Houston, Texas, Feb 4, 2009 (CNA) - Catholics in Houston, Texas, following the lead of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, have begun a city-wide Bible listening campaign.
More than 50 Catholic parishes are participating in the campaign, called “You’ve Got The Time Houston.” Leaders from more than 100 non-Catholic churches in have joined the program to listen to the entire New Testament.
The initiative is being coordinated by the group Faith Comes By Hearing, an “audio Bible” ministry.
Roger Hunter, coordinator of You've Got The Time Houston, said that Faith Comes By Hearing provides free audio Bibles for every parishioner in participating parishes. Church leaders challenge parishioners to listen through the entire New Testament, 28 minutes a day over 40 days.
Churches then collect offerings to support recording the New Testament in the native languages of poor and illiterate people around the world.
“There has been a tremendous, immediate response from the Catholic community in the Houston area,” said Morgan Jackson, international director for Faith Comes By Hearing.
He said that the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has planned an “extensive” Bible engagement effort for 2009 called “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”
“Faith Comes By Hearing's 40-day Bible listening is a big component of their outreach," Jackson said in a press release. Jackson also praised Cardinal DiNardo’s involvement with the effort, saying, “His active encouragement of this program is giving many Catholics new opportunities to study the sacred Scriptures, deepen their faith and increase their knowledge of God's Word.”
Jackson said he expected that more than one-third of all 3,000 Houston-area churches will participate in the Bible engagement outreach.
"If we can reach America with God's Word we can reach the world together," Jackson said.
Rome, Italy, Feb 4, 2009 (CNA) - A number of Catholics from different parishes who were celebrating the priestly ordination of the first priest from the island of Majuli, in the Indian state of Assam, were harassed, threatened, and in some cases beaten, after participating in a Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph Aind of Dibrugarh.
According to the L’Osservatore Romano, upon returning to their homes, the hundreds of faithful who came to the ordination “were intercepted by a group of (Hindu) extremists. The members of the Catholic community of Mariani, the largest group present at the ceremony, were blocked by a mob of 600 fanatics along the road that leads to the wharf from which they were to leave the island.”
The newspaper reports that “a pastor, Father Caesar Henry, and the rector from a local school, Father G.P. Amalraj, who traveled together with the faithful, said they were beaten and then forced to take their boots off and walk. Afterwards some of the faithful from the group were beaten.”
The “Hindus shouted at the community, especially at the missionaries, who were also threatened,” L’Osservatore Romano reports.
“We just celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Republic,” Father Henry said. “Are we not Indians too? Do we not have the right to move about freely without being assaulted and persecuted because we are a group of believers and we profess our faith?” he asked. “The Constitution guarantees freedom and equal rights to all.” Do Hindu spiritual leaders teach followers to “abuse and terrorize innocents and simple people who want to participate in a public and religious celebration,” he pointedly asked.
In a press release, the Christian community of the state of Assam condemned the attacks, emphasizing that they were acts that “gravely harmed religious sentiment, and therefore, we strongly protest against the grave violations of human rights and the dignity of persons.”
Washington D.C., Feb 4, 2009 (CNA) - Some pro-life leaders warn that activism against the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is distracting attention from its “evil twin,” the Prevention First Act (PFA). The PFA provides more taxpayer funding for contraception and abortion and contains coercive elements which could deny federal funding to some pro-life hospitals.
Patrick Daub, writing in the American Life League’s Nov. 19 STOPP Report, said that the PFA would make Title X family planning a permanent program and fund it at $700 million or more. In 2008 it received only $300 million.
Title X is a major source of funding for Planned Parenthood. In 2008 the organization received about 25 percent of the total funding, $75 million. Under the new rules, it could receive $175 million.
At present, Title X is a temporary program which must be renewed every year.
PFA would mandate that health insurance programs that cover prescriptions must cover abortifacient contraceptives.
