the rest of their lives, because they will suffer for the rest of their lives," he explained.

Cardinal Pell on Wednesday defended his handling of the Foster case, emphasizing that his apology to the Foster family still stands.

“I apologized to Emma in 1998. I met with her parents,” the cardinal said, noting that they had been offered financial help.

"We also offered them counseling for Emma and Emma availed herself of that counseling for 10 years and we contributed substantially towards those counseling costs.

"It's a tragic case, in every sense of the word and I, I repeat my apologies."

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Cardinal Kasper wishes unity for Anglicans as Lambeth Conference begins

London, England, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - On the occasion of the opening of the Lambeth Conference in England this evening, Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian unity, expressed hope that the Anglican Communion would have a fruitful meeting that would prevent schism within the denomination.


The conference, which takes place every ten years, gathers representatives from dioceses of the Anglican Communion around the world under the honorary presidency of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.


This year the Anglican Communion meets at the University of Kent's campus in Caterbury faced with the possibility of a historic split due to the ordination of the practicing homosexual bishop, Eugene Robinson, and the recent decision of British Anglicans to ordain women bishops.


After the latter decision, at least four Anglican bishops have expressed their desire to abandon the denomination and for the Roman Catholic Church.


Cardinal Kasper, who will join the meeting as an observer, released a statement saying, "my wish is that they may be able to keep the unity of the Anglican Communion, because no one can be interested in further divisions.  The churches must be united, so that they are witnesses of the Gospel and may work together for peace and justice in the World."


The Lambeth summit opened Wednesday afternoon with a spiritual retreat led by Archbishop Williams. The discussions about the future of the Anglican Communion will start on Friday.


Around 230 Anglican bishops, some of whom attended a parallel conference in Jerusalem two weeks ago, are boycotting the Lambeth Conference.

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Thousands of Canadians pray and venerate relics of Pier Giorgio Frassati

Sydney, Australia, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - A thousand young people from Canada gathered at the Cathedral of Saint Mary in Sydney to venerate the relics of Pier Giorgio Frassati, an Italian blessed who died before reaching the age of 24 and who is one of the 10 patron saints of WYD 2008. 

The Canadian youth met to pray vespers and to have Eucharistic adoration.  Father Thomas Rosica presided at the event, with Wanda Gawronska, Pier Giorgio’s niece, present as well. According to the L’Osservatore Romano, Father Rosica recounted the life of the Italian Blessed by reflecting on the sermon on the mount in the gospel of Matthew.

“The beatitudes in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount are a recipe for extreme holiness. Each crisis the Church confronts, each crisis the world faces, is a crisis of saints. Ours is a time in which young people need true heroes,” he said.

In speaking about Frassati, Father Rosica said, “Pier Giorgio did not choose to be a priest or a religious, preferring instead to bear witness to the Gospel as a layman.  He never founded a religious order or gave life to an ecclesial movement.  He never led an army or was elected to public office. Death came for him before he could graduate. He was never able to begin a career. He was not able to discover what his vocation was.  In summary, he was simply a young man in love with his family and friends, in love with the mountains and the ocean, but above all in love with God,” Father Rosica explained.

He noted that the two pillars in Pier Giorgio’s life were the Eucharist and love for the Virgin Mary, adding that He “gave what he had to help the poor, even his money for the bus, and instead running to get home in time for lunch. The poor and the suffering were his patrons and he was their servant, which he considered a privilege.” 

The L’Osservatore Romano reported as well that an expo on the Italian Blessed would be held July 15-18 at Sydney’s Exhibition Hall.

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Pro-lifers reject minor changes to pro-abortion Constitution in Ecuador

Guayaquil, Ecuador, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Familia y Futuro Foundation, Sonia Maria Crespo, denounced Ecuador’s Constitutional Assembly this week for not guaranteeing the right to life from the moment of conception in the country’s new Constitution and for making insufficient changes to the draft constitution.

On June 26, the Assembly drafted the section on civil rights leaving the door open to legalized abortion by eliminating the phrase “from conception” and enshrining controversial reproductive and sexual rights as civil rights.

In response, more than three thousand people marched on July 9, demanding that the Constitution protect life from the moment of conception and that the controversial phrases on reproductive and sexual rights be eliminated.

