Phoenix, Ariz., Dec 17, 2008 (CNA) - Following the Knights of Columbus 127th Convention next year, the organization will hold its First International Marian Congress on Our Lady of Guadalupe. The congress, which will conclude with a festival, will feature talks by experts from around the U.S. and Latin American on Our Lady.
The event is scheduled to take place August 6 – 8, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona, reports the Knights of Columbus and is expected to attract nearly 20,000 from the United States and Mexico.
"The centrality of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Americas as 'the Christian Hemisphere' is clearly evident throughout North and South America," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who will speak both at the Marian Congress and at the Guadalupe Festival. "Her message today is one that has as much importance and meaning today as it did nearly 500 years ago."
The event is co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the Diocese of Phoenix, the Archdiocese of Mexico City and the Center for Guadalupan Studies.
The lectures at the congress will focus on the meaning of the message of Our Lady, some of the scientifically inexplicable aspects of the image and the relevance of Our Lady of Guadalupe in today's world. Speakers include Dr. Jose Aste Tonsmann from Peru, who has done extensive studies of the reflections in the image's eyes; Rev. Msgr. Eduardo Chavez, who oversaw the cause for canonization of St. Juan Diego - the Indian to whom Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in December 1531; and other experts on key elements of Our Lady of Guadalupe and her message.
The Guadalupe Festival will feature an afternoon of music, prayer and inspiration speeches. Appearing will be best-selling author Imaculee Ilibagiza, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix. Special invited guest speakers include actor Eduardo Verastegui. Performers at the festival will include Irish singer Dana, a mariachi band and matachin dancers.
A schedule and more information are available at www.guadalupefestival.org.
Washington D.C., Dec 17, 2008 (CNA) -
The Catholic Health Association has issued a statement welcoming the nomination of former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). However, Daschle’s strong pro-abortion record has led some pro-life leaders to deem him a "disaster appointment."
Writing in a December 11 statement, Sister Carol Keehan, DC, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) issued a statement on the appointment.
Sister Keehan said CHA "welcomes" Daschle’s appointment as HHS head and also as the person set to oversee a proposed White House Office of Health Reform. She also said CHA is "pleased" that Obama named Jeanne Lambrew as deputy director of the proposed White House Office of Health Reform.
"We applaud the President-elect for choosing these two extraordinary and capable leaders who bring an enormous understanding of health care delivery issues and the need for meaningful reform for American families and businesses," she said.
She said the announcement of the appointments shows that Obama understands health care reform to be a major domestic policy issue.
"At the same time, he remains true to his pre-election promises to achieve health care reform that provides affordable, accessible health care for all Americans while building on the existing health care system," Sister Keehan continued, advocating health reform "designed to create and sustain a strong, healthy national community."
"The reforms should truly promote the nation's well-being and cover everyone with a reasonable, basic benefits package. To achieve this goal, the Catholic health ministry looks forward to working with the President-elect and with future HHS Secretary Daschle and Deputy Director Lambrew."
Pro-life commentator Jill Stanek criticized the Daschle selection, telling CNA in a Tuesday e-mail:
"Tom Daschle is a disaster appointment, the opposite of a national protector of health and human services. Daschle ardently supports abortion to the extent he supports taxpayer funded abortion within nationalized health care, and he disdains abstinence education.
"The only reason President-elect Obama appointed Daschle was to assure Obama's radical support of the abortion industry would be extended through HHS," Stanek argued.
Obama aides and advisors have reported that, after he takes office, Obama will try to overturn new HHS regulations which explicitly protect the conscience rights of pro-life medical professionals and institutions.
In a Monday press release, South Dakota Right to Life (SDRTL) expressed its "deep disappointment" concerning the selection of Daschle.
"Tom Daschle is as pro-abortion as elected officials come. While in the U.S. Senate, he seldom met a pro-life bill that he supported. He endorsed Roe v Wade, supported making taxpayers fund abortions, and supported the partial birth abortion ban only after attempting to water it down with pro-abortion amendments," stated Rachel Kippley, state director for SDRTL.
The group cited the National Right to Life Committee’s ranking of Daschle. He garnered a 27 percent ranking in the 2003-2004 term, a 0 percent ranking in 2001-2002, an 11 percent ranking in 1999-2000.
Saying that the HHS secretary plays a "key role" in shaping U.S. health care policy, SDRTL remarked, "pro-lifers need to be prepared for a bumpy four years when it comes to attempts at passing pro-life federal legislation."
Vatican City, Dec 17, 2008 (CNA) - Catholics and Muslims meeting at the Vatican this week discussed the responsibilities of religious leaders during times of crisis, agreeing that their most important responsibility is to faithfully live out their beliefs through "teaching, good deeds and example."
