Archive of March 11, 2009

Nearly 500 teens to mark Abstinence Day at U.S. Capitol

Washington D.C., Mar 11, 2009 (CNA) - On Wednesday the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) is sponsoring Abstinence Day on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. by bringing nearly 500 teens to the U.S. Capitol.

The NAEA reported in a statement that the diverse group of teens will describe the positive benefit that abstinence education has made in their lives and to ask lawmakers and the White House to continue funding such programs.

Abstinence Day events include meeting with Congressional Offices, attending a youth-centered workshop and participating in an event designed to encourage peer-to-peer support of abstinence as the best choice.

“This is the ultimate Yes We Can message,” said one teen who registered for the event. “I hope our
voices will be heard.”

Valerie Huber, Executive Director of NAEA, said the teens constituted the organization’s “largest group ever.”

“We knew that this message resonated with teens, but this response has been overwhelming and indicates the strong support abstinence education has among American youth, schools and parents.”

The NAEA web site is located at

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Women in White denounce stepped-up repression by Cuban government

Havana, Cuba, Mar 11, 2009 (CNA) - The Women in White, a civic movement made up of the wives of Cuban political prisoners, denounced the Communist government of Raul Castro this week, saying the regime to prevent the commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the Black Spring, when many of their husbands were arrested and imprisoned by the government.

“We blame the State police and the Government in general for any physical aggression or acts of repudiation that are carried out against us by paramilitary troops dressed as civilians or by the officials themselves of repressive organizations,” the women said in a recent statement.

The Women in White, recognized internationally for their struggle in support of human rights, said that since Feb. 20, they are becoming “the victims of greater repression and harassment” by political police, who detained “more than six of our members, threatening them and presenting them with warnings,” ordering them also not to attend the activities marking the Black Spring.

The Women in White reiterated the peaceful nature of their activities and said their only objective is “to exercise our right to ask for the release of political prisoners.” 

On March 18, 2003, agents of Fidel Castro’s government began what would become known as the Black Spring of Cuba by detaining and incarcerating more than 70 opposition leaders, independent journalists, defenders of human rights, librarians and independent union leaders.

In order to mark the anniversary, the Women in White have planned six days of activities March 17-22.

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Bishops should not fear retirement when the time comes, says Cardinal Arinze

Vatican City, Mar 11, 2009 (CNA) - During the final meditation of the spiritual exercises for Pope Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia, Cardinal Francis Arinze underscored the need for priests and bishops to retire when a long illness keeps them from their ministry. They should use the time they have left to focus on preparing themselves for a holy death, he counseled.

During his reflection, the Nigerian cardinal asked, “Should not the time come in which he who has served God and the Church during many years and now is not well ask to be replaced in his important responsibilities in order to allow one who has better health to take the helm? Is this not perhaps a way to allow one who is sick to better prepare himself for the encounter with the Lord?”

“Undoubtedly those close to the diocesan bishop or to the pastor, when they are sick, will hesitate to speak the word resign in order not to appear ungrateful, but should not the sick person himself face the question? In this way, everything would be much simpler, keeping in mind that the Code of Canon Law asks and admonishes us to always consider that the salvation of souls should be the supreme law of the Church.”

For this reason, priests and bishops should reflect beforehand on how they should respond to a long illness, the cardinal continued. “What would be the best thing to do for the good of the parish and the diocese?” he asked.

Cardinal Arinze encouraged his listeners to prepare for death and to reflect on how it should be confronted.

After recalling the testimony left by John Paul II during his last years in his old age and infirmity, the cardinal underscored the need to remind priests and bishops “of what they already know, that is, of the Christian meaning of death. Such a consideration will help them to live more serenely the final moments of their lives in this valley of tears.”

The death of the Christian “has great value when it is lived in union with Christ. In addition, death teaches in a decisive way the need to leave behind everything, to follow Jesus,” he said.

