Archive of October 22, 2008

Día de los Muertos blends Catholic tradition and Latin American culture

Phoenix, Ariz., Oct 22, 2008 (CNA) - Death can easily consume a family with grief and sadness.

But for Catholics, death is also a time of remembrance and communal celebration of life.

Those celebrations are most apparent on Nov. 2, All Souls’ Day and Día de los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead.

Though it’s not a holy day of obligation, many parishes and Catholic schools are finding ways to observe the day which has roots in the Latin American culture. Día de los Muertos has blended over time with culture and Church tradition, but the intent has always been the same.

“It’s a time for us to stop and remember all those who have gone before us marked by faith,” said Sr. Ginger Downey, director of the Office of Worship and Liturgy.

With Nov. 2 falling on a Sunday this year, their celebrations may take on a special meaning. The All Souls Day readings will take precedence over those scheduled for Ordinary Time giving more Catholics a chance to honor the dead.

Some families celebrate the spirit of their deceased loved ones by making their favorite foods. Some bring the food to the gravesite and visit awhile.

Others place the food, photos, favorite games and flowers on a homemade altar at home or in the church.

Students at St. Theresa School make an altar of remembrance, or ofrenda, in the campus’ ramada. It’s filled with crosses, rosaries and names and photos of deceased loved ones within the parish family.

The seventh-graders lead a procession into the ramada from the four cardinal directions like the Aztecs did. They carry candles and pictures that depict saints.

Each grade level creates a piece of art for the celebration. Some paint skeletons, others make ceramic pottery to hold the food while others build mini altars thus depict a deceased family member enjoying his or her favorite things.

“You will see images of death, but in a colorful or comical form,” said Karen Sotelo, a Spanish teacher who organizes the school’s celebration. “It’s nothing to be fearful about death because of Christ’s resurrection.”

The idea is to see death as the next step, Sotelo said.

Sr. Ginger agreed.

“If you look at it, it’s laughing at death. Our faith tells us there’s something greater than that,” Sr. Ginger said of Día de los Muertos and All Souls’ Day. “There’s also a glimmer of hope in that one day we too will join the other side and be with those we love.”

That’s the point that John Hermosillo, a parishioner at St. Charles Borromeo in Peoria, hopes comes across in his artwork. He makes Day of the Dead crosses among other crosses and religious jewelry.

“I don’t want to put anything on the cross that will offend anybody,” Hermosillo said. “That’s my number one priority.”

His Day of the Dead crosses feature hand-painted skeletons and skulls.

Hermosillo took a gamble earlier this month when he displayed his handmade crosses during a Phoenix art night. The crosses featured decorated skeletons, or calacas, on them.

He said people were drawn to the pieces.

“None of it is gaudy. It’s fun,” Hermosillo said.

Now, he’s hoping the community will be able to have fun with the idea of death too. Hermosillo is building the main community altar for the City of Chandler’s annual Día de los Muertos celebration and festival Nov. 1.

“It’s going to be a beautiful piece,” Hermosillo said.

The upper part will look like the top section of a church with saints — supposedly the patrons of those who died — peering out of the windows.

The tiered altar will have space for the community to place photos of deceased family members. They can also purchase a candle to light around it.

Bridget Chavez, Spanish teacher at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Glendale, also has her students create a makeshift altar in the parish hall and decorate it with photos of their ancestors. Then they offer personal prayers for the deceased.

She uses class time to openly discuss death. Chavez said it helps students view death in a new way.

“It is a time to be happy, not sad, and to celebrate the life the family member shared with us having served God’s purpose to completion,” Chavez said.

Honoring the dead in this way often brings grieving families closure, said Steve Raml, liturgist at St. Thomas More Parish in Glendale. Parishioners bring and place photos of their deceased friends and family members around the baptismal font for an All Souls Day vespers service.

The evening prayer includes a reading of the names of every parishioner who has died in the past year. Those gathered light a candle for each of them.

They also light four large candles in honor of all parents, children, friends and ancestors who have died regardless of the time frame.

The photo tribute remains up all month when Sr. Ginger said the Church calls Catholics to remember their brothers and sisters who have gone to their rest.

