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Archive of March 9, 2009

New stamp to commemorate papal voyage to Africa

Rome, Italy, Mar 9, 2009 (CNA) - The Philatelic and Numismatic Office of the Vatican City State has announced the issuance of a special stamp commemorating the visit of the Pope Benedict XVI to Cameroon and Angola, which will take place March 17-23.

The press release published by the L’Osservatore Romano states that the stamp will feature a picture of Pope Benedict XVI, the African continent and the two countries which the Holy Father will visit.

The stamp will bear the inscription: "Benedictus XVI Camaruniam Angoliam adit" and "Vatican Postal Service • 17 - 23 March 2009".  The stamp was designed by the Philatelic and Numismatic Office.

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Connecticut considers bill that sidelines bishops, dictates Church financial oversight

Hartford, Conn., Mar 9, 2009 (CNA) -

Two Connecticut legislators introduced a bill this past Thursday that has Catholics up-in-arms about the state’s apparent attempt to meddle in Church governance. Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport called an emergency meeting on Friday, where he said the bill "directly attacks the structure of the Roman Catholic Church."

"If this bill were to be enacted, your bishop, would have virtually, virtually no real relationship with the 87 parishes…they could go off independently, some of them could break off from the Church if they wished, and go their own way as has happened, for example, with the Episcopal Church. And the pastors would be figureheads, simply working for a board of trustees," Bishop Lori explained at a meeting of Catholic school principals.

The bill, which was introduced last Thursday by the chairs of the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut State Legislature, Senator Andrew McDonald of Stamford and Representative Michael Lawlor of East Haven, attempts to radically restructure the way that the state allows the Catholic Church to incorporate.

Both lawmakers, who are prominent homosexuals, have been vociferous advocates of same-sex marriage in Connecticut and have spoken out against the Catholic Church’s opposition to both civil unions and same-sex marriage.

According to the bill, the pastor of the congregation would report to the board of directors on all "administrative and financial matters." In addition, the archbishop or bishop would serve as an "ex-officio" member and would lose his voting rights.

Under current law, the archbishop or bishop serves as the head of the board of each individual parish, requires the pastor to answer to him and has voting rights as a board member.

The bill states that its purpose is to "provide for the investigation of the misappropriation of funds by religious corporations," but it only targets the Catholic Church. Sen. McDonald told the Connecticut Post that the bill still allows the Church to deal with "matters pertaining exclusively to religious tenets and practices."

McDonald said that the bill was spurred by a recent crime in which a Darien, Connecticut priest was convicted of stealing up to $1.4 million in donations from his parish. The senator claimed that his constituents asked him to do something to create greater transparency, and so he introduced the bill.

And yet, the bill is strikingly similar to the dissident group Voice of the Faithful’s guidelines for working to change the structure of the Church.

Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport reacted to the legislation, calling it "a thinly-veiled attempt to silence the Catholic Church on the important issues of the day, such as same-sex marriage.

"The State has no right to interfere in the internal affairs and structure of the Catholic Church," Bishop Lori stated.

The head of the Church in Bridgeport pointed out that the bill "is directed only at the Catholic Church but could someday be forced on other denominations. The State has no business controlling religion."

Bishop Lori also defended his pastors’ "exemplary job of sound stewardship and financial accountability, in full cooperation with their parishioners."

The State Legislature is another matter, he said, mentioning that it "has not reversed a $1 billion deficit in this fiscal year" and that its efforts "to try to manage the Catholic Church makes no sense."

"The Catholic Church not only lives within her means but stretches her resources to provide more social, charitable, and educational services than any other private institution in the State. This bill threatens those services at a time when the State is cutting services. The Catholic Church is needed now more than ever."

Lori rejected the bill as "irrational, unlawful, and bigoted" and said that it "jeopardizes the religious liberty of our Church."

Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford also spoke out against the bill. "This bill violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution," he wrote. "It forces a radical reorganization of the legal, financial, and administrative structure of our parishes."

He continued by explaining that the proposed structure "is contrary to the Apostolic nature of the Catholic Church because it disconnects parishes from their Pastors and their Bishop."

Local Catholics told the Connecticut Post that they heard about the bill from announcements at weekend Masses.

"I'm upset by it," Bridgeport resident William Mortimer said. "I'm amazed that this bill is being considered by these two legislators."

