Archive of February 16, 2009

Vatican accepts Austrian Bishop-elect's request to rescind his appointment

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2009 (CNA) - According to Austrian news sources, the Vatican on Monday accepted Fr. Gerhard Maria Wagner’s request to rescind his nomination as Auxiliary Bishop of Linz, Austria, "in the interest of and for the benefit of the diocese" and to "avoid further division in the Church."

Fr. Wagner became the center of a controversy when he suggested that God punished New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina because of the city’s sins. But many analysts believe his faux pas was used to block him from becoming a bishop because his traditional views on doctrinal and liturgical matters run contrary to the Austrian Church establishment.

The 54-year-old Wagner told the Austrian press that "regarding the fierce criticism, I am praying and after consulting the diocesan bishop I have decided to ask the Holy Father in Rome to take back my promotion as auxiliary bishop."

He also said that the reaction among Austrian Catholics to his appointment would have made his ministry almost impossible.

The announcement of Wagner as Auxiliary Bishop-elect of Austria's third largest city on January 31 sparked a wave of protests. The outcry was not limited to the laity, with 30 out of the 39 pastors of Linz promising to boycott his Episcopal ordination. Consequently, the Austrian Bishops' Conference called for an urgent meeting on Monday to discuss the situation created by Wagner's appointment.

On Monday, the official Austrian Catholic Agency Kathpress confirmed, quoting unnamed sources from the Vatican, that Wagner's request had been "accepted."

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Vatican confirms that Pelosi will have audience with the Pope

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2009 (CNA) - On Monday at noon in Rome, the Vatican’s Press Office confirmed to CNA that Pope Benedict will be receiving U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in an audience at noon on Wednesday.

Pelosi, a self-proclaimed "ardent Catholic" who has sparked significant criticism from fellow Catholics in the U.S. for her pro-abortion views, arrived in Italy on Sunday for an eight-day official visit.

After landing at the USAF base in Aviano, she and the American delegation met with the mayor Florence, Leonardo Domenici at the "Palazzo Vecchio" (The Old Palace.)

On Monday, Pelosi began a series of meetings with Italian political authorities at the Quirinale Palace, where she was received by the President of the Italian State, Giorgio Napolitano. She then moved to the nearby Italian Congress for a meeting with the President of the Government, Gianfranco Fini.

Later in the evening, a reception honoring the U.S. delegation will take place at the Library of Montecitorio Palace where Pelosi will deliver the address: "Strong Allies for a Secure Future."

On Tuesday, the Speaker of the House will be received by the President of the Council of Ministers, Silvio Berlusconi, at Villa Madama. In the afternoon Pelosi will hold meetings with the Minister of Defense, Ignazio La Russa and the Minister of International Affairs, Franco Frattini.

Although numerous reports have been published either confirming or denying that Pope Benedict would receive Pelosi in an audience, the Holy See’s Press Office confirmed to CNA on Monday at noon Rome time, that the Holy Father will receive the U.S. representative on Wednesday at midday.

The press office made clear that the Pope will meet with Pelosi in his capacity as a head of state since the Speaker of the House is the third in line to lead the U.S., should the president and vice president be unable to do so.

The idea of providing Pelosi with a photo-op has disturbed a significant number of U.S. Catholics and pro-life activists.

In August 2008, Pelosi attempted to offer a justification for why Catholics could support abortion and remain in good standing with the Church by giving a convoluted explanation based on misquotes of Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas on "Meet the Press."

Pelosi's pretention at reinterpreting Catholic moral and theological teaching elicited strong criticism from more than 20 U.S. cardinals, archbishops and bishops.

More recently, Nancy Pelosi was strongly criticized for defending the insertion of millions in spending on contraceptives into the stimulus bill. Pelosi, who says she is an "ardent Catholic," told ABC's This Week that the money spent on family planning services would "reduce costs." 

Over this past weekend pro-life activists and bloggers launched verbal salvos against the Vatican because they believe that the Holy See plans to present Nancy Pelosi with an award.

This is definitely not true, the Vatican’s press office told CNA. The idea that Pelosi would be awarded by the Vatican most likely is the result of activists confusing the visit to the Vatican with the Speaker of the House being awarded by a group of Italian legislators for being the first Italian American to reach such a high rank in the U.S. government.

