Archive of December 15, 2008

Young community of sisters spreads beauty with 'Echos of Ephesus'

St. Joseph, Mo., Dec 15, 2008 (CNA) - A young, rapidly growing vibrant community has recently released a new CD in hopes of raising funds for a permanent Priory.  The CD, which provides a "window" into the monastic comunity of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, includes Latin, traditional and original compositions by the sisters.

The Benedictines of Mary, located in St. Joseph, Missouri "pray and sacrifice in order that priests become more holy." Additionally, they make sacred vestments and when their Priory is built, will have a permanent place for priests to make retreats.

There are 24 tracks on their CD including Latin, traditional and original compositions by the sisters. One track, "My Mercy," is an original composition by a Benedictine of Mary written for Bishop Robert Finn.


"I asked our musician to try to write a piece that His Excellency could easily learn by rote," Mother Therese told the Key, "something to help him pray when he is burdened by the crush of the day." It was written for Bishop Finn on the 28th Anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. It's both quite beautiful and "catchy."

The CD is for sale at their website for $20. It makes an excellent Christmas present and also helps this community, very close to Bishop Finn's heart, build a permanent home.

Printed with permission from the Catholic Key.

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Holy Father sends condolences to U.S. upon hearing of cardinal’s death

Vatican City, Dec 15, 2008 (CNA) - One day after the death of Cardinal Avery Dulles, Benedict XVI sent a telegram to Cardinal Edward Egan, the Archbishop of New York, asking him to send his condolences to the deceased prelate’s family, his fellow Jesuits and to Fordham University, where Fr. Dulles taught.

"I join you in commending the late cardinal's noble soul to God, the Father of Mercies, with immense gratitude for the deep learning, serene judgment and unfailing love of the Lord and His Church which marked his entire priestly ministry and his long years of teaching and theological research," the Pope remarked.

He continued, "At the same time I pray that his convincing personal testimony to the harmony of faith and reason will continue to bear fruit for the conversion of minds and hearts and the progress of the Gospel for many years to come."

Cardinal Dulles died on Friday morning, December 12 at the age of 90.

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Foundation assists dwindling Christian presence in the Holy Land

CNA STAFF, Dec 15, 2008 (CNA) - In an effort to combat the decline of Christians in the Holy Land, a Franciscan Foundation has been working tirelessly to secure education, employment, housing and social services for Christians through the Memorial Hall Project.

In the early 1990s, the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land began working to preserve Christians in the Holy Land by specializing in programs to retain their presence.

These programs are all funded by donations, particularly the Memorial Hall Project at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Through this project, Christians from around the world are able to leave a lasting legacy in the town of Jesus’ birth. More importantly, they will be assisting Christians in the Holy Land.

With financial assistance from donations, the Franciscan Foundation has begun several programs focusing on education. Fr. Pizzaballa, Chairman of the Franciscan Foundation and Custos of the Holy Land, has consistently stressed the importance of education, particularly higher education for the Christian youth. It is his firm belief that with a college degree, students will have a better chance of securing employment and becoming a more productive member of society.

In 1997, the Franciscans began offering the College Scholarship Program to provide a free four-year college scholarship to Christians who show academic potential, but cannot afford higher education. To date, over 130 scholarship grants totaling 1.4 million dollars have been given to Christians in the area.

Proceeds from the Memorial Hall Project also assist in helping Christians find employment in the Holy Land. Currently, the majority of Christians in the region look to the tourism industry for employment. Many work as guides for pilgrims or provide transportation while others work as hotel managers or shop owners. Unfortunately, with the decline of pilgrimages to the Holy Land, the unemployment rate has skyrocketed leaving 70% of the region’s Christians unemployed.

It is difficult for Christians to find places to live due to the high unemployment and high rent. To assist them, the foundation has raised money to build nearly 300 housing units in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Jericho and Nazareth. They already have future plans to build 400 more homes and a shopping center.

Finally, the foundation also provides economic assistance for all Christians regardless of age so they can live with full dignity and hope. The Franciscans offer humanitarian programs to provide furniture for homes, medical assistance for families, clothes, blankets, food supplies, diapers and toys for young children.

They also offer family counseling, child education, marriage counseling, a home for children, etc.

CNA has teamed up with the Franciscan Foundation in supporting the Memorial Hall Project. Full details can be found at:

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On feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, faithful pray for justice and end to violence in Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 15, 2008 (CNA) - On the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, the rector of the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Msgr. Diego Monroy Ponce, prayed to the Mother of God for her protection over Mexico and all Mexicans amidst the crisis of violence that the country is currently experiencing.


According to the Archdiocese of Mexico City’s news service, Msgr. Monroy told a packed Basilica, “We want, Mother, a Mexico that is more just, more unified and more democratic; a Mexico at peace and free of violence, where living together in peace and the seeking of these values are the motor that drives this country, this continent.”


