Phoenix, Ariz., Mar 27, 2009 (CNA) - Maybe TV isn’t so bad after all.
An estimated 92,000 inactive Catholics have come back to the Church in the last year thanks in large part to the groundbreaking Catholics Come Home television advertising campaign.
The promotional spots featured people and locations from around the Phoenix Diocese to promote the Church during prime time television. The cornerstone of the campaign, the Catholics Come Home Web site, addresses often misunderstood aspects of the faith.
“For those who had fallen away from the practice of their faith, it let them know that we want them to come home,” Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said.
The commercials, which ran this time last year, detail the good works of the Catholic Church throughout history. They also offer real-life testimonials of local fallen away Catholics explaining what turned them away and what drew them back.
“Phoenix was supposed to be this quiet little test,” said former Phoenician Tom Peterson, president and founder of Catholics Come Home based in Georgia. “Word went worldwide as soon as you launched.”
More than half a million different visitors from all 50 states and 80 countries have visited the catholicscomehome.com Web site since the spots first aired.
The response was so positive that other dioceses around the country are looking to Phoenix for ideas on bringing Catholics back to the Church.
The Diocese of Corpus Christi in Texas recently launched different versions of the television spots in English and Spanish. Each parish supplemented the commercials with a brochure for everyone at Ash Wednesday services, answering common faith-related questions and listing Mass times and ministries.
The Catholics Come Home spots will appear in more than a dozen other dioceses around the country later this year and early next. By the time the season of Advent rolls around in 2010, organizers say they’ll go national on major networks.
“Our family is made up of every race,” begins the longest of the spots. “We are young and old, rich and poor, men and women, sinners and saints.”
The two-minute ad highlights the vital part the Catholic Church has played in establishing hospitals, orphanages and schools in addition to its role in science, marriage, family life, sacred Scripture and sacraments.
“If you’ve been away from the Catholic Church, we invite you to take another look,” the announcer says toward the end. “We are Catholic, welcome home.”
Another two-minute ad shows men and women alone watching the best and the worst scenes from their lives play back before them on an old movie reel.
“When our transition into eternity begins, there won’t be a chance for any do-overs,” the narrator says. She continues to say that Catholics can still ask God to help create the ideal ending for their life story so that He might say to them, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”
The final ad that aired — Peterson has dozens more like it ready to go — featured snippets of testimonials why Catholics left the Church and what they found upon their return.
Peterson met with Vatican officials last June to discuss broadening the campaign, which played prominently during last summer’s World Youth Day event in Sydney, Australia.
Peterson — who received the 2009 Evangelization award from Legatus, an international organization for Catholic business leaders — said the Catholics Come Home campaign has “the potential of re-Christianizing our society and even catechizing the world.”
A lot of pro bono production, nearly $1 million from various donors and foundations, and a grant from the Catholic Community Foundation helped put the ads on the air.
The Diocese of Phoenix has witnessed increased interest in the Church, which leaders are attributing to last year’s campaign.
“It’s exciting to see the fruits that continue to grow from this,” said Ryan Hanning, coordinator of adult evangelization for the diocese. According to Hanning, a number of the faithful have found a renewed passion for the Church, while fallen-away Catholics rejoined parish life.
Hanning worked closely with Peterson on the Catholics Come Home campaign and ensured that parish leaders, especially those in faith formation, were ready to welcome back Catholics and resolve sacramental and doctrinal issues. More than 25 parishes created programs to welcome Catholics back to the Church.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Tempe was one of them. It showed a video before Easter Masses and held a six-week program for returning Catholics.
The meetings provided an opportunity for parish leaders to answer their questions and help them brush up on their understanding of the Church, while other parish ministries offered hospitality. More than 20 people joined those meetings with others returning straight to the pews, according to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Hanning said Mass numbers have been up across the diocese for the last six months and stories continue to trickle in of individuals and families that returned to the Church, prompted by the Catholics Come Home effort.
“The commercials helped [fallen-away Catholics] realize that they were missing something in their lives,” said Fr. John Bonavitacola, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. He noticed that Catholics who had grown lax in their faith or who felt hurt by the Church, or who divorced and remarried, returned. Many had their marriage validated in the Church while others joined for the first time.
As an extension of the campaign, a small team of parishioners from St. Anne Parish in Gilbert is going door to door throughout the neighborhood, distributing pamphlets with Mass times and other information. They also take prayer intentions.
“Hardly anybody could refuse that, even if you’re not Catholic,” said Auroa Sarmiento, coordinator of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults at St. Anne’s.
