Archive of August 8, 2008

Breakaway St. Louis church to elect new board members

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 8, 2008 (CNA) - Parishioners at the breakaway parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka in St. Louis will elect six new board members this weekend after a circuit court judge brokered a compromise between the church and the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Under the agreement, the church will cancel a second vote to amend its bylaws while the archdiocese has dropped a court motion to stop the vote, which could have further distanced the church from the archdiocese, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

On Wednesday Mary Ann Wymore, an attorney for the archdiocese, told St. Louis Circuit Judge Bryan L. Hettenbach that if the bylaw vote were to proceed, the church could “potentially affiliate somewhere else” with a non-Catholic church which would then acquire the parish’s assets.

Richard Scherrer, arguing on behalf of the church, claimed an injunction on the vote would violate both the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s free exercise clause and the Missouri Constitution.

The new bylaws would have made it more difficult to fire the church’s pastor, Father Marek Bozek.

The priest had left his previous position without the permission of his bishop to become the church’s pastor in December 2005. Archbishop Raymond Burke declared Father Bozek and the parish board members to be excommunicated and the parish to be schismatic, though some board members have since reconciled with the Catholic Church.

Out of compliance with canon law, the church is owned and governed by a secular corporation. The church and the Archdiocese of St. Louis became divided over the archdiocese’s attempts to bring the church into compliance.

Last month the archdiocese and former parishioners of St. Stanislaus Kostka, who included half of the church’s board of directors, filed a lawsuit seeking to have the church’s pre-2001 bylaws restored. The church’s board rewrote the bylaws in 2001 and again in 2004, eventually eliminating the archbishop’s authority.

In the original bylaws, the lay board controlled the church’s property and assets while the archbishop appointed its board members and its pastor.

St. Stanislaus Kostka parishioners had intended to vote on new board members and on new bylaws in the upcoming vote, but under the compromise agreed to on Wednesday only the board member election will take place.
The parish board was dissolved after it deadlocked twice on the question of whether to fire Father Bozek. At the third meeting the priest dissolved the church’s board.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Father Bozek claims most of the twelve parishioners standing for election to the parish board are his supporters.

St. Stanislaus Kostka’s attorneys in a statement said the parish hoped “to elect a board to manage our affairs as an independent Polish Roman Catholic parish until an agreement can be reached with the archdiocese.”
Both the church and the archdiocese have agreed to meet again in court on September 2, where a possible trial date will be one of the subjects of discussion.

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All in Spain must make a commitment to WYD 2011, says cardinal

Madrid, Spain, Aug 8, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE), Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela explained that the next World Youth Day, scheduled to take place in 2011, will require the people of Madrid to have a strong “commitment to apostolic character.”

In an article published by the local press, the prelate exclaimed, “We must have a commitment to the Church in Madrid and throughout Spain!  It is a commitment, but above all, apostolic character that concerns us all.  Nautrally, it concerns the pastors and faithful, but very directly and specifically, the young people!” 

The archbishop of Madrid also stressed that the designation of the Spanish capital to host the next World Youth Day (WYD) is a “singular grace of the Lord.”  He then called diocesan churches “to recognize and remember the great heritage of holiness and missionary spirit, inherited from our elders, for the sake of young people from Spain and the world.”

He then recalled the fruits of countless conversions, vocations and “commitments to apostolic life” brought about by various WYDs.

Cardinal Rouco explained that the initiative of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II to convene WYD was born “as a result of the obvious pastoral concern” from “a Pope who deeply loves the young.”

He also noted that the success of previous WYDs, from Rome to Sydney, “are unequivocal proof of the success of the pastoral way and the way chosen for the gathering of youth of the third millennium with Jesus Christ.”

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Laity asks president of Ecuador to take back his comments against the Church

Quito, Ecuador, Aug 8, 2008 (CNA) - The Ecuadoran Council of Lay Catholics has called on the country’s president, Rafael Correa, to tone down his rhetoric against the Catholic Church.  During a press conference, Council president Max Loaiza said the president’s criticisms have been offensive to priests and bishops.

“It’s important, Mr. President, that you change your language, that you correct what you are saying because you are encouraging others to commit these kinds of sacrileges, offenses and threats against the hierarchy of the Church,” Loaiza said.

“We don’t know who is behind this,” Loaiza explained, but he reminded the Ecuadoran president that the Church has the right to speak out publicly, “especially when a constitution or laws go against fundamental values.”

Speaking to reporters this week, President Correa rejected the criticisms of the Bishops’ Conference of Ecuador regarding the favorable treatment given to abortion, homosexual unions and the restrictions on religious freedom in the new Constitution.   Correa chided the bishops for “intervening in politics.”

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Paraguayan bishops call on new president to defend right to life and the family

Asunción, Paraguay, Aug 8, 2008 (CNA) - In an official statement published on Wednesday, the Paraguayan Bishops’ Conference called on the government of former bishop Fernando Lugo, who will take power on August 15, to defend the right to life and the family based “on marriage between one man and one woman.”