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Federal court hears arguments in roadside crosses lawsuit

Denver, Colo., Mar 11, 2009 (CNA) - On Tuesday the Tenth Circuit federal appeals court in Denver heard arguments concerning an atheist group’s challenge against roadside cross memorials for fallen Utah state troopers.

The group American Atheists argued that the roadside crosses erected by the private and secular Utah Highway Patrol Association to memorialize deceased state troopers are unconstitutional. The association funded and constructed the crosses, which stand on public highway roadsides near where the troopers died in the line of duty.

American Atheists claims that only secular symbols should be used.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an amicus brief on behalf of Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma, which could be directly affected by the court decision.

Luke Goodrich, legal counsel for the Becket Fund, argued as a designated Special Assistant Attorney General for Colorado.

He argued in court that the crosses were private speech. He alleged that the plaintiffs were trying to use government power to silence grieving families.

“This case is not about religion; it is about expression,” Goodrich said, according to a Becket Fund press release.

The judges expressed concern that Utah’s policy could prevent troopers’ families from displaying the symbols of other religions such as Stars of David.

Goodrich later commented on this concern, saying that the court can order Utah to allow families to choose other religious or non-religious symbols.

The court said the case tests the boundaries of the U.S. Supreme Court Decision Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, which set a standard for deciding when permanent monuments are or are not government speech.

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Removing Sudanese president could derail peace efforts, bishop warns

Khartoum, Sudan, Mar 11, 2009 (CNA) - Outspoken Sudanese Bishop Daniel Adwok Kur has come out against a change in Sudanese leadership, saying that ending human rights abuses is more important than removing the accused President Omar al Bashir.

Last week the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued a warrant for President Bashir’s arrest, accusing him of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur in west Sudan.

President Bashir responded to the warrant by expelling 13 aid agencies, prompting international protests.

Bishop Adwok, speaking with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), warned that a change in leadership could derail the fragile peace process in the country, especially in south Sudan.

“The indictment of the president is not a matter taken lightly by the President or the people around him,” the bishop said.

“Removing him could throw obstacles in the path to peace – including in the south of the country.

“We urge people around the world to pray for us. Sudan has entered into a critical moment in her history.”

Bishop Rudolf Deng, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sudan, has also warned that arresting the president would create more tension. Instead, according to his message reported by the Catholic Information Service for Africa, he called for “more sincerity” from the leaders and the rebels and “a more serious dedication from the international community to save the Sudan.”

Four years ago, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was brokered by the Khartoum government and rebel leaders in the south, ending 25 years of civil war.

According to ACN, tension in the region is growing with the approach of a referendum on independence for the south. The referendum is expected within two years.

Bishop Adwok further explained the situation:

“Whatever happens now, the people should be treated justly. We are asking ourselves ‘Who will defend the rights of Christians in our country?’”

Calling for an end to abuses against minorities, including Christians, the bishop said: “There have been human rights abuses going on for a long time and now we need to put that behind us.”

 “Above all justice for the people should be maintained. Those who have suffered are innocent people who have been put through misery because of their ethnic background, their religion or culture,” he added.

Bishop Adwok said that ACN’s work in Sudan, work which supports priests, religious sisters and schoolchildren, would not be affected by the tensions in Khartoum.

ACN also provides help for seminarians, catechists, Mass stipends, Children’s Bibles and schools in Khartoum.

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Alaska school district adds ‘gender identity’ to official policy

Anchorage, Alaska, Mar 11, 2009 (CNA) - The third largest school district in Alaska approved a new policy last month that will allow students to choose their own "gender identity." Gender identity — meaning the gender a person believes he or she has internally, regardless of their given biology — has been added to the nondiscrimination policy of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.

As no other district in the state recognizes gender identity in official policies, it was unclear how the Fairbanks decision would affect its activities with other school districts and private schools that do not officially recognize a students’ right to determine their own gender identity, explains the

Policy applies to all activities

The Fairbanks school board approved the sweeping change last month and thereby placed gender identity alongside race, religion, gender and sexual orientation, as factors upon which "discrimination" or "harassment" may not be based.

