Archive of January 16, 2009

Portuguese cardinal warns against marrying Muslims

Lisbon, Portugal, Jan 16, 2009 (CNA) - The Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Jose Policarpo, warned the women of Portugal this Wednesday of the problems that can arise from marriage with Portuguese men of the Muslim faith.

During an interview with Portuguese Radio and Television, Cardinal Policarpo addressed the thorny issue of growing Muslim immigration on the Iberian peninsula and the resulting increase in mixed marriages.

“I suggest caution with love. Think twice before marrying a Muslim, think about it seriously,” he said, adding such unions invite a host of problems that “not even Allah knows where they will end.”

The cardinal warned against Muslim beliefs regarding women and pointed out the lack of dialogue with Muslims in Portugal.

“It is only possible to dialogue with somebody who is open to it. For example, dialogue with our Muslim brethren is very difficult,” he said, although he did express hope over “small advances” that have been made recently.

Part of the problem with dialoguing with Muslims, he explained, is that Portuguese Catholics “know very little about their own faith and much less about the beliefs of others.”

“If we want to dialogue with Muslims we need to understand their concept of life and their faith. Therefore, the first thing is to get to know them better and then show them respect,” the cardinal said.

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Nighttime armed attackers strike Congolese Salesian community

Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jan 16, 2009 (CNA) -

A Salesian community in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was violently attacked by several armed men Wednesday night.

Assailants entered the Industrial Technical Institute in the eastern city of Goma and assaulted the five Salesians living in the school. It is not known whether the attackers were common criminals or members of a rebel group, the Salesian Info Agency (ANS News) reports.

The school is not far from the headquarters of MONUC, the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission.

The community’s rector Fr. Firmin Kikoli and Brother Alonso Honorato were hospitalized for treatment of injuries received in the attack. Doctors report that their condition is not dangerously serious.

Fr. Kikoli, speaking from the hospital, reported the incident to Fr. Guilherme Basañes, the Salesian Councillor for the Africa-Madagascar Region, ANS News reports.

Writing to ANS News, Fr. Basañes expressed his support for the attacked Salesian community.

"We know how in recent times the Congregation, the Pope and the world have looked with compassion at the tragic situation of the people and the youngsters of Goma," he wrote. "Let us continue this network of closeness and solidarity asking the Holy Spirit to continue to inspire effective processes leading to justice and peace."

The community of the Industrial Technical Institute was the first Salesian foundation in Goma. The "Saint John Bosco" Institute opened in 1981 and has a secondary school, an oratory, and various pastoral activities.

The city of Goma continues to suffer instability and insecurity.

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N.H. bishop reflects on Inauguration’s ironies of racial advancement and pro-life setbacks

Manchester, N.H., Jan 16, 2009 (CNA) - The juxtaposition of the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama and the March for Life has prompted Bishop John G. McCormack of Manchester, New Hampshire to reflect upon American society. While President-elect Obama’s status as the first African-American elected president marks victorious progress to overcome racism, he said it also marks the further political defeat of the pro-life movement.

"The impending change is momentous," Bishop McCormack wrote in a message released Wednesday on the Diocese of New Hampshire’s web site. "President-elect Obama’s election reflects the encouraging fact that racism is diminishing in our country."

He wrote that the incoming administration was elected by voters who desired that the federal government be more responsive to working and middle class people. The change of administration also creates the expectation that there will be an end to the war in Iraq.

"Whether we voted for President-elect Obama or not, he is to be the President of the United States, a president for all of us," Bishop McCormack continued.

In light of the economic crisis and the expansion of global terrorism, the bishop added, President-elect Obama and his administration "deserve our prayers and respect." He cited St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy in which the Apostle asked for prayers "for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity."

"Given the fact that there remain pockets of racial hatred in our country and deep divisions around important issues, Saint Paul’s words apply to us as well," Bishop McCormack wrote.

The bishop said he and a priest friend had noted the irony of the Presidential Inauguration’s "practically simultaneous occurrence" with the March for Life.