In its statement, the bishops said that although the country doesn’t abide by a specific religion, “it should respect religious freedom, freedom of worship and of conscience. Likewise, it should take into consideration the values proper to the nature of the human person and of society, especially with regards to life, its promotion and defense from conception to natural death; the nuclear family based upon the marriage between one man and one woman; the care and education of children, and also, comprehensive aid for the poor, rural communities, indigenous peoples, as well as the elderly, the infirm and the abandoned.”


The bishops’ comments come after the future Minster for Women’s Affaris, Gloria Rubin, announced her support for legalizing abortion in the country.  


The bishops acknowledged that during the April 20 elections, “The people expressed their desire for change and they choose a new phase for the country. Nobody doubts the importance of meeting these expectations, getting rid of errors and negativity in political life and the urgent adoption of measures to seek the common good above personal, family, group and partisan interests.  In this context, we congratulate the new government and the people for achieving the objectives of authentic change.”


The main protagonist of this event, the bishops said, is “Mr. Fernando Lugo, who was a member of the Bishops’ Conference and left of his own accord, was given a dispensation by Pope Benedict XVI and became president of the Republic of Paraguay.”


“It does not seem necessary to point out that the Catholic Church does not identify with the new government. But it is not redundant to reiterate that we cannot neglect our pastoral work in order to become involved in politics,” the bishops continued.  They reiterated their willingness to support policies in favor of the common good, that promote human dignity and the rights of persons and that seek a comprehensive development of the people and their communities.”


The Church will continue to offer “constructive criticism” of the government’s actions and to raise her “prophetic voice of proclamation and denunciation,” the bishops said.

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Archbishop goes to pray for robber instead of calling police

Manila, Philippines, Aug 8, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Dosado of Ozamiz in the Philippines was headed from his house to the cathedral to pray early Friday morning, when he was accosted by a man who took his wallet and cell phone. The archbishop did not report the incident to the police but went to pray for the thief instead.


Speaking on the Catholic-run Radio Veritas, Archbishop Dosado said that at about 5:30 a.m. on Friday he was walking to Immaculate Conception Cathedral to pray.


As he was walking a man riding a motorcycle suddenly stopped and pretended to check something in his bike. The assailant then announced that he was robbing the prelate, at which point the archbishop handed over his cell phone and wallet, with a little more than the equivalent of $70 inside.  


Asked if he reported the incident to the police, Archbishop Dosado said he did not but added “I just prayed for him.”


The prelate told Radio Veritas that the man was armed with a hand gun and immediately fled after taking his wallet and mobile phone.


In an interview with CBCP News, the Mayor of Ozamiz City, Reynaldo “Aldong” Parojinog, said he immediately ordered the Philippine National Police to track down and arrest the thief promptly.


The archbishop’s  wallet of the prelate containing all important documents including Dosado’s driver’s license were found by a child inside of a plastic bag floating at the seashore of Barangay Baybay Triumfo, according to the mayor.

Police were investigating two suspects as of midmorning on Friday.

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Crash of charter bus carrying Catholic pilgrims kills at least 14 in Texas

Dallas, Texas, Aug 8, 2008 (CNA) - At least 14 people died and 40 people were injured when a charter bus carrying a Vietnamese Catholic group to an annual pilgrimage slammed onto its side and then skidded off a freeway overpass in Texas early on Friday. As Texas Catholics mourn the dead and the wounded, questions have arisen about the bus company’s compliance with state and federal regulations.

The charter bus, which was carrying 55 people from Houston to Carthage, Missouri for the Marian Days festival, overturned near Sherman, Texas, about 65 miles north of Dallas.

Officials are still investigating the accident but it is known that the right front tire of the bus blew out, after which the bus hit a guardrail and then slid down a 12-foot embankment, the Houston Chronicle says. Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in the crash but investigators reportedly have not ruled out driver fatigue.

Sherman Fire Chief Jeff Jones said ten people were airlifted to hospitals and the rest of the passengers were taken to hospitals by ambulance, many with serious injuries. According to police, 12 died at the scene and another two died at a Dallas hospital, while many other passengers are in critical condition.

Sherman Police Lt. Steve Ayers said there were children on board, but the identities or ages of the crash victims weren’t immediately available.

"Please pray for us," said Holly Nguyen, a 38-year-old church member who according to the Houston Chronicle was following behind the bus in a car but didn't see the wreck. She was awaiting news of whether her father was killed or injured in the accident.

State and federal investigators are trying to determine which of two bus companies was operating the bus at the time of the crash. The bus was operated by either Angel Tours and Iguala Busmex, two companies based at the same Houston address and apparently owned by the same person, Angel De La Torre.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates bus and truck companies that travel interstate, in June listed Angel Tours as being “out of compliance” and rescinded the company’s authority to use its buses outside of Texas.

Iguala Busmex appears to be in compliance with federal regulations and its buses may travel outside of Texas, but it is not registered with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

An official at the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston said many of the bus passengers were from the Vietnamese Martyrs Church of Houston. Other reports indicated some passengers came from Our Lady of Lavang Church.