In explaining the concept of gender identity to the school board members, the school district’s labor relations director said gender identity refers to a person’s own internal and deeply felt sense of being a man or a woman, which she said can be different from the gender assigned at birth.

After approving the policy, however, it remained unclear how the change would affect issues such as gender specific bathrooms and locker rooms, or what impact it would have on boys’ and girls’ athletic teams or sex education for students. The new policy, however, will apply to all school district matters concerning staff, students, the public, educational facilities, programs, services, activities and any group which the district does business with.

Critics: policy politicizes classrooms

While supporters of the policy said it was needed to ensure the safety of students who deal with gender identity questions, other concerned parents argued that the Fairbanks school board was politicizing schools by placing an ill-defined theory on the same level as race, religion and gender.

"The school board is right to be concerned that children be treated with dignity, and bullying should not be tolerated," wrote Debbie Joslin of Delta Junction in an opinion piece to the Fairbanks News Miner. "Where they have gone astray is in attempting to place a stamp of approval on students questioning their gender identity. This policy would encourage students to question their gender identity and foster confusion in the minds of our children."

In dozens of online responses to a News Miner’s report of the school board’s decision, readers expressed concern that the policy actually could violate the privacy rights of many male and female students who believe that gender identity is a matter of biology and not personal feeling.

Gender identity gains momentum

While the Fairbanks decision is a first for Alaska, it follows on the heels of other national and international efforts to include gender identity as a protected quality. In some cases, the right to choose one’s own gender identity is viewed as a fundamental human right.

From California to Europe, an increasing number of schools, colleges and other organizations have begun to formally recognize gender identity.

In the News Miner article, Fairbanks school board members cited several reasons to expand the district policy including the need to be "more inclusive" and protect students from harassment.

"It’s really important to give people a voice and through this policy, we say we value you and we recognize you," one school board member was quoted as saying in the News Miner.

Board member Wendy Dominique compared recognition of gender identity to recognition of civil rights for African-Americans in the 1960s.

"We have a lot of ignorant people out there," Dominique was quoted. "This is not the 1960s anymore."

In the days leading up to the school board vote, Bent Alaska, a central coordinating web site for gay rights activity, urged Alaskans to email Fairbanks school board members and testify at the meetings in support of the new policy. The Web site, which serves to coordinate political activity across the state, including Anchorage, hailed the policy change as an opportunity to "make history in Alaska."

Printed with permission from the

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Pope recalls Catholics' need for Scripture, love for the Church and unity

Vatican City, Mar 11, 2009 (CNA) - At today's general audience in St. Peter's Square, the Pope focused his remarks on St. Boniface, "apostle of the Germans." Pope Benedict said that Boniface’s “courageous witness” is an invitation to all to “welcome the Word of God in their lives as an essential point of reference, to love the Church passionately, to feel a joint responsibility for her future and to seek unity around St. Peter’s Successor.”

St. Boniface, Benedict XVI explained to the 20,000 people gathered in the square, was born in Great Britain around the year 675 and entered a monastery while still very young.

He felt called to become a missionary among the pagans of continental Europe, and in the year 716, he and several companions travelled to Frisia, which is modern-day Holland. There they encountered opposition from a local chieftain and their attempted mission of evangelization failed.

Two years later Boniface went to Rome to meet Pope Gregory II, who entrusted him with the mission of preaching the Gospel among the people of Germany.

There, the Holy Father recalled, Boniface “restored ecclesiastical discipline, called a number of synods to ensure the authority of sacred canons and strengthened communion with the Roman Pontiff.” Also, Boniface “backed the foundation of various monasteries, for both men and women, to act as beacons irradiating human and Christian faith and culture in the region.”

Shortly before his eightieth birthday, Boniface returned to Frisia. There, as he was celebrating Holy Mass in Dokkum on June 5, 754, he was killed by a band of pagans.

