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Archive of December 9, 2008

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor criticizes secular intolerance of Catholic beliefs

London, England, Dec 9, 2008 (CNA) - Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, has penned a newspaper editorial examining the phenomenon of secularism. Granting that secularism has led to some increased acceptance of Catholics, he criticized the new intolerance directed against those who maintain pro-life and pro-family views.

Writing in The Independent, the cardinal noted that religious belief presently tends to be treated as “a private eccentricity” rather than as “the central and formative element in British society that it is.”

Saying that atheism has become more vocal and aggressive, the cardinal said the phenomenon of secularization has helped religious believers realize “what we have in common as Christian believers is infinitely more important than what divides us.”

This common ground extended to all three monotheistic faiths, the cardinal continued.

“It is significant that one of the most articulate and respected defenders of religious values in Britain today is the Chief Rabbi.”

One benefit of secularization, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor argued, is more tolerance for Catholics.

“Over the past 40 years, social prejudice against Catholics has largely disappeared, and Catholics have been fully assimilated into the mainstream of British life.”

However, this has not extended to intellectual and cultural acceptance. In the cardinal’s view, there is a “widely perceived conflict” between religious belief and the prevailing notion of what a “liberal” and a “tolerant” society should be.

Describing a “dislike of absolutes” current in modern Britain, he suggested this dislike “stems from an entirely understandable revulsion for totalitarianism” and is well-founded when approaches to ethical problems are in fact “too absolutist.”

“But as the ongoing debate about faith schools has demonstrated, the intolerance of liberal skeptics can be as repressive as the intolerance of religious believers,” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor continued.

Conflict is most evident for Catholics on issues like “the absolute value of every human life” and “the central importance of the family and the institution of marriage as fundamental pillars of a rightly ordered society.”

“Catholics are not alone in watching with dismay as the liberal society shows signs of degenerating into the libertine society,” he added, saying Catholic positions are shared by other Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

Still, the cardinal added, “I think it is fair to say that the Catholic Church bears the brunt of ‘liberal’ hostility on both fronts.” He suggested this is due to natural “serious tensions” between Christian belief and the habits of a secular state.

The cardinal welcomed the fact that diversity and pluralism are increasingly accepted, but warned that such a fact could undermine institutions such as marriage and the family to the detriment of society.

“The vocal minority who argue that religion has no role in modern British society portray Catholic teaching on the family as prejudiced and intolerant to those pursuing alternatives,” he wrote in his editorial. “Catholic teaching is clear that all unjust discrimination is wrong, but this teaching cannot accept the relativistic acceptance that all approaches are equivalent. British society champions tolerance and freedom, but that freedom is dependent on responsibility.”

“A simplistic belief that right or wrong is an individualistic construct denies our responsibilities to neighbor and wider society,” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said.

He advocated an “open, tolerant and vibrant public square” to be maintained, especially as individual rights come into conflict with the rights of religious groups.

“The task of British Catholics – together with our fellow Christians and all believers of goodwill – is not to opt out of the debate or to fall back on anathemas, but to work by reasoned argument, and, above all, by the example of our own lives, to strengthen the many features of British society we believe to be good and to correct those we believe to be wrong,” the cardinal’s essay concluded.

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Popular U.K. children’s dictionary now excludes Christian words

London, England, Dec 9, 2008 (CNA) - Words associated with Christianity have been removed from an Oxford University Press children’s dictionary for the United Kingdom. Editors justified the changes by citing declining church attendance and multiculturalism.

Lisa Saunders, a mother of four from Northern Ireland, compared various editions of the Oxford Junior Dictionary after discovering that the words “moss” and “fern” had been removed from her son’s edition, the Daily Telegraph reports.

She discovered that many words associated with Christianity had been removed, in addition to words associated with the monarchy and the natural world.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the deleted Christian words include abbey, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, and vicar.

New words were inserted based on word frequency and included the words allergic, curriculum, celebrity, and MP3 player.

Vineeta Gupta, who is in charge of children's dictionaries at Oxford University Press, described the aims of the Junior Dictionary to the Daily Telegraph.