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‘Apostle of the Lepers,’ Spanish mystic among 10 to be canonized

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2009 (CNA) - Today the Vatican announced that it will recognize 10 blesseds as saints on February 21 in a ceremony at the Vatican. Among the soon-to-be canonized is Bl. Damian de Veuster, a Belgian missionary who spent much of his life in Hawaii caring for lepers.

The ceremony, which is called a consistory, will take place in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall at 11:00 a.m. on February 21 and will officially recognize as saints 10 blesseds who hail from Portugal to Italy.

In addition to Bl. Damian, Bl. Rafael Arnáiz Barón, is unique because he died at the young age of 27 of a diabetic coma. He was a member of the Cistercian’s of the Strict Observance and is considered on the greatest mystics of the 20th century.

When the Catholic Church canonizes a person, it is a statement by the Church that she believes the person in question lived a saintly life worthy of imitation and that the sainted person is in Heaven.

A full list of the blesseds who will be canonized follows.

- Blessed Zygmunt Szczesny Felinski, Polish former archbishop of Warsaw and founder of the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary.

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

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

- Blessed Jozef Damian de Veuster, Belgian professed priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar (PICPUS).

- Blessed Bernardo Tolomei, Italian founder of the Olivetan Benedictine Congregation.

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

- Blessed Nuno di Santa Maria Alvares Pereira, Portuguese religious of the Order of Friars of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.

- Blessed Gertrude Comensoli (nee Caterina), Italian virgin and foundress of the Institute of Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

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

- Blessed Caterina Volpicelli, Italian virgin and foundress of the Institute of Handmaidens of the Sacred Heart. 

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Pope’s trip to Holy Land a visit of peace and reconciliation, says Nuncio to Israel

Rome, Italy, Feb 16, 2009 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio to Israel, Archbishop Antonio Franco, said last week that the Pope’s upcoming visit to the Holy Land in May will make the Pontiff “a bearer of peace and reconciliation.”

In an interview with the Italian news agency SIR, the Nuncio said, “We still don’t know if the Pope will be able to come to Gaza. It was not and is not on the schedule, because there are many things that must be taken into account, in addition to the amount of time he will have. But we certainly hope there will be a presence of the small Catholic community of Gaza at one of the Masses.”

The Nuncio also said that this trip “will be a pastoral visit to the Catholic communities of Jordan and the Holy Land, in addition to Israel and the Palestinian territories, with an open heart to the mission of the Church.” There will be three celebrations: one in Jerusalem, one in Bethlehem and one in Galilee, Archbishop Franco said.

During the visit, Archbishop Franco explained, “The Pope will also meet with the leaders of other Christian denominations and of other religions: Islam and Judaism.” The pastoral aspect of the trip will not preclude meetings with “government officials of Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

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Twelve year-old becomes YouTube hit by explaining the tragedy of abortion

CNA STAFF, Feb 16, 2009 (CNA) - An un-named 12 year-old girl  has become a hit on YouTube because of the simplicity and eloquence with which she explains the tragedy of abortion.

“Every day, 115,000 are dying through abortion… a hundred and fifteen thousand! That means that  5,000 children will die every hour. That means all those lives,  gone! All that potential,  gone!  And all that hope in the future gone!” says the young girl, reading from a script and very naturally addressing the camera.

In her presentation, the young girl summarizes the pro-life counter arguments to most of the pro-abortion objections, including the usually ignored fact of Post Abortion Syndrome.

"My daughter prepared and delivered this speech for her grade 7 class. Even those who didn't agree with her loved it,” writes the anonymous poster of the video.

But after 403 comments, she had to turn off the comment function for the video.

“This was not to stop genuine discussion or debate on the issue but was, rather, a response to the cowardly who used it as an opportunity to throw insults and threats at a young girl that they hated without reason."

The video can be viewed at

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Pope appoints Assembly for Africa leaders

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2009 (CNA) - The year of 2009 is shaping up to be one in which Africa is in the Vatican spotlight. Pope Benedict, besides traveling to the continent next month, announced on Saturday the leaders of a Synod of Bishops on Africa.

The synod, which is set to take place October 4-25 at the Vatican, will focus on the theme, "The Church in Africa, at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. 'You are the salt of the earth, ... you are the light of the world.'"

This synod will be the Second Special Assembly for Africa. The first was held in 1994 and resulted in Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa.