From the teaching and the prodigious activities of this missionary and martyr, Pope Benedict said, one can draw the message of "the central importance of the Word of God, lived and interpreted in the faith of the Church, which he preached and to which he bore witness even unto the supreme gift of self in martyrdom."

Benedict XVI also pointed out that one could draw the message of Boniface’s “faithful communion with the Apostolic See, which was a fixed and central principle of his missionary work."

Lastly, the Holy Father identified the message of Boniface’s "promotion of the encounter between Roman Christian culture and Germanic culture.” Transmitting the ancient heritage of Christian values,” the Pope added, Boniface “gave the people he evangelized a more humane lifestyle, thanks to which the inalienable rights of the person enjoyed greater respect."

The Holy Father concluded by comparing St. Boniface’s faith with “our own faith, often lukewarm and bureaucratized.” “We have to ask ourselves: how can we renew it so as to ensure the precious gift of the Gospel reaches our own times?"

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Pope Benedict vigorously condemns killings in N. Ireland

Rome, Italy, Mar 11, 2009 (CNA) - Once he had finished his general audience today, Pope Benedict condemned "in the strongest terms" the recent murders of two British soldiers and a policeman in Northern Ireland, calling them "abominable acts of terrorism."

"It was with deep sorrow that I learned of the murders of two young British soldiers and a policeman in Northern Ireland," the Pope said as he spoke about the killings carried out by Irish Republican splinter groups. The attack on the soldiers occurred on Saturday at their barracks in Massereene and the Continuity IRA claimed the murder of the policeman, Stephen Carroll, 48, in Craigavon on Monday.

The Holy Father said today that he wants to "assure the families of the victims and the injured of my spiritual closeness.

"I condemn in the strongest terms these abominable acts of terrorism which, apart from desecrating human life, seriously endanger the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland and risk destroying the great hopes generated by this process in the region and throughout the world."

"I ask the Lord that no one will again give in to the horrendous temptation of violence and that all will increase their efforts to continue building – through the patient effort of dialogue – a peaceful, just and reconciled society," Benedict XVI said.

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Stations of the Cross date back to the fourth century

Columbus, Ohio, Mar 11, 2009 (CNA) - The Stations of the Cross in the form most American Catholics know best are of comparatively recent vintage in Church terms, dating back to the year the U.S. Constitution was ratified. However, their history goes back well before that, to the days when pilgrims were first openly able to go to Jerusalem and walk in the footsteps of Jesus on Good Friday.


The emperor Constantine permitted Christians to legally worship in the Roman Empire in 313 after 250 years of persecution. In 335, he erected the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at the site where Jesus’ tomb was believed to have been.


Processions of pilgrims to the church, especially during Holy Week, began soon after its completion.


A woman named Egeria, a pilgrim from France, described one such pilgrimage which took place in the fourth century. The bishop of Jerusalem and about 200 pilgrims began "at the first cockcrow" at the site of Jesus’ agony on Holy Thursday night. They said a prayer, sung a hymn, and heard a Gospel passage, then went to the garden of Gethsemane and repeated the procedure.


They continued to Jerusalem itself, "reaching the (city) gate about the time when one man begins to recognize another, and thence right on through the midst of the city. All, to a man, both great and small, rich and poor, all are ready there, for on that special day not a soul withdraws from the vigils until morning," Egeria wrote.


Pilgrimages eventually took a fixed route from the ruins of the Fortress Antonia, where Pilate had his judgment hall, to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. That route through Jerusalem’s Old City gained acceptance as the way Jesus went to his death and remains unchanged today. It is known as the Via Dolorosa, Latin for the "Sorrowful Way."


Stops developed on the way to note specific events on the road to Calvary. In many cases, the pilgrims could only guess where some incidents took place because Jerusalem had been almost completely destroyed by Roman armies in 70 A.D.


The pilgrims brought back oil from the lamps that burned around Jesus’ tomb and relics from the holy places, and sometimes tried to recreate in Europe what they had seen in the Holy Land. The Moslem conquest of Palestine in the seventh century made such shrines more significant, since it made travel to the Holy Land dangerous.