Printed with permission from the Catholic Sun, newspaper from the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona

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L’Osservatore Romano underscores defense of life, hope and humanism in movie “Wall-E”

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2008 (CNA) - In an interesting article published by the L’Osservatore Romano, reporter Andrea Piersanti emphasized how Eve, the robot star of the movie “Wall-E,” creates a revolution by inspiring a reflection on the defense of life and hope for humanity.

Piersanti notes that the character Eve “looks like a machine designed by Apple and carries within her the seed of life.”

“The new woman, Eve, is not only beautiful and perfect but also has time to fall in love, save the world and restore the life of her boyfriend: an absolute revolution in Hollywood’s imaginary cinematography,” he added.

The male character in the movie is left with the task of finding a place for poetry and beauty in a world “without life, covered in trash and awaiting the return of humans who wander in a giant spaceship to again repopulate the earth,” Piersanti wrote. “The robotic Adam and Eve have the task of restoring to man the place that awaits him.”

While the film does not present an openly religious perspective, he continued, Wall-E does inspire reflection.  This robot, “in his own way, loves and seeks out beauty.  He is moved upon observing the stars. Eve and the other rebel robots disobey orders in light of a higher morality, one that is unique and not relative [to them]: the salvation of life.”

Piersanti notes that in the film, mankind hopes that Eve will bring meaning back to life because “they are prisoners of the technology that surrounds every detail of their lives. They have become obese and cannot walk with their own legs, and they have lost contact with those around them.”

“This is the real reason for the fascination with this movie,” he stressed.  “In a world that is cold and covered with the trash of our technological gods, we can only re-encounter dignity and beauty by following the heart, only by seeking out beauty. While seeing this film one cannot help but think of the Scripture passage that says: ‘If the Lord does not build the house, in vane do its builders labor. If the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil.”

“This is what we are seeing as the third millennium dawns. Locked in a hyper-technological society,” Piersanti said, “we look to the future with anxiety, or worse, with indifference.  The little robot Eve speaks to our hearts and makes us open our eyes again. She makes us think again about our whole lives with a light of hope that we thought we had lost,” he said.

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Church leaders ask MPs to vote against the legalization of abortion in Northern Ireland

Armagh, Ireland, Oct 22, 2008 (CNA) - Four leaders of the churches in Ireland have sent a letter to the Westminster MPs regarding an amendment to the human Fertilization and Embryology Bill which would legalize abortion in Northern Ireland.


The bill, scheduled to be debated this week, would extend the 1967 Abortion Act to the region.


On October 17 the four religious leaders: Catholic Cardinal Seán Brady, Anglican Archbishop Alan Harper, Presbyterian Moderator Dr. Donald Patton and Methodist President Rev. Aian Ferguson wrote to the MPs expressing their belief that the abortion laws in Northern Ireland should be a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly.


After addressing that it is the “right of the Westminster Parliament to legislate in this matter,” the religious leaders noted that they “feel it is important for the government to respect the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland and allow locally elected MLAs to take the lead on this issue especially in light of the debate on abortion that took place in October 2007 when all of the main parties in Northern Ireland signaled their opposition to an extension of the 1967 Abortion Act.”


The letter continued by asking the MPs to take into account of the strong anti-abortion convictions held by “the majority of the people of Northern Ireland, by voting against the amendment.”


The religious leaders also pointed out that, “Last year, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland indicated that he felt the Northern Ireland Assembly is the best forum for discussion of these questions. We wholeheartedly agree with this position and ask that you make every effort to ensure that any future changes to the law on abortion in Northern Ireland are solely the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

According to the Archdiocese of Armagh’s website, this is the second time the Church leaders have written to Westminster MPs on this issue.  
On October 18, a pro-life rally in Belfast saw around “two thousand people from all over Northern Ireland, and from the Republic vociferously opposing any move to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland,” the archdiocese noted.

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New poll shows Prop 8 supporters winning in California

New Haven, Conn., Oct 22, 2008 (CNA) - According to the latest poll from California, those fighting for the defense of traditional marriage have a nine point advantage over activists seeking state recognition of same-sex marriage.


The poll released on Tuesday afternoon by the Knights of Columbus, reports that the drive to pass California’s Proposition 8 is leading among likely voters 52 to 43 percent. If Proposition 8 is passed, it will amend the state Constitution to say, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in the state of California.”


