Charlotte, N.C., Feb 27, 2009 (CNA) - "The odds were against us but God was with us," said Fred Berretta, a survivor of US Airways Flight 1549 that crash landed in the Hudson River Jan. 15. He was flying home that day from a business trip in New York when the plane struck a flock of birds, causing both engines to fail.
"We had a phenomenal flight crew, but God was our air traffic controller," he said.
Berretta, one of several Charlotte-area Catholics aboard the flight, is a parishioner at St. Matthew Church.
All 155 people aboard the flight survived the emergency landing.
Berretta said he believes it is "a testimony to God’s mercy."
"I believe it was miraculous that all the things came together that allowed us to survive," said Berretta, himself a pilot.
Just hours after the crash, he was asked in an interview with a national television network if he was a religious man. His answer was honest, "I try to be."
"Quite a long time ago I had a conversion type of experience back to the Catholic faith," Berretta said in an interview with The Catholic News & Herald.
He had been away from the Catholic faith since childhood, but began attending Mass again on a weekly basis during his mid-20s.
"When I look back on that part of my life, I can say that I was trying, trying but struggling to live the Catholic faith more fully," he said.
More recently, however, Berretta had experienced a deeper draw to devotional prayer.
In the weeks leading up to the plane crash, he began praying the Rosary on a daily basis.
And the day before the crash he had prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
"That was a prayer that I hadn’t said in a long time," said Berretta, as he recalled reading about a message that Jesus gave to St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish nun who said she had a vision of Jesus in which he asked for devotions to divine mercy.
"I remember reading in that little booklet that Jesus said to Sister Faustina that the 3 p.m. hour is the hour of mercy, and whatever you ask of the Father in virtue of my passion during this hour will be granted.
"It sort of hit me as we were going into the water that it was in the 3 o’clock hour. So I asked God to be merciful to us and I said a few Hail Marys and I reconciled myself to the fact that I might not live through it," he said.
In the aftermath of the crash, Berretta said he has been "giving a lot of thought to the power of those prayers."
"When you go through an experience like this — if you have faith — you feel a profound sense of gratitude.
"I try to be very thoughtful of how fortunate I am and we all are," Berretta said. "I feel that almost obligates me to do something … to share that."
Fellow survivor Victor Warnement came away from the experience with a similar sentiment.
"You don’t go through an experience like this without thinking, ‘How do I give more?’" he said.
Warnement, a parishioner at St. Gabriel Church in Charlotte, believes he and the other passengers aboard Flight 1549 were part of a miracle.
"If you look at statistics, this doesn’t happen," he said. "It’s as if we were delivered back on the wings of angels."
Printed with permission from The Catholic News & Herald, newspaper for the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina.
New York City, N.Y., Feb 27, 2009 (CNA) - Today the Knights of Columbus and Fairfield University’s Center for Faith and Public Life will host a summit on the role of volunteers in the national recovery from the financial crisis.
The summit, titled “A Nation of Neighbors Helping Neighbors: A Summit on Volunteerism as a Response to the Economic Crisis,” will be held at the Marriot East Side in New York City. Lasting from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, it will be webcast live at www.kofc.org
According to a press release from the Knights of Columbus, participating organizations include Habitat for Humanity, United Way, the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, the National Fraternal Congress of America, the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, General Electric, the Foodbank of Greater New Jersey, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network, Goldman Sachs and Volunteers of America.
Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson called for the summit in a Jan. 23 speech. He reported that charitable giving was down 22 percent and called for an increase in volunteer activity.
“Government and charities must work together for the good of our country, and in difficult economic times, that means creating opportunities for Americans to give of their time and talent, as well as their treasure,” he said.
“If greed – one of the worst aspects of human nature – helped push us into this crisis, then one of the best aspects of our nature – generosity – will be necessary to help pull us out of it.”
New York Governor David Paterson has written a letter to the summit participants, applauding them for focusing on how to “harness the energy of this renewed commitment to service to fuel our great Nation’s turnaround.” The summit sponsors “remind us of the power of volunteerism to unify and to bring light and hope to so many.”
“The need for volunteer service is more urgent than ever,” the governor wrote.
The summit will feature three panel discussions with speakers from leading national and regional volunteer organizations and programs. All attendees will participate in roundtable discussions on the issues raised in the panel discussions.
Naples, Fla., Feb 27, 2009 (CNA) - The Ave Maria Oratory at Ave Maria University will host the “National Mass for Terri’s Day” on March 31 to commemorate the death of Terri Schindler Schiavo, event organizers have announced.