“Today more than ever, Dear Lady, we set our eyes on you and invoke you. Look upon our country; it seems to be falling to pieces, it is breaking apart in our hands and we do almost nothing about it,” he prayed.


Msgr. Monroy went on to say, “Our streets are not secure, we live in fear, we are afraid to go out, to play with our children in the parks, so see our young people fall prey to drugs, violence, corruption, organized crime, kidnappings, and so many other evils that afflict us.”

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Bolivian bishops reject president’s ‘abuse of power’ with the press

La Paz, Bolivia, Dec 15, 2008 (CNA) - The Bolivian Bishops’ Committee on Social Education has rejected the “authoritarianism and abuse of power” exercised by President Evo Morales “against journalists who carry out their duties to inform.”


In a statement signed by Bishop Cristobal Bialasik of Oruro, the Committee expressed solidarity with the journalists who have been the target of verbal attacks by Morales. “Excesses in the exercise of freedom of expression should be opportunely denounced and clarified by the means established by current law,” the Committee stated.


In recent days Morales has slammed reporters for denouncing corruption in his administration. He claimed that only 10% of journalists have any decency, and he publicly humiliated one reporter.


“The public act in which the President of the Republic scolded a journalist revealed a disproportionate behavior, with expressions and gestures that were humiliating, intimidating and threatening,” the Committee stated.


“We demand public officials to respect journalists and the media, whose role constitutes a true democratic pillar that guarantees peaceful coexistence among Bolivians,” the statement concluded.

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Christ brings new hope and splendor, Pope tells donors of Vatican Christmas tree

Vatican City, Dec 15, 2008 (CNA) - During an audience Sunday with pilgrims from Austria who brought the Christmas tree that will adorn St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI said the “green color and the lights on its branches are symbols of life. In addition, they remind us of the mystery of the Holy Night. Christ, the Son of God, brings a new hope and a new splendor to the confused, cold and unredeemed world in which he is born.”


After expressing his thanks for the 120 year-old tree that rises 108 feet, which will be placed in St. Peter’s Square together with other trees donated by the Austrian faithful, the Pope recalled the rich Christian tradition of Austria and said that faithful there should work to preserve the testimony of Christ to “provide men guidance in their lives.”


Benedict XVI later commented that the Christmas tree “will be a source of joy for Romans and for the many pilgrims from all parts of the world who will come to the Eternal City in the coming weeks for the festivity of the Birth of Christ.”


The Pope went on to add that the tree and the Nativity scene would be a source of joy to him as well, adding that, “If man allows himself to be touched and enlightened by the living splendor of truth who is Christ, he will experience interior peace in his heart and he will become a peacemaker in a society that so longs for reconciliation and redemption.”

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Organization launches campaign to fight homosexual unions in Chile

Santiago, Chile, Dec 15, 2008 (CNA) - The organization, Muevete Chile has launched a campaign to stop the Senate committee from approving a measure that would open the door to homosexual unions under of the banner of “non-discrimination.”


“With the approval of this project, a negative domino effect will unleash the approval of other measures that are waiting, such as a measure on same-sex unions,” the organization warned.


After pointing out that the family is based on the union between man and woman and is a “non-negotiable” principle, Muevete Chile called on voters to express their rejection of the new measure.


“This measure has not been promoted by voters, but by the gay-lesbian-transsexual-bisexual lobby, which has been pressuring senators for three years,” the organization stated.  Muevete Chile also added that in “the name of non-discrimination,” “people of good faith, politicians committed to the common good, Christians, priests and pastors are persecuted and punished for merely reading passages from the Old Testament that condemn homosexuals.”


“This measure uses the subtleties and subjectivity of language in order to approve homosexual conduct and contemplates punishing with fines and imprisonment those accused of arbitrarily discriminating,” it warned.


Muevete Chile said the dignity of persons, “whether they are homosexual or not, does not mean approving homosexual acts and much less the legalization of marriage between homosexuals.”


“Civil laws have an important and sometimes determining role in the promotion of a mentality and of customs, which affect society for good or for evil depending on their content,” the group stated.

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Distinction between Church and State is a sign of progress and freedom, explains Pope

Vatican City, Dec 15, 2008 (CNA) - In his visit on Saturday morning to the Italian Embassy to the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI noted that not only does the Church see the distinction between Church and State as important, but she considers it to be a “great progress for humanity.”

Meeting with representatives of the diplomatic corps to the Holy See, the Holy Father reaffirmed that the Church  "is very aware that the distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God, that is to say, the distinction between State and Church, is a part of the fundamental structure of Christianity,” he explained.