The poll also shows that Proposition 8 leads in every region of California except the San Francisco Bay Area, where 58% are opposed to the measure.


Californians’ opinions on the State Supreme Court ruling that allowed same-sex couples to be recognized as “married” by the state are evenly divided.


Fifty two percent of likely California voters believe the ruling was wrong to have overturned the 2000 referendum in which voters approved reserving marriage for opposite-sex couples, and 72 percent believe the decision should be left to the voters, the poll found.


The Marist College Institute of Public Opinion, which conducted the poll between September 28 and October 5, 2008, also uncovered some results that point to the cultural and moral uncertainty surrounding the controversial issue of homosexual “marriage.”  


For instance, more than half of the 43 percent against the bill said they were likely to change their mind when reminded that Proposition 8 would not affect same-sex couples’ ability to form civil unions. Moreover, 88 percent of those in favor of civil unions said they viewed marriage as between one man and one woman.


Pollsters also found that when the implications for religious freedom were considered, the voting patterns changed.


Close to one third of those voting “no” on 8 – and a significant number of undecided voters – would be more likely to vote “yes” if the proposition’s failure could compromise the tax exempt status of religious schools or if children in public schools would be taught that marriage was a relationship “between any two adults.”


Other results showed that 49 percent of likely voters believe that if clergy or religious institutions are threatened with lawsuits or the loss of their tax-exempt status then same-sex marriage should not be recognized.  Additionally, 79 percent of all likely voters believe that if Proposition 8 fails, clergy should not be required to perform same-sex marriages if it violates their religious convictions.


Full details of the poll results can be found at

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Archbishop of San Antonio asks, is abortion solely a ‘Catholic’ issue?

San Antonio, Texas, Oct 22, 2008 (CNA) - In a recent column for the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas, Archbishop José H. Gomez, clarified that though abortion is often painted as a Catholic issue, it is “a matter of fundamental human rights” that must be recognized by our leaders.


Though the abortion issue is not merely a “Catholic” one, Archbishop Gomez began in his column, “it is an essential element of the Catholic faith” and the Church’s position on the subject must be clarified due to recent “misleading statements,” such as whether or not “the question of when life begins is ‘a matter of faith’.”


The archbishop first addressed the question from a scientific perspective.  “I think that modern biology clearly shows us that human life begins at conception. Embryologists can show us that within just a few weeks the embryo has developed recognizable features, including his or her face, arms, and legs.”


He then pointed to the encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, written by Servant of God John Paul II: “from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. This has always been clear, and ... modern genetic science offers clear confirmation. It has demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the programme of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization the adventure of a human life begins, and each of its capacities requires time-a rather lengthy time-to find its place and to be in a position to act.”


Zeroing in on Senator Joe Biden, the prelate first clarified that he was not judging the vice-presidential hopeful’s character, but only wanted to challenge “moral reasoning.”


“It is confusing then, that Senator Biden, who is Catholic, said that while he was ‘prepared to accept the teachings of my Church,’ he refuses to ‘impose’ his views on others by seeking to ‘criminalize’ abortion. This opinion both ducks the hard business of governing in a democracy and reveals a blindness to the gravity of the abortion issue.”

“I repeat: Abortion is not only a Catholic issue or a ‘matter of faith.’ It concerns the most fundamental questions in any human civilization: Who gets to live and who doesn’t—and who gets to decide this question? Can one’s rights or freedoms include the right and freedom to extinguish the life of one who is weaker?”


The Catholic Church has always remained firm on the answers to these questions, the archbishop continued.  “Our Savior chose to come among us as each one of us came into this world, by spending nine months in a mother’s womb. Blessed Mother Teresa used to talk about this a lot. She reminded us that our religion begins with the story of two pregnant women and their unborn children. And it was an unborn child, John the Baptist, who was the first to proclaim Christ’s presence— when he leapt in his mother’s womb at the Visitation (see Luke 1:39–45).”


The prelate also looked at the Didache, “a manual of Church morals written even earlier than the later writings of the New Testament.”  He explained that the writings condemn “abortion as infanticide.”


