Archive of November 20, 2008

Government-backed mob ransacks Catholic chapel in Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam, Nov 20, 2008 (CNA) - A government-backed mob attacked and ransacked the chapel of Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery on Saturday night in a continuation of the dispute between Catholics and the communist government over confiscated property.

“At 10 p.m. local time, on Saturday night, a delegate of the People’s Committee of Quang Trung precinct came to Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery asking for an urgent meeting with Redemptorists while hundreds of people attacked our Saint Gerardo Chapel,” reported Fr. Joseph Nguyen Van That, vice superior of Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery.

The vice superior believed that the purpose of the meeting was a diversionary tactic to prevent the Redemptorists from rescuing the chapel.

“It was an organized night time attack of the government aiming at Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery,” he said.

Fr. Joseph Dinh Huu Thoai, the secretary of Vietnam’s Redemptorist Province, sent an urgent e-mail to Redemptorists in the nation, reporting the incident and asking for intense prayer for Redemptorists in Hanoi.

Condemning “the government’s organized attack at night time,” Fr. Joseph Dinh explained that Hanoi Redemptorists rang bells to summon nearby parishioners to rescue the monastery. Thousands of Catholics and nearby parish priests rushed to the site to stop the mob from destroying the chapel, J.B. An Dang tells CNA.

Hundreds of police with stun guns prevented Catholics from entering the chapel in what Fr. An Dang calls “an obvious attempt to buy time for the gang to ransack it.”

A parishioner reported that at one point a subgroup of the mob ransacking the chapel ran out to ask police if they could set it on fire.

They were instructed to “wait for an order from higher ranking officials.”

The Saint Gerardo Chapel was previously attacked by a government-backed gang on Sunday, September 21.

In that incident, the chapel was ransacked, its statues destroyed and its books torn to shreds.

Fr. Matthew Vu Khoi Phung, Superior of Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery, wrote to the People’s Committee of Hanoi City and local police agencies saying in the September attack the assailants “yelled, smashed everything on their way, threw stones into our monastery, and shattered the gate of Saint Gerardo Chapel.”

The latest attack prompted thousands of Catholics to gather at the monastery, known as Thai Ha parish, on Sunday afternoon. They rallied support for the Redemptorists, holding special services around the Archdiocese of Hanoi to pray for the parish.

News of the attack spread on Sunday when Catholics gathered at churches to celebrate the Feast of Vietnamese Martyrs.

“It was significant that the government struck Thai Ha parish right on the day Catholics in Vietnam celebrated the Feast of Vietnamese Martyrs,” Fr. Joseph Nguyen said. “This attack reminds people that since its very first outset, the seed of Faith in Vietnam soil was mixed with the abundant blood of the martyrs from all walks of life, from the courageous missionary clergy as well as the local clergy and the Christian people of Vietnam.”

“The Church in Vietnam today is not better or even worse than in the past,” he warned.

“The Catholic Church in Vietnam as a whole is now the subject of Vietnam government’s persecution by definition,” a student of Hanoi University said in reaction to the mob’s assault. “And this attack is a challenge to the conscience of the world," he asserted.

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Adult stem cell research results in new trachea transplant

Barcelona, Spain, Nov 20, 2008 (CNA) - A June operation at a Spanish hospital has resulted in the first successful trachea transplant operation using adult stem cells.

The operation, performed at Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, was detailed in Wednesday’s online edition of the British medical journal The Lancet.

The 30-year-old female patient from Colombia, named Claudia Castillo, had suffered a left airway collapse as a result of tuberculosis. A stent implanted to reopen the airway failed to work.

Doctors used a trachea provided by an organ donor as a framework for their novel transplant. Stripping the trachea of cells that would have faced immune system rejection in a transplant, they took adult stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow and other cells from the healthy right airway of her trachea.

The cells were then chemically treated in a lab to cause the trachea to regenerate tissue. Since the trachea used the patient’s own stem cells, her body accepted the organ transplant without the use of immune-suppressant drugs.

Dr. Paolo Macchiarini and his colleagues said in a news release that the woman was still doing well four months after surgery, being able to “walk up two flights of stairs, walk 500 meters without stopping, and care for her children.”