Sarmiento said the number of people coming to the parish seeking information about the faith has doubled in the past year, thanks to the campaign. She still gets at least one call a week from a Catholic wanting to return to the Church.
Many priests, answering a survey last year, said more Catholics sought confession because of the Catholics Come Home campaign.
“The Lord created us with a longing for Him,” the bishop said. “Whoever has lost touch with that longing often finds it reawakened through these commercials.”
Six months after the media campaign ended, a comprehensive analysis of its impact revealed a 22 percent increase in Mass attendance at nine sample parishes. Diocesan wide, the average increased Mass attendance — returned Catholics and new converts — was 12 percent. That’s despite a flat population growth in the diocese during that period.
“Wherever they’ve been, they can come back home. It’s a message that resonates,” Hanning said. “I never thought I’d have thousands of Catholics calling and e-mailing me and saying, ‘I’m proud to be Catholic and I want to help others.’”
Printed with permission from the Catholic Sun, newspaper from the Diocese of Phoenix.
Queretaro, Mexico, Mar 27, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Mario de Gasperin Gasperin celebrated a special Mass on Wednesday inaugurating the first Shine for Life in Mexico. The shrine is dedicated to promoting the defense of life from conception to natural death.
“What is conceived is the same thing as what is born, a child,” stated Bishop Gasperin in his homily.
Today, human life is threatened by “so many aggressions and is minimized and distorted,” he said, calling for a return to imitating the heart of Mary.
He also warned, “You cannot pretend to protect the social edifice while precisely undermining its foundations: the family and life. The only problem is that God is disappearing from the human horizon.”
For this reason, he continued, life must be protected, “the life of the unborn, the life of the pregnant woman, the life of the newborn, the life of the weak and the infirm, the life of the elderly, and even the life of the criminal, just as God protected the life of the murderer Cain.
“We Catholics,” the bishop pointed out, “are a people of life and for life. That is our vocation and our pride. How bitter is the irony, as the Pope said in Angola, of those who promote abortion as a way of attending to the health of mothers.” “When the strength that comes from God is lacking, the mind of man becomes obscure, clouded, his will goes astray and he becomes perverted, causing ruin and destruction,” the bishop warned.
“This temple, this shrine of life, is intended to be a place where life is honored, respected and defended with gratitude; where tears can be shed over a life that was frustrated or lost, and where mercy, forgiveness and peace can be experienced; it is intended to be a song to life, a light that ignites hope in a full life for all…life shall triumph,” the bishop said.
At the shrine, which is part of the Church of St. Clare, prayers will be said for the unborn each day at 6:30 p.m. local time.
Washington D.C., Mar 27, 2009 (CNA) - On Wednesday, Chris Korzen of Catholics United welcomed Notre Dame’s decision to host President Barack Obama and expressed his frustration with the opposition of many Catholics to the invitation. Some, though, have suggested that the group was so quick to express support for Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ nomination to be the next HHS Secretary because they were tipped by the White House, a claim they deny.
Korzen, Executive Director of Catholics United, wrote that President Obama’s appearance at “Notre Dame will be nothing short of an honor for all Catholics.” Citing Obama’s historic election and polices that “promote the common good resonate strongly with Catholics of all political and ethnic backgrounds.”
He called the attack on Notre Dame “simply disingenuous” and claimed that it “reflects a larger pattern of manipulation of the Catholic faith for political advantage.” He further criticized those attacking Notre Dame for focusing on a single issue and not responding to “others who hold positions contrary to Catholic doctrine.”
However, Dan Gilgoff, a writer for US News and World Report, questioned why Catholics United took 5 days to come out in support of Notre Dame after it rapidly expressed its support for Obama’s nomination of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic who supports legalized abortion, as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services. Gilgoff suggested that Catholics United had been “tipped” by the White House before the nomination.
Korzen told CNA, “We viewed Gov. Sebelius' nomination as a positive step for health care policy in the U.S., so we were eager to register our support.”
He further denied that they were “tipped” by the White House saying, “We talk to a lot of people in government from both sides of the aisle - including the White House. However, it would be inaccurate to say that we learned about the Sebelius nomination from anyone in the administration.”
“We learned about it the same way most others did - from the New York Times,” Korzen said.
Korzen’s statement on Notre Dame also spoke about "partisan operatives who routinely use a single-issue analysis to divorce the Catholic faith from its longstanding commitment to social justice and the sanctity of all human life,” was also questioned by Gilgoff.