Father Thamh Vu, pastor of Vietnamese Martyrs Church, was traveling to Sherman with Deacon Pham Nguyen.

"They are my friends," Vu told the Houston Chronicle by phone. "We are praying for the healing."

The priest said he would say a Mass for the victims at 6 pm.

Mary Nguyen, a parishioner at the church for over 10 years, was at the Vietnamese Martyrs Church on Friday after learning a close friend had died in the accident. The Houston Chronicle says she described a dream she had of being on a trip with her friend and then opening a suitcase to discover dead bodies.

“I feel so sorry because she's dead ... she was just a very good person," Mary Nguyen said. “The church is like one big family here. We're very close. We stick together."

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, responded to the accident in a Friday statement.

“I, along with the entire Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, mourn for the victims of the bus tragedy that occurred in Sherman, Texas early this morning. We also mourn for their families and the spiritual communities from which they came,” Cardinal DiNardo commented. “We pray for the intercession of our mother, Mary that she may grant the families peace in knowing that their loved ones are now with her Son, Jesus.”

A statement from the archdiocese also reports that the Diocese of Dallas is assisting crash victims and has allowed the Red Cross to establish an assistance center at St. Patrick Church in Denison, Texas to provide shelter and support to victims and their families.

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has about 33,000 Vietnamese Catholics.

The Marian Days festival in Carthage, Missouri began in the late 1970s after more than 185 Vietnamese refugees from Saigon were granted the use of a vacant seminary. The festival draws about 50,000 Vietnamese-American Catholics every year.

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Chinese bishop explains reasons for participating in Olympic opening ceremonies

Rome, Italy, Aug 8, 2008 (CNA) - Coadjutor Bishop John Tong Hon of Hong Kong explained this week why he decided to accept “with ambivalent sentiments” the invitation of the Chinese government to participate in the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Beijing. From the bishop’s perspective, the persecution of Catholics by the government is mixed with the joy of having the country host the event.

In an article published by the L’Osservatore Romano, Bishop Tong Hon said that as soon as he received the invitation from the government, “I understood I should consult with my superiors. The Holy See did not voice any objections, and Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong encouraged me to go.  Therefore I decided to accept.”

He recalled that Pope Benedict XVI expressed his own desire that the Olympic Games in China “would be a great success.”  “However, while the leaders of the six largest religions in Hong Kong were invited to Beijing, only in the case of the Catholic Church was an invitation not sent to the highest authority. I am embarrassed because our government ignored Cardinal Zen and invited me instead,” Bishop Tong Hon said.

He expressed his concern as well that “a number of Catholic leaders are still in jail or under house arrest,” and he mentioned the case of six bishops and many priests and faithful, who “suffer for our Catholic faith and for their fidelity to the Holy Father.”

The bishop said that he hopes someday the Chinese government will give “the same importance to greater religious and social freedom” that they have to cleaning up the pollution in Beijing in anticipation of the Games.

Chinese officials still seem to have a distrust of Chinese Catholics and “feel threatened when we practice our faith,” according to Bishop Tong Hon. One example he cited was the May 24 Day of Prayer for China, at which police prevented the faithful from entering the Shrine of Sheshan on the outskirts of Shangai. 

But not everything is negative, he said, pointing to some signs of openness on the part of the government after the recent earthquake that struck the country.  The entire country “was mobilized like one big family to help the victims,” he said.

“The five Olympic rings are known throughout the world,” Bishop Tong Hon said. “I wish China would give the same importance to the five interconnected aspects of democracy, human rights, the rule of law, justice and peace.”

“The Olympic Games show the progress of China,” he continued.  “We Christians underscore the spiritual development more.  With St. Paul, we like to compare our spiritual journey with a race towards the goal ‘in order to reach the prize that God has prepared for us in Christ Jesus’.”

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Vacations should include time for cultivating the spirit, says Spanish bishop

Madrid, Spain, Aug 8, 2008 (CNA) - Bishop Vicente Jimenez of Santander said summer vacations should be dedicated to cultivating and enriching the spirit and not only to rest and distraction.
The bishop, whose diocese includes the Cantabrian Sea coast, which is a popular tourist destination, has written a pastoral letter inviting Catholics to take advantage of vacation time in the region “to cultivate the spirit, to contemplate nature and practice family life.”
Vacations “are necessary and refreshing because they encompass so many values: it is fitting to interrupt our habitual occupations and even to leave our own environment in which we live our daily life,” Bishop Jimenez said.
He stressed that vacation time should include prayer, reflection, silence and listening, since the business of daily life often does not allow for “something so basic as interior silence.”
“People today barely have time to think and mediate calmly and without hurry.  We live in an agitated and unpeaceful society, which makes us incapable of paying attention to the needs of others and even incapable of being alone with ourselves and with God,” Bishop Jimenez said in his letter.  “For this reason, retreats or spiritual exercises, visits to shrines and other activities that aid in exterior silence and interior listening are recommended.”

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