“We are terribly excited by these results," he said, according to WebMD Health News.

Expert commentary accompanying the report of the successful transplant said the results should be “highly regarded” but needed more follow-up.

Adult stem cell research lacks the ethical controversies surrounding embryonic stem cell research, which creates and destroys human embryos to harvest stem cells. Thus far, embryonic stem cell research has failed to produce a single lasting cure, while adult stem research has resulted in scores of cures.

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International protest saves woman and child from forced abortion in China

Washington D.C., Nov 20, 2008 (CNA) - Following international attention which included the protests of U.S. Congressmen, China has released a detained ethnic minority Uyghur woman who was scheduled to undergo a coerced abortion.

Arzigul Tursun, who lives in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, is about 26 weeks pregnant with her third child. Chinese authorities tried to pressure her to have an abortion, but she refused and fled her home. According to a backgrounder from the office of Rep. Joe Pitts, authorities interrogated and threatened her relatives.

After fleeing from population control authorities, Arzigul was taken into custody on November 11. A relative was reportedly forced to sign a document authorizing the abortion, which was originally scheduled for November 13.

She then fled Gulja's municipal Water Gate Hospital, after which authorities found her at a friend’s house, Radio Free Asia reports.

Tursun’s father Hasan Tursunjan told Radio Free Asia that between 20 and 30 police cars came to the family home to search for his daughter and take her to the hospital to undergo an abortion.

“It was a big operation—and they treated us very rudely,” he said. “They confiscated all our cell phones, but I hid one. One of them was pushing my forehead and saying, ‘You have connections with the separatists in America—see if they can come and rescue your daughter or not.’”

“I was very upset at what he did to me and said, ‘I believe they will rescue us, if not today then tomorrow, and if not tomorrow then the day after tomorrow—they will eventually rescue us,’” Tursunjan said.

“My youngest son was upset and rushed to us and shouted… ‘Don't touch my father!’ The [official] immediately called a few police over and they arrested him. They took him away with a car.”

He and some family members left for a relative’s house in the city, but police afterwards took him to a neighborhood where his daughter was found at a friend’s house.

“I saw many police cars,” Tursunjan reported to Radio Free Asia. “Many people from the neighborhood were watching. My daughter was leaning against the wall of one the buildings and crying. I was very sad…I rushed to her and embraced her. I told her not to cry and wiped her tears.”

After pressure from U.S. Congressmen, Arzigul Tursun was released to her family and permitted to continue her pregnancy.

“I am all right and I am at home now,” she told Radio Free Asia after being released from the Women and Children’s Welfare Hospital in Ili prefecture.

China’s “one child policy” applies mainly to Han Chinese, the ethnic majority in the country. Under the policy, ethnic minorities, including Uyghurs, are permitted to have additional children. Peasants are allowed three children, while city-dwellers are allowed only two.

Tursun is a peasant, but her husband is from the city of Gulja so their status under the policy is unclear.

“Their experience sheds rare light on how China's one-child policy is enforced in remote parts of the country through fines, financial incentives, and heavy-handed coercion by zealous local officials eager to meet population targets set by cadres higher up,” Radio Free Asia says.

Arzigul Tursun’s treatment attracted protest from New Jersey Congressman Rep. Chris Smith, who is the U.S. House’s Ranking Member on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. He voiced his opposition to the threatened forced abortion in a November 13 statement, saying:

"I appeal to the Chinese Government not to forcibly abort Arzigul, a Uyghur woman now in the custody of China’s population police and awaiting the nightmare of a forced abortion. The Chinese Government is notorious for this barbaric practice, but to forcibly abort a woman while the world watches in full knowledge of what is going on would make a mockery of its claim that the central government disapproves of the practice, and of the UN Population Fund pretense that it has moderated the Chinese population planners’ cruelty.”

The Front Royal, Virginia-based Population Research Institute has linked the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to assisting in forced abortions and coercive sterilizations in China. U.S. funding for the UNFPA was cut after it was found to be in violation of the federal Kemp-Kasten Amendment though such funding is expected to be restored under an Obama administration.