Gilgoff wondered if this accusation included Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John D’Arcy, “who has blasted Notre Dame for hosting Obama.”
Korzen replied that, “We do not include Bishop D'Arcy among those who we believe are misusing the Catholic faith to advance a partisan agenda. While Bishop D'Arcy's decision not to attend the commencement is unfortunate, we commend him for expressing his opinion in a civil and respectful manner and for not adding his voice to the shrill chorus attacking Notre Dame and President Obama.”
San Francisco, Calif., Mar 27, 2009 (CNA) - Pro-Obama Catholics and Catholic organizations should “step up” and respond to the pro-abortion “rights” president’s policy decisions, George Wesolek, the Director of Public Policy and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of San Francisco said in a recent article.
In an essay titled “The Honeymoon is Over,” Wesolek described how he has observed President Barack Obama’s actions with “a mixture of admiration and hope,” and that he had been encouraged by Obama’s advocacy of health care access and his expressed desire to reach out to the Arab world.
“My sense of apprehension and unease, however, has been around the life issues,” he said, describing abortion as the “preeminent social justice issue of our day.”
“I heard during the campaign from pro-Obama Catholics and Catholic organizations established to promote his candidacy that Obama would accomplish more than the previous administration to curtail abortions and promote life using ‘non-divisive’ strategies,” Wesolek wrote. “I have been eagerly looking for indications that this was indeed the case.”
“I have not seen anything that would indicate a ‘pro-life’ openness or even a small move in that general direction. On the contrary, I have seen just the opposite,” Wesolek said.
He cited as matters of concern the president’s appointment of pro-abortion staff to key positions, his reversal of the Mexico City Policy, his reversal of the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), and his administration’s move to rescind federal conscience protections for pro-life health care workers.
Explaining that the Mexico City Policy had prevented U.S. federal funding for organizations that promote or perform abortion oversees, Wesolek argued the policy’s reversal means the “funded exportation” of abortion will be delivered to people around the world “as one of our solutions to grinding global poverty.”
In his view, the premise of this policy change is: “If abortion is the way to solve difficulties and inconveniences here in the United States, it must be eagerly awaited by others to solve their problems even if their culture abhors the thought of killing their precious resource of children.”
In response to President Obama’s reversal of the Mexico City Policy, the group Catholics United said it did not support the change. The group then charged Catholic League President Bill Donohue, a critic of Obama’s policy change, with pursuing “the politics of division and fear.”
The group also criticized “disinformation” about the bill and claimed that the policy change will not fund abortions because of the Helms amendment.
Discussing President Obama’s change to restrictions on ESCR, Wesolek said the decision demonstrates that the president thinks that “these embryos either are not human life or they are human life of such a second-class nature that they are not worthy of respect and protection.”
Along with the president’s decision to rescind an executive order which provided resources for adult stem cell research, Wesolek charged that the decision “implies an ideological mindset that is unscientific and predisposed to follow the trail of embryonic research even though there are no cures and serious problems with this kind of approach.”
He said that it is “most distressing” that there is “no reaction” from organizations that “were and are apologists for Obama and his policies.” Wesolek named Catholics United, Alliance of Catholics for the Common Good (most likely meaning Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good), Network and others.
Catholics United has also defended the appointment of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a pro-abortion "rights" self-described Catholic, who was nominated to become Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Saying these groups painted President Obama as “pro-life,” Wesolek remarked that some groups themselves said they were pro-life and would work to move policy in a pro-life direction under an Obama presidency.
“Where are they now? Where are there any policy initiatives that would blunt the irrevocable thrust of these Obama actions early in his presidency?” he asked.
“The culture of death is making deeper inroads in our national policies and there is almost no response from Catholics who helped elect President Obama. It is time for them to step up to the plate.”
Washington D.C., Mar 27, 2009 (CNA) - President Barack Obama’s first judicial nominee’s record includes judicial decisions which obstructed the enforcement of Indiana’s informed consent law requiring women to be told the risks of abortion.
President Obama on March 17 nominated Judge David Hamilton to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal. He is presently U.S. District Chief Judge for the Southern District of Indiana.
Over his seven years as a district judge, Judge Hamilton ruled against the Indiana informed consent law which required abortionists to inform women about the risks of abortion. The Indiana law was identical to a Pennsylvania statute upheld by the Supreme Court.
Judge Hamilton claimed the law imposed an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal reversed Judge Hamilton’s decision on appeal, and strongly criticized his decision as an “abuse of discretion.”