"The irony lies in the recognition that as the struggle to overcome racism moves forward toward victory, another struggle for the right to one’s life faces the threat of further political defeat. In light of this, people of every race, faith, and age will gather in prayer as well as in protest to lift up a cry for the right to life for all human life," Bishop McCormack remarked.

"As the inauguration symbolizes another step away from the reprehensible concept that one person can own another as a slave, we witness the tragedy and grave injustice that abortion implies that the child in the womb is the personal property of another human being. With such a mindset, a person can choose to extinguish this life for about any reason."

"Removing protection for the innocent is not progress," he continued. "Racism and abortion are grave moral evils. As progress is made on one front, we cannot stand idly by while protections for the unborn slip away."

He called upon Catholics and all people of goodwill to "remain steadfast" in their opposition to abortion and their commitment to building respect for life. He also lamented the lack of political leaders who speak out against abortion.

"Change is wonderfully manifest in Barack Obama as the first African-American president in our country," Bishop McCormack’s message closed. "May change now come to our nation’s attitude toward human life so we all will increase the respect for all human life, from conception to natural death."

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Archbishop of New Orleans appeals for peace in church closure controversy

New Orleans, La., Jan 16, 2009 (CNA) - Following the expulsion and arrest of some protesters who were occupying churches declared to be closed, the Archbishop of New Orleans Alfred Hughes has issued a message urging peace and reconciliation in the controversy.

Several Catholic parishioners in the Archdiocese of New Orleans had occupied the two former churches, 152-year old St. Henry Church and the nearby Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, to protest their closure.

On Jan. 6, at the request of the archdiocese, the protesters were removed by police. Two were arrested.

Archbishop Hughes on Wednesday published a message on the church closure controversy.

He began by referencing "seemingly contradictory scriptural passages," one from John 14 in which Jesus promises peace to his followers and one from Luke 12 where Jesus says he brings not peace but division.

These passages "actually point to a deeper truth," the archbishop wrote. "God promises inner peace to those who fulfill his will even when there is opposition or resistance. Christ witnessed to this in the hostility to him connected with his passion. Discernment of God’s will entails the willingness to sacrifice personal preference. Doing God’s will sometimes involves misunderstanding and criticism.

"No one wants to experience what we have experienced as church during the last two weeks in which decisions needed to be enforced despite the desires of some people within the church," he continued.

Archbishop Hughes explained that following the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the archdiocese has diminished resources in terms of priests and finances to support ministry throughout the diocese.

During the planning for cutbacks, he said, "we urged that the process be an exercise in the discernment of God’s will for us. Personal preference was to yield to the good of the whole."

He said the archdiocese had engaged in a "very thorough" consultation process which lea to the "difficult" final decisions made "with the desire to find God’s will for us and the intention to foster the development of more vibrant and evangelizing parishes."

The archdiocese especially wanted to ensure that the Eucharist would be celebrated in each of our open churches.

Archbishop Hughes said he decided it was necessary to end the protesters’ vigils because of "increased risks" to both the protesters and the archdiocese. According to the archbishop, though archdiocesan representatives "made every effort" to persuade the protesters to leave, "eventually it was necessary to engage law enforcement."

"Two individuals insisted upon allowing themselves to be arrested."

"It is now my hope that we can move toward a constructive series of steps that will promote reconciliation and integration of the newly merged parish of Good Shepherd," the archbishop’s message concluded, praying that God will grant his peace to the archdiocese.

The protesting parishioners say they will continue their prayer vigils outside the churches.

Our Lady of Good Counsel parishioner Cheron Brylski said the parishioners plan to pray a Rosary at the closed church every Sunday.

"But obviously our goals remain to get to the table and have a dialogue with the archbishop, and we're still hopeful that the archbishop will change his heart and meet with us," she said, according to WDSU News.

"We agree with the archbishop's plan to have a new parish created," Brylski continued. "All we're asking for is one Mass a week here with our parishioners."