Schiavo was a severely disabled woman who in 2005 died of dehydration after a judge ordered her nutrition tube removed in a contentious legal and political fight.
Last year Terri’s Foundation and Priests for Life established the “International Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Terri Schindler Schiavo, and All of Our Vulnerable Brothers and Sisters,” or “Terri’s Day,” to foster education, prayer and activism concerning discrimination against the disabled. The observance is also intended to advance advocacy for those in situations similar to what Terri Schiavo and her family faced, the organizers’ say.
"As we just witnessed with Italy's Eluana Englaro's tragic death by dehydration, people with disabilities, like my sister Terri, are routinely being denied their most basic rights. These cases are spreading like a virus and my family is committed to stopping this form of discrimination against people with disabilities," said Bobby Schindler, Schiavo’s brother.
A press release from Terri’s Foundation and Priests for Life warned about the potential threat of hospital ethics committees that seek to remove food and water even from those who are not terminally ill.
The groups say that doctors and hospitals in all but ten states have been empowered to disregard advance directives for medical care when they call for treatment, food or fluids.
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, will be the main celebrant of The National Mass for Terri’s Day. He will be joined by Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, President of Human Life International.More information on Terri’s Day is available at www.TerrisDay.org
Vatican City, Feb 27, 2009 (CNA) - This next month, Pope Benedict will devote himself to praying that women around the world will be more appreciated and for the Church in China.
Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for March is: "That the role of women may be more appreciated and used to good advantage in every country in the world."
His mission intention is: "That, in the light of the Letter addressed to them by Pope Benedict XVI, the bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China may commit themselves to being the sign and instrument of unity, communion and peace."
Vatican City, Feb 27, 2009 (CNA) - Echoing his message for the 2009 World Day of Peace, Pope Benedict spoke today with two Belgian associations that support his work with the poor. "If we fight against all forms of poverty we give peace more chance to come and take root in our hearts," he said.
The organizations Pro Petri Sede and Etrennes Pontificales, which give money every year to the Pope for his charitable efforts, met with the Holy Father in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall just after noon today. They are currently in Rome on a pilgrimage that they make every two years to the tomb of St. Peter.
Since the Church is celebrating the Pauline Year, the Pope turned to St. Paul’s teachings saying that meditating on them "enables us to become aware of the fact that the Church is a Body pulsating with a single life, the life of Jesus."
This also means that "each member of the ecclesial body is profoundly bonded to all the others and cannot ignore their needs. Nourished by the same Eucharistic bread, the baptized cannot remain indifferent when bread is lacking from the tables of other human beings," the Pontiff said.
"This year," Benedict noted, "you have once again responded to the call to open your hearts to the needs of the disinherited, so that those members of Christ's Body suffering poverty may be helped and thus enabled to live better lives and be freer to bear witness to the Good News."
The Holy Father also pointed to the fact that by entrusting the fruit of their savings to Peter's Successor, the two associations "enable him to carry out real and active charity, the sign of his solicitude for all Churches, for all the baptized, for all human beings."
"I thank you from the bottom of my heart in the name of the people whom your generosity will help as they struggle against the evils that threaten their dignity," he said.
Drawing upon his message for the World Day of Peace, Pope Benedict concluded, "If we fight against all forms of poverty we give peace more chance to come and take root in our hearts."
Vatican City, Feb 27, 2009 (CNA) - The promotion of peace among religions was discussed earlier this week by a joint Catholic-Islamic commission at its annual meeting in Rome. The commission agreed that achieving peace requires that the “dignity of the human person and his or her rights, especially regarding freedom of conscience and of religion” be respected, a belief Pope Benedict has argued Islam must arrive at.
The joint Catholic-Islamic commission for dialogue was founded after Pope John Paul II visited the University of al-Azhar in February 2000. Although the commission was briefly suspended after Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address, dialogue resumed in 2007.
Participants for this year’s discussion came from the Vatican’s Joint Committee for Dialogue and the Permanent Committee of al-Azhar for Dialogue among the Monotheistic Religions.
The theme of the meeting, "The Promotion of a Pedagogy and Culture of Peace with Particular Reference to the Role of Religions," was presented from the Catholic point of view by Bernard Sabella, associate professor emeritus of sociology at Bethlehem University, and from the Islamic standpoint by Sheikh Ali Shahata.
At the conclusion of the meeting, participants agreed upon the following:
1. “Peace and security are much needed in our present world marked by many conflicts and a feeling of insecurity.