Critics have also reported that in 2005 Judge Hamilton ordered the Speaker of the Indiana House to stop the delivery of “sectarian prayers” at the opening of the legislation. The judge ordered that the prayers “should refrain from using Christ’s name or title.”
Concerned Women for America (CWA) President Wendy Wright, who was critical of the nomination, remarked that even the “liberal” American Bar Association had rated Judge Hamilton as “not qualified” for his post.
“Hamilton's decisions reveal a deep disrespect for the Constitution and overinflated view of his own opinion. Senators would be derelict in their duties if they vote to promote him to do further damage to religious freedom and justice,” she argued.
Mario Diaz, Esq., CWA's Policy Director for Legal Issues, charged that Judge Hamilton’s record showed a “dangerous understanding” of the role of a judge and of original intent when enacting the First Amendment.
“Few things could violate Judge Hamilton's supposed 'separation of church and state' more than the state (i.e. Judge Hamilton) telling people they cannot pray in the name of Jesus. It seems Judge Hamilton would use the law as a tool to steer the country in the direction he believes it should go. That is not the role of a judge,” said Diaz.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 27, 2009 (CNA) - Just a few short hours after the executive committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina issued a statement calling for social peace in the country, the Minister of Justice, Anibal Fernandez, rebuked the bishops and said the government doesn’t need or want the Church’s help.
“We must avoid attitudes that lead to confrontation and division,” the bishops said, “and that generate a climate of confrontation that fosters violence. The present moment demands sincere and transparent dialogue, reconciliation among all Argentineans and the search for a consensus that strengthens social peace.”
However, Fernandez told the bishops the government doesn’t need their help. Government officials reacted to the statement by saying that they considered the comments to be negative criticism, with Fernandez adding that the Church should put out statements that are “more encouraging.”
“We are rebuilding a country that was going up in flames,” he said in response to the bishops’ comments. Ironically, Fernandez held an important post in the previous administration, which considers the current government to be continuing its policies.
Vatican City, Mar 27, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI received the President of Cyprus at the Vatican Apostolic Palace today, where the two leaders discussed their hopes for reunification of the island nation as well as other international situations.
President Demetris Christofias of the Republic Cyprus spoke with Pope Benedict about the future of the country, expressing his particular concern for the situation of Christians in the Turkish controlled portion of the island.
Cyprus was divided into two by a Turkish invasion in 1974. The Turks took the northern half of the Mediterranean island, while the Greeks maintained control of the southern half. In 2004, a U.N. effort to reunite the country was rebuffed by Greek Cypriots, leaving the country divided.
The “cordial” discussion between President Christofias and the Pope included the Cypriot leader illustrating the “condition of many churches and Christian buildings in the north of the island,” according to the Vatican.
A 2006 meeting between then-President Tassos Papadopoulos and Pope Benedict involved the president giving the Pontiff a large photo album featuring pictures of over 300 Orthodox churches destroyed by the Turks or used for secular and non-religious activities.
During today’s meeting, Benedict XVI and President Christofias expressed their mutual hope that the ongoing negotiations between the parties may reach a solution.
Ideas were also exchanged on the “international situation regarding, among other things, the continent of Africa.”
Finally, emphasis was given to “the importance of good relations between Catholics and Orthodox and between Catholics and Muslims, who are all called to work together for the good of society and for peaceful coexistence among peoples," the Vatican said.
According to 2001 census, 94.8 percent of the permanent population in the government-controlled area belongs to the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. Additionally, 0.5 percent of the population is Maronite Catholic, 0.3 percent Armenian Orthodox, 1.5 percent Roman Catholic, 1 percent Protestant and 0.6 percent Muslim.
Rome, Italy, Mar 27, 2009 (CNA) - A marathon will link the cities of Jerusalem and Rome between April 23 and May 27, thus coinciding with Pope Benedict XVI’s May 8-15 visit to Israel.
The initiative, organized by the John Paul II Foundation, was presented Wednesday in Rome. The objective is to commemorate the 2000 year anniversary of the birth of St. Paul as part of the Pauline Year.
The race will appropriately follow the steps of St. Paul, running through some of the places where the Apostle to the Gentiles went to preach.
The entire route will cover some 1,300 kilometers through five countries: Israel, Greece, Malta, Italy and Vatican City. The marathon will begin on April 23 in Bethlehem and end at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on May 27.
The last stage, which will be in Rome, will be accompanied by several side events, including a prayer vigil at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and a greeting by Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter’s Square.