According to Daub, the proposal would create a government program to promote abortifacient “emergency contraception” and would deny federal funding to hospitals which do not provide “emergency contraception” to rape victims.
Further, it would provide significant funding for “comprehensive” sex education programs like those promoted by Planned Parenthood and specifically exclude “abstinence-only” programs from its budget. The PFA would also permanently include “family planning services” as part of the Medicaid program.
The PFA was introduced in the last Congressional session and was reintroduced for the present Congressional session on Jan. 6 by Sen. Harry Reid under the bill number S. 21.
“We have been warning the entire pro-life movement that this would be a priority, and now we see it in black and white on the official White House web site’s women’s issues page,” commented Judy Brown, President of the American Life League.
“If we might repeat ourselves, this bill is FOCA's evil twin. It has now been introduced and is getting up steam. Yet few speak of it; in fact, nobody in the pro-life movement’s leadership – other than American Life League and our Stop Planned Parenthood division – has found it worthy of notice.”
Dr. William E. May, Senior Fellow of the Culture of Life Foundation, also commented on the bill, arguing “The Act is based on the false premise that contraception prevents abortion. The more contraception is available, the more abortions occur because contraception is the gateway to abortion.”
May’s statement argued that most abortions occur “because men and women do not want to have a baby but nonetheless have sexual intercourse.”
“Contraception facilitates premarital sex and has led to an alarming increase of sexually transmitted diseases,” May claimed.
Chicago, Ill., Feb 4, 2009 (CNA) - A fire broke out this morning at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral causing major damage to the roof, which had recently undergone renovation.
According to local news reports, the fire started in the pitched section of the roof called the cockloft at around 5:30 this morning. Two hours later, firefighters had contained the fire, which was prevented from spreading into other sections of the church.
After touring the cathedral, Cardinal Francis George told reporters that the cathedral's roof would have to be rebuilt and that water damage from the efforts to put the fire out was extensive. The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.
"Chicago has always bounced back from fires and I think we'll bounce back from this," Cardinal George told the Chicago Tribune.
The original Holy Name Cathedral was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire. Following its destruction, parishioners pulled together and built the current cathedral, opening it in 1875.
Vatican City, Feb 4, 2009 (CNA) - The end of Saint Paul’s earthly life and his ongoing legacy was the theme chosen by Pope Benedict XVI, who concluded his series of teachings on St. Paul today. The Holy Father reflected on St. Paul’s apostolic example and his doctrine, which he said can serve as stimulus for the faithful to strengthen their Christian identity and invigorate the entire Church.
St. Paul’s martyrdom, the Pope said, "is first related in the 'Acts of Paul' written towards the end of the second century.” The Acts of Paul state that “Nero condemned Paul to be beheaded, and that the execution was summarily carried out. The date of Paul’s death varies in the ancient sources, which place it between the persecution unleashed by Nero following the fire of Rome in the summer of 64, and the last year of his reign in 68.”
According to tradition, Paul was beheaded at a place in Rome known as “Three Fountains,” and buried on the Via Ostiense, where the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the- Walls, erected over his tomb, stands today.
Pope Benedict then turned to St. Paul’s “extraordinary spiritual heritage.” “Thanks to the presence of the Letters of St. Paul in the liturgy,” he observed, the Apostle Paul has provided, “since the very start, spiritual nourishment for the faithful of all times."
The Holy Father went on: “The Fathers of the Church, and later all theologians, drew sustenance from the Letters of St. Paul and from his spirituality. For this reason Paul has, for centuries, been the true Master and Apostle of the Gentiles.” He added: “To Paul St. Augustine owes the decisive step in his own conversion, and St. Thomas Aquinas left us a magnificent commentary on Paul’s Letters, the finest fruit of medieval exegesis.”