2. “No true and lasting peace can be achieved without justice and equality among persons and communities.
3. “Religious leaders, especially Muslims and Christians, have the duty to promote a culture of peace, each within his respective community, especially through teaching and preaching.
4. “A culture of peace should permeate all aspects of life: religious formation, education, interpersonal relations and the arts in their diverse forms. To this end, scholastic books should be revised in order not to contain material which may offend the religious sentiments of other believers, at times through the erroneous presentation of dogmas, morals or history of other religions.
5. “The media have a major role and responsibility in the promotion of positive and respectful relations among the faithful of various religions.
6. “Recognizing the strong link between peace and human rights, special attention was given to the defense of the dignity of the human person and his or her rights, especially regarding freedom of conscience and of religion.
7. “Youth, the future of all religions and of humanity itself, need special care in order to be protected from fanaticism and violence, and to become peace builders for a better world.
8. “Mindful of the suffering endured by the peoples of the Middle East due to unresolved conflicts, the participants, in respect of the competence of political leaders, ask to make use, through dialogue, of the resources of international law to solve the problems at stake in truth and justice.”
The next meeting of the joint committee is scheduled to be held in Cairo on February 23 and 24, 2010.
Vatican City, Feb 27, 2009 (CNA) - This morning the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Archbishop Orani João Tempesta to head the Church in Rio de Janerio, the most important see in Brazil, which is the most populous Catholic country in the world.
Most Reverend Orani João Tempesta, O. Cist., was born on June 23, 1950 in São José do Rio Pardo, Brazil.
He completed his elementary and high schools studies at São José do Rio Pardo, and in 1967 he joined the Cistercian Monastery of São Bernardo in the same city. He studied philosophy at the São Bento monastery in São Paulo and then went on to his theological studies at the Salesian’s Pius IX Theological Institute, also in São Paulo.
He pronounced his solemn vows as a Cistercian on February 2, 1969 and was ordained a priest on December 7, 1974.
Since 1984 he has filled multiple roles at the same time. He served as the Prior of his monastery; pastor of the São Roque Parish, the Diocesan Director of Communications, and as a professor at the Diocese São João da Boa Vista’s Heart of Mary Seminary.
In September 1996, the monastery of São Bernardo was transformed into an Abbey, and Prior Tempesta was elected as its first Abbot.
On February 26, 1997 he was appointed Bishop of São José do Rio Preto. He was then elected to head the office of Communications for the Southern Region of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference (CNBB.)
On October 13, 2004, he was appointed Archbishop of Belém do Pará and in 2007 he participated at the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American Bishops in Aparecida, Brazil.
As the Archbishop of Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro, Tempesta will serve 3.6 million faithful, 605 priests, 63 deacons and 1,392 religious. He succeeds Cardinal Eusebio Oscar Scheid S.C.I., whose resignation the Holy Father accepted, upon his having reached the age limit.
Rome, Italy, Feb 27, 2009 (CNA) - On Friday, the Vatican’s spokesman discarded an apology from Bishop Richard Williamson over remarks he made diminishing the extent of the Holocaust.
Bishop Williamson, who has been at the center of a storm of controversy due to his comments, issued an apology yesterday.
Reacting to Williamson’s apology, the Vatican’s spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, faulted the bishop for issuing his statement in the form of an open letter. "This is not a letter directed to the Holy Father or to the Pontifical Ecclesia Dei Commission," Fr. Federico critiqued.
In his Thursday statement, Bishop Williamson said, "I can truthfully say that I regret having made such remarks, and that if I had known beforehand the full harm and hurt to which they would give rise, especially to the Church, but also to survivors and relatives of victims of injustice under the Third Reich, I would not have made them."
He also added that during his interview on Swedish television that he only gave the "opinion [...] of a non-historian," a perspective "formed 20 years ago on the basis of evidence then available, and rarely expressed in public since.
"To all souls that took honest scandal from what I said, before God I apologize," he wrote.
However, Fr. Lombardi stated on Friday that Williamson’s statement fell short of the retraction that the Vatican has asked for.
"The bishop’s statement doesn’t seem to respect the conditions established in the note from the Secretary of State, dated February 4, 2009, which stated that he must also distance himself in an absolute, unequivocal and public manner from his positions regarding the Shoah," Fr. Lombardi said.
Denver, Colo., Feb 27, 2009 (CNA) - Today it was announced that Dr. James Dobson, has resigned as chairman of the Christian group, Focus on the Family.