Mary Sholomicky, 49, heard about the bill at a noon Mass she attended. "It was quite a shock because of the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to practice religion. If I didn't want to do that, I'd live in China. Any person of any religious denomination should really be nervous. They are targeting Catholics now; who knows who's next down the road six months, six years," she told the Connecticut Post.

Sholomicky said the law "would take away the authority of the bishop, the priests and the Pope."

Philip Lacovara, a constitutional lawyer and a Catholic, wrote a letter to the Judicial Committee saying, "You now have before your Committee a bill that tests your fidelity to your constitutional duty. The bill is No. 1098, which candidly announces that its purpose is to ‘revise the corporate governance provisions [of the Connecticut Statutes] applicable to the Roman Catholic Church.’" 

"In more than forty years as a constitutional law teacher and practitioner," writes Lacovara, "I cannot recall a single piece of proposed legislation at any level of government that more patently runs afoul of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment that does this bill."

A public hearing on the bill is set for Wednesday, March 11 at 12:00 noon in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building of the State Capitol in Hartford.

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Rome must rediscover its soul, return to Christian roots, stresses Holy Father

Rome, Italy, Mar 9, 2009 (CNA) - This morning, Benedict XVI traveled to Rome’s Town Hall, located on the city's Capitoline Hill, where he met with Mayor Gianni Alemanno and other civic leaders.  In his address, the Holy Father spoke of the “social and economic challenges” the city is facing and encouraged Rome to rediscover its Christian roots.

Before Pope Benedict began his address, the mayor announced plans to build a help-center for disadvantaged youth on land donated by the city. The center will be named after Pope Benedict XVI.

Following the announcement, the Holy Father took the stage, and began by recalling the visits of his predecessors to the Town Hall: Blessed Pius IX in 1870, Paul VI in 1966 and John Paul II in 1998.

"These visits are a testament to the affection and respect Peter's Successors, pastors of the Catholic community of Rome and of the universal Church, have always nourished for Rome, the center of Latin and Christian civilization and 'hospitable mother of peoples,'" he explained.

He assured the officials of his “paternal concern” for the city’s inhabitants, for those who visit Rome for religious or cultural reasons, and for those who come for tourism or work.  He reaffirmed that the Catholic Church “will not fail to provide her active support for all cultural and social initiatives that seek to promote the authentic good of all people and of the city as a whole."

Pope Benedict then noted the difficulties Roman society is facing.  "Rome has always been a welcoming city," although it is currently “facing unprecedented cultural, social and economic challenges” similar to those in all of Italy and around the world. 

Referring to “recent episodes of violence,” the Holy Father explained that they are signs of “the real spiritual poverty afflicting the heart of modern man.”  He continued, “Eliminating God and His law, as a way of achieving man's happiness, has not in fact achieved its goal. On the contrary it deprives man of the spiritual certainties and the hope necessary to face the difficulties and challenges of everyday life."

"Rome must rediscover its most profound soul, its civil and Christian roots, if it wishes to promote a new humanism which focuses upon man, recognized in the fullness of his truth.

“Man, detached from God, loses his transcendent vocation,” the Pontiff reminded. 

“Christianity carries a shining message of the truth about man; and the Church, which is the depository of that message, is aware of her responsibility towards contemporary culture,” he said.

Finally, the Pope thanked the mayor for the dedication of the center for disadvantaged youth.  "May this new enterprise be a stimulus for Rome to create a social fabric of acceptance and respect, where the meeting between culture and faith, between social life and religious witness, may co-operate to create a community that is truly free and animated by feelings of peace."

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Benedict XVI thanks Cardinal Arinze for strengthening his priesthood

Vatican City, Mar 9, 2009 (CNA) - At the conclusion of the Roman Curia’s spiritual exercises on Saturday, Pope Benedict expressed his thanks to Cardinal Francis Arinze for guiding them through the week of meditations and helping “us to renew our priesthood.”

Addressing Cardinal Arinze, who is the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Holy Father gratefully said, “You offered us no theological acrobatics, but sound doctrine, the good bread of our faith.”

The Pontiff also noted that the cardinal’s preaching revealed “a great familiarity with the Word of God, seen in the context of the living Church from the Fathers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church - and always contextualized in the readings and in the liturgy.  Precisely for this reason, Scripture was present in its full contemporary significance."