Another decisive moment was the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation, the Pope said. Luther, he explained, "found a new interpretation for the Pauline doctrine of justification which freed Luther from scruples and concern and gave Luther a new and radical trust in the goodness of God, Who forgives everything unconditionally.” However, this insight brought Luther to identify Judeo-Christian legalism—which St. Paul condemned—with the life of the Catholic Church, the Holy Father noted.
The Council of Trent, Pope Benedict recalled, “provided a profound interpretation of the question of justification and found, in line with all Catholic tradition, a synthesis between the Law and the Gospel, in conformity with the message of Scripture considered in its entirety and unity.”
Moving on to the 19th century, Pope Benedict pointed to a revival in Pauline studies combined with the new traditions of the Enlightenment. “The new Paulinism of the nineteenth century considered the concept of freedom as a central part of the Apostle Paul's thought.”
“Paul is presented almost as a new founder of Christianity,” the Pope said of this time period.
Over the last two hundred years, the field of Pauline studies has seen an increasing convergence between Catholic and Protestant exegesis, Pope Benedict said.
The Pope even characterized the recent developments in Pauline studies as leading to a “conformity…on the very point that gave rise to the greatest historical disagreement.” “This represents a great hope for the cause of ecumenism, so fundamental for Vatican Council II,” he added.
Benedict XVI concluded his reflections on Paul by mentioning a number of Pauline-inspired religious movements that have come into being in Catholic Church during the modern age, such as the Congregation of St. Paul in the sixteenth century, the Missionaries of St. Paul in the nineteenth century and the Pauline Family or Secular Institute of the Company of St. Paul in the twentieth century.
Rome, Italy, Feb 4, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican Secretariat of State made public a statement today that outlines several points the Lefebvrists must accept in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s lifting of the excommunication of four bishops ordained by Marcel Lefebvre in 1988, including “full recognition of the Second Vatican Council” and of the Magisteriums of all the Popes since Pius XII.
The statement, published by the L’Osservatore Romano, indicates that in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s kind gesture lifting the excommunications, “it is hoped an equal willingness on the part of the four bishops be expressed in total adherence to the doctrine and discipline of the Church.”
“The lifting of the excommunication has freed the four bishops from a very grave canonical penalty, but it has not changed the juridical situation of the Society of St. Pius X, which currently does not enjoy any canonical recognition in the Catholic Church. In addition, the four bishops, while they are no longer excommunicated, do not have a canonical role in the Church and do not licitly exercise a ministry in her,” the statement says.
In order for the SSPX to be recognized, the statement goes on to say, “full recognition of Vatican Council II, the Magisteriums of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI himself is an indispensable condition.”
“As the Decree of January 21, 2009, already stated, the Holy See will not cease to study in depth with those interested, in the ways considered opportune, the issues that are still open, in order to reach a full and satisfactory solution for the problems that have given rise to this painful break,” the letter states.
The letter also makes reference to the statements denying the Holocaust made by one of the four bishops, Richard Williamson, calling them “absolutely unacceptable and strongly rejected by the Holy Father, as he himself emphasized on January 28” during the General Audience of that day.
“In order to be admitted to episcopal functions in the Church, Bishop Williamson should also publicly and unequivocally distance himself from such positions about the Shoa, which were unknown by the Holy Father at the time of the lifting of the excommunication.”
The statement emphasizes that the Holy Father asks all of the faithful to pray for the Church and for the efforts by her pastors to protect the Church’s unity.
Vatican City, Feb 4, 2009 (CNA) - With the Sri Lankan military pushing its offensive against the Tamil rebels into the final stages, Pope Benedict XVI has called on the warring parties to "show respect for humanitarian law."
News reports indicate that heavy fighting is taking place in parts of northeastern Sri Lanka, as government troops close in on the last-remaining holdouts of the Tamil Tigers.
Aid agencies are indicating that around 250,000 civilians are trapped by the forces surrounding the rebels.
Pope Benedict mentioned his concern for the "worsening conflict" in remarks made at his Wednesday general audience at the Vatican.