Devotions to the Way of the Cross began in earnest after 1342, when the Franciscan friars were given custody of the holy sites in the Holy Land. The Franciscans have been closely identified with the devotion ever since; for years, Church regulations required a set of the stations to be blessed by a Franciscan when possible.


The number of stations varied widely, with some manuals of devotion listing as many as 37. The term "stations" in describing the Way of the Cross was first used in the narrative of an English pilgrim, William Wey, who visited the Holy Land twice in the 15th century.


Depictions of the events described in the Stations did not start becoming common in churches until Pope Innocent XI permitted the Franciscans in 1686 to erect such displays in all their churches. He also declared that all indulgences given for visiting the sacred sites in the Holy Land would apply to any Franciscan or Franciscan lay affiliate visiting a set of stations in a church.


Pope Benedict XIII extended that privilege to all the faithful in 1726. Five years later, Pope Clement XII allowed all churches to have stations and fixed the number at 14, where it has been ever since. In recent years, many churches have included the Resurrection as a 15th station. Benedict XIV specifically urged every church in 1742 to enrich its sanctuary with stations.


Two Franciscans of the era did much to spread the popes’ wishes. St. Leonard of Port-Maurice erected stations at more than 500 churches in Italy, and St. Alphonsus Ligouri in 1787 wrote the version of the Stations that most Americans recognize because it was used in most churches in the United States throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.


It has become standard for Catholic churches in this country to recite the prayers related to the Stations on the Fridays of Lent. Many churches have two services, one in the afternoon, mainly for schoolchildren, and one in the evening. Some Protestant churches, especially those belonging to the Episcopal or Lutheran denominations, have made the devotion part of their Lenten activities, particularly on Good Friday.


The traditional 14 stations are as follows: Jesus is condemned to death; Jesus takes up his cross; Jesus falls the first time; Jesus meets his mother; Simon of Cyrene carries the cross; Veronica wipes the face of Jesus; Jesus falls the second time; Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem; Jesus falls the third time; Jesus is stripped of his garments; Jesus is nailed to the cross; Jesus is crucified; Jesus is taken down from the cross; Jesus’ body is laid in the tomb.


The third, fourth, sixth, seventh, and ninth stations are not specifically described in the Gospels, nor is St. Alphonsus’ depiction in the 13th station of Jesus’ body being laid in the arms of his mother.


In order to provide a version more specifically aligned with biblical accounts, Pope John Paul II introduced the Scriptural Way of the Cross on Good Friday in 1991 and celebrated that form every year thereafter at the Colosseum in Rome. Pope Benedict approved it for meditation and public celebration in 2007.


This version has the following stations: Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane; Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested; Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin; Jesus is denied by Peter; Jesus is judged by Pilate; Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns; Jesus takes up his cross; Simon helps Jesus carry his cross; Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem; Jesus is crucified; Jesus promises a place in his kingdom to the good thief; Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other; Jesus dies on the cross; Jesus is laid in the tomb.


Franciscans have a long tradition of celebrating the Stations in the Colosseum on Fridays. John Paul made the observance an annual part of his Holy Week calendar on Good Friday. He carried a cross himself from station to station until age and infirmity limited his strength. Days before his death in 2005, he observed the Stations from his private chapel in the Vatican.


Pope Benedict XVI has continued the tradition. Each year, a different person is invited to write the meditation text for the pope’s Stations. Past composers of the papal Stations include several non-Catholics. John Paul wrote the text himself in 2000 and used the traditional stations.


Thirteen specially constructed biblical stations were erected around the city of Sydney, Australia, this past July 27 for an observance of the Stations at World Youth Day. They started with the Last Supper at St. Mary’s Cathedral and the agony in the garden at Domain Park and ended in Darling Harbor, where the sunset provided a dramatic backdrop for three crosses erected at the site.


More than 2 million people took part, with 500 million more watching worldwide on television. This may have been the largest gathering ever for the devotion.