The Holy Father stated that he has "admired and enjoyed this tangible experience" of Cardinal Arinze's fifty years of priesthood, "in the light of which you helped us to strengthen our faith. You used the right words, words with real significance for our lives and for our behavior as priests," he said.

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President Obama overturns funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research

Washington D.C., Mar 9, 2009 (CNA) -

President Barack Obama on Monday overturned federal funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, claiming that the previous limitations forced "a false choice between sound science and moral values" and arguing that the research has the potential for significant medical cures.

He characterized the policy change as a restoration of "our commitment to science."

The change overturns President George W. Bush’s 2001 executive order which barred funding for embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) conducted on embryonic stem cell lines created after August 9, 2001.

At the Monday signing ceremony at the White House, President Obama said:

"Today, with the Executive Order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers; doctors and innovators; patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years: we will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield."

Arguing that there is no inconsistency between "sound science and moral values," he added:

"As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering.  I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research – and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly."

Saying many "thoughtful and decent people" are conflicted about or strongly oppose ESCR, he professed to understand their concerns.

He also said that promoting science is about protecting "free and open inquiry" and letting scientists "do their jobs" free from "manipulation or coercion." He claimed to make scientific decisions "based on facts, not ideology."

The president argued that the majority of Americans have come to a "consensus" that ESCR should be pursued. He also noted bipartisan support for funding the research.

President Obama’s Republican opponent in the 2008 election, Sen. John McCain, also opposed President George W. Bush’s funding restrictions on ESCR.

According to President Obama, ESCR supporters believe "that the potential it offers is great, and with proper guidelines and strict oversight, the perils can be avoided."

Pledging to develop strict, rigorously enforced guidelines, President Obama said he would ensure that the government never "opens the door" to using cloning for human reproduction.

"It is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society."

Many embryonic stem cell therapies would require human cloning to produce stem cells which genetically match the patient. Proponents of the research try to distinguish between "reproductive" and "therapeutic" cloning.

Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, a bioethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, has argued that the distinction is "widely misunderstood and misconstrued." In fact, he told the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Science & Technology in December 2001, there is no difference between the two.

"There’s only cloning, and the distinction comes later when you ask what will be done with the cloned human being after it’s manufactured," he said. "Will you implant it into a uterus, or will you contravene it to gain access to its harvestable cells and tissues?"

President Obama’s Monday remarks continued by noting that the potential of stem cell research remains "unknown" and "should not be overstated." He said some scientists believe the research has the potential to treat diabetes, Parkinson’s, cancer, heart disease and other conditions.

Such research may "regenerate a severed spinal cord and lift someone from a wheelchair," the president claimed.

Saying government’s failure to invest in research misses opportunities, President Obama added "Some of our best scientists leave for other countries that will sponsor their work. And those countries may surge ahead of ours in the advances that transform our lives."

Citing embryonic stem cell research advocate and actor Christopher Reeve, who predicted he could walk within ten years using embryonic stem cell research technology, Obama commented:

"Christopher did not get that chance.  But if we pursue this research, maybe one day – maybe not in our lifetime, or even in our children’s lifetime – but maybe one day, others like him might."

Pledging to use every resource with renewed determination to lead the world in scientific discoveries, the president concluded:

"Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America."

While federal funding for embryonic stem cell research will likely result in more destruction of human embryos, the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment forbids funding which supports research in which embryos are created, destroyed or discarded. Federally funded researchers must acquire embryonic stem cells using private funding.

On Friday, ESCR funding backer Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) told Bloomberg that she would eventually like to alter the Dickey-Wicker Amendment so that researchers would be able to make lines of embryonic stem cells that reflect the genetic and ethnic diversity of the world’s people.

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Obama ESCR policy change a ‘slap in the face’ to pro-lifers, critics say

Washington D.C., Mar 9, 2009 (CNA) - Catholic and Pro-life leaders have reacted critically to President Barack Obama’s overturning of federal restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, characterizing the policy change as a “slap in the face” to pro-lifers and arguing that scientific advancement should not come by destroying embryonic human life.

On Monday, President Obama overturned President George W. Bush’s 2001 executive order which barred funding for any embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) that uses embryonic stem cell lines created after August 9, 2001.