The Holy Father noted that "the growing number of innocent victims induces us to address a pressing appeal to the combatants to show respect for humanitarian law and for people's freedom of movement."
"May they do everything possible to guarantee assistance for the wounded and security for civilians, and enable their most urgent food and healthcare needs to be satisfied," he added.
The Pope also prayed, "May Our Lady of Madhu, so venerated by Catholics and by members of other religions, hasten the day of peace and reconciliation in that dear country."
Udine, Italy, Feb 4, 2009 (CNA) - The father of an Italian woman who is comatose and living off a feeding tube has taken her out of her hospital without authorization to move her to another facility where he plans to withdraw her food and hydration.
Beppino Englaro kidnapped his daughter Eluana during the night from her hospital in Lecco, Italy, where she was receiving care from the Sisters of Mercy, and transported her to a hospital in Udine.
The Engarlo’s lawyer explained to La Repubblica Eluana’s father plans to do: “During the first few days Eluana Englaro will be given nourishment like she was in Lecco and after three days, if nothing new happens, the nourishment will be slowly and gradually withdrawn. She will live for two, or at maximum, three weeks, unless there are further delays,” he said.
Advocates of euthanasia—including her father—intend to use Eluana’s case to set a legal precedent in Italy, where the norm allowing for euthanasia in cases of patients in a coma is currently being debated.
Laura Portaluppi, a friend of Eluana, told La Repubblica, “It’s like going back in time 17 years, to that day when I lost my best and only friend. Today is a dark day for me, it’s as if a huge wound was reopened that will begin a long journey taking Eluana to death.”
Archbishop Pietro Brollo of Udine has called on the faithful to pray for Eluana, for the Englaro family and for all volunteers who help those suffering.”
Likewise, the Bishops’ Conference of Italy issued a statement at the conclusion of the meeting of its executive committee and stressed that disconnecting Eluana’s feeding tube is clearly a case of euthanasia.
Tegucigalpa, Feb 4, 2009 (CNA) - The Honduran press last week that the Mormon Church has decided to abandon plans to build a new temple near the Shrine of Our Lady of Suyapa in Honduras.
The mayor’s office of Tegucigalpa denied the Mormons a permit to build the temple, which would have blocked the view of the Basilica of Suyapa.
The news came as thousands of Hondurans are making their way to the famous shrine this week to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Suyapa, the patroness of Honduras. Officials expect some two million to visit the shrine during the festivities.
During a Mass on Tuesday, Cardinal Andres Rodriguez of Tegucigalpa said, “Veneration of Holy Mary of Suyapa should fill the heart of each Catholic with joy. Together with Mary we should remain united.”
Pius XII declared Our Lady of Suyapa patroness of Honduras in 1925.
Bordeaux, France, Feb 4, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Bordeaux and member of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, said this week the lifting of the excommunication imposed on four bishops ordained by Marcel Lefebvre demands they and their followers recognize the Second Vatican Council.
In a statement published on the French bishops’ website, the cardinal explained that Pope Benedict XVI has reached out his hand “as an invitation to reconciliation. The Pope, as a theologian and historian of theology, knows the drama that a schism in the Church represents.” “He understands the question often raised in the history of schisms: Was every means used to avoid this schism?” the cardinal stated.
Pope Benedict XVI, he continued, “felt called to the mission to do everything possible to attract those estranged from ecclesial unity,” as “he knows the issue well because he was commissioned by Pope John Paul II to get in touch with Archbishop Lefebvre and try to prevent him from committing the irremediable act of the episcopal ordinations” without the permission of the Pontiff.
Cardinal Ricard noted that the lifting of the excommunication is not the end but only the beginning of the process of dialogue. “It does not resolve two fundamental issues: the juridical structure of the Fraternity of St. Pius X in the Church and an agreement on dogmatic and ecclesialogical issues. But it does open a path that should be traveled together. This path will undoubtedly be long. It will demand better mutual knowledge and esteem,” he added.