Parishioner Harold Baquet was more resolute in his opposition. One of the occupants of Our Lady of Good Counsel, he had climbed out onto the roof of the church to try to avoid detection after police forcibly entered the building to remove the protesters.

"This is just the beginning, sister, and I promise you this community will maintain its cohesiveness, its organizational capabilities, its communication capabilities and its fundraising capabilities and this pastoral plan is a trip in the desert," he said, according to WDSU. "It has led us nowhere. It's dividing the body of Christ."

Parishioners from both closed churches have reportedly filed civil suits.

A representative from the archdiocese reportedly said the archbishop’s decision is final.

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Vatican observer urges more attention to endangered civilians in Gaza conflict

, Jan 16, 2009 (CNA) - During the course of an open debate at the U.N. on protecting civilians during armed conflict, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the permanent of the Holy See, expressed disappointment with situations in which armies do not attempt to take reasonable measures to protect civilians.

On Wednesday, Archbishop Migliore, addressed the U.N. Security Council noting that although the Security Council has been discussing this topic for more than a decade, "civilian security during conflict is becoming more and more critical, if not at times dramatic, as we have been witnessing in these past months, weeks and days in the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to name just a few."

The archbishop told the council that, if civilians are to be protected, the three “vital pillars” that must be respected are: "humanitarian access, special protection of children and women and disarmament.”

"It is sadly clear,” the Vatican observer said, “that political and military designs supersede basic respect for the dignity and rights of persons and communities, when methods or armaments are used without taking all reasonable measures to avoid civilians; when women and children are used as a shield for combatants; when humanitarian access is denied in the Gaza Strip; when people are displaced and villages destroyed in Darfur and when we see sexual violence devastating the lives of women and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."

Archbishop Migliore then called for a renewed commitment to protect civilians, which he said will require not only a renewed commitment but “first and foremost good political will and action."

"The broad spectrum of mechanisms the U.N. is putting in place to ensure the protection of civilians will be successful if, at the very least, it is able to foster a culture of responsible exercise of leadership among its members and holds them and every party in a conflict accountable to such a responsibility towards individuals and communities,” the archbishop said.

He also traced the increasing number of civilian casualties to the "the massive production, continued innovation and sophistication of armaments," which the Holy See hopes can be diminished by the U.N. resolution called “Towards an Arms Trade Treaty.”

The violence in the Gaza Strip continues to severely hamper aid workers. On January 9, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet destroyed one of the Catholic charity Caritas’ medical clinics.

More recently, on Thursday, the U.N headquarters in the Gaza Strip was shelled and then suffered significant fire damage from sulfur bombs that landed in the compound. The bombardment engulfed the compound and a warehouse in fire, destroying thousands of pounds of food and humanitarian supplies intended for Palestinian refugees.

Meanwhile, militants fired 15 rockets into southern Israel on Friday, leaving five injured, according to Haaretz newspaper.

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Pope calls Iranian Catholics to work for peace among nations

Vatican City, Jan 16, 2009 (CNA) - This morning the Holy Father met members from the Episcopal Conference of Iran, which is comprised of bishops from the Armenian, Chaldean and Latin Catholic Churches.  During the meeting, Pope Benedict urged Catholics in Iran to not only remain “steadfast in the faith of their fathers,” but to also encourage peace among nations.”


After pointing out the diversity in the Catholic community in Iran, Pope Benedict addressed the bishops, who were concluding their “ad liminia” visit, saying that “today, as before, the Catholic Church continues to encourage all who are concerned with the common good and peace among nations.  For its part, Iran, the bridge between the Middle East and sub-continental Asia, also will not fail to fulfill this vocation.”


As he typically does, the Pope then offered a survey of the various parts of the local Catholic Church.


After thanking the priests and religious of the country for their efforts in helping earthquake victims in the region of Bam, he turned his attention to the laity.


