Hanoi, Vietnam, Sep 18, 2008 (CNA) - Vietnamese state media reports targeting Catholics who are demonstrating for the return of confiscated church properties have been exposed for inventing false Catholic critics of the protesters. The media have attributed manufactured quotations to actual Catholics and have presented a beggar as a critical Catholic parishioner. They have even gone so far as to name a man who has been dead for several years as a detractor.
Judge Vu Kim My, a Catholic prosecutor in the Diocese of Phat Diem, accused a September 15 article in the People’s Police newspaper of putting words in his mouth about the Thai Ha Church property dispute.
“I confirm that I never said anything relating to Thai Ha, I never asked for the punishment [against the protestors], I did not mention God in my answers,” he said.
Judge Vu claimed that the newspaper reporter only asked him two questions, both of which related to general knowledge of the law.
“The rest of the report was added by them,” he charged.
A falsehood in an August 20 article in the New Hanoi newspaper has also been exposed. The paper reported that Nguyen Quoc Cuong of Dai On parish accused the protestors at Thai Ha Church of “not following the Catholic Catechism.”
The Archdiocese of Hanoi made inquiries about the supposed parishioner, only to discover that he was invented by the newspaper.
“He simply does not exist in our parish,” a parish council member of Dai On parish said.
The New Hanoi newspaper also introduced Nguyen Duc Thang as a parishioner of Thach Bich parish, depicting him as a dissident strongly opposed to the Catholic protests.
“Yes, he was a Catholic in my parish,” said Fr. Nguyen Khac Que, the pastor of Thach Bich.
The priest added: “he already died a few years ago. I have no idea how a dead person could answer an interview of the paper.”
Such incidents only add to the series of deceptive reports on the demonstrations.
On September 4 at Thai Ha Monastery, cameramen from Hanoi Television interviewed an elderly person who was introduced as a Catholic. When demonstrators asked him his Christian name, he admitted he was a beggar and said the cameramen “had given me some money to act and speak as instructed.”
The Voice of Vietnam, the state’s official radio network, reported that Father Nguyen Van Khanh who is the pastor of Gia Nghia parish (Lam Dong province) opposed the Thai Ha protests and praised the land policy of the government. When contacted by church authorities in the Diocese of Dalat, he insisted that no one had interviewed him.
The deception of the state-controlled media led Father Anthony Pham Anh Dung, the vice chancellor of the Archdiocese of Hanoi, to read a communiqué at every Sunday Mass warning priests and the faithful about the tricks the state media uses “in order to make up fake scenarios to distort and deceive the public opinion.”
The communiqué asked all priests and laity to be “smart and vigilant should they be contacted by state media,” while calling for prayers for writers and other media personnel.
“May they know how to respect every one, and have the courage to act according to their conscience,” he said, suggesting that the communiqué be read at every Sunday Mass throughout the archdiocese.
In many dioceses, Fr. An Dang tells CNA that the faithful gather around the display cases where church bulletins are posted to see images and articles on the events in Hanoi misleadingly covered by the highly controlled national media.
“People have been warned not to read articles from CNA and other Catholic News Agencies,” Fr. An Dang writes. However, the threats have had the opposite effect intended by the authorities and copies of the articles are in high demand. They have been translated into Vietnamese, and then printed to post on the church bulletin boards, or photocopied to circulate.
Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2008 (CNA) - Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have invited both major party presidential candidates to meet with them before the election, reportedly to discuss social issues. The bishops who would attend any such meeting are chairmen of USCCB committees on pro-life issues, education, migration, international affairs and communications.
A spokeswoman for the McCain campaign told the Wall Street Journal that the Republican senator wants to accept the invitation, but does not know if he can fit a meeting into his schedule.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, Media Director of the USCCB, confirmed to CNA that neither candidate has accepted the invitation yet.
She explained that the invitation was extended by the bishops as part of their efforts for “promoting and understanding ‘Faithful Citizenship’.”