The John Paul II Foundation for Sports was inspired by the late Pontiff’s love of sports and their formative and spiritual values. For this reason, the marathon will also serve to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first Jubilee of athletes, which was promoted by John Paul II in April of 1984.
Santiago, Chile, Mar 27, 2009 (CNA) - During a Mass celebrating the Day of the Unborn Child on Wednesday, Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Chomali of Santiago, Chile urged the faithful to respect the life of the unborn, saying every human has the right to exist and to flourish.
“We must never become incapable of admiration towards a human person, of giving thanks for him or her, from the time inside the mother’s womb or in any stage of his or her life. Every human life must be lived, as we are all equal in dignity, and that is one of the fundamental rights. For this reason we must care for it, respect it and promote it.”
The Episcopal Vicar for the Family, Father Marcos Burzawa, who concelebrated with Bishop Chomali, underscored the importance of celebrating the Day of the Unborn Child, calling it “a time of celebration of hope because life is always cause for joy and admiration.”
The celebrations of the Day of the Unborn Child in the Chilean capital concluded on Wednesday with a seminar on “Family and Public Policy.” Several outstanding leaders in the pro-life movement were honored at the event.
Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 27, 2009 (CNA) - During her recent visit to Mexico, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an unexpected stop at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and left a bouquet of white flowers “on behalf of the American people,” after asking who painted the famous image.
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously imprinted by Mary on the tilma, or cloak, of St. Juan Diego in 1531. The image has numerous unexplainable phenomena, such as the appearance on Mary’s eyes of those present in the room when the tilma was opened and the image’s lack of decay.
Mrs. Clinton was received on Thursday at 8:15 a.m. by the rector of the Basilica, Msgr. Diego Monroy.
Msgr. Monroy took Mrs. Clinton to the famous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which had been previously lowered from its usual altar for the occasion.
After observing it for a while, Mrs. Clinton asked “who painted it?” to which Msgr. Monroy responded “God!”
Clinton then told Msgr. Monroy that she had previously visited the old Basilica in 1979, when the new one was still under construction.
After placing a bouquet of white flowers by the image, Mrs. Clinton went to the quemador –the open air area at the Basilica where the faithful light candles- and lit a green candle.
Leaving the basilica half an hour later, Mrs. Clinton told some of the Mexicans gathered outside to greet her, “you have a marvelous virgin!”
This evening Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to receive the highest award given by Planned Parenthood Federation of America -- the Margaret Sanger Award, named for the organization's founder, a noted eugenicist. The award will be presented at a gala event in Houston, Texas.
Fargo, N.D., Mar 27, 2009 (CNA) - As the waters of the Red River rise to record levels, Bishop of Fargo Samuel Aquila has emphasized the irreplaceable nature of human life and has praised the “wonderful” work of those combating the flood. He has also prayed for hope and strength for the disaster’s victims.
The Red River approached a depth of 41 feet on Friday, exceeding the Fargo record of 40.1 feet. It is expected to crest by Saturday at a depth of 42 feet.
Tanya Watterud, Director of Communications for Diocese of Fargo, told CNA that a reported three million sandbags have been filled in Fargo.
Sections of Fargo and its immediate neighbor Moorhead, Minnesota have been evacuated because of concerns about the dikes.
“However, Fargo remains pretty confident. Dikes are holding and contingency dikes are in place,” she said.
Elsewhere the situation appears more dire. Watterud said that Shanley High School, Sts. Anne & Joachim Church and the Diocesan Pastoral Center will take on water if the earthen levy to their south gives way. Yesterday, Shanley High School was used as a drop point for those rescued by helicopter.
A reported 180 people were evacuated from MeritCare Hospital overnight. The evacuation was ordered not because of flood water, but in preparation for medical care needed in the event the dikes do not hold.
Delta Airlines is also lending a hand to the flood victims by sending planes with volunteer crews to Fargo to help evacuating the elderly.
Watterud passed on Diocesan Chancellor Fr. Luke Meyer’s report that St. Benedict’s Church in Wild Rice, just south of Fargo, is ringed by a dike under pressure from the floodwaters.
Fargo’s junior seminary, Cardinal Muench Seminary, has been partially evacuated. Those few who remain, including rector Msgr. Gregory Schlesselmann, are ensuring that the flood pumps remain working at the seminary.
A travel ban has cleared the city’s streets so that trucks shipping sandbags and dirt for earthen dikes can rapidly travel through the city.