“At some point,” the cardinal stressed, “the issue of Vatican II as a magisterial document of primary importance must be considered as it is fundamental.” The lifting of the excommunication should help bring about this dialogue, he said.
Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 4, 2009 (CNA) - After the recent release of five hostages being held by the Marxist rebel group FARC, the president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, traveled to the Cathedral of Our Lady of All Remedies in Riohacha to ask the Mother of God “to help us to have a Colombia that free of terrorism and is prosperous and upright, with social justice.”
According to the Colombian daily El Tiempo, during his visit to Riohacha to promote tourism in the area, Uribe set aside time to visit the cathedral and pray before Our Lady of All Remedies.
Uribe prayed for a Colombia that “obtains the release of the hostages, the elimination of kidnapping, the elimination of violence,” as well as “a Colombia that can defend itself from this economic crisis, that moves forward on a path of overcoming poverty, difficulties, and that Colombians have an upright, firm and prosperous attitude.”
“On this day we totally consecrate to you our lives, our work, our joys and sufferings, triumphs and failures. All that we are and all we have; our entire beings. We want you, as our spiritual Mother, to help us always and protect us from all danger to our souls and bodies. Obtain for us from your Divine Son Jesus Christ the graces and favors we ask of him through your intercession,” the president prayed.
At the conclusion of his prayer, President Uribe promised Our Lady of All Remedies to “strive to be Catholics convinced of our faith and apostles of Jesus Christ in all circumstances. We greet Our Lady of All Remedies with great devotion.”
The recent liberation of five hostages was achieved with the help of the International Red Cross. Nevertheless, on Sunday the FARC detonated a car bomb near a police station in Cali killing three people.
According to El Tiempo, President Uribe said in Riohacha that the humanitarian efforts currently being made would be “carefully” reviewed so that they are not taken advantage of “by those interested in fostering terrorism.”
Boston, Mass., Feb 4, 2009 (CNA) - The lesbian couple whose legal case led the Supreme Court of Massachusetts to impose same-sex “marriage” on the state has filed for divorce.
Julie and Hillary Goodridge were among seven homosexual couples whose lawsuit Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health led Massachusetts to become the first U.S. state to recognize same-sex “marriage.”
The two were “married” on May 17, 2004 after a court ruling in their favor.
In 2006, the couple announced that they were separating, Fox News reports.
State recognition of same-sex couples has prompted many legal battles and many more are expected if more such laws are passed.
In November, the Becket Fund released a study titled “Same-Sex Marriage and State Anti-Discrimination Laws” which claimed the legal recognition of same-sex marriage could affect over 350 separate state anti-discrimination laws and could render objectors to same-sex marriage vulnerable to lawsuits.
Last week, in a case that has seen several reversals, a Vermont judge denied primary custody of a girl to the former partner of an ex-lesbian woman. Virginian Lisa Miller, the girl’s biological mother, has been in a custody fight with ex-partner Janet Jenkins of Vermont.
Though Judge William Cohen did not give Jenkins primary custody, he allowed to her extended visits including five weeks in the summer, CBN News reports.
Miller has accused Jenkins of abusing her during their relationship and claims that her daughter, Isabella, is traumatized by her visits with Jenkins.
She claims Isabella has spoken of killing herself after the visits and was required to bathe naked with Jenkins. Miller’s attorneys claim they have witnesses supporting such allegations, but the court has not scheduled a hearing on the issue, LifeSiteNews.com reports.
Miller is being represented by the group Liberty Counsel. Mat Staver, founder of the organization, lamented the extended visit periods.
"[Five weeks is] a long time to have a child separated from any parent, let alone have a child put in an activist lesbian household that has an agenda to ultimately brainwash this child," he said, according to CNB News. "Right now we're working on moving forward in the courts of Virginia."
Staver said Jenkins has tried in the past to promote the homosexual lifestyle by reading Isabella books about having "two mommies."