The religious leaders met as part of the 11th Colloquium organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the World Islamic Call Society (WICS) in order to discuss the responsibilities of religious leaders during times of crisis.
After meeting with the Holy Father briefly after today’s general audience, the participants agreed upon the following conclusions:
First, the most important responsibility of religious leaders during times of crisis is to faithfully live out their religious beliefs through "teaching, good deeds and example, thus serving their communities for the glory of God," participants in the colloquium decided.
Religious leaders should also have a "cultural and social role to play in promoting fundamental ethical values, such as justice, solidarity, peace, social harmony and the common good of society as a whole, especially the needy, the weak, migrants and the oppressed," they continued.
The leaders also came to the conclusion that they cannot overlook their special responsibility toward the youth, so they "do not fall victim to religious fanaticism and radicalism, receiving rather, a sound education thereby helping them to become bridge builders and peace makers."
Finally, the religious leaders noted that they must pay particular attention to interreligious relations on both the national and international level to avoid religious violence. "This requires a mutual respect and reciprocal knowledge, both cherishing personal relations and building confidence and mutual trust, so as to be able to confront together crises when they occur."
Vatican City, Dec 17, 2008 (CNA) - At his weekly General Audience in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Benedict contemplated the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies in the coming of the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary in the stable of Bethlehem and reminded his audience to contemplate the mercy of God “who has come to meet humanity.”
The Holy Father told the 5,000 people present at the general audience that even nonbelievers perceive something “extraordinary and transcendent, something intimate that touches our hearts in this yearly Christian event.”
“Christmas is a feast that speaks of the gift of life. The birth of a child is always something that brings great joy, and the embrace of a newborn moves one to tenderness.”
However, the Pope continued, Christmas is in danger of losing “its spiritual significance, reduced to a mere commercial occasion to buy and exchange gifts.” The difficulties and uncertainty that many families are living in these months can serve as “a stimulus for rediscovering the warmth of the simplicity, friendship, and solidarity that are the typical values of Christmas.”
“Stripped of its materialist and consumerist trappings, Christmas can become the opportunity to welcome, as a personal gift, the message of hope that emanates from the mystery of Christ's birth," Benedict XVI explained. "Nevertheless, all of this does not suffice to capture the value of this celebration we are preparing for in all its fullness. We know that it celebrates the central event of history: the Incarnation of the Divine Word for the redemption of humanity.”
The Holy Father continued by noting that at Christmas, people do not limit themselves to commemorating the birth of a great person, they recall something that is quite concrete and important for human beings, something essential to the Christian faith.
“This is a historical fact that St. Luke the evangelist is careful to place in a particular historical context: during the days of the decree of the first census of Caesar Augustus… In the darkness of the night in Bethlehem a great light was lit: the Creator of the universe became flesh, indissolubly and eternally joining himself to human nature, to the point of being 'God from God, light from light' and at the same time truly human."
“But is it possible?” the Holy Father asked. “A God who becomes a child? We need to bow our heads and recognize the limits of our intelligence. God reveals Himself to us as a poor 'infant' in order to conquer our pride… He made Himself small in order to free us from the human delusion of grandeur that arises from pride. He freely became flesh so that we might be truly free, free to love Him.”
"Christmas," the Pope concluded, "is the privileged opportunity to contemplate the meaning and value of our existence. The nearness of this solemnity helps us to reflect, on the one hand, on the dramatic nature of a history in which human beings, wounded by sin, are perennially seeking happiness and a reason for living and dying; on the other hand, it exhorts us to contemplate the merciful goodness of God, who has come to meet humanity that He might communicate the saving Truth to us directly and make us to participate in His friendship and His life.”
“Let us ready ourselves to receive this gift of joy, of light and of peace…to become people who do not think only of themselves, but who are open to the needs and expectations of others. In this way we also become witnesses of the light that Christmas radiates on the humanity of the third millennium."
Denver, Colo., Dec 17, 2008 (CNA) - This year, helping those less fortunate is even more necessary as greater numbers of people find themselves out of work. Last week, Catholic Charities of Colorado found two examples of organizations stepping forward to help those in need.
On Dec. 9, Catholic Charities received a donation of 400 cases of canned fruit for use in their emergency assistance centers. The donation of peaches and apricots was presented by Elder Randy Funk of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley at the Byers Place Emergency Center, 1205 W. Byers Place in Denver.
According to Randy Weinert, director of Communications for Catholic Charities, the Mormon Church has a network of farms and orchards throughout the country at which they grow fruits and vegetables. After picking and processing, the canned produce is distributed to the poor through the church’s own emergency assistance efforts.