 “Nor do I wish to forget the Catholic faithful whose presence in the land of their ancestors brings to mind the biblical image of the yeast in the dough, which makes the bread rise and gives it flavor and texture," the Pope said. He also encouraged Iranian Catholics to "continue steadfast in the faith of their fathers and to remain rooted in their land, so as to collaborate in the development of the nation."


Further addressing the diversity of the Iranian Catholics, the Holy Father told the prelates, “Although your various communities live in different situations, some of your problems are shared. It is necessary to develop harmonious relations with public institutions which, with the grace of God, will certainly become more profound and enable those communities better to carry out their ecclesial mission, while upholding mutual respect.”


“I invite you to promote all initiatives that may favor better reciprocal knowledge. There are two avenues to be explored: cultural dialogue, which is the centuries-old richness of Iran, and charity.”


"The road before you is long and requires perseverance and patience,” the Pope said as he encouraged them to look to the example of God, “patient and merciful with His people.”


"Your Churches are heirs to a noble tradition and to a long Christian presence in Iran,” Pope Benedict concluded. "They have, each it its own way, contributed to the life and development of the nation, and they wish to continue their efforts in the service of Iran, while conserving their own identity and freely living their faith."


Christians number around 10,000 in Iran out of a population of 70 million, most of whom are Muslim.

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Dominican bishops call for an end to 'shameless corruption'

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Jan 16, 2009 (CNA) - In a pastoral letter to mark the upcoming feast of Our Lady of Altagracia, patroness of the country, the bishops of the Dominican Republic have made an urgent call for an end to the malaise affecting Dominican society, especially corruption.

“Corruption, drug trafficking and crime are three great evils that affect Dominican society,” the bishops said in their pastoral letter.  In some sectors of society, these “works of the flesh” are made manifest in a “crude and shameless fashion,” they said.

The bishops denounced administrative corruption, fiscal evasion and indifference, which they described as “entrenched in some areas.” These places need Catholics to “make a clear and defined proclamation of the living Christ, with a message that brings hope to the world.”

“We need to sow the message of Christ in these sectors and among the urban and rural population, Dominican families and young people and immigrants,” the document states. The bishop also expressed their concern for the “constant loss of moral values due to the widespread sexual promiscuity” promoted in many cases by the media.  They also lamented the “progressive breakdown of moral and spiritual values,” which has led Dominicans to promote a culture “founded on greed, the obtaining of power, sexual licentiousness and selfishness.” 

In a reference to the Pauline year, the bishops concluded their statement by calling on Catholics to “listen to the Apostle and learn from him,” as a “master of the faith and of the truth, in which the reasons of the unity between the disciples of Christ are rooted.”

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President declares Sanctity of Human Life Day, sums up pro-life victories

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2009 (CNA) -

In what may be his last declaration as U.S. president, George W. Bush has announced that he is establishing January 18, 2009 as "National Sanctity of Human Life Day."

President Bush writes that "All human life is a gift from our Creator that is sacred, unique, and worthy of protection. 

"On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, our country recognizes that each person, including every person waiting to be born, has a special place and purpose in this world.  We also underscore our dedication to heeding this message of conscience by speaking up for the weak and voiceless among us."

Looking back at his Administration, the president made the case for it being one "committed to building a culture of life." Among the achievements for life he highlighted are: "vigorously promoting adoption and parental notification laws, opposing Federal funding for abortions overseas, encouraging teen abstinence, and funding crisis pregnancy programs." 

Additionally, Bush said that he was "honored to sign into law the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act in 2002." The law extends legal protection to children who survive an abortion attempt and featured prominently in the presidential election since President-elect Obama opposed a state level version of the bill when he was in the Illinois senate.

President Bush further mentioned the federal ban on partial-birth abortions, which he signed in 2003, and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004. The latter piece of legislation allows authorities to charge a person who causes death or injury to a child in the womb with a separate offense in addition to any charges relating to the mother.

In a reference to biomedical advances, Bush described America as a "caring Nation" which must never abandon its "fundamental morals" in its "zeal for new treatments and cures." "We can achieve the great breakthroughs we all seek with reverence for the gift of life," he added.