According to Focus on the Family, Dobson, 72, is stepping down as part of the organization’s succession plan.
"One of the common errors of founder-presidents, is to hold to the reins of leadership too long, thereby preventing the next generation from being prepared for executive authority,” Dobson acknowledged in a press release.
He continued, “Though letting go is difficult after three decades of intensive labor, it is the wise thing to do."
Dobson founded Focus on the Family in 1977 with a weekly radio address to provide advice for families. He is licensed as psychologist in California and is a licensed marriage, family and child counselor in California and Colorado.
The Christian group is based in Colorado Springs and emphasizes the importance of traditional marriage and family. It also produces Dobson’s syndicated radio program that has a significant international following.
The board of directors applauded Dobson’s efforts in ensuring the future leadership of the organization in a statement, saying, "One of Dr. Dobson's objectives during the last decade has been to help identify the next generation of leadership for the ministry, and to see it established securely before he stepped away from administrative oversight. That purpose has now been fulfilled, and we applaud Dr. Dobson for this concern for the future of the ministry."
Though Dobson is stepping down, he will continue his radio broadcast and handle other duties as in the past. He will also continue to write the newsletter, sent to 1.6 million people per month.
Jim Daly, the organization’s president and CEO, stressed that the ministry will "forever be committed to the fulfillment of the mission so definitively served by both Dr. and Mrs. Dobson – helping families thrive."
"The Dobsons have dedicated their lives to Focus on the Family," Daly said. "He is my mentor and friend – and an inspiration and role model to millions of Americans.
Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 27, 2009 (CNA) - Colombia’s National Commission on Reconciliation has announced a proposal for a “National Accord for Peace and Reconciliation in Colombia.”
The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia and of the National Commission, Bishop Ruben Salazar Gomez, said the initiative is intended to build “a minimum consensus that will allow the country the find the paths that will unite us in building a more just, more fraternal and peaceful Colombia. And in this way effectively contribute to the end of the armed conflict and the social conflict in general.”
According to a press release on the bishops’ website, the president of the National Industrial Association, Luis Carlos Villegas, said the Commission’s initiative is “completely endorsable by business organizations. The plan “has our full support,” he said.
Augusto Ramirez Ocampo, another member of the Commission, said that during the coming months, consultations will take place with different sectors of Colombian society to “slowly begin building a network.” He explained that the aim is to create an accord that is simple and understandable to all. “It should be the expression of the national soul,” he said.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 27, 2009 (CNA) - Carlos Paya, spokesman for the Christian Liberation Movement in Spain, has asked the European Union and Spain to promote dialogue in Cuba, as the country has been neglected by Latin America.
According to the Spanish media, Paya said the Cuban people “no longer expect anything from the government of Raul Castro and there are no expectations for change beyond a few cosmetic details.”
Paya added, “Raul is only interested in more power, more repression and has nothing but apathy for the people.” Amidst such a situation, he said, “Cubans must take the initiative.”
Paya’s comments are also shared by other dissident leaders, who believe the reforms of Raul Castro are “timid and cosmetic” and will not lead to greater freedom.
Washington D.C., Feb 27, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is preparing to rescind regulations which made explicit the existing legal protections for medical workers who object to cooperating in abortions. The preparations have led one Republican congressman to charge President Obama’s administration with trying to implement the Freedom of Choice act “incrementally.”
On Friday the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that it was reviewing a proposal to lift the Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) regulation. The move is the first step toward reversing the policy.
After the OMB reviews the proposal, it will be published in the Federal Register for a 30-day public comment period, according to federal law.
An unnamed official told the Washington Post that the HHS is concerned the rule is written “so vaguely that some have argued it could limit family planning counseling and even potentially blood transfusions and end-of-life care.”
“We recognize and understand that some providers have objections about abortion, and we want to make sure that current law protects them,” the official said, explaining that the regulation could be lifted entirely or could be modified to make the protections more specific.
The regulation had been implemented in the last months of President George W. Bush’s administration.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has supported the regulation, citing in a Sept. 12 letter the “growing hostility on the part of some professional organizations and advocacy groups to rights of conscience in health care” and describing other “undisguised hostility to conscience rights.”
Upon hearing of the Obama administration’s intention to rescind the regulations, NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan praised the move, calling it a “victory for women.”
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) on Friday issued a statement critical of the review of the regulation, characterizing it as the third recent action Democrats have taken to weaken rules that are meant “to safeguard the sanctity of human life.”