Michigan Catholic Conference Vice President for Public Policy Paul A. Long said the president’s executive order “regrettably places ideology and political posturing ahead of proven scientific therapeutic advancements.”

“There are endless studies and stories of patients who have been treated, even cured of their debilitating condition following stem cell therapies that do not necessitate the destruction of human embryos, yet the president today will sign an executive order that makes every tax-paying American citizen unwittingly complicit in the destruction of human embryos for experimental research.”

Long cited President Obama’s Feb. 5 remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he said “There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know.”

Commenting on the president’s remarks, Long said “Unfortunately, there is no consistency between this profound statement and today's executive order - as destroying human embryos is, in fact, taking the life of an innocent human being.”

Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org, said the announcement of the policy change “should make every American shudder.”

Burch characterized President Obama’s recent actions as an “anti-life hat trick.” Burch listed the president’s nomination of “the most pro-abortion governor in the country” Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to become Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, his administration’s move to rescind conscience protection rules for health care workers, and his support for embryonic stem cell research.

ESCR is “unproven research that holds no scientific promise and destroys unborn life,” Burch argued.

Saying the president’s policies shame Catholics who supported the president’s candidacy, Burch said the actions leave no doubt that “Barack Obama is most pro-abortion president in our nation's history.”

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, characterized the president’s policy change as “a slap in the face to Americans who believe in the dignity of all human life.”

“I believe it is unethical to use human life, even young embryonic life, to advance science. While such research is unfortunately legal, taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for experiments that require the destruction of human life,” Perkins said. “President Obama’s policy change is especially troubling given the significant adult stem cell advances that are being used to treat patients now without harming or destroying human embryos.”

Characterizing ESCR as “the poorest stem cell science,” Perkins advocated increasing funding for adult stem cell treatments, claiming they have been used to treat over 70 diseases and conditions. Recent advances in reprogramming human skin cells into embryonic-like stem cells should instead be funded, without “compromising ethics by destroying life.”

President of Concerned Women for America Wendy Wright pointed out that “millions of dollars” have already been spent on ESCR in places such as California and England.  “The results have been abject failure because embryonic stem cells tend to become deadly tumors.”

 

She further remarked that the alternatives to ESCR are much more “efficient, effective, and are actually treating patients.”

 

Jenn Giroux, President of Women Influencing the Nation, said the decision insults and offends those who believe the United States was founded and sustained by “the culture of life.”

 

Listing President Obama’s other pro-abortion actions, Giroux charged that his latest action “makes it feel as though thick black smoke has engulfed the country and the firemen are nowhere to be found to stop the fire.”

Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said the policy change shows the president’s “disregard for social justice and human rights.”

“Medical science has confirmed that an embryo is human life regardless of President Obama's lack of education and understanding of the issue,” he remarked. “Mr. Obama has said in the past it is 'above his pay grade' to know when human life begins. I would suggest as the part of the billions spent on the stimulus package that the President's salary be raised so he could further his adult education to understand the basic facts of biology and social justice.”

Also characterizing lifting the ban on public funding for ESCR as “a slap in the face” to pro-life Americans, Mahoney argued “President Obama is once again breaking his campaign promise of building unity and consensus among all groups.”

Finally, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List noted that though the U.S. “is facing an acute economic crisis…it is shocking to learn that President Obama’s first priority is promoting the idea that American taxpayers should fund the destruction of human life.”

“There is no coincidence that this policy reversal was timed to secure the maximum amount of taxpayer funds,” she continued.  “The National Institutes of Health received $10.4 billion dollars in the Obama Stimulus Package.  Today’s executive order reversing the Bush policy allows the President to fast-track billions of taxpayer dollars toward embryonic stem cell research – all without the benefit of public or Congressional debate.”   

Sen. John McCain, President Obama’s Republican opponent in the 2008 presidential election, also opposed President Bush’s funding restrictions for ESCR.

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Archbishop of Denver warns that Conn. bill threatens Catholics everywhere

Denver, Colo., Mar 9, 2009 (CNA) - Although the legislation in question was introduced in Connecticut, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver has issued a statement on a bill that would effectively sever the relationship between a bishop and his pastors and parishes. Archbishop Chaput says in his statement, "What Happens in Connecticut Matters Here," that the bill is "bad public policy in every sense."