In November 2007 the USCCB published the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” to inform Catholics how church teachings relate to political issues.
"These themes from Catholic social teaching provide a moral framework that does not easily fit ideologies of 'right' or 'left,' 'liberal' or 'conservative,' or the platform of any political party," the bishops wrote.
William Murphy, who is Bishop of Rockville Centre and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, told the Wall Street Journal that any meetings, if they take place at all, will be private and off the record.
Explaining the purpose of the meeting, he said: “We think it would be helpful for us to have that time and we think it would be helpful for the candidates to hear from the teachers of the Catholic church …as to what our concerns are."
CNA contacted Bishop Thomas Wenski, who also heads the USCCB Committee on Migration and International Policy Committee, but he was unavailable for comment before press time.
Denver, Colo., Sep 18, 2008 (CNA) - A complete version of the Roman Martyrology, the Vatican’s list of all the canonized saints and blesseds, will soon be launched as a searchable database on eCatholicHub.net.
The eCatholicHub database does not leave out any saint or blessed, which its creators say make it the “most comprehensive source” for saint information on the internet.
The database includes each saint’s or blessed’s full name, feast day, year of death, and the order in which the person is commemorated on his or her feast day. The database also incorporates special titles, pictures and biographical information for hundreds of saints.
Users may search the database by name or through advanced searches using multiple criteria. They can find patron saints and namesakes, martyrs and bishops, and saints from every place and time.
Jim Zapapas, a Denver database programmer, joined with Mark Giszczak, a graduate student at Catholic University of America, to create the database. Giszczak translated names, titles and geographical terms from the Roman Martyrology, which is currently published only in Latin.
The last edition of the Roman Martyrology was published in 2004 but is continually updated by the Vatican. The eCatholicHub database includes all the saints and blesseds who have been added since 2004.
The Catholic internet portal eCatholicHub, writing in a press release, said it funded the project because so many new saints and blesseds have been added, making it difficult for the faithful to remain current. Further, the site wished to provide access to the Roman Martyrology for English speakers without knowledge of Latin.
“eCatholicHub felt that Catholics have a right to this information and that it was a need the site could fill. Now if someone wants to find out if a person is a saint or not, they can look here.” “It truly is the most powerful saint database on the web and it should be extremely useful for lay people and specialists alike,” eCatholicHub said.
The database will first be viewable on October 1 at http://www.ecatholichub.net.
Washington D.C., Sep 18, 2008 (CNA) - Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, the respective Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, explained their stands on embryonic stem cell research in a Monday interview with ScienceDebate2008.com. Both candidates reiterated their support for funding embryonic stem cell research, while Sen. McCain clarified that he does not support funding research that deliberately creates embryos for destructive cell harvesting.
Obama charged that the Bush administration’s restrictions on embryonic stem cell research have “handcuffed our scientists and hindered our ability to compete with other nations.” Pledging to lift the restrictions, he said he would ensure the research is conducted “ethically and with rigorous oversight.”
Acknowledging ethical objections to funding research that harvests cells from human embryos, Obama said hundreds of thousands of embryos stored in in-vitro fertilization clinics will eventually be destroyed. He explained that he believes it is ethical to use such “extra embryos” for research “when they are freely donated for that express purpose.”
Expressing support for areas of non-embryonic stem cell research, he nonetheless insisted that embryonic stem cells remain the “gold standard” for research.
McCain said that, while he supports federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, he believes “clear lines should be drawn that reflect a refusal to sacrifice moral values and ethical principles for the sake of scientific progress.”
Expressing hope that scientific advances would render the debate “academic,” he too professed his support for non-embryonic stem cell research programs.
“I oppose the intentional creation of human embryos for research purposes and I voted to ban the practice of ‘fetal farming,’ making it a federal crime for researchers to use cells or fetal tissue from an embryo created for research purposes,” he told ScienceDebate2008.com.