“Human rights groups and the U.S. Government will be watching very carefully to see what happens to Arzigul and her family," Rep. Smith’s remarks continued.

Before Arzigul Tursun was released, Pennsylvania Congressman Rep. Joe Pitts joined Rep. Smith’s protests, saying in a statement:

"I call on the Chinese Government to immediately intervene in order to stop any forced abortion from taking place. Though we know Chinese authorities regularly use forced abortions to enforce its coercive population control program, carrying out this brutal procedure with the world watching Arzigul Tursun’s case would display an utter disregard for any notion of human rights by the Chinese authorities.  The Chinese Government should immediately release her from custody and allow her to carry her child to term.”

Rep. Smith had contacted U.S. Ambassador to China Clark Randt and asked him to intervene in Tursun’s case. According to Radio Free Asia, the ambassador spoke about the matter with the executive vice foreign minister, Wang Guanya.

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Cardinal Newman Society touring universities with Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit

South Bend, Ind., Nov 20, 2008 (CNA) - The Cardinal Newman Society has launched a tour of the Vatican’s Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit which includes a stop at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Minnesota at Morris, the academic home of a biology professor who displayed his desecration of a Host on his web site.

According to a letter from Father Benedict Groeschel published in the Cardinal Newman Society newsletter, the exhibition at the University of Minnesota at Morris (UMM) was accompanied by an evening of Eucharistic Adoration, Bible study, a Communion service, and Sunday Mass.

“Even curious members of the Lutheran Campus Ministry came to the Exhibit, a Catholic witness to our Protestant brethren!” Father Groeschel wrote.

Earlier this year, UMM biology professor and science blogger Paul Zachary Myers claimed to have acquired a consecrated Host from a Catholic Mass and posted pictures showing its desecration. He also made many atheistic and Catholic-baiting remarks.

Father Groeschel summarized the action, saying:

“This avowedly atheist college professor took the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, and, in an act of intense hatred, pierced it and discarded it with the trash, then publicly announced his crime.”

While many groups protested the professor’s action, he added, “Only one group did something about it - The Cardinal Newman Society.”

“This is what impresses me: The Cardinal Newman Society responded to a hateful radical on campus rapidly and effectively, by teaching the full truth about the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, whose Passion He suffered even for the sake of those who would pierce Him with rusty nails,” Father Groeschel continued.

Later this month, Father Groeschel reports, the Cardinal Newman Society will bring the Vatican’s Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit to the University of Notre Dame, with a week of Adoration and prayer scheduled to accompany the exhibition.

For more information contact the Cardinal Newman Society:

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Monastic life should remind Christians to place nothing before love of God, Pope says

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI today told members of the Vatican Congregation dedicated to helping consecrated religious that monastic life must challenge the faithful to love God before all else. The Holy Father also pointed to the Scriptures as the way to deepen love for God.

Addressing the full assembly of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, which is celebrating its hundredth anniversary, Pope Benedict turned to the theme of the meeting: "Monastic life and its significance in the Church and the world today."

Those who are consecrated are a "special part of the People of God," the Holy Father said, as he encouraged the Congregation to continue "supporting and protecting their faithfulness to the divine call."

Benedict XVI then focused on a theme that he first raised during his visit to France this past September—"seeking God," or in Latin, "quaerere Deum."

Touching on the fact that monks and nuns should live their vocations for the good of the whole Church, the Pope highlighted the "exemplary nature of monastic life in history, and underlined how its aim is both simple and essential." The goal of monastic life, he said, is to seek God and to do so "through Jesus Christ Who revealed Him."

"When consecrated people live the Gospel radically, when people dedicated to an entirely contemplative life profoundly cultivate the nuptial bond with Christ ... then monasticism can, for all forms of religious and consecrated life, become a reminder of what is of essential and primary importance for all the baptized: seeking Christ and placing nothing before His love," the Pope said.

Undertaking this lifelong journey, the Holy Father said, requires that consecrated people dive into "His own Word, abundantly present in the books of Sacred Scripture for mankind to reflect upon." This can be done by making the Word of God our daily sustenance, especially through the practice of 'lectio divina’," the Pope said referencing the recent Synod on the Bible.