"When you look back at older versions of dictionaries, there were lots of examples of flowers for instance,” Gupta said. “That was because many children lived in semi-rural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed. We are also much more multicultural. People don't go to church as often as before. Our understanding of religion is within multiculturalism, which is why some words such as ‘Pentecost’ or ‘Whitsun’ would have been in 20 years ago but not now."

Gupta said the publishing company produces 17 children’s dictionaries with different selections and numbers of words.

Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the center for education and employment at Buckingham University, argued that the word selections reflect the way childhood is moving “away from our spiritual background and the natural world and towards the world that information technology creates for us.”

“We have a certain Christian narrative which has given meaning to us over the last 2,000 years. To say it is all relative and replaceable is questionable,” he continued.

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India bishop, fearing extremist violence, cancels Christmas festivities

Uttar Pradesh, India, Dec 9, 2008 (CNA) - Citing concerns about Hindu extremists, Bishop Gerald Mathias of Lucknow, India has canceled many of the Christmas festivities in his north Indian diocese.

One of the canceled festivities is the annual Christmas ‘Dance Drama,’ whose celebration on the steps of the cathedral of Lucknow City is typically attended by more than 50,000 people, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reports.

The dance’s performers include seminarians and novice religious sisters and brothers. Drawing heavily on local culture, the dance drama reenacts Scriptural texts from throughout the Bible with a concentration upon the Nativity.

The two open-air performances of the dance attract a mostly non-Christian audience to St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Lucknow, a majority Hindu city with a 20 percent Muslim population. The event is a key means of outreach in the city of three million, of whom only 4,000 are Catholics.

In further changes to Christmas plans, Bishop Mathias decided not invite the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh state, the Governor of Lucknow, the chief justice and other dignitaries to an event of carols, brief speeches, and a meal.

The bishop has also called off a Christmas Day gathering for around 15 priests from Lucknow and another celebration involving clergy and religious from throughout the diocese that was planned for December 30.

Father Ignatius D’Souza, the Diocese of Lucknow’s vicar general, acknowledged that people would be disappointed by the cancelations. However, he reported that an ordinary exhibition of the Christmas story will continue in the cathedral compound and said people were welcome to enter and light a candle according to the local custom.

Father D’Souza explained the decision to cancel the events, saying:

“We are concerned about fundamentalist activity. The extremists’ strategy is very long term and they might see our diocesan Christmas activities as an opportunity to take action.”

“Although we have very good security arrangements for the events and have an excellent relationship with the local police department here, we can’t be too careful. You don’t know the mind of those wanting to stir up trouble.

“Every time there are general elections, there are people wanting to inflame tensions.” General elections are planned to occur before May 2009.

According to ACN, the priest also stressed that the cancellations were made as an act of solidarity with Christians in Orissa who would be marking the first anniversary of atrocities in Khandamal, where churches were ransacked and many people were forced from their homes.

Up to 500 people have died in recurring anti-Christian attacks in the Indian state of Orissa. Violence also unexpectedly broke out in Karnataka state in southwest India, with Hindu extremists destroying many churches.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India recently urged dioceses to scale down Christmas festivities.

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Pope names Cañizares to succeed Arinze at the Vatican sacraments post

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2008 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI announced on Tuesday that he has accepted the resignation of Cardinal Francis Arinze as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He is being succeeded by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera.

Cardinal Arinze was appointed to head the Congregation on October 1, 2002 by Pope John Paul II and has served in the position for the last six years.

The prefect of the Congregation oversees the regulation and promotion of the sacred liturgy, with an emphasis on the sacraments.

Pope Benedict has appointed Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, who until today was the archbishop of Toledo, Spain, to take the reins from Cardinal Arinze. At 63 years-old Cardinal Cañizares is a young cardinal, having only been given the red hat in 2006.

According to reports in the Spanish press, Cañizares will serve as the apostolic administrator of  Toledo until a successor is appointed. The cardinal told the press that he will shuttle between the two positions during the transition period.

The Secretary General of the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE), Bishop Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, has responded to the appointment by sending a congratulatory letter to Cardinal Cañizares. The Spanish bishops congratulated him "in particular for the confidence that the Holy Father has shown in him by calling him to work closely with him in the government of the Universal Church."