The Senate Bill 1098 was introduced last Thursday by the chairs of the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut State Legislature: Senator Andrew McDonald of Stamford and Representative Michael Lawlor of East Haven.

Sen. McDonald and Rep. Lawlor are both homosexual activists, who have opposed the local Church’s efforts to defend marriage between a man and a woman.

The bill’s supposed purpose is to increase financial oversight of the Church, following two recent embezzlement cases.

However, the proposed legislation also reorganizes the internal structure of the Church, removing the bishop as the head of the board of the parishes in his diocese and requiring the pastor to report to a board composed of laity instead of the bishop. Under the bill, the bishop is also relegated to being an "ex officio" member of the board, without voting rights.

Addressing the perception that outsiders have of the Church as "a monolith," Archbishop Chaput said that "the opposite is true."

"Her real structure is much closer to a confederation of families. Each diocese or ‘local Church’ is accountable to the Holy See and in relation to one another within the Catholic faith," the archbishop explained.

"Bigoted legislators," Chaput said in reference to Sen. McDonald and Rep. Lawlor, "including some who claim to be nominally or formerly ‘Catholic,’ are thankfully uncommon. Most lawmakers, whatever their convictions, sincerely seek to serve the common good.

"But prejudice against the Catholic Church has a long pedigree in the United States. And rarely has belligerence toward the Church been so perfectly and nakedly captured as in Connecticut’s pending Senate Bill 1098, which, in the words of Hartford’s Archbishop Henry Mansell, ‘directly attacks the Roman Catholic Church and our Faith.’"

"In effect, SB 1098 would give the state of Connecticut the power to forcibly reorganize the internal civil life of the Catholic community. This is bad public policy in every sense: imprudent; unjust; dismissive of First Amendment concerns, and contemptuous of the right of the Catholic Church to be who she is as a public entity," the archbishop criticized.

"If Catholics want Caesar telling them how they’re allowed to live their civil life as a community, this is exactly the kind of legislation to make it happen.

Archbishop Chaput closed his statement by warning that the "legislative coercion directed against the Catholic community in one state has implications for Catholics in every other state. If bigots in one state succeed in coercive laws like SB 1098, bigots in other states will try the same."

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Cardinal Rigali: Obama stem cell order 'a sad victory of politics over science and ethics’

Washington D.C., Mar 9, 2009 (CNA) - Following President Obama’s latest executive order lifting restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, both Cardinal Justin Rigali and the Colorado bishops released a statement saying that the decision to lift restrictions on embryonic stem cell research shows a disregard for the dignity of human life.

 

Cardinal Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, began his statement today by calling Obama’s executive order “a sad victory of politics over science and ethics."

 

He explained that embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) is wrong due to the fact that it destroys “innocent human life” by “treating vulnerable human beings as mere products to be harvested,” and also noted that the executive order “disregards the values of millions of American taxpayers who oppose research that requires taking human life.”

 

Finally, Cardinal Rigali continued, “it ignores the fact that ethically sound means for advancing stem cell science and medical treatments are readily available and in need of increased support.”

 

The cardinal also quoted a January 16 letter written by Cardinal Francis George and addressed to Obama which listed three reasons why ESCR is “especially pointless at this time.”

 

First, the letter said, “basic research in the capabilities of embryonic stem cells can be and is being pursued using the currently eligible cell lines as well as the hundreds of lines produced with nonfederal funds since 2001.”

 

Additionally, ESCR is pointless because of “recent startling advances in reprogramming adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells – hailed by the journal Science as the scientific breakthrough of the year – are said by many scientists to be making embryonic stem cells irrelevant to medical progress.”

 

Finally, “adult and cord blood stem cells are now known to have great versatility, and are increasingly being used to reverse serious illnesses and even help rebuild damaged organs. To divert scarce funds away from these promising avenues for research and treatment toward the avenue that is most morally controversial as well as most medically speculative would be a sad victory of politics over science.”

 

Cardinal Rigali added that “if the government wants to invest in hope for cures and promote ethically sound science, it should use our tax monies for research that everyone, at every stage of human development, can live with."

 

Also today, the Colorado bishops released a statement saying that the president’s decision “will further erode respect for the dignity of all human life.”

 

The four bishops wrote that “Embryonic stem cells derive from the living bodies of human embryos. The embryos are killed by the process; thus this type of research involves the wrongful destruction of innocent, developing life.”