Vatican City, Sep 18, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Pius XII, has drawn the interest and scrutiny of many people over the last few decades, but as Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the Pave the Way Foundation at Castel Gandolfo today, he highlighted that previous investigation into the late Pope’s efforts to save Jews from the Nazis and fascists have been biased.
Around noon today at the Pope’s summer residence, he received Mr. Gary Krupp, the president of the Pave the Way Foundation and other members of the organization.
Mr. Krupp and his wife, who are Jewish, founded Pave the Way to fight against religious intolerance and prejudice through educational, cultural and technological means. As part of those efforts, Pave the Way organized a symposium to conduct an in-depth investigation into Pius XII’s life and his pastoral and humanitarian work.
Noting that 50 years have passed since the October 9, 1958 death of the Servant of God Pius XII, the Holy Father pointed out that although "so much has been written and said of him during these last five decades, ... not all of the genuine facets of his diverse pastoral activity have been examined in a just light.”
The symposium aimed to address some of these deficiencies by “conducting a careful and documented examination of many of his interventions, especially those in favor of the Jews who in those years were being targeted all over Europe, in accordance with the criminal plan of those who wanted to eliminate them from the face of the earth,” the Pope said.
"When one draws close to this noble Pope,” observed Benedict XVI, “one can come to appreciate the human wisdom and pastoral intensity which guided him in his long years of ministry, especially in providing organized assistance to the Jewish people.”
Pope Benedict then went on to thank the foundation for “the vast quantity of documented material which you have gathered, supported by many authoritative testimonies,” because, as he explained “your symposium offers to the public forum the possibility of knowing more fully what Pius XII achieved for the Jews persecuted by the Nazi and fascist regimes.”
One of the many aspects of the symposium that Pope Benedict praised was how the foundation’s work “had drawn attention to Pope Pius' many interventions, made secretly and silently, precisely because, given the concrete situation of that difficult historical moment, only in this way was it possible to avoid the worst and save the greatest number of Jews. This courageous and paternal dedication was recognized and appreciated during and after the terrible world conflict by Jewish communities and individuals who showed their gratitude for what the Pope had done for them."
One special event that Benedict XVI recalled, “Pius XII’s meeting on the 29th of November 1945 with eighty delegates of German concentration camps who during a special Audience granted to them at the Vatican, wished to thank him personally for his generosity to them during the terrible period of Nazi-fascist persecution.”
Pope Benedict thanked the Pave the Way Foundation "for its ongoing activity in promoting relationships and dialogue between religions, as witnesses of peace, charity and reconciliation.
"It is my great hope," he concluded, "that this year, which marks the 50th anniversary of my venerated predecessor's death, will provide the opportunity to promote in-depth studies of various aspects of his life and his works in order to come to know the historical truth, overcoming every remaining prejudice.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 18, 2008 (CNA) - The bishops of Mexico have strongly condemned a terrorist attack that took place in the city of Morelia this week and left seven people dead and over one hundred wounded.
In a statement the bishops expressed their solidarity and closeness to the victims and their family members and said, “The shedding of blood will never be the way for those who terrorize the country to get others to heed their complaints or differences, much less when they are attacking civilians, Mexican families and innocent people.”
After calling for a greater effort to confront organized crime, the bishops called “on the leaders of government, legislators and politicians of all parties to firmly and decisively watch over the application of the National Security Accord and to seek out initiatives that prevent these horrendous crimes with greater determination.”
“Violence only leads to more violence,” they said. “We fervently call for civility and reason, for peace and the guarantees of freedom and justice in our country to be respected.”
The bishops prayed to “Holy Mary of Guadalupe, Mother of all Mexicans, to console the relatives of those who have died and to strengthen the family members of the wounded, and to give us all the conviction that we are called by God to live together in peace and harmony.”
Lima, Peru, Sep 18, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, renewed calls this week for “legislation that respects the human nature of the family” and said a home centered on the cross is a home that is strong, united and stable.