The Holy Father concluded his words by expressing the hope that "monasteries may increasingly become oases of ascetic life, where the allure of the nuptial union with Christ is felt, and where the choice of the Absolute ... is immersed in a climate of constant silence and contemplation."


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‘Catholics weep over Barack Obama’s words,’ laments cardinal in address to CUA

Rome, Italy, Nov 20, 2008 (CNA) - CNA has exclusively obtained the full-text of Cardinal James Francis Stafford’s lecture delivered at the Catholic University of America last week in which the prelate examined President-elect Obama’s loyalty to pro-abortion organizations and described his promises as cause for Catholics to weep tears of betrayal.


The full text of this lecture titled, “Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II: Being True in Body and Soul,” can be found in our Documents section or at the link:


Commenting on the results of the recent presidential election, Cardinal Stafford said in his speech that on Election Day “America suffered a cultural earthquake.” He went on to note that though Obama and Senator Joe Biden clearly stated their “anti-life agenda” prior to the election, Americans were too excited at the prospect of electing a Black President.  Now that he has been chosen, the cardinal predicted, “I foresee the next several years as being among the most divisive in our nation’s history.”


Cardinal Stafford went on to recall Obama’s promises regarding abortion issues.  He mentioned July 17, 2007 when the Senator told supporters from Planned Parenthood that “We are not only going to win this election but also we are going to transform this nation...The first thing I will do as President is to sign The Freedom of Choice Act…I put Roe at the center of my lesson plan on reproductive freedom when I taught Constitutional Law...On this issue I will not yield.” 


“Catholics weep over Barack Obama’s words,” the cardinal lamented.  “We weep over the violence concealed behind his rhetoric and that of Joseph Biden and what appears to be that of the majority of the incoming Congress.”


The cardinal’s address was hosted by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington D.C.

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Vatican: 188 Japanese martyrs and a Cuban brother to be declared blessed

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has given the go-ahead for the beatification ceremonies of a group of 188 Japanese martyrs and the Cuban Br. Jose Olallo. The Japanese Catholics will be beatified on November 24 in Nagasaki and Br. Ollalo will be declared a Blessed on November 29 in Cuba.

The Japanese Martyrs

The Japanese martyrs were led by a priest named Fr. Peter Kibe Kasui, who was introduced to the faith by St. Francis Xavier’s group of Jesuit missionaries.

The Jesuits were so successful that the number of Christians in Japan grew to 400,000 in 50 years.

However, this growth soon drew the opposition of Tokugawa Ieyasu who was named the new shogun of Japan in 1600, according to the Hawaii Catholic Herald. By 1614 his desire to protect Buddhism and his people from outside influences led him to wage an intense campaign of persecution against the Japanese Christians.

All missionaries were banned from the island nation and all churches were ordered destroyed. Although Tokugawa died in 1616, his sons Hidetada and Iemitsu continued the persecutions, which claimed the lives of some 4,000 believers, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Fr. Kibe was tortured to death by being hung upside down with his head immersed in a pit filled with excrement and animal carcasses.

The beatification ceremony for Fr. Peter Kibe and his187 companions who were killed in Japan between 1603 and 1639, will take place at midday on Monday November 24 in the Nagasaki’s Big N Stadium.

Br. Jose Olallo

Born from unknown parents, Jose Olallo Valdes was born on February 12, 1820 and a month later was left at the Orphanage of San Jose in Havana. He was baptized just days later on March 15.

Br. Olallo Valdes joined the Order of St. John of God at a very young age and was soon moved to Camaguey to assist the victims of the 1835 cholera epidemic as a nurse.

During his time in Camaguey, he suffered the consequences of the anti-religious laws that suppressed all religious orders in Spanish territories. Nevertheless, he remained faithful to his vows and, due to his popularity with the people, the civil authorities allowed him to remain at the hospital, thus becoming the only remaining Brother of St. John of God remaining in Cuba.

After 54 years of devoted service to the sick and the poor, which included times of both famine and war, Br. Olallo Valdes passed away on March 7 1889. His death so moved Camaguey's citizens, that a vast multitude attended his funeral and mourned his passing.

