Archive of November 28, 2008

Andrew Greeley now in fair condition after recovery from fall

Chicago, Ill., Nov 28, 2008 (CNA) - Father Andrew Greeley, the Chicago columnist and bestselling novelist who recently suffered a severe head injury, is now recovering at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

On November 24, Advocate Lutheran Hospital in Park Ridge reported that the priest’s condition had been upgraded to fair after several weeks in critical condition.

According to a posting on Father Greeley’s blog, the Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George visited Greeley on Wednesday and prayed at his bedside.

The priest’s family has been in contact with the young California couple who helped when they saw Father Greeley fall and injure his head while using the door of a taxi.

“The man is training to be an EMT,” the blog reported. “The woman called 911 immediately as he used her scarf to stop the bleeding. They both kept him warm and talked to him.”

“The family have thanked them and referred to them as his guardian angels. We all hope their story will inspire others to act as Good Samaritans.”

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Ohio Catholic University to feature Nativity scenes from around the world

Dayton, Ohio, Nov 28, 2008 (CNA) - A Catholic university in Dayton, Ohio is displaying a unique Nativity scene complete with wise men, shepherds, the town butcher and even government spies.

The University of Dayton has announced that its annual display of crèches—which this year contains 30 different scenes—will showcase a huge 130-piece village from Czechoslovakia dating from the 1850s.

Father Johann Roten, S.M., director of the International Marian Research Institute and an expert on Nativity displays, explained the origins of the Czechoslovakian centerpiece, including the mysterious spies.

"The government forbid people from having these scenes in their homes," he said. "So because chimney sweeps could get into everyone's homes to clean chimneys, the sweeps were recruited to look inside the homes for hidden scenes.”

"Including the sweeps in the scene was really a political-religious statement about the government," he added.

Since acquiring the set earlier this year, Fr. Roten related that volunteers have worked many hours cleaning and restoring the figures and buildings.

Fr. Roten also spoke about the significance of the “strong bond between culture and religion,” that can be found in Nativity scenes.  The value of crèches is that they demonstrate this bond in a highly visible, accessible way, by telling the Christmas story in the symbols and through the people of individual cultures, he said.

The display will be open to the public beginning on November 28 and admission is free. For more information please visit

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Placido Domingo presents album of songs drawn from JP II's poetry

Vatican City, Nov 28, 2008 (CNA) - Described as the successful union of truth, goodness and beauty, Placido Domingo’s newest album is a tribute to Pope John Paul II that borrows its depth from the poetry of the late Pope. Mr. Domingo, Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi and record company representatives unveiled the new work at the Vatican today.

“Amore Infinito” or Infinite Love is, in a sense, a heartfelt dedication by Placido Domingo to a man who opened his eyes to a new worldview, a world the Jesus came into to show us the power of God’s infinite love.

Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, described his experience of listening to the new album:

"Listening to these songs, so magnificently interpreted by Placido Domingo and the London Symphony Orchestra, brings back the memory of John Paul II and of an entire life, frequently marked by dramatic episodes, lived with a passion for God and for man.

“What is the secret of this 'Wojtylian' poetic, which he translated into so many poetical texts?" asked the bishop. "For John Paul II everything begins with God's 'yes' to man, everything arises from God's plan of 'infinite love.' God's 'yes' to man means 'yes' to his dignity, to his authentic needs. It means 'yes' to the world ... and to everything that is beautiful, good and just in life."

Bishop Crepaldi concluded his remarks by noting that the texts of the songs "cover many subjects: family affections, work, war, homeland, etc, but all of them", he said, "are inspired by God's 'yes' to man, by the Infinite Love of God."

Msgr. Scotti, the director of the Vatican’s publishing house, said that he sees the album as “an encounter” at its core. It is “the encounter of Placido Domingo with a man, a believer, a Pope, who showed him a certain outlook on life. Here, hence, is an artist, a person accustomed to scrutinizing men and things through the spectrum of art, who could not but be attracted and fascinated by a great man, a Pope, who showed his a point of view that was true and worthy of attention."

"In echoing Karol Wojtyla, Placido Domingo can tell us all, with the overwhelming power ... of his song, that 'the world is full of hidden powers which courageously I identify and name', ... that 'this love has explained all things, this love is everything for me' and then, fearlessly, to affirm with the same pride as John Paul II that 'Jesus came into the world to show us all the love of God.'

"In a certain sense," Msgr. Scotti added, "Placido Domingo has achieved in this album what Benedict XVI wrote on November 24 for the 13th public session of the Pontifical Academies: 'we must regain an understanding of the intimate link binding the search for beauty to the search for truth and goodness.'"

"This work by Placido Domingo,” Scotti said, “makes us aware that we have not yet fully delved into the rich human, cultural and spiritual heritage which Wojtyla showed us glimpses of. This heritage can help us to better understand ... that the world and history are entrusted to us, and that it is up to us, now, to become architects and builders of a future in which mankind and nature are reconciled with one another and with God, as has been made even more clear by the dramatic events we are seeing over these days."