Not only does the Church acknowledge this distinction, the Pontiff continued, but she considers it to be a “great progress for humanity and a fundamental condition for its freedom and for fulfilling its universal mission of salvation among the peoples."

"At the same time, the Church feels the duty,” he went on, “of reawakening moral and spiritual forces in society, helping to make the will receptive to the demands of what is good.”

It is because of this that when the Church “recalls the value that fundamental ethical principles have” for private and public life, “she is in fact contributing to the guarantee and promotion of the dignity of the person and the well-being of society.  In this sense, the Church “fulfills the true and proper co-operation that is sought between the State and Church,” he concluded.

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Vietnamese officials reaffirm plans to demolish Catholic monastery

Vinh Long, Vietnam, Dec 15, 2008 (CNA) - Repeating a government tactic used in disputes with Vietnamese Catholics seeking the return of confiscated property, the People's Committee of Vinh Long on Friday announced that it will demolish the city’s St. Paul Monastery to build a public park.

Prior to the announcement, numerous meetings had been held in Vinh Long to accuse the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul of "taking advantage of religious freedom to inspire protests against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and hence damage the united block of the people," J.B. An Dang tells CNA.

In May, the Sisters began protesting government plans to convert their monastery into a five-star hotel.

Thomas Nguyen Van Tan, Bishop of Vinh Long, wrote a May 18 letter to priests, religious, and lay people of the diocese, recounting the history of the dispute.

On "a day of disaster," September 7, 1977, local authorities mobilized armed forces to blockade and raid Holy Cross College, St. Paul Monastery, and the Major Seminary, the bishop wrote.

"Then, they seized all these properties and arrested those who were in charge of the premises. I myself was among the detainees," his letter continued.

He reported that since the confiscation of the property, representatives of the Provincial Superior of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and representatives of the Bishop’s office have repeatedly sent petitions to local and central governments.

"However, these petitions have gone unanswered," the bishop added.

Reporting confirmation from local officials, he reported in his May 18 letter that the local government had issued a decree that a hotel should be built on the land of the Sisters, the size of which he reported to be 10,235 square meters or about 2.5 acres.

His letter also reported that town residents had been summoned to government meetings to vow to take "strong actions" against opponents of the construction. The bishop called the loss of their monastery a "great suffering" for the Sisters.

Sister Marie Nguyen from Saigon explained that the Sisters had been in Vinh Long since 1871 and have been "continuously serving" people in the provinces of Vinh Long, Ben Tre, and Tra Vinh.

"Their monastery had also been used as an orphanage, and they just wanted to get it back to run an orphanage. The need for such a charity institution is more urgent than ever as HIV infection and drug addiction keep claiming more and more people's lives in the area," she said, according to J.B. An Dang.

"Obviously, while the Church is seeking innovative ways to serve people, this government chooses to turn its back against them," she commented.

On the evening of Sunday, December 14, more than five thousand Catholics gathered at another disputed site, Redemptorist Monastery in Saigon, to celebrate a thanksgiving Mass after the conclusion of the trial of eight parishioners.

"The Candlelight vigil was an open defiance against a prohibition of the local government for massive vigils," J.B. An Dang tells CNA.

On December 5, eight parishioners of Thai Ha Church were put on trial under what many Catholics considered to be false pretenses. Accusations against them concerned their actions in protests seeking the return of confiscated Church property.

Their trial ended on December 8, but reports that the accused had pled "not guilty" apparently had resonated throughout Hanoi.

"It seems the trial has turned the table around for the eight defendants, whose courage has become symbolic of defiance and grace under fire. They are viewed as heroes in the eyes of their fellow countrymen, while the Vietnam government -the accuser- now becomes the accused for imposing such an unjust, immoral and unconstitutional [process] on its citizens," said Fr. John Nguyen from Hanoi.

"A few months ago, nobody would even know the names of the defendants. Now their names and story have become the talk of the town, the topic in every household and coffee shop, when it comes to [the question of] how can they resist the pressure and say 'enough is enough' to one of the most dictatorial regimes in the world today." he added, J.B. An Dang reports.

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Leaders debate plan for new N. America Anglican province

Washington D.C., Dec 15, 2008 (CNA) -

The plan to form a new Anglican province in North America as an alternative to The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada is proceeding. Though some praise it for providing an alternative for orthodox Anglicans, others say the proposal could take years to enact and will further divide the Anglican Communion.

The Common Cause Partnership (CCP) seeks to bring together Episcopalians and others scandalized by leaders within The Episcopal Church whose positions on the nature of Christ, the authority of Scripture, and Christian sexual ethics differ from what they believe to be Anglican orthodoxy.

Controversy peaked when V. Gene Robinson, a man living in an openly homosexual relationship, was ordained Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire.