Br. Ollalo’s beatification will take place at 8 a.m. on November 29 in the Plaza de la Caridad of Camaguey, Cuba. It will be the first beatification to ever take place on Cuban soil.

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Canadian students face possible suspension or arrest for pro-life display

Calgary, Canada, Nov 20, 2008 (CNA) - The University of Calgary, a Canadian public university, is censoring a campus pro-life group’s project that compares abortion to genocide.  If the student organization continues with its plans to display the exhibit, members could face suspension, expulsion and arrest.


Members of Campus Pro-Life (CPL), a University of Calgary student group, are scheduled to set up a display called Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) on November 26 and 27. 


According to the organization’s website, the display is an “outdoor exhibit that visually compares abortion to historical atrocities, such as the Holocaust.”  One of the group’s executives, Cameron Wilson explained to CNA that the display uses photos of aborted fetuses and places them alongside photos of genocide and the Holocaust in order to demonstrate the similarities between the “legitimized killings.”


The group has displayed their project five times over the past three years on the university’s campus.  However, this semester the school administrators informed CPL that the exhibit would be prohibited from campus grounds unless the signs were pointed inwards, facing each other.  Additionally, the student union threatened to pull the group’s charter if they didn’t abide by the restrictions outlined by the school’s administrators.


Though Wilson noted that the group was unsure of the university’s reasoning, he assumed it was due to student complaints.


“I can’t give you the exact number of complaints, but I know there have been some in the past.”  He also noted that petitions are occasionally passed through the student body to prohibit the group from setting up the exhibit.


On Monday, the university released a statement citing student safety concerns as the reason for placing restrictions on the display.  They note that last year, CPL requested that the University of Calgary “take additional steps to avoid an escalation of physical conflict,” a claim refuted by CPL. 


In a letter addressed to the University counsel on October 30, CPL members explain that in between 2007 and 2008 the university implied that campus security may not be provided when GAP was set up. CPL acknowledged that the absence of security may lead to violence, citing a previous incident in 2005 when no security was present. 


The pro-life student group also notes in the letter that it asked for security because it “is the appropriate means of ensuring that differing viewpoints – including the views of those who disagree with CPL – can all be expressed peacefully without violence, threats or intimidation.”

“The fact that campus security was present (even at minimal levels) during all five previous GAP displays,” the student group wrote, “ensured that there was a peaceful atmosphere in which students could engage in discussion, debate, and the exchange of ideas, as is appropriate on a university campus.  Discussion and debate is exactly what ensued.”


The university sees things differently, alleging in a statement that “Campus Pro-Life’s actions, and the organization’s repeated refusal to respond to reasonable requests, have elevated the University’s concern for the safety and security of students, faculty and staff.”


In order to ensure that the display will not be set up, the university says that the Calgary Police were asked to “take appropriate steps to uphold the notice to vacate.”


The group was warned, according to CPL’s website, that members “could face arrest and charges of non-academic misconduct up to and including expulsion,” if the exhibit faces the campus.


Though they have been warned, the group’s members maintain that they will carry out their initial plan for November 26 and 27.


This isn’t the first time a pro-life group at a Canadian university has faced repercussions due to their pro-life position.  CPL’s website also identifies Lakehead University, the University of Guelph, UBC Okangan and the University of Victoria as being sanctioned for their moral beliefs. 


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First beatification in Cuba: Brother Jose Olallo Valdez

Havana, Cuba, Nov 20, 2008 (CNA) - The prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, will preside at the Mass of Beatification of Brother Jose Olallo Valdez on November 29 in Camaguey, in the first such ceremony ever to take place on Cuban soil.


In an interview with the magazine Palabra Nueva of the Archdiocese of Havana, Father Felix Lizaso Barruete, the general postulator of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, pointed out that while Father Olallo will not be the first Cuban blessed, “He deserves to be recognized because Cuba needs him.  Cuba deserves to have a saint.”


“I think he will be canonized soon because the people have a lot of devotion to him and that devotion will only grow. Olallo is today God’s blessing for Cuba,” he added. 