“The trucks travel with police escort - a police car with lights flashing and sirens sounding in front, then one, two or three trucks, followed by another sirened, flashing police car,” Waterrud told CNA.
Thousands have helped make sandbags and build dikes in recent days, though this work has slowed because of travel restrictions. More than 1,000 members of the National Guard are in the city to assist with patrolling the dikes.
“Every dike must be watched for cracks, seepage, and seepage must be pumped back over into the river,” Watterud said, explaining that sandbags are freezing because of the cold weather.
“They must be soft to make a good dike, so people are dropping them onto concrete or the hard ground to break up the frozen sand before placing them onto dikes,” she explained.
On Tuesday, Bishop Aquila toured areas where sandbagging was taking place. On Thursday he helped fill sandbags at the Fargodome stadium.
Speaking to radio interviewer Scott Hennen on AM 1100 on Thursday night, he reported that a man who had no legs was there helping tie the sandbags.
“It's a great witness. It's a great morale booster. It's wonderful to see how people are looking out for each other,” he said.
In his interview Bishop Aquila encouraged listeners to “focus on God and the presence of God in our lives,” noting that though material possessions can be replaced, “a human life, you can never replace.”
Those who have lost their homes to flood waters can take comfort in knowing “they still have their lives, they still have their families and those are the things that are most important to all of us.”
The bishop said he himself has taken some precautions such as moving possessions up from the lower levels of his home. He then reported he would evacuate if necessary.
He also called for prayer, saying, “One of the important things we must do is really pray for the virtue of hope and keep our eyes on the future. If it means rebuilding the city, other cities have done it.”
Telling listeners that God will give them strength to endure “if we keep our focus on him,” Bishop Aquila prayed that God would “bestow upon us all of the graces that we need at this time, to strengthen our faith our hope and our charity, that we may know that he is with us.”
Praying for protection for cities, counties, and flood-struck areas, he especially prayed that God would protect “all of our families,” most especially those who are homeless and elderly” and would “help our hearts to be attentive to them and to serving them.”
Fargo, N.D., Mar 27, 2009 (CNA) - Flooding has reached ‘code red’ status in parts of Fargo as river levels eclipse a 1897 record, causing Catholic Charities to call on all priests in the diocese to assist with the recovery effort by filling sandbags, assisting with counseling and tending to other vital needs.
Yesterday mandatory evacuations took place in the River Vili and Riverview Estates areas on the southern side of Fargo. Local news channel KFGO reports that Riverview Estates is a senior living center and the Fargo National Guard was called in to assist with the evacuations. Last night a dike breech caused a “Code Red” and forced a mandatory evacuation of the area.
Typically river currents flow between 2 and 3 mph, but they are currently exceeding 20-25 mph in certain areas, making rescue efforts especially difficult for volunteers. Many residents, affected by the last serious flood in 1997, tried to stay and save their homes but are now finding the flooding this time is just too much to handle.
Catholic Charities, in an urgent letter to diocesan priests, said a coordinated effort was taking place to fill sandbags and “respond to the needs of people in the affected areas through several means.” Catholic Charities is also offering counseling services “to everyone regardless of religious affiliation.”
1-800-450-4457 to learn where they can best help.
People interested in donating to the Disaster Response effort at Catholic Charities North Dakota can contribute at www.catholiccharitiesnd.org.
Rome, Italy, Mar 27, 2009 (CNA) - African students in Rome have convened a large protest to remind the international community of the inalienable rights of Africans, express their disagreement with the distortion of Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on condoms and with the companies seeking to profit from selling prophylactics in Africa.
Vatican Radio reported that the gathering will take place on Sunday, March 29 at 11:30 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square, in order to pray the Angelus with Benedict XVI.
The events purpose, according to organizers, is to thank the Pope for his “lucid and detailed social, cultural, spiritual, environmental and economic diagnosis” of the African continent, and for “the different solutions and paths” he pointed out so that “Africans themselves might be the artifices and protagonists of their own development.”
The African students said their message to the world is that the absolute priorities for Africa should be “food, water, energy, medical care, stable income for families, a commercial system that facilities the exporting of African products and not just the exportation of primary materials, as well as the appreciation of its own riches right there and not the looting of its resources.”
“It is also to cry out our ‘No’ about the speculations over Africa. No to the political distortion of the Pope’s message for Africa! No to those who want to make Africa one of the main markets and outlets of condoms! Yes to effective care for AIDS in Africa! Yes to education!” the students exclaimed.