Archive of March 1, 2009

Eleven members of ethnic minority group Confirmed at last

Hartford, Conn., Mar 1, 2009 (CNA) - Eleven men and women who had "been longing and thirsting for their own faith" for years in refugee camps overseas were Confirmed recently at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford.

The recently resettled Karen refugees, an ethnic minority in Myanmar, received the sacrament of Confirmation at a ceremony in the cathedral’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

Those confirmed were among 200 Karen people who came to the greater Hartford area from refugee camps located on the border between Thailand and Myanmar (formerly Burma). Some had lived in refugee camps for 10 to 20 years, said Judith Gough, director of Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services.

"Most of the Karen Catholic refugees were not able to be practicing Catholics in Thailand," said Father Daniel Akho, also from Myanmar, who ministers to the Karen people in the Hartford area.

"They would see a priest once or twice a month in their refugee camp. But many of them did not lose their faith, even though they were continuously being sought after by other denominations; they stood firm in their faith. When they arrived in the United States, they found themselves still being invited by other religions to join them in exchange for their daily necessities," he said.

"The Karen Catholics are only longing and thirsting for their own faith and have remained steadfast and strengthened in that faith," said Father Akho who delivered the homily in the native language of the confirmandi.

In his homily, Father Akho reminded those present that confirmation is the sacrament that seals our faith and make us soldiers of Christ. By the Holy Spirit, we are sealed, he said.

Father Akho reminded the congregation that after confirmation, we are responsible to witness to Christ and to protect our Catholic Church, our faith, and ourselves. Confirmation gives us the right to receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, right judgment, courage, prudence and divine presence, he said.

Archbishop Henry J. Mansell, the main celebrant, said, "It is a happy day for the Church universal and for the Archdiocese of Hartford."

Father Akho and Msgr. John McCarthy, chancellor, concelebrated. Members of the Karen Catholic community served as lectors and altar servers. The Karen people prayed and sang in their native language.

The greater Hartford area has more resettled Karen people than any other region of the United States and their Catholic faith is strong, said Ms. Gough.

Father Akho studied for two years in Rome before coming to the Archdiocese of Hartford, where he serves as chaplain to the Karen people.

The Karen, a persecuted ethnic minority in what was then called Burma, fled to Thailand. Unable to enter Thailand, the refugees were settled in nine camps along the Thailand-Myanmar border.

In 1989, the ruling party adopted the name Union of Myanmar. The controversial name change, while accepted in the United Nations and in many countries, is not recognized by the Karen people and other opposition groups. The Karen people refer to their native country as Burma because it is difficult for them to accept Myanmar, the name adopted by the political party that was responsible for their persecution.

Printed with permission from the Catholic Transcript, newspaper from the Diocese of Hartford, Conn.

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Jesuit universities criticized for ‘obscene’ events promoting sexual ideologies

CNA STAFF, Mar 1, 2009 (CNA) - Three Jesuit universities are facing criticism for hosting events promoting sexual license, cross-dressing and homosexual ideologies just as Lent begins, with Georgetown University being accused of promoting only the orthodoxy of “sexual liberation.”

Georgetown University is hosting “Sex Positive Week” from Feb. 23 to 28, an event sponsored by feminist and homosexual student clubs such as GU Pride, United Feminists and Georgetown Solidarity.

The Cardinal Newman Society reports that a Monday session featured a speaker from an organization that “provides a forum” for activities such as fetishism, cross-dressing, and bondage.

A talk on Ash Wednesday, “Torn about Porn?” advertised itself as including a discussion about “arguably alternative forms of pornography that are not supposed to be exploitative.”

A Saturday talk from a pornographic filmmaker addressed the topic “Relationships Beyond Monogamy.”

GU Pride political chair Olivia Chitayat explained the purpose of the week, saying to the Georgetown Voice:

“The focus of this week is to introduce the idea of Sex Positive, and that’s really about acceptance of a wide range of desires and sexual expressions as a way of understanding one another.”

“People have sex, and if they don’t, it still impacts them. This is encouraging a dialogue in a way that people don’t feel ashamed about engaging in it or not engaging in it.”

David Gregory, Editor-in-Chief of the Catholic-focused student publication The Georgetown Academy, said he was “absolutely furious” that the Student Activities Commission funded the event.

“I think about Gaston Hall and you have ‘Wisdom’ on one side of the ceiling and ‘Virtue’ on the other side,” he told the Georgetown Voice, referring to a campus building. “And a discussion like the one that took place there on Monday does not promote a healthy view toward human relationships. I’m so upset [because] there was no one to counter this anything-goes point of view.”

Georgetown University political science professor Patrick Deneen also commented on the event at writer Rod Dreher’s BeliefNet blog “Crunchy Conservative.”