According to a report by the Fides news agency, the Peruvian cardinal said, “Schools should be a complement and not an adversary to the family.” “And legislation should respect the human nature of the family, not only in the sacramental dimension but in the natural dimension of the complementarity of man and woman that creates that nuclear society,” the cardinal said.
During the celebration of the National Day of the Family at the Cathedral of Lima, Cardinal Cipriani said, “A family that has the cross in the center is a family that will be strong, stable and united.” He also reiterated the indissolubility and permanence of marriage.
Marital crisis occurs when spouses flee from the cross, the cardinal said. The cross is lived out together in mutual surrender and daily sacrifice for the raising of children, that is, in that love that is nourished in the measure in which selfishness is extinguished. “A marriage without the cross will be destroyed, a family without the cross will decay,” he said.
“The logic of the cross does not come from our way of thinking, from what the media says or what the majority thinks. It comes from a heart that looks upon Christ,” the cardinal stated.
Madrid, Spain, Sep 18, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Institute for Family Policy in Spain, Eduardo Hertfelder, is warning that Spain has entered “an unprecedented demographic winter” due to the loss of two million young people over the last 20 years.
Despite the more than 730,000 young immigrants that have come to Spain, “the loss of young people has become a social problem in Spain of enormous magnitude,” Hertfelder said. He further added that in 2008, the number of youngsters under the age of 14 has dropped to 6.6 million from 8.5 million two decades ago.
He pointed out that in communities such as Asturias, Galicia, Castilla and Leon, the number of senior citizens is double that of young people. In Murcia, he noted, there are two young people for every eight senior citizens over the age of 65.
“It is obvious that Spain and its autonomous communities are experiencing an unprecedented demographic winter to which officials cannot remain indifferent,” Hertfelder stressed.
After pointing out that Spain is the country with the fastest aging population in the EU, Hertfelder criticized the government for not implementing policies that foster more births and support the family.
“The future of society, no matter which aspect is considered, whether social, economic, etc., is based on young people, and if young people disappear, society disappears. To opt for immigration as a solution to the problem, without resolving the problem of the lack of births, is to not solve the problem,” he said.
Brasilia, Brazil, Sep 18, 2008 (CNA) - Brazilian gynecologist and obstetrician Elizabeth Kipman Cerqueira defended the pro-life position before the country’s Supreme Court this week arguing that while babies with anencephaly have a short life, “they are living beings” who should be allowed to be born.
The unborn child is “a living being. [He or she is] Seriously compromised when born, with a very short time to live, but it is alive,” she told the justices, who are debating the legalization of the abortion for babies with anencephaly.
According to the Defense of Life Movement, Cerqueira also mentioned post-abortion syndrome during her arguments. “It is more likely that a mother who aborts will feel regret than a mother who carries her pregnancy to term or whose baby dies a natural death,” she said. The expert also noted that women undergo risk during pregnancy but that the risk is greater during an abortion, as there could be an internal injury or an infection.
The Defense of Life Movement said the term “abortion” was used often during the arguments before the court, despite the euphemisms used by supporters of abortion. Pro-lifers referred to the death of the unborn in the mother’s womb.
More information can be found at www.defesadavida.com.br
Madrid, Spain, Sep 18, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, together with two other Spanish bishops, is calling on schools to facilitate conscientious objection to the controversial school course Education for Citizenship.
The cardinal’s comments came in response to a notice sent out by school teachers who were under the impression that parents only had until the first day of classes to register their conscientious objection to the state-sponsored course.
According to the Spanish daily, La Razon, the three prelates, Cardinal Rouco Varela, Bishop Jesus Catala and Bishop Joaquin Maria Lopez de Andujar, sent directives to all Catholics schools reiterating that the Spanish Bishops’ Conference considers the course to contain elements “contrary to Catholic teaching and to authentic humanism, such as moral relativism and gender ideology.”
The bishops of Madrid, “in exercising our duty to watch over the Catholic schools in our territories,” direct administrators to inform parents that the course contradicts “the fundamental right of parents to decide what kind of moral and religious education they want for their children.”