Printed with permission from The Catholic Times.

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Pope Benedict to clarify lifting Bishop Williamson's excommunication, reports say

CNA STAFF, Mar 11, 2009 (CNA) - News outlets in various languages are reporting that a letter from Pope Benedict XVI to the bishops of the world, explains the decision to lift Bishop Richard Williamson’s excommunication. Significant excerpts of the letter were leaked by the Italian papers Il Foglio and Il Giornale as well as the German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The official full-length letter will be published by the Vatican on Thursday in Italian, German, French, English, Spanish and Portuguese at noon Rome time. Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Holy See press director will offer a briefing at 11:30 in the press office.

The published excerpts quote the Pope as writing, “Therefore I feel pressed to address to you, dear brethren, a clarifying word, which is meant to help to understand the intentions which have guided me and the competent organs of the Holy See in this step. I hope in this way to contribute to peace in the Church.”

The passages in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung also mention that Pope Benedict says he was unaware of Bishop Williamson’s statements on the Holocaust and that “closely following the news available on the internet would have made it possible to obtain knowledge of the problem in time.” The Holy See intends to follow internet news sources much more closely.

According to reports, the Holy Father also defends the Second Vatican Council and cites steps he is taking to ensure that the St. Pius X Society contends with the teachings of the Council before any progress is made in its canonical status.

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Milwaukee-based organization to offer conference for Catholic homeschoolers

Milwaukee, Wis., Mar 11, 2009 (CNA) - Homeschooling Catholics in the Diocese of Milwaukee are preparing for a conference next month titled, "Celebrate the Faith 2009.”  The conference will feature the Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee, William P. Callahan as well as renown homeschooling speakers.

The conference, sponsored by the Greater Milwaukee Catholic Homeschool Educators, is scheduled to run both April 24 and 25 in West Allis, Wisconsin.  On Friday, the auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee will give the keynote address while Saturday’s main speaker will be Andrew Pudewa, the Founder and Director of the Excellence in Writing Institute and homeschooling father of seven children. Pudewa was chosen for the "Best Homeschool Speaker" award in 2007 from Old Schoolhouse Magazine.

Other speakers include Regina Doman, and husband, Andrew Schmiedicke who balance homeschooling with editing and writing for their company, Chesterton Productions. Doman has also written books such as Angel in the Waters, and several books geared toward teenagers.

The conference will include Mass, and opportunities for Confession and Eucharistic Adoration. Additionally there will be a vendor hall providing a variety of educational materials in all subject areas plus resources on family life, spirituality and religious gifts.

Conference organizers expect 600 people to attend.

For more information, please visit:

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Pope laicizes breakaway Missouri priest

St. Louis, Mo., Mar 11, 2009 (CNA) - A Missouri bishop has announced that Pope Benedict XVI has dismissed Marel Bozek from the clerical state since he has persisted in leading a group of breakaway Catholics.

Originally from Poland, Marek Bozek had been leading St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, which broke from the Archdiocese of St. Louis after refusing to conform to canon law requirements which forbade its operation under the lay-run St. Stanislaus Kostka Corporation. Breakaway leaders had hired Bozek, a former priest of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, to act as their pastor.

Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau James V. Johnston in a Monday statement announced Pope Benedict’s dismissal of the former Fr. Bozek, who had already been excommunicated along with St. Stanislaus’ board members.

“His status in the Catholic Church as a cleric is now a thing of the past,” Bishop Johnston explained. “This decision is the result of the actions that he took in late 2005, when in disobedience to my predecessor, Bishop John Leibrecht, he abandoned his assignment and entered the employment of a parish in the Archdiocese of St. Louis without permission of the Archbishop. His actions have caused great harm, scandal and sadness within the Church.”

Bishop Robert J. Hermann, Administrator of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, noted his responsibility to “safeguard the unity of the Catholic Church and protect the souls of the faithful.”