He said observers should not assume that Christian teaching about human sexuality is made known at Georgetown.

“It is not,” Prof. Deneen charged. “The university feebly attempts to pretend to be concerned about matters of sexuality, but addresses them in terms of ‘health.’ Students who are required to take two courses in Theology are rarely, if ever, introduced to something like Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. The only orthodoxy on campus is sexual liberation.”

Noting that the university had established a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Questioning “Resource Center,” he said there is no comparable center on campus dedicated to “an expressly Catholic teaching on human sexuality.”

“So what is the message being sent to today's students? Sex, like everything else, is a matter of preference, choice, personal liberty and utilitarian pleasure. It is largely consequence-free recreation. We should recognize that the same moral climate that contributed to the devastation of the worldwide economy is the same moral climate that informs ‘Sex Positive Week’,” Prof. Deneen argued.

He accused Georgetown of wanting “desperately to be accepted on the terms set by the broader culture.”

“Rather than taking a part in attempting to shape, even change that culture, Georgetown is shaped in its image,” he said.

“Parents and university caretakers have been deeply complicit in what goes on in today's universities. They have largely reneged their responsibilities to set a proper tone as their young make the transition from childhood to adulthood, instead offering them a responsibility-free zone for four years at the same time when most cultures have elaborate rituals and practices to assist young people in that difficult and dangerous transition.”

At Loyola University of Chicago on Tuesday, the university’s Student Diversity and Cultural Affairs Office presented a film about a homosexual African-American who is transported in time to “cavort” with the supposedly homosexual writer Langston Hughes, the Cardinal Newman Society reports.

The film is part of a semester-long “Color of Queer Film Series” sponsored by the university. Another upcoming film in the series concerns a 12-year-old boy who falls in love with a male police officer.

At Seattle University, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the student Trans and Allies Club are sponsoring “Transgender Awareness Week” which includes a session on supposedly transgender Bible heroes and heroines. The week also includes “Criss-Cross Day,” which encourages students to “come dressed for the day in your best gender-bending outfit.”

“These obscene abuses of Catholic values come just as Christians begin a holy season of penance, fasting and almsgiving,” said Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick J. Reilly. “Faithful Catholics have good reason to be outraged and heartbroken.”

“That Catholic universities would permit these events on their campuses at any time of the year is unthinkable, but to do so during the holy season of Lent is unconscionable,” he added. “The saddest part of this story is that there is no indication that these universities are ashamed or embarrassed by what is taking place on their Catholic campuses. Parents and potential students might begin to wonder how these universities can in good conscience consider themselves Catholic when they allow such perverse distortions of Catholic values to take place.”

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Holy Father recalls importance of angels in the life of Christ

Vatican City, Mar 1, 2009 (CNA) - Pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday to pray the Angelus prayer at noon with Pope Benedict XVI. In his remarks, the Pontiff spoke of the importance of angels and also prayed for those struggling in uncertain financial times.

The topic of discussion was prompted by the Pope's commentary on the Gospel of today, the First Sunday of Lent. The Gospel of Mark notes that angels "ministered to" Jesus in the desert. "The angels are the counterpoint of Satan," the Holy Father explained.

After detailing the presence of angels in the Old and New Testament, Benedict XVI noted, "The angels ministered to Jesus, who is certainly superior to them, and his dignity is here proclaimed in the Gospel in a clear but discreet way." He added: "In fact, even in the situation of extreme poverty and humility, when he is tempted by Satan, Jesus remains the Son of God, the Messiah, the Lord."

The Pontiff continued by reaffirming the importance of prayer to angels, "messengers of God," and by asking for prayers to them on behalf of himself and the Roman Curia, who today begin their Lenten spiritual exercises.

The Holy Father then acknowledged the difficult global economic times as he greeted workers from a Fiat automobile factory near Naples, Italy. He noted that they had come "to demonstrate their concern over the future of that factory and of the thousands of people who, directly or indirectly, depend on it for work."

"I join," he said, "the bishops and the respective local Churches in expressing my nearness to the families affected by this problem, and I entrust them in prayer to protection of Mary Most Holy and of St. Joseph, patron of workers." He added: "I wish to express my encouragement to the authorities, both political and civil, and also to business owners, so that this delicate moment can be addressed with the cooperation of all. There is a need, in fact, for a strong common effort, recalling that the priority must be given to workers and their families."

Pope Benedict also greeted English-speaking visitors present at today's Angelus. He told them: "On this First Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of Saint Mark speaks of Jesus being lead into the desert by the Holy Spirit, tempted by Satan and assisted by the angels. Let us pray that our Lenten journey will strengthen us in the struggle against all forms of temptation. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings, and I wish you a pleasant Sunday and a happy stay in Rome!"


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