“This tells us that opposition to the abomination of abortion is more than a partisan political position. For the Catholic, this belief goes to the heart of the mystery that Christ came into this world to reveal to us.”  He continued, “this mystery is reflected in our country’s founding document, which speaks of our being endowed by our Creator with rights that no one can take away from us or pretend that we don’t have—the first of these being the right to life.”


This all has implications “for our participation in the political process,” Archbishop Gomez noted.  “A Catholic must be prepared to live and defend the truths that Christ came into this world to die for. A Catholic is duty-bound to ask: Is a candidate fit to hold office if he or she believes it should be legal to kill even a fully developed child in the last weeks of a pregnancy for undefined “health” reasons?


“And again, can we accept candidates who support experimentation with the stem cells of human embryos, or cloning, or euthanasia? Can we make real progress on any of the critical issues that we face as a nation if we can’t agree to protect the smallest and most defenseless among us?”


Asking these questions does not “impose Catholic beliefs on other Americans,” he continued.  “This is the political contribution that a morally mature people must make in a democracy. This is a bearing witness to the truths that Jesus has revealed to us—truths that, again, are enshrined in our country’s founding document.”


Archbishop Gomez concluded his column by encouraging Catholics to seek leaders with the courage to “stand up for these truths,” who aren’t “afraid to pursue peaceful and democratic means to persuade our fellow citizens of this essential natural truth that it is also a foundational aspect of the teachings of the Catholic faith.”

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Complete works of Joseph Ratzinger to be published in German

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2008 (CNA) - Today at the Vatican’s press office, a book series of great import for the theological world was announced by Bishop of Regensburg Gerhard Muller, the complete works of Joseph Ratzinger/ Benedict XVI.


The “Opera omnia” or complete works of Joseph Ratzinger are being published in German by the publisher Hender Verlag in 16 volumes.


During the press conference, Bishop Muller emphasized the impact of Pope Benedict’s work as a professor of theology, saying that he “produced an autonomous theological 'opus' which without doubt places him among the most important scholars of the 20th and 21st centuries. For more than 50 years, the name of Joseph Ratzinger has been linked to an original overview of systematic theology."


In order to compile the writings, Bishop Muller explained that he “founded the 'Pope Benedict XVI Institute' in Regensburg. This will house complete documentation on the life, thought and work of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, theologian, bishop and pontiff."   According to the bishop of Regensburg, Pope Benedict expressed his desire that the 16 volume set be published under the name “Joseph Ratzinger.”


"The aim is to produce as complete as possible a presentation of already- published works, integrated with other texts either unpublished or not yet available in German, following a systematic order which creates a link between chronology and subject matter," Bishop Muller said.


Going on to describe the 16 volumes, Bishop Muller indicated that they begin with two university theses by the future Pope: his graduation thesis on the Augustinian doctrine of the Church, and his teaching degree thesis on Bonaventure's doctrine of the Revelation.


Volume three "takes as its starting point the inaugural lecture of Professor Ratzinger: 'The God of the Faith and the God of the Philosophers', given in Bonn in 1959," and includes all his reflections on the historical-ideal foundations of Europe.


Volume four, Bishop Muller explained, "begins with the 'Introduction to Christianity' of 1968, ... while volume six opens with the book 'Jesus of Nazareth' (2007) and brings together all his studies on the subject of Christology."


Volume thirteen "is a collection of the many interviews given by Joseph Ratzinger" and volume fourteen offers a selection of his "many homilies, including little-known and meditations unpublished until now."


As for the last two volumes, number fifteen is dedicated to the autobiography of Joseph Ratzinger which appeared in 1997/1998 with the title of "My Life," and his many declarations concerning such people as his predecessor John Paul II or his brother Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, as well as many other addresses delivered during Jubilee Years, etc. Volume sixteen contains a complete bibliography of Joseph Ratzinger's works in German, and an index to all the volumes.  

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The Resurrection is crucial for understanding Paul’s teachings, Benedict explains

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2008 (CNA) - In the presence of 17,000 people at St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the necessity of the Resurrection “in the mystery of salvation” to understand the teaching of St. Paul.