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Pope advances nine closer to sainthood

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2008 (CNA) - At the Vatican on Tuesday morning, Pope Benedict XVI approved several miracles and declarations of heroic virtue moving forward nine people closer to canonization.

During an audience with Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Holy Father authorized the promulgation of decrees for Catholics hailing from Poland to Portugal.

The declarations approved by the Pope are:

Miracles

- Blessed Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski, Polish former archbishop of Warsaw (1822-1895).

- Blessed Arcangelo Tadini, Italian diocesan priest and founder of the Congregation of Worker Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth (1846-1912).

- Blessed Francesc Coll y Guitart, Spanish professed priest of the Order of Friars Preachers and founder of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1812-1875).

- Blessed Rafael Arnaiz Baron, Spanish oblate friar of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (1911-1938).

- Blessed Mary of the Cross Jugan (nee Jeanne), French foundress of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor (1792-1879).

- Blessed Caterina Volpicelli, Italian foundress of the Institute of Handmaidens of the Sacred Heart (1839-1894).

Heroic Virtues

- Servant of God Giacinto Bianchi, Italian diocesan priest and founder of the Institute of Missionary Daughters of Mary (1835-1914).

- Servant of God Andreas Van Den Boer (ne Jan), Dutch professed brother of the Friars of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy (1841-1917).

- Servant of God Marie Clare of the Child Jesus Galvao Meixa de Moura Telles e Albuquerque (nee Libania do Carmo), Portuguese foundress of the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (1843-1899).

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True, authentic dialogue must avoid relativism, says Holy Father

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2008 (CNA) - The Pope today reminded both the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and the Pontifical Council for Culture that in order for dialogue to be authentic, it must avoid relativism and “be animated by sincere respect for others.”  The two dicasteries met today at the Vatican to discuss the theme, “Dialogue between Cultures and Religions.”

 

In the Holy Father’s written message to the pontifical councils, he discussed the importance of Christianity’s role in the building of Europe and emphasized the necessity of reflecting on the ancient Christian traditions that have permeated Western society for centuries.

 

Though Europeans today “seem to ignore Europe’s Christian roots,” the Pope said, “these roots remain alive and should show the way and nourish the hope of millions of citizens who share the same values."

 

The Holy Father also invited believers to promote inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue to work toward the common good. 

 

In this way, cultures and religions can collaborate “on subjects of mutual interest, such as the dignity of human beings, the search for the common good, the creation of peace, and development,” he explained.

 

In order for this dialogue to be authentic, the Pontiff emphasized, “it must avoid falling into relativism and syncretism.”  Instead, it must be animated by sincere respect for others and by a generous spirit of reconciliation and fraternity,” he wrote.

 

Syncretism involves the merging of different beliefs or worship practices in order to accommodate various cultural and religious backgrounds.

 

"I encourage,” he concluded, "all those who dedicate their efforts to building a welcoming, united Europe, one ever more faithful to its roots. In particular I exhort believers to contribute not only to safeguarding the cultural and spiritual heritage that distinguishes them and that is an integral part of their history, but to show increasing commitment to seeking new ways to face the great challenges of the post-modern age.”

 

“Among these I limit myself to mentioning the defense of human life at every stage, the protection of the rights of the individual and the family, the creating of a more just and united word, respect for creation, and inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue.”

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Vocations on the rise in the Holy Land, says Jerusalem Patriarch

Rome, Italy, Dec 9, 2008 (CNA) - The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, said this week the seminary in the patriarchate of the Holy Land “is rich in vocations but poor in resources,” and that “expansion is needed so that the young people who knock on its door are not turned away.”

In statements to L’Osservatore Romano, the archbishop explained, “The seminary is the future of our diocese in the Holy Land.  Young people who knock on its door come from all over Jordan, but unfortunately because of a lack of space and funds, we are obliged to send some of them back to their homes. And the operating expenses are constantly growing. Nevertheless, this does not prevent the formation of clergy who are well-educated and conscious of their own pastoral and spiritual mission at the service of the Christians community.”

Archbishop Twal also pointed out that the vocations to the priesthood “are all coming from our schools, and therefore they also deserve greater attention and sacrifice.”