The president closed his declaration by saying that "the sanctity of life is written in the hearts of all men and women" and that National Sanctity of Life Day should be dedicated building "a society in which every child is welcome in life and protected in law." 

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‘Very humble’ priest dies in attack on Kenya philosophical institute

Nairobi, Kenya, Jan 16, 2009 (CNA) - An elderly Italian priest apparently died of suffocation late Friday morning in Nairobi after two attackers tied him up and stuffed his mouth with papers.

The attack took place in Fr. Giuseppe Bertaina’s office at the Consolata Institute of Philosophy where the 82-year-old priest was the administrator, the Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA) reports. The attackers also vandalized his office and fled with an unknown amount of money.

The priest’s body was found on the floor shortly afterward.

Consolata Vice-Superior Fr. Hieronymus Njoya confirmed the events to CISA.

“We have informed the police and investigations are going on. Two watchmen are helping the police with the investigations,” Fr Njoya said.

An unknown woman caught trying to run away from Fr. Bertaina’s office was arrested.

The institute and the police are investigating how the strangers entered the institute during daytime without being noticed.

Fr. Njoya said that Fr. Bertaina’s death was “a big shock” to the staff and the students at the Consolata Institute of Philosophy. Fr. Bertaina, who had been an administrator at the institute since 2005, was a very humble man who was loved by all.

He also had experience at several educational institutes in Kenya, Fr. Njoya said.

Another longtime Consolata missionary, Fr. Anthony Bianci, described Fr. Bertaina as a very friendly priest who made many friends wherever he worked.

The late priest was born in 1927 in Cuneo in Italy. He took his perpetual vows in 1950 and was ordained in 1951.

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Madrid cardinal says dignity of immigrants should be recognized

Madrid, Spain, Jan 16, 2009 (CNA) - In a pastoral letter marking World Day of Migrants, which will take place this coming Sunday, the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela called on the faithful of the archdiocese to express their solidarity with immigrants, especially in light of the global economic crisis.

“Immigrants are people with a vocation and a mission in life which they have the right and the duty to develop,” the cardinal said in his letter, warning that “in the current context of the economic crisis, immigrant workers and their families are seen sometimes as a drain.”

“However, their contribution to the growth of our economy and wellbeing is undeniable, and their presence has been and is rich in humanity: their family, cultural and religious roots, their youth, their work, their lives,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Rouco urged Spaniards to overcome selfishness and reach out to immigrants in their need.

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Priests should encourage recovery of Sacrament of Reconciliation

Rome, Italy, Jan 16, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican congregation in charge of overseeing the Sacrament of Reconciliation as well as the granting of indulgences has just finished a conference in Rome. The aim of the meeting was help people recover “the joy of the personal experience of the mercy of God” and to encourage priests to make this a priority.

According to the L’Osservatore Romano, the event which took place January 13 and 14 was, in the words of the head of the Apostolic Penitentary, Cardinal Francis Stafford, an occasion “to offer to the men and women of today, immersed in a post-modern culture, the opportunity to reflect profoundly on their interior life and ask God for forgiveness for the ‘abuse of power’ that is in their hands.”

“Our objective,” he said, “is to reflect deeply on the pastoral meaning of our Tribunal and why the Church, in her wisdom, created this tribunal of mercy. My hope is that the answer has been clear in these two days of meeting and conversation.”

The Vatican newspaper also quoted Manlio Sodi of the Salesian Pontifical University, who led a round-table discussing during the Symposium and said the issue of penitential services and general confessions, which are more common in North America, are “rites that fundamentally alter the very foundations of the personal act of Confession.”

“It is a practice that poses enormous problems. If the rite of Penance were observed and taught instead, the faithful would not be misguided,” Sodi explained.

L’Osservatore Romano also pointed out that the “traditional rite of Confession underscores the aspect of liberation which divine mercy freely offers to the penitent who wishes to be reconciled with God.”

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