For Paul, the Pope began, Christ "is the principle for understanding the world and discovering the path of history." Unlike the Gospel writers, Paul was “not concerned with narrating the individual episodes of Jesus' life," the Holy Father said, explaining that instead, he “sought to sustain the nascent communities” by concentrating on “announcing Jesus Christ as the 'Lord,' living and present, now among His people."

The signature mark of St. Paul’s teaching is the announcement of the “central fact of ... the death and resurrection of Jesus as the culmination of His earthly journey and as the root of the subsequent development of all Christian faith, of all the reality of the Church,” Pope Benedict explained.

"For the Apostle, the Resurrection is not some isolated event, separate from His death: the Risen Christ is always same Christ Who before was crucified."

The Crucifixion-Resurrection event was the center of Paul’s fascination because there the Apostle saw Christ experience suffering in his humanity, and yet, remain one with the Father in his eternal existence, the Pope taught.

However, Benedict XVI said, to understand Paul's thought on "pre-existence and ... the incarnation of Christ" we need to know "certain Old Testament texts which highlight the role of Wisdom before the creation of the world, ... such as those that speak of creative Wisdom."

"These texts ... also speak of the descent of Wisdom which pitched its tent among us" as a premonition of "the tent of flesh" mentioned by St John the Evangelist. "But this descent of Wisdom ... implies the possibility of its being rejected," and St. Paul makes it clear that "Christ, like Wisdom, can be rejected, above all by those who dominate this world, so that in God's plan a paradoxical situation may be created in which ... the Cross ... is transformed into the way of salvation for all humankind."

This idea of Wisdom which descends to be exalted despite its rejection is further developed in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, the Holy Father said.

In that letter, Paul describes how Christ's descent as a man shows his “radical humility” and thereby “contrasts human pride.” This descent of Christ “truly is an expression of divine love, and it is followed by that elevation to heaven to which God draws us," Benedict stated.

In the Letters to the Colossians and Ephesians, Christ is described as "firstborn." This, the Pope explained, means that "the first among many children ... came down to make us His brothers and sisters."

Finally, the Pope instructed, in the Letter to the Ephesians the Apostle considers "the divine plan of salvation," saying that "in Christ God wished to recapitulate all things. ... Christ reassumes all things and guides us to God. Thus He involves us in a movement of descent and ascension, inviting us to share in His humility, in other words His love for others and, hence, His glorification."

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Bishop shows up unannounced at election forum, defends Church’s stance on abortion

Scranton, Pa., Oct 22, 2008 (CNA) - An election forum at a Pennsylvania parish that took place last Sunday was organized to allow Catholics the opportunity to defend their support for McCain and Obama.  However, the forum took a surprising turn when an unexpected guest showed up to guide his flock, the Bishop of Scranton, Joseph F. Martino.


The forum, which took place at St. John’s Catholic Church in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, was underway when the bishop arrived.  Four panel members were sharing their perspectives on the presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama, some pledging to vote for the Republican, others for the Democrat.


One of the panelists, Sister Margaret Gannon of Marywood University cited statements from “Faithful Citizenship” a document on voting released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  She noted that “a Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity. ”


After Sr. Gannon spoke, the bishop took the floor.  Bill Genello, a spokesman for the Diocese of Scranton told the Wayne Independent that when Bishop Martino arrived, his intention was to listen “to the presenters and how they might discuss Catholic teaching.”


However, he continued, “Certain groups and individuals have used their own erroneous interpretations of Church documents, particularly the U.S. Bishops’ statement on Faithful Citizenship, to justify their political positions and to contradict the Church’s actual teaching on the centrality of abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research.”


When the bishop heard the speakers using the bishops’ statement to justify their choice for president, he reminded the audience that those “groups and individuals who make statements about Catholic teaching do not speak with the same authority or authenticity as their bishop.”


The prelate then clarified his authority as bishop and the Church’s teachings on abortion as an election issue.  


“No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese,” said Martino according to the Wayne Independent.  “The USCCB doesn’t speak for me.”


“The only relevant document ... is my letter,” he continued, “There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable.”


The letter he referred to was a pastoral letter to his entire diocese that was published in the first week of October. In his message, Bishop Martino states that a candidate’s abortion stance is a major voting issue that supersedes all others due to its grave moral consequences.