“Through our schools,” he said, “we can help families to make their young people rich in faith and capable, proud of their roots, helping the new generations contribute to the creation of a society in which all people, including minorities, can participate in the common good.” In this teaching environment, he added, Christian and Muslim students “have the chance to work and grow together, to establish true relationships that can open unexpected possibilities for the future.”

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Study finds depression suffered by 80% of women who abort

Madrid, Spain, Dec 9, 2008 (CNA) - A study by a group of experts in Spain has revealed that 80% of women who have had an abortion suffer symptoms of depression, while 40% have considered suicide.

The study, carried out by psychiatrist Carmen Gomez-Lavin of the University of Navarre, also uncovered other symptoms that affect women who suffer from Post-Abortion Syndrome.  These include sexual dysfunction (40%), drug abuse, especially among adolescents (30%), behavioral changes (60%) or irritability (70%).

During the process and in the year that follows an abortion, the study indicates, the mortality rate of women who have undergone an abortion is between 3.5 and 6 times higher than that of women who give birth, mainly due to suicides, accidents and murders. “The suicide rate is between 6 and 7 time higher than in women who give birth,” the study finds.

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Indian archbishop warns of continuing lack of security in Orissa

Rome, Italy, Dec 9, 2008 (CNA) - Archbishop Rafael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar said this week, “The persecution of Christians in Orissa,” a state of India where hundreds have been attacked by Hindu extremists in recent months, “continues amidst the indifference of authorities.”

L’Osservatore Romano reported that Archbishop Cheenath said, “At least 11,000 Christians are still in camps in the districts of Kandhamal, and thousands are in other districts, not counting those who have fled to other states in India, or to the homes of friends or relatives.  Everyone fears new acts of violence if they were to return to their cities.”

“Our persecutors have announced there will be new attacks against us by Christmas,” the archbishop continued. “Therefore, the message of the extremists for those who hope to come back and those who live in uncertainty is clear: only conversion to Hinduism will save them.”

LOR also reported that despite a commitment made by the local government to combat the persecution, nothing has been done.  “In recent days there have been other victims: two Christian women were killed in the district of Kandhamal while they were working the rice fields nearby, hoping to get some food for their families.”

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Congressmen in Costa Rica reminded of their duty to protect fundamental values

San José, Costa Rica, Dec 9, 2008 (CNA) - The Catholic Action Archdiocesan Forum in Costa Rica has reminded the country’s lawmakers of their duty to protect the fundamental values of life and marriage when passing laws.

According to the Fides news agency, the CAAF sent a letter to lawmakers reminding them that Costa Rica was founded on Christian values and therefore it is their duty to promulgate laws based on this perspective, “especially with respect to the laws that right now are on the agenda in relation to the family and life.”

The letter also stressed the importance of marriage between one man and one woman as the manner of passing on values and therefore they said laws to the contrary should not be passed, so that marriage will continue being “the foundation of Costa Rican society.”

Regarding the fundamental right to life, the letter warned that “in recent years a culture in favor of death and license has become evident in society in which each person is free to do with his body what he or she wants,” jeopardizing the life of the unborn, despite the protections offered by the Costa Rican constitution.

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Benedict XVI calls on Mary to assist Christians in becoming the ‘soul of the world’

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2008 (CNA) - Yesterday, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Holy Father traveled to Rome’s Piazza di Spagna to pray at the statue of Mary Immaculate. Gathered in the square packed with thousands, the Pope prayed that Christians be given the courage to become “the soul of the world at this difficult moment of history.”

 

Upon arriving at the square, the Holy Father blessed a basket of roses and placed them at the foot of a column bearing Mary’s statue, according to tradition.  

 

The Pope then spoke to the crowd about his visit last September to Lourdes, France for the 150th anniversary of the apparition of Mary to Bernadette Soubirous.  The anniversary celebrations, which lasted throughout 2008, ended yesterday, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

 

"Belief in Mary's Immaculate Conception existed many centuries before the Lourdes apparitions," he explained, adding that the apparitions were a “divine seal” to Blessed Pius IX’s declaration of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854 as a dogma of the Church.