The press office of the Archdiocese of Camaguey announced the “Mass of Beatification will take place on November 29, 2008, at 8 a.m. at Charity Square” in Camaguey.


The Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins and concelebrated by all the Cuban bishops, including Archbishop Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez of Camaguey, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba.

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Cardinal Urosa exhorts electoral commission to be democratic and impartial

Caracas, Venezuela, Nov 20, 2008 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Sabino, exhorted the Venezuelan National Electoral Council to adopt a democratic and impartial attitude this Sunday during regional elections.

He emphasized that the council must demonstrate its desire to seek the good of the country and that it must cast aside any bias it holds. The prelate also asked that the National Electoral Council (NEC) make the results of the election known promptly.

"November 23 is a big day for the NEC. On the 23rd they need to show the country that they have a democratic attitude and that they are impartial," the cardinal said on Union Radio.

He also called on all Venezuelans to participate in the electoral process and to vote for candidates who have integrity and experience. "This is about electing the people who will be in positions of the government that are closest to us."

"No voter should be subject to threats, retaliation or vengeance. There must not be any pressure on voters from public organizations or private individuals to make them vote in a certain way," he added.

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Jesuit Superior General says give more time to Liberation Theology

Madrid, Spain, Nov 20, 2008 (CNA) - The Superior General of the Jesuits, Father Adolfo Nicolas, said this week he was disappointed that Liberation Theology has not received a “vote of confidence,” and he said the controversial approach should be given more time to mature.

In an interview with El Periodico, Father Nicolas said Liberation Theology “is a courageous and creative response to an unbearable situation of injustice in Latin America. As with any theology, it needs years to mature. It’s a shame that it has not been given a vote of confidence and that soon its wings will be cut before it learns to fly. It needs more time.”

During the interview, Father Nicolas admitted that the Jesuits have diminished in number but he said the Society of Jesus is still “the most theologically and doctrinally visible group” in the Church, and therefore, “It’s only natural that we get more attention,” he said alluding to the supposed vigilance of the Society by the Pope.

Asked about the feeling many have that the Jesuits “look down upon other orders,” Father Nicolas said, “This is a weakness we have and it is quite common.  This comes from the fact that in the Society we have always insisted on the concern for quality and in-depth formation.  The problem is that we are human beings, and we don’t realize that that capability has been given to us, it’s not because of our pretty face.”

Regarding the hostility of the Spanish government towards the Church in some matters related to social policy, Father Nicolas said, “Because I am used to the climate of moderate secularism that is present in Japan, where I lived for many years, I find the Socialist government to be, with all due respect, immature, in the sense that unemployment, educational and immigration problems are so great that I think time is being wasted in worrying about relations with the Church.”

He said it was “possible” that the Church in Spain has “a tendency to be reprimanding.” “I’ve always found it bothersome and incomprehensible that a priest lectures his people.  What right does he have to do that? It’s a mistake,” Father Nicolas said.

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Despite threats, Christians in India to celebrate Christmas as usual

Rome, Italy, Nov 20, 2008 (CNA) - Despite threats of a Christmas protest from Hindu fundamentalists in the region of Orissa, India, Christians there plan to celebrate Jesus’ birth as usual.

According to the L’Osservatore Romano, the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar said the December 25 march by Hindu extremists, is a protest against the inaction of the government for not arresting those responsible for the murder in August of Swami Laxanananda Saraswati, “for which Christians have been unjustly accused.”

Father Matteo Kallarangatt of the archdiocese told LOR, “We have scheduled two Masses: one at midnight on December 24 and another in the morning of the 25th, but we will need to celebrate another on the evening of the 25th.” “We are calm and we hope nothing happens and that the faithful will be able to participate normally in the Masses.”
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Young Trappist monk one step away from canonization

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2008 (CNA) - The Congregation for the Causes of the Saints has approved the miracle of the inexplicable cure of Begona Leon Alonso, a 38 year-old woman from Madrid who suffered from Hellp Syndrome during her pregnancy and went into a coma when doctors performed surgery to save her child.