“It is an action that will hurt faith-based health providers and hospitals throughout our nation who are committed to caring for Americans at this critical time,” he argued. “It will also inevitably result in more abortions being performed nationwide.”
Referring to the Freedom of Choice Act, a package of pro-abortion “rights” legislation, Rep. Boehner argued that the Obama administration is “intent on enacting FOCA incrementally – step by tragic step – through low-key legislative maneuvers and executive orders.”
Chris Smith (R-NJ) also expressed his concern over patients being affected by the possible elimination of the regulations. “Women deserve to have the option to choose doctors who reflect their views on the sanctity of human life,” he said. “They will lose that freedom if pro-life health care professionals are driven from the medical field.
“Without long-standing ‘conscience protection’ the extremist abortion lobby will eventually turn every ob-gyn into an abortionist,” Smith claimed.
“To see where they are trying to take us, look no further than the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists so-called Ethics Opinion that says all ob-gyns should make referrals for abortion, and those who won’t do abortions should relocate in close proximity to an abortionist. The nation is under siege by pro-abortion radicals who are attacking the fundamental right of conscience, and are attempting to impose their will through the Obama administration. It is ironic that they like to be called pro-choice, instead of pro-abortion, but that their preference for ‘choice’ refers only to people who support the killing of unborn children,” Smith remarked.
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, also released a critical statement on Friday.
Rescinding the regulation would be a “huge blow” to religious freedom and First Amendment rights, he argued.
Overturning the regulation would “open the door” to discrimination against health care workers who do not want to be complicit in abortion or “other controversial practices,” Perkins added. He said the lack of regulations has resulted in “confusion and a lack of awareness” within the health care community despite long-standing conscience protection laws.
“President Obama's intention to change the language of these protections would result in the government becoming the conscience and not the individual. It is a person's right to exercise their moral judgment, not the government's to decide it for them,” Perkins stated.
Vatican City, Feb 27, 2009 (CNA) - Meeting with pastors and clergy of the Diocese of Rome on Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI discussed the economic crisis, the liturgy and evangelization. Naming the idolatry of money as a major shortcoming of the economic order, he warned that large-scale reform cannot be achieved without individual reform and conversion.
Pope Benedict said that the Church has the duty to present a reasonable and well-argued criticism of the errors that have led to the current economic crisis. This duty is part of the Church’s mission and must be exercised firmly and courageously, avoiding both moralism and obscurity.
He referred to his forthcoming social encyclical and presented a synthetic, two-level overview of the economic crisis.
Pope Benedict considered the macroeconomic aspects and the shortcomings of a system founded on selfishness and the “idolatry of money.”
These flaws cast a shadow over man’s reason and will and lead him into the ways of error, he explained to the Roman clergy. Thus, the Church must make her voice heard to show the path of true reason illuminated by faith, which is also the path of self-sacrifice and concern for the needy, he said.
The Pope also focused on small-scale economics, advising that large-scale reforms cannot be achieved unless individuals reform their ways. If there are no just people, there can be no justice he said.
He invited people to intensify their efforts for the conversion of hearts. This involves parishes not just being active in their local community but also being open to all humanity.
Pope Benedict said the evangelization of those who have moved away from the faith requires personal witness from individuals who live for others. Such witness must be associated with the Word because the Word reveals that the faith is not a philosophy or a utopia but a truth that becomes life.
He declared the need for priests who are capable of speaking to modern man with the simplicity of truth to show that God is not distant but active in the lives of all men.
Addressing the topic of the liturgy, the Pope compared it to a school in which one may learn the art of being human and where one may experience familiarity with Christ.
He said the Eucharist in particular must be lived as a sign and seed of charity.
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 27, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass at the archdiocesan Cathedral and said, “Lent reminds us that the Christian life is a relentless battle in which we must use the weapons of prayer, fasting and penance.”
As he distributed the ashes, he explained, “Lent is not mere ritualism, but rather a time of reflection and conversion.” Conversion, the cardinal said, “is a spiritual battle that involves the entire person “against sin, and ultimately, against Satan.”
Cardinal Rivera also called on Mexicans to fight against “every kind of selfishness and hatred.” “Dying to oneself to live in God is the aesthetic path that all the disciples of Jesus are called to take with humility and patience, with generosity and perseverance.”
Likewise, he invited the faithful to translate “concrete gestures towards one’s neighbor” into love, especially towards the poor and those in need. Christians should respond to evil in the world not with vengeance or hatred, or by “fleeing towards a false spiritualism,” but rather “by opposing evil with good, lies with the truth, hatred with love,” he said.