 

The Pope continued by reminding the audience that it is through Mary that we recognize "the 'smile of God',” and find “new hope amidst the problems and dramas of the world."

 

He went on to explain the significance of the roses.  “All roses have their thorns which for us represent the difficulties, sufferings and evils that have marked and continue to mark the lives of individuals and of our communities. To a mother we present our joys but we also entrust our concerns, certain of finding in her the comfort not to lose heart and the support to continue our journey,” he added.

 

The Pope then entrusted to Mary "the 'smallest' of our city: first and foremost children, especially those who are seriously ill, the disadvantaged,” those in difficult family situations, the elderly who are alone, immigrants striving to make ends meet, and those who are unemployed.

 

He continued in prayer, “Mary, teach us to show solidarity towards those in difficulty, to bridge the ever-increasing social disparities; help us to cultivate a more lively sense of the common good, of respect for the common well-being, and to make our contribution for a more just and united society.”

 

"Your beauty," Pope Benedict said, "ensures us that the victory of love is possible, indeed that it is certain. It assures us that grace is stronger than sin and that hence redemption from any form of slavery is possible. Mary, you help us to believe in goodness more trustingly; you encourage us to remain vigilant and not to give in to the temptation of facile forms of evasion, to face reality with courage and responsibility.”

 

"Be a loving mother to our young people, that they may have the courage to be 'sentinels of the morrow'," the Pope concluded, "and give this virtue to all Christians that they may become the soul of the world at this difficult moment of history.”

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U.N. to receive 350,000 signatures calling for defense of life and the family

, Dec 9, 2008 (CNA) - A coalition of pro-life and pro-marriage groups on Wednesday will present to the United Nations a petition containing at least 350,000 signatures asking that U.N. member states interpret the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as protecting unborn children from abortion and protecting the traditional family.

The petition’s sponsors will present the signatures at U.N.’s New York headquarters and in private meetings with ambassadors.

The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) was the primary organizer of the petition drive, called “U.N. Petition for the Unborn Child and the Family.” It was joined by the Pro-Life Federation of Poland, the Institute of Family Policy of Spain, United Families International of the US, and U.S.-based Concerned Women for America.

The coalition sponsoring the petition formed in response to petition efforts by the pro-abortion groups International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and Marie Stopes International which are calling for a right to abortion to be recognized on the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The U.N. Petition for the Unborn Child and the Family asserts that the rights presented in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are inherent to every person and that governments should extend the right to life to all members of the human family, including the unborn child. It also asks governments to protect the family as “the fundamental group unit of society,” giving special assistance to mothers and children and promoting the rights of parents.

"We are proud not only to match but far surpass the efforts of pro-abortion groups," said Austin Ruse, president of C-FAM. "We launched our drive only two months ago and have generated more than 300,000 names from all over the world."

Ruse said, "I suspect that Marie Stopes and IPPF will present a few thousand names. This shows what we have known all along; that abortion is supported mostly by elites while everyday people are for protecting the unborn child."

CNA spoke with Ruse about the petition in a phone interview on Tuesday.

He reported that the reaction to the petition presentations has been “very positive” among member states. On Tuesday it was presented to various ambassadors at the U.N. representing Poland, the Holy See, Fiji, and Uganda.

Ruse explained that the petition is being presented to delegations which head important U.N. committees.

He added that he suspected abortion rights groups will receive the petition very badly, as it was created in response to their petition.

“Ours is going to be significantly larger than theirs,” he said, reporting that a recent Marie Stopes International petition had only 1,000 signatories.

“I suspect they will be at our press conference asking difficult questions,” he said, predicting their reaction to be “profoundly negative.”

Ruse told CNA that abortion advocates are engaged in a “multifaceted” international effort to advance their cause through the United Nations. U.N. Committees are directing governments to change their laws on abortion and are reinterpreting existing treaties to include the right to abortion.

He cited the commission charged with reinterpretation of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in which the commission claimed to have found a right to abortion.

These committee decisions are then interpreted as new norms and cited by national authorities.

“The High Court of Columbia overturned abortion laws based on these reinterpretations,” Ruse explained.

However, Ruse was optimistic about the pro-life petition drive.