 

They also noted that we as humans can never benefit from this “lethal exploitation.”

 

“To destroy human embryos for research purposes implies that some lives have more value than others, and that we may sacrifice some lives today so that future generations will benefit. This kind of reasoning is inherently dangerous. Whatever President Obama’s intentions, it is not morally acceptable to do evil hoping that good may eventually result from it.”

 

Instead, “respect for all human life – including human embryos – should guide all scientific research involving human subjects, as well as the legislative and executive branches of government that decide the funding of medical research,” they stated.

 

After adding that a treatment has yet to be derived from embryonic stem cells, the Colorado bishops brought their statement to close by urging the President to re-examine the issue, “We ask that all people of good will work to foster a culture that respects the dignity of all human life, from its very beginning to its natural end.”

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Indian bishops publish account of persecuted Christians in Orissa

Rome, Italy, Mar 9, 2009 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of India has published a detailed account of Archbishop Raphael Cheenath’s description of the critical situation facing the persecuted Catholics of Kandhamal in the state of Orissa, where anti-Christian attacks have continued.

The archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar explained that many priests who have returned to their parishes after the last wave of violence ended in September 2008, "are still not free to move about and the police themselves have recommended they request police escorts ahead of time" whenever they need to travel somewhere.

Christians are being persecuted in several ways including: "not allowing them to use public restrooms when extremists are using them," strict punishments for entering a church, women are forced to wear degrading outfits and men are kidnapped, the prelate explained.

Another problem facing the Church is that government officials have been unable to determine how much economic compensation should be given for buildings destroyed by Hindu extremists. What the government has offered so far is well-below the value of the properties that have been destroyed.

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Indulgences remind us of need for salvation, says Cardinal Kasper

Rome, Italy, Mar 9, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, said last week that "indulgences remind us of the need for salvation, which can only come through Jesus Christ. They also remind us that the Christian life is a spiritual battle and is penitential by nature."

The cardinal’s comments were published in an article by the L’Osservatore Romano in which he also stated that indulgences are intended to be "a useful and beneficial pastoral aid to confront the struggle against the power and violence of evil, with the grace of God and the help of the intercession of the entire community of saints."

Indulgences show us that life is a journey of "constant repentance, penance and continual struggle," the cardinal added. "A life of this kind is only possible thanks to the strength of the inexhaustible grace of Jesus Christ," he said.

This concept is "difficult for many Catholic Christians," he continued, because it contrasts with a "soft Christian life that does not take the reality of sin and its consequences seriously and does not see personal salvation as a problem any more."

Cardinal Kasper stressed that indulgences are only "truly understandable when linked to the Sacrament of Penance and they presuppose personal repentance and the reception of the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. They also imply forgiveness of sins," he concluded.

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Archbishop calls on Venezuelans to live Lent without violence and in conversion

Caracas, Venezuela, Mar 9, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, has called on Venezuelans to live this Lent as a time of conversion and reconciliation and to abandon all forms of violence.

“In this Lent I especially invite you to reject everything related to violence: hatred, anger and aggressiveness, discord, greed, injustice,” the cardinal said in his Lenten message.  “Amidst the criminal violence and unleashed underworld that saddens and fills so many Venezuelan homes with tears, especially those of the poor, we Catholics reaffirm the greatness of human life and the respect that is due to every person.”

“I invite you all to strengthen this profound conviction of our holy faith.  Kidnappings, murders, bounty hunting, are very grave sins. They are crimes and offences that must by strongly punished in accord with the Constitution and with the law,” he added.

The cardinal noted that “the consumption and trafficking of drugs are at the root of many of these crimes.  Therefore they must be directly confronted.  The government, at its different levels, has the very grave obligation to preserve the lives and patrimony of all of the inhabitants of the country.  I invite those who have followed the road of crime and delinquency to change their lives, to be converted in their hearts, and to re-enter society respecting the right to life and the property of all citizens.”

“The Lord gives us this holy season of Lent to invite us to conversion so that, interiorly renewed by the Holy Spirit and abandoning sin in all of its forms, we can live truly in accord with our faith, and we can prepare ourselves with joy and hearts full of God for the joy of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the cardinal said.

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Lk 12:49-53

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First Reading:: Eph 3:14-21
Gospel:: Lk 12: 49-53

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