“The situation of Marek Bozek is sad for the whole Church. Please join me in praying that Marek Bozek will be reconciled with the Church and that the great harm which has been caused to the Church, with the help of God’s grace, will be healed,” he said.

According to a statement from the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Bozek may no longer function as a priest because he has been dismissed from the clerical state.

“The faithful who hold the sacraments in highest honor must therefore refrain from receiving sacraments from Mr. Bozek, because he no longer has the rights and obligations of a cleric,” the statement said.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bozek said he and the church board do not “recognize this unjust action” just as they did not “recognize the excommunications” of the board.

Bozek claimed he was “ambushed” with the news of his laicization after being called to Bishop Johnston’s office in Springfield.

The laicized priest supports ordaining women to the priesthood, accepting homosexual relationships and allowing married priests, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says. The church claims to have attracted hundreds of new parishioners under Bozek.

According to Bozek, he has the support of every St. Stanislaus board member. He told about 60 parishioners at a Monday gathering at the church that he would not back down.

"I hope to see you all at Mass this weekend," he told the supportive crowd, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says.

Bishop Johnston said reconciliation was still possible.

“While Marek Bozek no longer has the status of a priest, I continue to hope for his reconciliation with the Catholic Church, and am committed to working with him so that he might be returned to full communion with the Church,” the bishop said on Monday.

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Three African priests murdered in one week

Johannesburg, South Africa, Mar 11, 2009 (CNA) - Three priests have been killed in Africa during the last week, according to Fr. Chris Townsend spokesman for the South African Bishops. Father Lionel Sham was killed on March 7, Father Daniel Matsela Mahula on February 27, both in South Africa; and Father Revocat Gahimbare was slain on March 8, in Burundi.

News of the deaths came from Father Chris Townsend, spokesman of the Bishops Conference of South Africa. Father Lionel Sham, 66, was killed after being kidnapped, while Father Matsela, 34, was intercepted by four gang members while he was driving his car. He was ordained on December 22, 2002.

Father Gahimbare was pastor of the Parish of Karuzi. His assailants had attacked the Bene Maria Convent and Father Gahimbare came the sisters’ aid.  He was shot and killed by the assailants.

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Thousands rally against Conn. bill that ‘directly attacks’ Catholic Church

Hartford, Conn., Mar 11, 2009 (CNA) - Thousands of Connecticut Catholics rallied at the state capitol on Wednesday to protest a proposed state law which would have reorganized the financial and pastoral structure of the Catholic Church.

Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport had warned that the bill “directly attacks the structure of the Roman Catholic Church.” The bill itself requires that parish pastors report to the board of directors about all “administrative and financial matters.” The archbishop or bishop would serve as an “ex-officio” member and would lose his voting rights.

Bishop Lori argued the bill, S.B. 1098, would remove any real relationship between the parish and the bishop and would turn pastors into “figureheads.”

S.B. 1098 was pulled on Tuesday, following protests from Catholics and others who saw it as a clearly unconstitutional proposal.

Despite their apparent victory, the Catholic rally went forward at the capitol’s north steps at noon today.

Footage from local news coverage showed protesters waving printed signs reading “Religious Freedom” while others carried homemade posters.

One such poster read “My faithful voice says: stop dividing my Church!” Another said “We the People, not the politicians – In God we trust, not the Politicians – Protect our God-given rights,” while a third read “Connecticut legislators, please STOP harassing the Catholic Church.”

Many protesters had been bused in from area parishes.

Filomena Moura from Monroe, Connecticut told WFSB she was there “to tell our representatives that we are for the freedom of religion and the separation of religion and state.”

Speakers at the rally included Bishop Lori, Archbishop of Hartford Henry Mansell, Bishop of Norwich Michael Cote and Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl Anderson.

Anderson characterized the proposal as an attack on the Catholic Church which would “turn back the clock 150 years,” referring to anti-Catholic legislation instated by the Know Nothing movement.

The bill would also have a chilling effect on the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech, he argued.