"This year because their crop was so abundant, they had a lot left over," Weinert told the Denver Catholic Register, "so they looked to donate to other charitable organizations across the country. Here in Colorado they chose Catholic Charities."
Bishop Conley said that with so many food banks running short of food this time of the year, he was grateful to the Church of Latter Day Saints for their generous donation to Catholic Charities.
"I’m happy that we are able to work together in assisting those who are in need," he said.
Also on hand for the presentation were Steven Carattini, chief executive officer and interim president of Catholic Charities; Beth Shepherd, supervisor of emergency assistance programs and Patty Carr, manager of the Byers Place Emergency Assistance Center.
In another example of Christmas goodwill, Avanza Supermarkets donated more than 40 tons of food, enough to fill two tractor trailers, to Catholic Charities Emergency Assistance Centers. The food will be distributed to five assistance centers in Denver and Greeley.
This year’s donation more than doubles that which the supermarket chain donated in 2007. Beth Shepherd, supervisor of the emergency assistance programs, said that this year as more people find themselves in need, the number of donations is decreasing.
"Yesterday’s employed worker, who may have donated food to the food banks in the past is now unemployed and in need of help," she said. "It’s making it hard to keep the shelves stocked."
Alec Covington, chief executive officer of the Nash Finch Co., which owns Avanza, said that it is crucial that everyone continues to work together to make sure no one goes hungry.
"We thank Catholic Charities for their continued work in the Denver/Greeley area and look forward to partnering with them again," he said.
Weinert said that those people or organizations wishing to volunteer time or make donations may do so by contacting Catholic Charities ccdenver.org.
Printed with permission from the Denver Catholic Register.
Vatican City, Dec 17, 2008 (CNA) - Today an address by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi was published in which he discusses the risks involved while searching for ‘new’ human rights.
The prelate affirms that "when a breach is caused between what is claimed and what is real through the search of so-called 'new' human rights, a risk emerges to reinterpret the accepted human rights vocabulary to promote mere desires and measures that, in turn, become a source of discrimination and injustice and the fruit of self-serving ideologies."
Archbishop Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Geneva, continues his address on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by noting that this anniversary of the Declaration, "leads us also to reflect on its implementation."
"In a world of too many hungry people, too many violent conflicts, too many persons persecuted for their beliefs,” he continues, “there remains a long road to walk and the duty to eliminate every discrimination so that all persons can enjoy their inherent equal dignity."
The prelate then encourages the U.N. and its specialized agencies "to faithfully translate the principles of the Declaration into action by supporting States in the adoption of effective policies truly focused on the rights and sense of responsibility of everyone."
"Every human being,” he went on, "has the right to an integral development and 'the sacred right' to live in peace.” Human rights are not solely the “entitlement to privileges,” but are “rather the expression and the fruit of what is noblest in the human spirit: dignity, aspiration to freedom and justice, search for what is good, and the practice of solidarity.”
“In the light of the tragic experiences of the past and of today,” he concludes, “the human family can unite around these values and essential principles, as a duty toward the weakest and needier and toward future generations."
Trent, Italy, Dec 17, 2008 (CNA) -
The First European Catholic-Orthodox Forum has produced a document on the nature of the family as a "good for humanity." Calling the family "established by God as a union between man and woman," the forum describes the family as a "unity of life-giving love, an indissoluble relationship, open to life."
Explaining teachings on the family common to both Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, the joint document discusses the family as part of God’s plan for man and the "deep crisis of vision" threatening its place in modern societies.
Thirty delegates from the Orthodox Churches, Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, and the Vatican met over the past month at Trent in Italy. Organized by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), it is hoped that the First Catholic-Orthodox Forum will advance closer ties and cooperation between the two Churches, LifeSiteNews.com reports.
"The aim above all is to start clear and effective communication between our churches so that we are aware that we face the same challenges (secularism, consumerism, atheism, etc.)," said Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfejev. "These are themes which all our churches face individually and instead it is important to tackle them together."
The forum’s first joint document is titled "The Family: A Good for Humanity."
Cardinal Peter Erdõ explained that the forum chose the theme of the family "because it is a fundamental good for the whole of society" and because it is threatened by "an egoistic, relativistic culture focused exclusively on temporary material well-being."
"In this context, we feel the urgency to proclaim the Gospel of the family and we are convinced of the need to witness together our concern and the source of our hope," he continued, according to LifeSiteNews.com.
The Catholic-Orthodox joint document, dated December 14, begins with theological reflection on marriage and the family.
The Orthodox section calls marriage an "eternal union of spouses" in which they "become a source of the continuation of the human race and express chaste love, total community and the ‘unity of souls and bodies’ of the spouses." Marital relations are "pure and worthy according to God’s plan," and acts which distort them, such as fornication, adultery, or homosexual relations, should be rejected.