The presidents delegate announced by Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 14 are: "Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; Cardinal Theodore-Adrien Sarr, archbishop of Senegal, Dakar, and Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier O.F.M., archbishop of Durban, South Africa."

The relator general is Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana, and the special secretaries are Archbishop Damiao Antonio Franklin of Luanda, Angola, and Bishop Edmond Djitangar of Sarh, Chad.

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Vatican delegation arriving in Vietnam could face ‘enormous difficulties’

Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb 16, 2009 (CNA) - A Vatican diplomatic delegation began its sixteenth annual visit to Vietnam on Sunday following a year of Church-state clashes concerning the ownership of confiscated church properties. One Vietnamese priest said the delegation faces “enormous difficulties” in its planned talks with government officials.

Arriving at the Archbishopric of Hanoi, the delegation was welcomed by Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, Auxiliary Bishop Lawrence Chu Van Minh, priests, religious and thousands of students, Fr. J.B. An Dang tells CNA.

The delegation was composed of Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Undersecretary for Relations with States; Msgr. Francis Cao Minh Dung, head of the Bureau of Southeast Asian Affairs at the Secretariat of State; and Msgr. Barnabe Nguyen Van Phuong, bureau chief at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

After a welcoming ceremony described as “very energetic and enthusiastic,” the delegation met with the archbishop.

On Monday and Tuesday the delegation will have meetings with government authorities at the Foreign Ministry and the Central Committee on Religious Affairs concerning the diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the Holy See.

On Feb. 12 the Vietnamese government announced that the meetings will “discuss the possibility of establishing 'diplomatic relations' with the Holy See.” Local Catholic sources believe that will not be the main topic, Fr. An Dang reports.

Since September 2008, the Vietnamese government has repeatedly asked for the removal of Archbishop Joseph Ngo. The Archbishop has suffered a long period of virtual house arrest, a public defamation campaign conducted by state-run media, and has endured public threats of violence and death aimed at him personally.

He attracted the government’s ire through his strong support for Catholic protests seeking the return of confiscated Church properties.

“The government raised the issue [of the archbishop’s transfer] with the Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops and was frankly rejected by the  bishops,” said Fr. Joseph Nguyen from Hanoi. “But it will try again. The Vatican delegation will face enormous difficulties.”

Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, Chairman of the Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a Feb. 13 letter asked Catholics in Vietnam for “intensive prayers and sacrifices as a sign of solidarity and the love for the Church.”

Following the talks with government officers in Hanoi, the Vatican delegation will have meetings with the Executive Committee of the Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops and with Vietnamese archbishops.

The delegation will then visit the dioceses of Thai Binh and Bui Chu in North Vietnam.

“The situation of the Church in Vietnam has been somewhat improved due in good part to the persistent efforts of the Holy See to maintain an official dialogue with the authorities, including a more or less annual visit to Vietnam of a Vatican delegation,” Fr. An Dang tells CNA. “However, there can be no denying that religious freedom is still severely limited in today's Vietnam. Typically, the government still requires consultation on the appointment of bishops and the selection of candidates for the priesthood.”

He explained that church property is another source of conflict, saying:

“Many properties that once belonged to the Church have been administered by the State on the grounds that they were needed for social purposes. Even when their purposes are no longer met, the buildings are seldom returned to their owners.”

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European bishops back proposed EU law on Sunday rest

Brussels, Belgium, Feb 16, 2009 (CNA) - The secretariat of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community has welcomed a proposed EU law that would safeguard Sunday as a day of rest from work.

According to L’Osservatore Romano, the secretariat issued a statement praising the measure proposed by five EU parliamentarians to recognize the value of “Sunday rest as part of the ‘cultural patrimony’ and ‘European social model’.”

“The current economic and financial crisis has made it even more evident that not every aspect of human life can be subject to the laws of the market,” the bishops stressed.

“In fact, consumerism is not a model either for a sustainable economy or for healthy human development.”  Sunday work, they continued, “puts those who work on Sunday into a socially disadvantageous position, affecting everything from family life to their own personal health.”

The proposed measure, which would need 394 votes to pass in the EU parliament, would call on member states and EU institutions to “protect Sunday as the weekly day of rest” in order “to improve the protection of workers’ health and the balancing of work and family life.”

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Colombian bishops reaffirm their commitment to achieving peace

Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 16, 2009 (CNA) - At the conclusion of their 86th Plenary Assembly, the bishops of Colombia issued a statement reaffirming their commitment to the search for peace in the country, which has been racked by years of violence.