They said school officials should “facilitate the exercise of [parents’] right” to register conscientious objection to Education for Citizenship without any time limit.
, Sep 18, 2008 (CNA) - Presidential nominees John McCain and Barack Obama will have a unique opportunity next month to showcase their humor and personalities. The two senators are slated to be co-guest speakers at the 63rd annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York.
Begun two years after the death of Smith in 1944, then-New York Cardinal Francis Spellman hosted the first dinner to honor Smith, the first Catholic to be nominated by a major political party to run for president. Smith also served as the governor of New York from 1919-1920 and 1923-1928 and was known as the patron of the Little People.”
The October 16 dinner, hosted by the current New York Cardinal Edward Egan, will give the guest speakers the opportunity to show how well they speak when they aren’t on a political stage. Or, as stated on the foundations site, the dinner serves as a kind of “proving ground for the candidate as entertainer.”
It is traditional that candidates for president are invited to speak at the dinner.
Guest speakers in the recent years include: Tony Blair, Brian Williams, George H.W. Bush, Hugh L. Carey, Tommy R. Franks and Colin L. Powell.
The event will be McCain’s second guest speaking appearance at the Smith Foundation dinner, and a first for Obama.
Proceeds from the dinner will go to help the poor and sick within the Archdiocese of New York.
Vatican City, Sep 18, 2008 (CNA) - This morning at his Castel Gandolfo summer residence, Benedict XVI received Jasna Krivosic-Prpic, the new ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Holy See. Speaking to the ambassador, the Pope encouraged every effort to be made at bringing peace to the region, which has been torn by ethnic strife.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Holy Father noted, "contains a rich mix of cultures and precious patrimonies. Tragically, however, cultural and ethnic differences throughout history have not infrequently been a source of misunderstanding and friction, ... as each of the three constitutive peoples that make up your country know only too well."
"No person wishes for war," he went on. "No civic or religious group should ever resort to violence or oppression. Yet, so many families in your land have been subjected to the suffering which results from these calamities. Listening to the voice of reason, however, and prompted by the hope that we all desire for ourselves and the generations which follow, every individual can find the strength to overcome past divisions."
Pope Benedict also offered his encouragement for the efforts being made at reconciliation in the region and called on the international community "to continue its efforts to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina to this end. I trust that, in accepting the facts of regional history and the grave lessons to be learnt from recent years, the courage will be found to build a future with a healthy sense of solidarity,” he said.
Long lasting change was also a topic that the Holy Father addressed. “A State's spirit is shaped at many levels,” he explained. "The family home is where children learn the essential values of responsibility and harmonious coexistence. It is here too that prejudices are either born or broken. Every parent therefore has the grave duty to instill in their children, through example, respect for the dignity that marks every person irrespective of ethnicity, religion or social grouping."
"Good schooling not only attends to the cognitive development of children but to the civic and spiritual as well. Teachers ... can do much to discredit any false anthropological ideologies that contain seeds of hostility and to foster an appreciation of cultural and religious diversity in the life of a country."
The communications media, the Pope insisted, "can do much to overcome lingering attitudes of distrust by ensuring that they do not become tools of prejudice but rather transcend particular interests and promote broad-based and inclusive civic goals.”
The government itself must also ensure that peace is attained by pursuing “with vigor its responsibility to strengthen the institutions and extol the principles which lie at the heart of all democracies. ... I am sure that the constitutional reforms which your government is currently studying will address the legitimate aspirations of all citizens, guaranteeing both the rights of individuals and social groups," he said.
The last sector that should contribute to bringing about reconciliation, peace and prosperity is the Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Benedict said.
"For her part the Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to assist in the attainment of the goals of reconciliation, peace and prosperity. ... She exercises her mission of universal charity in its threefold form: material, intellectual and spiritual.”