The Catholic section discusses the sacramental nature of Christian marriage, saying "Marital love between the spouses is the basis of the family, the first personal communion into which a human being is born. It must be promoted by society as its fundamental cell." The sacrament requires "fidelity unto death" and recognizes the "inseparable link" between the unitive and procreative aspects of married love.
Catholics likewise rejected distortions of marriage listed by the Orthodox.
Other common points of agreement named in the document include faithfulness to God’s commandment to "Be fruitful and multiply" through the "unique moral environment" of the family.
"The human being is the only one created in the image and likeness of God and this constitutes his particular dignity," the document states. "We do not give life to ourselves, nor are parents the sole source of human life, since divine intervention is necessary. The sacredness of human life from conception to natural death should be fully respected."
Noting the career and financial responsibilities presently placed upon both men and women, the document laments the lack of a family wage and the devaluing of motherhood as a personal vocation.
Agreeing that parents are the first educators of their children, the Catholic-Orthodox forum says: "Parents are to be the first witnesses of the Gospel. In the family life we learn the meaning of faith as the true light that guides a person's life."
The joint document discusses threats to the family such as abortion, sexual ideologies, economic and social pressures, pornography, and demographic decline.
Touching on the economic crisis, the forum notes that "lack of financial funds will pale before the lack of social and human resources that the family brings."
The Catholic-Orthodox forum notes a "deep crisis in the vision of what it is to be human and family life" brought about by the sexual revolution.
This crisis " is a major challenge to the evangelization of the Christian Churches that are attentive to the needs of the heart of the human being and his or her calling to full life in Christ."
To address this crisis, the Catholic and Orthodox authors of the document advise the renewal of our understanding of the family, the defense of the rights of parents to educate their children, and the rejection of systems which subordinate the needs of children and the well-being of the family to economic interests.
Further, they counsel the "moral choice" expressed in the covenant God made with man and fulfilled in Christ. Quoting Deuteronomy 30, they said: "therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live."
The document concludes on a hopeful note, saying:
"The experience of this Forum has been very positive in building up our fraternity and enabling us to share in our Christian concern for people. On the basis of this good experience, we intend to meet regularly to strengthen our mutual relations and address common challenges facing Europe."
The full version of the statement can be found here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resource.php?n=954
CNA STAFF, Dec 17, 2008 (CNA) - Beginning Monday, December 22, CNA will temporarily suspend news coverage until 2009 while our staff diligently makes preparations for next year.
While we will not be updating our news or sending our emails during this time, the staff will be working on ways to both improve our services and increase the content offered to our readers.
CNA’s regular news coverage will resume Monday, January 5, 2009.
Vatican City, Dec 17, 2008 (CNA) - A Vatican official has said that the excommunication of Fr. Roy Bourgeois, an American Maryknoll priest who advocates the ordination of women, will "certainly take place" unless the priest renounces his stand.
In exclusive comments made to CNA, the official called Fr. Bourgeois’ November letter defending his stand a "sad piece of propaganda" and argued the dissenting cleric takes his inspiration from American newspapers rather than Catholic doctrine.
Fr. Bourgeois, who is involved in organizing human rights protests at the military training school formerly known as School of the Americas, has called the Catholic position on women’s ordination "sexist." In August, he delivered a homily at a ceremony at a Unitarian church purporting to ordain a woman to the Catholic priesthood.
In an October 21 letter, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave Fr. Bourgeois 30 days to renounce his public support for the ordination of women, on penalty of excommunication.
In a November 7 letter, Fr. Bourgeois said he was compelled to take his stand as a matter of conscience and would not renounce it. The priest said he knew many women who feel called to the priesthood and argued that the Church cannot treat this reputed vocation as invalid.
He characterized the "exclusion of women from the priesthood" as an "injustice."
CNA spoke with an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the case of Fr. Bourgeois. The official reiterated that all procedures at the CDF are confidential. However, since Fr. Bourgeois decided to make public his letter to the Congregation, he said that "clearly the letter is a sad piece of propaganda and in no way expresses any doctrinal substance for his position."
"Rather, Fr. Bourgeois feels he can engage with the (CDF) to change the doctrine of the Church… quoting American newspapers as if they were a source of any kind of Catholic doctrine."
The official said that the formal excommunication will "certainly take place" as soon as the CDF "responds personally to the letters sent either supporting or denouncing (Fr. Bourgeois.)"
"Of course, Fr. Bourgeois could avoid excommunication at any point if he recants, but unfortunately all his latest actions do not seem to point in that direction," the official told CNA.