“Our petition is up to 350,000 signatures, and it’s going higher every day,” he told CNA, noting that signatures have come in from at least 168 countries.

Ruse said the petition calls on governments to return to the original understanding of certain clauses in the Declaration, especially those dealing with the right to life, the right to marry, the right of parents to educate their children, and the place of the family as the basic unit of society.

“We are determined to keep this alive to see if we can hit one million signatures by the next General Assembly meeting in the fall,” he continued, noting that the goal seeks to equal the number of signatures collected for a recent anti-death penalty petition.

After only a few weeks of collecting signatures, Ruse told CNA, “We’re a third of the way there.”

The petition is available on the C-FAM web site at http://www.c-fam.org/publications/id.95/default.asp

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Hispanic outreach and faith formation considered at national meeting

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2008 (CNA) - Experts in faith formation and leadership in the Hispanic community of the United States recently met with staff members of the U.S. Conference of Bishop’s (USCCB) Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church. Their meeting focused upon the improvement of faith formation among Hispanics and Latinos of all ages in parishes, dioceses, and Catholic institutions.

The meeting took place December 2 – 3 and was facilitated by the secretariat’s assistant director, Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, who is also assistant director of the secretariat’s Hispanic Affairs department, a USCCB press release says.

Participants in the meeting included theologians, directors of higher education academic programs, the chairman of the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership Forum on Catechesis with Hispanics, the president of Federación de Institutos Pastorales (Federation of Hispanic Pastoral Institutes, or FIP), directors of Hispanic pastoral institutes, Hispanic ministry and diaconate formation programs, publishing houses and others.

Morning sessions reviewed the state of faith formation among Hispanics and identified “best practices” in parishes, dioceses, and Catholic institutions. Dialogue in the afternoon established “core values” to guide the process and to offer concrete recommendations.

Professor Hosffman Ospino, the faculty director of Hispanic Ministry Programs for Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, discussed obstacles to Latinos’ access to higher education.

Latinos are reportedly severely underrepresented in theology and ministry degrees.

Professor Ospino recommended the creation of new models of collaboration among Hispanic Catholic organizations and dioceses and institutions of higher education.

Alex Sandoval, pastoral associate at Good Shepherd Parish in Garland, Texas, described the development of services to Spanish-speaking parishioners. He noted that some apostolates assume that all Hispanic children or teens speak English or prefer to learn about their faith in English.

Sandoval reported that improved faith formation for both parents and children has resulted in improved Mass attendance, increased sacramental reception, and increased involvement in the parish community. He noted that his parish now offers all services in English and Spanish and 90 percent of its staff is bilingual.

Sister Ruth Bolarte, IHM, of the Catholic Institute for Evangelization of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and president of FIP, reported that there are no common standards among the institutes that provide introductory, basic, and intermediate certificates for catechists, youth and Hispanic ministry leadership. She also described efforts to establish a common accreditation standard.

Dora Tobar, PhD., a former director of religious education from Maryland, presented “catechesis familiar,” a family catechesis, as an Hispanic model to be offered to the entire Church in the U.S. Based upon the place of parents as the main catechists of their children, the program supposes that improving parents’ faith formation helps them exercise that important responsibility. It aims to help parents deepen their understanding of faith and its impact in daily life while making them more aware of the important role of the family as a “domestic church.”

Martha Nuñez, director of the Bible Institute in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, reported that more than 100,000 Hispanic children were baptized in the archdiocese in 2007 and hundreds of new Hispanic catechists are added to the ministry.  She attributed the archdiocese’s success to its formation opportunities in the languages people speak and in the cultural context in which they live.

Overall, the group made several recommendations. These include making a strong push for family catechesis models, approaching faith formation as a gradual process that does not assume one approach fits all, and promoting a diversity of choices and models of faith formation, especially as it relates to languages and culture.

Other suggestions advocated developing programs with “strong evangelization content,” favoring small community settings, working closely with apostolic movements, and increasing collaboration.

The meeting’s proceedings will inform the work of the Secretariat for Cultural Diversity and will be offered to several bishops’ task forces. Further, the findings will be shared with national organizations and experts for continued conversation to improve faith formation.

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