According to, Episcopal leaders have issued a statement saying that proponents of a new Anglican province in North America could face a years-long process to gain official recognition by the rest of the Anglican Communion.

The leaders cited Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ response to the CCP’s December 3 announcement of the creation of the constitution and laws for a new organization intended to replace the Episcopal Church as the American branch of the Anglican Communion.

Archbishop Williams had said "legislative procedures" should be followed.

David W. Virtue, writing on, said Anglican leaders’ concern for legislative procedures was not evident in the case of the Diocese of Hong Kong, which split into three diocese and sought independence in the 1990s.

According to Virtue, the Anglican Communion pushed these proposals through in 1996 "with such great haste that it got the attention of the ultra liberal companion Diocese of Newark who put up a resolution at its own convention saying the structural proposals were a fait accompli without proper review."

Virtue charged that Archbishop Williams did not want to "upset" the check book of TEC and its Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. He reported that TEC keeps the Anglican Consultative Council Office (ACC) from "imploding" by paying for 60 percent of its budget.

Arguments about "territory" and "cross-boundary" arrangements, in Virtue’s eyes, were "a smokescreen for the growing hatred and increasing marginalization of orthodox Anglicans in the Communion."

Citing reports from London, Virtue said that when five orthodox Anglican primates met in talks with the Archbishop of Canterbury, other leaders were "pretty brutal in their dismissal of the Common Cause initiative."

The discussion with the orthodox primates, who Virtue said represent the majority of the Anglican Communion’s membership, "achieved little in the way of resolving the crisis."

David Virtue predicted that The Episcopal Church will continue to decline in membership while other breakaway groups, now operating in concert, will "continue to grow by leaps and bounds." He claimed the breakaway CCP churches now include over 100,000 people and 700 churches, though they all use "different prayer books, liturgies and ordination standards."

Though it will be difficult for the CCP effort to gain recognition from two-thirds of Anglican archbishops and their provinces, Virtue reported that 22 such provinces have already declared themselves to be in "impaired" or "broken" communion with TEC.

Bishop Martyn Minns, a leader in the Common Cause Partnership, claimed nearly a dozen primates will support the new province, which is about half the number required for recognition.

However, Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, a leading conservative Episcopal theologian living in Toronto, Canada, has argued that the obstacles to the new Anglican group will be nearly insurmountable, according to

Rev. Radner noted that the Communion Partners group, a reform group advocating orthodoxy within TEC, will not be part of the new project but has 13 dioceses, various parishes, and more than 300,000 in membership.

Litigation will continue and not all primates will recognize the new province, Radner argued, claiming it will be another source of division and will ultimately strengthen both TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada.

The organization seeking to form a new province "will move forward as continuing and undisciplined members of the Communion. All of this will merely hasten the demise of our common life, even among Global South churches themselves," Radner said, according to

Robert S. Munday, president and dean of the Episcopal seminary Nashotah House, disagreed, saying Episcopalians who want to remain faithful Anglicans should be able to form their own province in communion with as many other Anglican provinces as possible.

Munday also argued against concerns that the new province tries to bring together too many diverse bodies with differing theological and ecclesiological views.

"The diversity in theology is notably less than that which has brought the Anglican Communion into crisis," Munday said, according to "If Anglicanism has held together for nearly five hundred years, a Province united in its commitment to the authority of Scripture and Gospel-centered mission and ministry will have even less trouble doing so; and it may, in fact, succeed in healing some of the theological divisions that have troubled Anglicanism in the past."

David L. Holmes a professor of religious history at the College of William & Mary, was more optimistic about the CCP’s prospects, saying: "My hunch would be that this new Anglican denomination will persist over the years. We cannot predict the future."

Episcopal Bishop of Washington John Chane criticized the proposal:

"We face our share of problems in the Episcopal Church, but wholesale defections to a movement committed to denying gay and lesbian Christians the birthright of their baptism is not one of them."

John Bauerschmidt, the Episcopal Bishop of Tennessee, also criticized CCP advocates, claiming that catholic Christianity is not "self-authenticating" and cannot establish its credentials simply by asserting them. He also appealed to the authority of Scripture and the creeds and councils of the Christian church.

David Virtue responded to Bishop Bauerschmidt, saying the new province formed "precisely because TEC could not affirm the authority of the Scriptures, does not believe in the ‘faith once delivered’, and has substituted faith with sexual inclusivity and a very perverse theological diversity."

Virtue predicted that an Episcopalian General Convention will test the consciences of remaining "loyal orthodox" dioceses. He also predicted that the developing Anglican Church of North America will win the recognition of many other Anglican primates.

While describing it as an "unlikely scenario" at present, he warned that if the Archbishop of Canterbury does not recognize the new Anglican province, some provinces in the "global South" will eventually be forced to end their relationship with Canterbury and "the Communion will be lost."

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