He wrote: “To begin, laws that protect abortion constitute injustice of the worst kind. They rest on several false claims including that there is no certainty regarding when life begins, that there is no certainty about when a fetus becomes a person, and that some human beings may be killed to advance the interests or convenience of others.”


“Another argument goes like this: ‘As wrong as abortion is, I don't think it is the only relevant ‘life’ issue that should be considered when deciding for whom to vote.’ This reasoning is sound only if other issues carry the same moral weight as abortion does, such as in the case of euthanasia and destruction of embryos for research purposes. ... National Right to Life reports that 48.5 million abortions have been performed since 1973. One would be too many. No war, no natural disaster, no illness or disability has claimed so great a price.”


He also touched on just war.  “Even the Church’s just war theory has moral force because it is grounded in the principle that innocent human life must be protected and defended. Now, a person may, in good faith, misapply just war criteria leading him to mistakenly believe that an unjust war is just, but he or she still knows that innocent human life may not be harmed on purpose. A person who supports permissive abortion laws, however, rejects the truth that innocent human life may never be destroyed. This profound moral failure runs deeper and is more corrupting of the individual, and of the society, than any error in applying just war criteria to particular cases.” 


“No social issue has caused the death of 50 million people,” he said, noting that he no longer supports the Democratic Party.  “This is madness people.”


When the prelate concluded his speech, most audience members gave him a standing ovation, while others were upset that the leader of the diocese made an appearance. Bishop Martino left the event shortly after making his remarks.


Organizers of the event had mixed emotions regarding the bishop’s appearance. 


Father Martin Boylan, pastor of St. John’s said that they “were very careful not to endorse anyone,” and that the forum was meant to be “a political slash editorial forum about the presidential election.”


He also explained that the state church guidelines were “carefully followed” for the event.

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Church in Mexico slams attempt to legalize marijuana

Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 22, 2008 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Mexico’s weekly publication, “From the Faith,” published a strong editorial this week rejecting a proposal by the Legislative Assembly of Mexico City that would legalize the use of marijuana.


“Drug trafficking and corruption in Mexico are an embarrassment,” and therefore the idea of legalizing marijuana in Mexico City is an “inappropriate and insensitive” action, the editorial stated.


“How is it possible we can find lawmakers who dare to propose the legalization of drugs?  How is it possible there can be such a lack of reflection and depth regarding such a serious human problem?” the editors asked.


They warned that the legalization of “light drugs” would only open the door to the approval of harder drugs.

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Zogby finds Obama’s lead widening among Catholics

Utica, N.Y., Oct 22, 2008 (CNA) - A Zogby poll released today shows that Senator Barack Obama’s lead has widened to nearly 10 points among Americans, and 12 points among Catholics. Other polls, however, are finding that McCain is narrowing the gap with Obama amongst the general population.


The three-day rolling average telephone poll shows that in the last day, the Democratic presidential candidate has picked up 1.3% of the American vote while Senator John McCain slipped 0.4%.


Zogby will track the responses of potential voters every day until the election on November 4. 


“Anything can happen,” CEO and President of Zogby International, John Zogby noted, “but time is running short for McCain.”


Unlike August when McCain was clearly ahead regarding the Catholic vote, the data shows Obama in the lead by a 12 point margin among the 324 Catholic voters phoned in the poll. Out of the 324 Catholic voters, 53.7% selected Obama and 41.5% chose McCain.


When asked why McCain is falling behind in the Catholic vote, John Zogby told CNA that the economy appears to turned the Catholic tide toward Obama.


“Catholics have 401ks too,” Zogby stated.  “Basically, the economy has sucked the oxygen out of every other issue that’s out there.  It is the elephant in the room and essentially it is the economy that has pretty much forced McCain off his game.”


Zogby also noted that among Catholics, “there is a growing comfort level with Obama the more voters get to know him.”  The poll numbers, he continued, “clearly show that he is building support among Catholics.”


The Zogby poll carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.


Meanwhile, other poll found Obama and McCain splitting potential voters almost evenly. An AP-GfK poll showed Obama at 44 percent and McCain at 43 percent and a IBD/TIPP Poll shows a sudden tightening of Obama's lead to 3.7 from 6 points.