The Pontiff concluded by emphasizing that the promotion of “spiritual and moral values ... not only forms part of the transmission of religious traditions but also nourishes the wider culture, motivating men and women of goodwill to strengthen ties of solidarity and to manifest how a united society can indeed arise from a plurality of peoples."
New Dehli, India, Sep 18, 2008 (CNA) - Following threats of legal action, the internet search giants Microsoft and Google have pulled advertisements for sex determination products and other services illegal in India. Because of cultural traditions, many Indians prefer boys to girls and selectively abort unborn children shown to be female.
Last month India’s Supreme Court had asked the two companies, as well as Yahoo, to respond to a complaint filed by activist Sabu George that the companies were advertising do-it-yourself kits and expensive genetic testing to determine an unborn baby’s gender, Agence France Presse reports. The products have not been proven accurate or safe.
Activists charged that the products hurt efforts to decrease the large-scale abortion of girls.
Their protests were apparently effective.
"Sponsored links in Google have come down considerably. They have disappeared from Microsoft India search," Sabu George told AFP.
Google said in a statement it will “review the petition carefully,” AFP reports.
"In India, we do not allow ads for the promotion of pre-natal gender determination or pre-conception sex selection. We take local laws extremely seriously," the company continued.
Searches for “gender selection” and “sex selection” on Yahoo India yielded no sponsored links as of Thursday afternoon.
Most Indians reportedly prefer sons, who are considered breadwinners, to girls, who are seen as an economic burden because of her marriage dowry and their earnings go to their husbands’ families.
Because of sex selective abortion, there are now 927 females for every 1,000 males in India, compared to the worldwide average of 1,050 females per 1,000 males.
Ultrasound tests, which in India cost as little as five dollars, are a popular method used to determine the sex of an unborn child. India law bans ultrasound tests from being used for that purpose.
"What ultrasound did for female feticide in the 1990s, these new products have the potential to do in the next few decades. We have to be one step ahead of them," Sabu George told AFP.
Steve Mosher, President of the Front Royal, Virginia-based Population Research Institute, spoke with CNA in a Thursday e-mail interview about sex selection in India.
“The laws against sex-selective abortion in India are almost impossible to enforce,” he said. "The preference for sons is extremely strong in India. Many girl children are killed in utero by sex-selective abortion in order that their parents do not have to pay a bride price, as is the Hindu custom.”
Mosher said sex selective abortion is “virtually unknown” in the former Portuguese colony of Goa and in the state of Kerala, areas which Mosher said are “heavily Catholic.” He explained that Kerala is Catholic because of the efforts of St. Francis Xavier.
He added that in Madras, where St. Thomas the Apostle lived, preached, and was martyred, sex selective abortion is also less common.
“The problem is severe in all of the Hindu classes. The more wealthy (and materialistic) Hindus do not want to pay the dowry any more than the very poor can afford to.
“One would think that the example of Indira Gandhi, the former female prime minister, would persuade Indians of the value of women, but discrimination against girls and women remains strong even today.”
Boston, Mass., Sep 18, 2008 (CNA) - Ray Flynn, former Boston mayor and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, was hospitalized Wednesday night after collapsing at a “Theology on Tap” speaking engagement at a Quincy, Massachusetts tavern.
Family members told the Boston Herald that Flynn was undergoing tests to determine what had happened.
Flynn’s son Ed Flynn said the former mayor was to speak about “morality and politics” as part of the Theology on Tap Catholic outreach program.
“He was talking about being the last guy cut from the Boston Celtics [team stats] by Red Auerbach,” Flynn’s son told the Boston Herald. “Even though you don’t succeed at one event in your life, you need to move on and work harder and (be) more determined. He didn’t get to finish the story . . . He got weak and he fainted.”
Ed Flynn said his father was conscious and alert when he was taken into the ambulance. He reportedly has been suffering a recurrence of melanoma in recent months.
Ray Flynn served as a state representative for South Boston in the late 1970s and was mayor of Boston from 1984 to 1993. He was appointed as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican by President Bill Clinton.