Miraculously, she recovered through the intercession of Blessed Rafael Arnaiz Baron, a Trappist monk who died at the age of 27.


According to the newspaper La Nueva España, Bergona Leon fell ill in 2000 during her pregnancy and underwent a cesarean at the Gregorio Maranon Hospital to save the life of the child. Her condition worsened and she fell into a coma, at which point doctors considered her brain dead.


A nun from the Cistercian convent of San Bernardo de Burgos heard about Leon from her family, and the nuns at the convent decided to pray a novena to Blessed Rafael for her healing. From that moment on Leon began to improve until she completely recovered. In order for Blessed Rafael to be declared a saint, the Pope needs to sign a decree prepared by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.


His life


Rafael Arnáiz Barón was born in Burgos on April 9, 1911. His father, Rafael Arnaiz Sanchez de la Campa, was in the military and his mother, Mercedes Baron Torres, was born in Manila, Philippines.


In 1923 the family moved to Oviedo, Spain. Rafael and his brothers attended the St. Ignatius Catholic School run by the Jesuits.  Later he studied architecture in Madrid, but then discovered his vocation to the contemplative life and entered the Trappist Monastery at Deunas on January 15, 1934. Diabetes and the Spanish Civil War forced him to leave the monastery on three occasions.


On April 26, 1938, he died of sickness at the convent after a diabetic coma. He was beatified by John Paul II in 1992 and that same year Oviedo named a street after him.

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California Supreme Court to hear legal challenges to Prop. 8

Sacramento, Calif., Nov 20, 2008 (CNA) - The California Supreme Court has agreed to hear several legal challenges to Proposition 8, the successful 2008 ballot measure which overturned the court’s imposition of same-sex marriage on the state in May. Supporters of Proposition 8 responded by saying they are optimistic their victory will stand.

In agreeing to hear the three lawsuits, the court refused to grant a stay allowing same-sex marriages to resume before it rules on the suits’ merits. The court also explained it wished to address the effect of the proposition’s passage on the estimated 18,000 same-sex marriages contracted in California before Election Day, the Associated Press reports.

According to the Alliance Defense Fund, the lawsuits challenging the legality of Proposition 8 argue that the measure ignores the civil rights of a vulnerable minority group and claim that the successful proposition illegally revised the constitution instead of merely amending it.

 According to the Associated Press, homosexual rights groups, local governments and California Attorney General Jerry Brown are among the petitioners in the lawsuits.

Brown and lawyers for the Yes on 8 campaign were directed by court justices to submit arguments by December 19 explaining why the initiative should not be nullified. Plaintiffs must respond to the Yes on 8 arguments by January 5.

Both opponents and supporters of the proposition were confident their case would prevail. -Yes on 8 said in a press release it is “profoundly gratified” the court granted its requests concerning their participation in arguments. The court granted the campaign’s request to intervene in the cases as Real Parties in Interest and refused to allow outside groups to participate directly in the litigation.

The campaign was also grateful that the court denied the request to delay the implementation of Proposition 8.

"The California Supreme Court is recognizing the People's vote on Proposition 8 and is allowing the measure to go into full effect," said General Counsel Andy Pugno. "This is a great legal victory for voters."

"This is a great day for the rule of law and the voters of California," Pugno continued. "This order means that voters will get their day in court and ensures that voters will have a vigorous defense of Proposition 8 before the California Supreme Court. We are profoundly gratified with the Court's order and are confident that Proposition 8 will be upheld."

"Granting the backers of Prop. 8 intervention in these cases means that voters can be certain that there will be a thorough and vigorous defense of Prop. 8," Pugno said. "Voters will not have to solely depend on Attorney General Jerry Brown to defend the measure. Since the attorney general was an active opponent of Proposition 8, we did not want the fate of the measure to rest in his defense of it."

Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Glen Lavy also commented on the court ruling.

“In America, we respect the results of fair elections,” he said.  “We look forward to working with allied attorney Andy Pugno to protect the people’s will expressed in Proposition 8, which restored the definition of marriage to the California Constitution.  The lawsuits against the amendment are just one more effort by the far-left to redefine marriage.”

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