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Bishops of India strongly condemn terrorist attacks

Rome, Italy, Nov 28, 2008 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of India has “unequivocally” condemned the terrorist attacks that have taken place in the city of Mumbai, calling them “one of the worst human tragedies of recent times.”


In a statement published by the SIR news agency, the bishops’ spokesman, Father Babu Joseph, said they are “praying for the repose of the souls of the victims,” and they hope “for a quick recovery of those wounded.”  They also expressed hope that “those who have been taken hostage will soon be released.”


Archbishop Stanislaus Fernandes, the bishops’ secretary general, said, “The terrorist attacks in various parts of Mumbai, in which innocent civilians, foreigners and politicians have been killed are acts of the utmost cruelty and should be strongly condemned by all.  Terrorism is an evil, and all those who are involved in it act against the very foundation of human life, which is sacred in the eyes of God.”


Asking the residents of Mumbai to “maintain peace and harmony in this hour of suffering and sorrow,” the bishops also called on the government “to take strong and effective measures to control the threat of terrorism in India.”


“Violence is not an acceptable means of achieving an end, no matter how noble it may be.  We must adopt peaceful means of resolving issues, which is the only way to have a more civil life in our society,” they stated.

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Russian Catholic Church working toward financial independence

Konigstein, Germany, Nov 28, 2008 (CNA) - The Catholic bishops of Russia met yesterday in Germany with various Church aid agencies to discuss the areas of need that the Church in Russia has and to formulate plans to eventually make the Russian Church financially self sufficient.

Present for the meeting were representatives of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Aid to the Church in Central and Easter Europe charity, Caritas, the Treasury of the Italian Bishops’ Conference and Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), among others.

The meeting of the Russian bishops took place at the headquarters of ACN and began with each of the bishops providing an overview of the situation in their diocese. The bishops of the Archdiocese of Moscow as well as the dioceses of Novosibirsk, Irkutsk and Saratov were all present.

After the overviews were presented, discussions moved on to how to help support seminarians, further education for priests and sisters, improve the situation of the Catholic media in Russia. The relationship between Christian denominations in the Russian Federation was also touched upon.

For their part, the charities promised to continue supporting the Catholic church of Russia and help it to meet the challenges of the post-communist era and of the very difficult economic situation.

Special attention will be given to the building and maintenance of churches, the assistance of seminarians for priesthood, the promotion of Christian values within society and especially within families, and all measures that will make the Catholic Church in Russia incrementally more independent from foreign assistance in the future.


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Bishop's work to prevent illegal arms trade gains importance as conflicts flare up

Birmingham, Ala., Nov 28, 2008 (CNA) - The work of an English bishop in helping to regulate the trade in small arms and light weapons took on a new importance this week as the Vatican’s permanent observer to the U.N. spoke out about the need to prevent illegal arms trading.

Bishop William Kenney, an auxiliary bishop in Birmingham, is a leading figure in the Gothenburg Process, an ecumenical initiative which aims to promote dialogue between parties involved in the arms trade.

Bishop Kenney, who previously served as Bishop of Stockholm before he returned to his native Birmingham in 2006, has been involved with the Gothenburg Process since it was founded in the 1990s.

He is now the international chairman of its steering committee, and its work to promote dialogue in the industry may now take on new importance after the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, spoke out about the arms trade in a recent address to the U.N. Security Council.

In his address, Archbishop Migliore said illicit arms trades had turned tensions into armed conflicts and had compromised peace and development. The Vatican official said the Holy See supported the U.N. General Assembly for adopting a resolution which spells out initial steps that need to be taken in order to better regulate the trade and transfer of arms.

Archbishop Migliore added that the Vatican “shares the grave concern of conflict-ridden countries” where the illicit arms trade and its production hinder the peaceful settlement of disputes and prolong conflicts.

Speaking to The Universe, Bishop Kenney said the Gothenburg Process dealt solely with the legal supply of arms but that this supply often turned into a “slippery slope.”

The organization started after he was approached by a layman, Peter Brune, who expressed concerns over the growing proliferation in the arms trade following an initial decline after the Cold War. He felt the Churches needed to speak out on the problem.

“We deal with weapons legally held by armies and police forces, hunting groups and sporting associations,” Bishop Kenney said.

“What happens in many cases is that these legal arms eventually end up getting sold on. There are perhaps slight infringements at first, but it is a slippery slope.

“You have weapons being sold from countries such as Russia and China and then there is also sheer criminality such as weapons being stolen from armies.”

Bishop Kenney said the Gothenburg Process grew after an initial first conference in 2001. “The thing took off,” he said. “What we have done is encourage a dialogue between the users and the control authorities, that is, the political powers and the producers.”

The outbreak of wars, Bishop Kenney said, always resulted in problems with small arms in the future. Instances such as the current crisis in the DR Congo were classic examples of weapons which had once been bought legally now being used illegally, he explained.