Some estimates put the crowd at around 4,000 people, while a reporter with estimated two to three thousand were present.

According to, Bishop Lori called on the sponsoring legislators to apologize to the people of Connecticut. He told the crowd that even a first year law student would know better than to propose S.B. 1098.

Archbishop Mansell said the proposed law has embarrassed the state and the legislators, arguing that it makes no sense for a state with a $1 billion deficit to tell the Church how to run its finances.

According to HeadlineBistro, the crowd at times began spontaneous performances of “God Bless America” and at other times directed their ire towards legislators, chanting “Throw them out!” and “We vote!”

The day before the rally, State Senator L. Scott Frantz of Greenwich spoke against the bill. He called it an “unconstitutional attack on the intrinsic separation of church and state… to see that freedom so blatantly diluted by this legislation is something I will oppose every step of the way.”

“The bill should never have made it to the point of a public hearing,” he said, noting that the entire Senate Republican Caucus opposes the bill.

According to a statement from Sen. Frantz’s office, the bill would also allow any person who suspected money donated to the Church has been used for purposes other than those the donor intended to report the claim to the state Attorney General, who must then investigate and take necessary action.

The controversial legislation had been introduced last week by the chairs of the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut State Legislature, Senator Andrew McDonald of Stamford and Representative Michael Lawlor of East Haven.

Both lawmakers are prominent homosexuals who 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.

The lawmakers said they had introduced the legislation at the request of two constituents, who on Tuesday requested the legislation be withdrawn.

 “It is clear to me that my attempt to create a forum for a group of concerned Catholic constituents to discuss their legislative proposals regarding parish corporate finances has offended a group of similarly devout Catholic parishioners,” McDonald said in a Wednesday statement, saying he intended no offense.

Julie Winkel, Director of Media Relations at the University of New Haven, informed CNA in an e-mail that a university accounting faculty member named Mary J. Miller, has consulted with the Diocese of Bridgeport in 2007 and 2008 to standardize parish accounting systems and to design new parish internal controls, policies and procedures.

“[Miller] notes that the systems put in place at the Diocese of Bridgeport have actually became a national model to other Catholic Dioceses as well as non-Catholic denominations, making additional oversight and this bill unnecessary,” Winkel told CNA. “She is currently working with Archdioceses of Chicago and Boston and the Diocese of Dallas to implement the standard Parish accounting systems of the ‘Bridgeport Plan’.”

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Pope’s visit will be encouraging to all, says Holy Land Custodian

Rome, Italy, Mar 11, 2009 (CNA) - The Custodian of the Holy Land, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, told Vatican Radio this week that the upcoming visit to the Holy Land by Pope Benedict XVI will be "very encouraging and will help us to hold our heads high and soar a bit higher than we’ve been able to until now."

The Franciscan priest also said, "We are very happy that the Pope is coming and above all that he himself announced this visit, thus giving much relevance to this event, which will surely be unique."

When asked what the greatest obstacle to achieving peace in the Middle East is, Father Pizzabella responded, "There’s no easy answer… I can say that the problem lies in us, in the people that live here, the history, the religion, the sometimes excessive attacks, our own identity, and the fear of welcoming others."

"I think that in this sense, the Pope’s visit will be very encouraging, it will help us to hold our heads high and soar a bit higher than we have been able to up until now," he added.

He went to address some of the misunderstandings of what the Pope intends to accomplish in the Holy Land. "Naturally the Holy Land is at a very delicate crossroad, and the balance, whether between the churches, the different religious beliefs, the different people and politics, is also very delicate."

"The Pope is thus entering a very delicate glass house, in which instrumentalizations are always a trap. But I am sure that the Pope, with his personality and his language, won’t be carried away by these considerations," Father Pizzabella said.

Finally, regarding the preparations for the visit, Father Pizzabella said: "We recently concluded several meetings, and there will be more with all the proper authorities. To tell you the truth, we don’t have much time, but I'm sure that we'll be able to give His Holiness a decent welcome."

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