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Spanish governments extends controversial course to schools in foreign countries

Lisbon, Portugal, Oct 22, 2008 (CNA) - Parents of the Spanish institute Giner de los Rios in Lisbon, Portugal have expressed their surprise at the decision by Spain’s Socialist government to require that that the course Education for Citizenship be taught in Spanish schools that operate in other countries. The parents reacted by announcing that, like 45,000 other parents in Spain, they would also appeal to conscientious objection.

Maria Fernanda Gonzalez, one of the parents voicing objection to the course, reacted to the news, saying, “the State wants to educate my children and other children and young people in moral values.”  “In Spain there have already been more than 45,000 objections.  Shouldn’t making these courses optional or removing the moral content from them be considered?” she asked.

One group of parents from the Lisbon school has sent a letter to the Spanish embassy there expressing their objection. They state in the letter that their right to object to the course is protected by the “fundamental right to ideological freedom,” which is recognized in the Spanish constitution.

However, the embassy denied the request and said “the course is obligatory, like math or language arts.”  Parents “voluntarily put their children in this school” and if they do not agree with its policies they can transfer them to another, embassy officials said.

The Bishops’ Conference of Spain has decried the Education for Citizenship course for elements of the curriculum that are “contrary to Catholic teaching and to authentic humanism, such as moral relativism and gender ideology.”

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Large pro-family coalition in Panama rejects anti-parental laws

Panama City, Panama, Oct 22, 2008 (CNA) - During a press conference on Monday, the Panamanian Alliance for Life and the Family, a large coalition of organizations and important leaders in Panama, expressed its rejection of both the anti-family and anti-life laws being proposed in the country. The coalition also criticized the Summit on Youth that President Martin Torrijos will attend at the end of the month.

“We are profoundly concerned about the actions that the government has insistently tried to impose on Congress which tend towards the ideological manipulation of our children and that would do irreparable harm to our rights as parents,” the Alliance stated.

It pointed to efforts to legalize abortion, reduce the authority of parents, implement harmful sexual education programs and pass new laws on sexual and reproductive health as only some of the measures that have constituted an attack on the family in the Central American country.

“We wish to announce that we will continue doing everything within our power to prevent this perverse ideology from destroying our families.  Mr. President Martin Torrijos: Do not sign for our country at the 18th Summit of Heads of State and of Government…Do not surrender our future generations!” the Alliance stated.

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Knights call for a compendium for Mass readings to improve preaching

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2008 (CNA) - Addressing the assembly of Catholic bishops from around the world at the Synod on the Bible, Mr. Carl Anderson, the head of the Knights of Columbus, called for a compendium to the Mass readings to be created to help improve Sunday preaching.


On Tuesday, Anderson began by noting that, for a number of years the Knights of Columbus has promoted praying with and meditating on the Scriptures, which is also known as Lectio Divina. This praying with the Scriptures has taken place within the context of “Marian devotion through the Rosary and Marian Hours of Prayer.”


He noted that this “communal proclamation and meditation on the Word of God within the setting of traditional Catholic devotions - especially recitation of the Rosary” is considered an effective way to respond to the “advances of the sects especially in Latin America” by the Knights. This type of reflection enables Catholics to “more fully grow in the knowledge of Mary as "every believer's model for receiving the Word" and to “like her, respond in a way that is ‘dynamic, dialogical and contemplative’."


The Supreme Knight also proposed to the bishops that a compendium to the Lectionary be developed to help provide “greater formation and catechesis for the laity.” Anderson suggested that the compendium could coordinate sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church with the Sunday readings, thereby providing a “greater richness in Sunday preaching and a greater connection between the fundamental truths of the Catholic faith and Holy Scripture.”


Catholic universities were also touched on by the leader of the Knights.


“To enhance greater formation of the laity in ‘higher studies’ of the Word of God so that ‘the newness and the power of the Gospel shine out every day in their family and social life,’ Anderson called on Catholic universities to enhance their core philosophy and theology requirements.


Specifically, he suggested a course that looks at the entire New Testament “with the intention of promoting a realistic and loving knowledge of the faith by encouraging, in the words of Dei Verbum, ‘a pious reading of the Bible’."

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