“Weapons are stolen and no one notices until it’s too late to do anything about it,” he said.

While there is much work ahead, the fact that the parties involved in producing, regulating and using small arms are talking represents progress. Bishop Kenney said the organization had succeeded in getting people to reflect on the issue, and to get the control authorities, users and producers to look at the ethical position of using the weapons.

But in a stark summary of the problem, he added: “More people have now died as a result of small arms and light weapons than have died from nuclear weapons.”

For more information visit

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L'Osservatore Romano launches 2009 calendar with 13 photos of John Paul II

Vatican City, Nov 28, 2008 (CNA) - The photo service of the Vatican daily, the L’Osservatore Romano, will issue a 2009 calendar on December 3 featuring thirteen photos of the Servant of God John Paul II.


According to the newspaper, the calendar will be released in association with the newspaper Oggi and contains thirteen 42x30 centimeter photos of the late pontiff.


The creators of the calendar said the pictures have been printed on thick paper that will enable people to save them as mementos.

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Flight of Christians from Iraq is destabilizing the Middle East, archbishop says

Rome, Italy, Nov 28, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Louis Sako said this week, “Iraq without Christians is a poorer country.  It would be disastrous for peaceful coexistence and for tolerance not only in Iraq but in all of the Middle East.”


According to the SIR news agency, the archbishop made his comments during the national gathering of diocesan delegates for ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue in Italy.  He lamented the dramatic situation of Christians in Iraq, “half of whom are refugees in other countries to escape the violence, rapes, murders and kidnappings” they have been subject to by Muslim extremists.


“Iraq is a country run by terrorists whose leaders are not Iraqis but foreigners, and in which the cultural class is dispersed. Christians are the scapegoats to be eliminated, to be hunted down on the streets, in order to institute an Islamic state. They are considered ‘dhimmi,’ or second-class citizens.”  “We can celebrate our rites,” he continued, “but we cannot proclaim the Gospel. There are Muslims who ask for baptism in secret, but later they are forced to flee.  Freedom of conscience does not exist, and therefore conversion to other religions is not allowed,” he added.


However, the archbishop explained, all of this does not prevent inter-religious dialogue.  “We can dialogue with Islam about human life. We bear witness to our Muslim brethren of our faith in God with fidelity, Christian morality, patience, forgiveness and humility.  We bear witness to God with our charity.”

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Inter-religious dialogue 'a grace or a risk?' asks Vatican official

Rome, Italy, Nov 28, 2008 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, said this week that the predominance of religion in today’s world means inter-religious dialogue is at once a grace and a risk, which must be assumed coherently by Christians, without renouncing or covering up their faith in the search for the common good.


During his remarks at the opening of the academic year at the Pontifical Theological Department of Southern Italy in Naples, the cardinal pointed out that “in inter-religious dialogue I take a risk. I accept, obviously, not to renounce my faith, but to allow myself to be questioned by the convictions of others.  I accept to take into account arguments different from my own or from those of my community.  The idea is to get to know each other, to view another’s religion with kindness and to allow oneself to be enriched by the positive aspects of his religion.”


“Each religion,” he continued, “has its own identity, but I accept to consider if God is also working in everyone, in the soul of the one who seeks him with sincerity.”


“The first condition for inter-religious dialogue to be of benefit is clarity: each believer should be conscious of his or her own spiritual identity.  Religious leaders should strive [to ensure] that the genius proper to each religion is properly understood,” the cardinal said.


Inter-religious dialogue, Cardinal Tauran argued, “mobilizes then all those who journey towards God and towards the Absolute. All believers and seekers of God have the same dignity.  For a Catholic, dialoguing with other believers is, first of all, a spiritual experience, and therefore a grace.  It is a basically religious attitude, animated not only by intellectual knowledge or friendship but also by prayer.  It leads me to deepen my faith and bear witness to my faith.  Therefore I should not hide my specificity,” the cardinal stressed.


Cardinal Tauran went on to warn that inter-religious dialogue also carries with it the risk of melding beliefs together, but this “becomes relative if, as I said before, each believer that is dialoguing exercises his reason and under its light is encouraged to deepen their own faith.”

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Devotion to ‘saint death’ is useless, says Mexican archbishop

Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 28, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Ulises Macias Salcedo of Hermosillo said this week the devotion to “Saint Death” does not protect those who “pray” to him from anything and that those who believe in it are “badly misguided.”


According to the newspaper El Imparcial, “these things begin to take hold in the heart and people begin to believe in them.”  The devotion to this false saint gained strength in the recent past and “there are still some small chapels” dedicated to the practice along certain highways,” the archbishop explained. 


“I think people are beginning to realize they were fooled and that there is a God.  There is a saying that if you don’t know the true God, you’ll bow down before any old tree.  So if there is a God, what else are we looking for?” he asked.


The devotion to “Saint Death” has been condemned by the Archdiocese of Mexico on several occasions, which has stressed that it is not compatible with the Catholic faith.

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