The protestors said Catholics would vote “no” when the final draft is submitted to a popular referendum if the text is not modified.  Last weekend, the president of the Assembly, Fernando Cordero, was forced to say on Ecuadoran television that if any Assembly member requested it, the articles in question would be reviewed.

In recent hours the Assembly have debated a new draft of the section on the right to life, but pro-life leaders said it did not go far enough.  The section now reads, “The State recognizes and guarantees life, including its care and protection from the moment of conception.”

However, Crespo said, “We do not accept this draft, with or without the commas,” adding that pro-lifers want the clause to read: “The State ensures and guarantees the right to life from the moment of conception, including its care and protection."

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Without the Church, there’s no way we can have a lasting, personal relationship with the true Jesus, says archbishop

Sydney, Australia, Jul 16, 2008 (CNA) - World Youth Day pilgrims attended catechetical sessions on the theme: "The Holy Spirit, soul of the Church" throughout Sydney, Australia on Thursday morning. In one address to young people, Denver, Colorado's Archbishop Charles Chaput stressed that,“Without the Church, there’s no way we can have a lasting, personal relationship with the true Jesus Christ.”


As he opened his talk, Archbishop Chaput posed a question: “How many of you have heard people from your own generation or older say something like this: ‘I believe in Jesus, but I don't need the Church.’  Or: ‘I’m a spiritual person, but I’m not religious’.”


The problem with these often heard statements is, according to the archbishop, “Without Jesus, there’s no Church.  It’s that simple.”

Archbishop Chaput explained to the youth that Jesus formed a community of believers, what we today call the Catholic Church, to bring salvation to all humanity for all the generations to come. "No matter how flawed or sinful individual Catholics may be, the Holy Spirit dwells in the Church and guarantees that she will always remain the sacrament of Salvation," stated the archbishop.

People also try to discredit the Church by diminishing the “historical fact of Jesus in sensational ways,” he noted.


“This is nonsense, and not because ‘the Church says so,’ but because it’s historical fact.”


The archbishop then went on to examine the claims that Jesus made during his ministry. “Jesus repeatedly claimed that He was the only way to salvation, that He was the Son of God, that we had to eat his flesh and drink his blood to be saved, and that we had to follow Him and make disciples of all nations.”


“So it’s false to say that Jesus was simply a ‘great master,’ or ‘a very wise man,’ or a ‘good leader.’  You can't be a ‘good man’ or a ‘great master’ and a liar at the same time, and Jesus quite openly claimed that He was the Son of God who came to save the world.  He was either a complete fraud or He was the Son of God.  Anything in between is just muddled thinking, inconsistent with Christ’s message,” Archbishop Chaput said.  


“In fact, as a believer, I have more respect for someone who rejects Jesus as an impostor or lunatic, than for someone who conveniently rearranges the Christian faith to say that Christ was a ‘great ethical teacher’,” Chaput told the youth.


Recalling that Pope Benedict XVI has been talking about the relationship between Jesus and the Church in many of his weekly talks in Rome, the archbishop noted that the Pope focused on those who first surrounded Christ and the different persons mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. Chaput explained to the youth that these talks deliver a clear
message: "We Catholic believers today are part of the same, living, community of faith founded by Jesus Christ Himself."

"If you want a full, meaningful life in Jesus Christ, you will only find it in the Catholic Church," advised Denver's archbishop. He called on his young listeners to have a true passion for the Catholic Church, citing the example of the many early Fathers of the Catholic Church and the great Catholic saints who gave their lives to prove their love for the Catholic Church.

The archbishop of Denver called on young Catholics to complement a strong Catholic sacramental and prayer life with on-going Catholic formation. A living Catholic community is the proper context for this kind of formation, he said. "Our connection to the Church is never an abstraction. It always comes alive through our engagement with a community of believers."

The archbishop concluded by reminding those in attendance that each one of them is loved by God and has a unique and irreplaceable purpose in God's plan of salvation. He quoted Saint Ignatius of Antioch, "All are not generals, nor commanders of a thousand, or a hundred, but each one in his own rank performs [what must be accomplished]. The great cannot subsist without the small, nor the small without the great." Each Catholic is needed to live and witness Jesus Christ.

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