In their statement the bishops give a brief overview of the current challenges and point to signs of hope such as “the mobilization of citizens to reject kidnapping and violence; a greater presence of young people in positions of leadership; the pro-active role of women in the Church and in society; the use of the mechanisms of participation enshrined in the national Constitution; the overcoming of political hatred that ignited the long and painful via dolorosa of violence in Colombia.”

“As our Assembly concludes,” the bishops continued, “we express our decision to be closer from now on to the displaced, to the families of the kidnapped, to the victims of violence, to all who are marginalized, and to bring them a message of solidarity and to offer them our vocation of service.”

“The country we dream of must be built by all,” the bishops said in closing their statement. “Aware of the difficult moment through which Colombia is passing, and feeling ourselves the effect of the conflicts and the contradictions, we make a decided choice for hope, with the certainty that the Lord Jesus who walks by our side will help us to build a country that is kinder, more just, with greater unity and solidarity.”

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'Word of God, source of life,' theme of Indian bishops’ meeting

Rome, Italy, Feb 16, 2009 (CNA) - During their 21st Plenary Assembly last week, the Latin Rite bishops of India addressed the issue of the systematic attacks on the Christian community in the country and the importance of “the Word of God, the source of life for the Indian people.”

According to the L’Osservatore Romano, the inaugural Mass attended by bishops, priests and religious, was celebrated by the Apostolic Nuncio to India, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana.

The vice secretary of the Latin Rite Bishops’ Conference of India, Father Uduma Bala, said the theme of the Assembly “is of particular relevance at this time in India, because it is about evangelization, and proselytism is the main accusation Hindu extremists make against Christians.”

“Catholics undoubtedly are waiting with hope for the necessary guidance” to continue forward, Father Bala said. Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Latin Rite Bishops’ Conference of India, stated, “The objective this Assembly should focus on is the Word of God and his truth. This could give society the values that it needs and this is what the people are seeking.”

“Evangelical values,” the cardinal said, “should permeate all aspects of life. In this era of globalization it is essential that the Bible and its contents reach the world so that it can be a place where justice, truth and unity can prevail.”

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Benedict XVI discusses building a vibrant parish, ethnic unrest with Nigerian bishops

Rome, Italy, Feb 16, 2009 (CNA) - Receiving prelates from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, the Holy Father praised the growth of Christianity in their country and noted that the expansion of the Church calls for extra attention to the training of diocesan personnel, in order to deepen the faith of people in the region.

The Pontiff explained to the bishops, who were meeting with him after completing their “ad limina” visit last Saturday, that this formation and training could be achieved by: "teaching the art of prayer, encouraging participation in the liturgy and the Sacraments, wise and relevant preaching, catechetical instruction, and spiritual and moral guidance.” 

It is from this basic foundation, he continued, that “faith flourishes in Christian virtue, and gives rise to vibrant parishes and generous service to the wider community."

“You yourselves,” Benedict said to the bishops, “together with your priests must lead by humility, detachment from worldly ambitions, prayer, obedience to the will of God and transparency in governance. In this way you become a sign of Christ the Good Shepherd.”

The Holy Father then referred to the theme of “ethnic unrest,” one of the themes of the forthcoming Synod of Bishops for Africa.  He encouraged the prelates to always “confront the challenge of ethnic conflict wherever present, even within the Church."

“There is no place in the Church for any kind of division,” he explained.  “All believers, especially seminarians and priests, will grow in maturity and generosity by allowing the Gospel message to purify and overcome any possible narrowness of local perspectives."

Finally, the Holy Father praised the bishops’ dedication to using Catholic principles to combat the country’s problems.  “The natural law, inscribed by the Creator on the heart of every human being, and the Gospel, properly understood and applied to civic and political realities, do not in any way reduce the range of valid political options.”

In fact, they do the opposite, explained the Holy Father.  “They constitute a guarantee offered to all citizens of a life of freedom, with respect for their dignity as persons, and protection from ideological manipulation and abuse based on the law of the strongest."

Pope Benedict ended the meeting by encouraging the prelates to continue expressing their authority in the “struggle against unjust practices and corruption against all causes and forms of discrimination and criminality, especially the degrading treatment of women and the deplorable practice of kidnapping.” 

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